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BWW Interview: Director Claudia Acosta and A GRAVE IS GIVEN SUPPER at the Ice Factory Festival

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Interview: Director Claudia Acosta

BWW Interview: Director Claudia Acosta and A GRAVE IS GIVEN SUPPER at the Ice Factory Festival

 

New Ohio Theatre's 28th annual Obie Award-winning Ice Factory Festival has returned to live in-person performances, featuring seven new works over seven weeks. Performances are now through August 14, 2021, at New Ohio Theatre, located at 154 Christopher Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets in New York City.

In this summer's Ice Factory Festival Claudia Acosta is directing A Grave is Given Supper, with poems by Mike Soto, featuring Elena Hurst and in partnership with Teatro Dallas. The show runs July 28 - 31. In this Narco-Acid Western two lovers converge in a US/Mexico border town during a raging drug war. Anchored by a series of surreal and interlinked poems, infused with rituals of love and loss, this multimedia work incorporates video projections, dance and a Nortec soundscape to explore the complicated desires of people living in the borderland.

Broadwayworld had the pleasure of interviewing Claudia Acosta about her career and the upcoming show.

Acosta is an actor, director, producer and teaching artist. She has worked with WP Theater, New York Theater Workshop, HERE, INTAR and Rattlestick Playwright's Theater among others. Founding member of a Latino theater initiative, The Sol Project. She is a teaching artist for Lincoln Center Education, Manhattan Theater Club, NYTW, and Arts Connection. In Texas, she has worked with PAFW, FWSO, Hip Pocket Theater, Cara Mia, Teatro Dallas and the Rose Marine Theater. Claudia has a dedicated career in BIPOC arts advocacy to dismantle racism in classrooms and stages.

What was your earliest interest in live theatre?

Viva El Paso! A musical review of the history of El Paso in an amphitheater built in the Franklin mountains. My parents took me when I was small. I remember going a few times. The dancing, the over-the-top spectacle under the stars with a mountain backdrop. As a kid I performed dance routines (mostly improvisational) in school talent shows. My barbies were the first actors in my writing/directing labs in my childhood. Wasn't until college did I find myself at an audition where my brain clicked and I went "Ohhhhh...this a home where I always belonged and I didn't know I needed to live in."

Tell us a little about your professional training.

I've been lucky to have found so many mentors in my life. My path didn't take me in the way of finishing my theater degree. I was terrified of the debt. Now, at 41 (with all that I have learned), heard from the right place for me that says. "Hey, come get your degree here doing what you want to do, don't worry about the money", then of course I would go for it. My journey started in community college where the people I met really changed my life. I found my way into really being a part of the theater of Dallas- Fort Worth. Yvonne Duque, Rob Bosquez of Fort Worth Theater and later Teatro De La Rosa, Diane and Johnny Simons of Hip Pocket Theater, Tammy Gomez, John Shafer, Leonard McCormick, Sue Burrato and theater critic Mark Lowry are artists and members of the theater community that made me who I am today. I wouldn't trade my time in those artistic havens for anything. I co-founded a theater company, people let me teach and direct and perform. I performed under the stars on the hand built wooden stage that I still have slice of paint from those boards with all the layers of shows we did as a talisman. At the old historic landmark of The Rose Marine Theater with Teatro de la Rosa I wrote and directed and produced plays. That experience in Texas really prepared me to appreciate my colleagues, actors and collaborators and the work as my mentors. Every project I have been able to work on in NYC has also been part of my professional training. My students train me. Seriously, being a teaching artist has been the greatest training ground. You learn about people, humanity and artmaking on a whole other level.

What piece of advice would you give someone wishing to enter the theatrical arts?

Love it deep because it demands an uncompromising resiliency and grit. Surround yourself with good people from many walks of life because most of the time good people are more important than the "right" people. Define your own success and edit the draft every few years. Be smart about money and financially invest in yourself. Apply to everything you are right for. I wish I was able to do more of that when I was younger. I am trying to take my own advice now.

You have such impressive credits. What are some of the challenges of balancing such an eclectic career?

Looking back, I was very, very lucky to have such great people around me to show me what it meant to live as a hyphenated artist. It's survival, really. I am trying now to take better care of myself respecting my own limitations. I had burnouts and failures. It took a long time before I was understood as a multiverse theater artist. I ride the waves of droughts and floods best I can. I try to be prepared and open to learn. I try to always maintain that attitude of gratitude. Sometimes my fifth job is being my own administrative assistant and she can be an absentminded professor.

We'd love to know a little bit about your experience working with the Ice Factory Festival.

What a playground! It is really great to have the support of New Ohio to make this new show. They have been great producers and have gathered a festival of incredible artists. It has been an honor, a privilege and breeze to work with them. Robert and Jaclyn and the team made us feel they really understood our work and doing their best to serve it to New York audiences.

Can you tell us a little bit about your team for A Grave is Given Supper?

I am really honored to have a diverse, talented team (on two coasts) that understands the merge of cinema and theater we are lifting from Mike's poetry to bring the world of the borderland to New Ohio. I am excited to show them off in this work. Elena Hurst, (actress and my co-producer) and I are excited to have found this project to finally collaborate on. She is so talented. I love watching our choreographer activate the language in such a visceral way. I am excited to share the work filmed along the border of Tijuana and San Diego by our cinematographer and editor. It's been a dream to work with Luke on sound. He really gets my brain. Our lighting designer, Asa Lipton who is also Festival TD is helping us realize what we can do now that we are performing this new iteration of the show indoors. Our Production Designer who worked us in the Dallas show inspired us to take a fresh new slate approach to the aesthetics that has made the creative journey more exciting. Our stage manager is an exciting young artist and grad student of Sarah Lawrence who will be flexing and holding us down. Dream team.

Why do you think this piece is particularly timely?

Any work of art that centers the non-white body to celebrate and honor their humanity will always be relevant. Every story about a marginalized person of color is timely. All day every day. Full stop. Punto. Specifically, we can't forget about the people caught between state sanctioned violence and cartel wars. We can't look away at the fact the border wall is a failure. We can't ignore the crisis. The survivors of the borderlands are heroes.

What would you like audiences to know about the show?

We are asking audiences to come to the theater carrying with them a difficult moment or grief, or memory of a loved one, a prayer to community or anything they hope to honor and leave on our altar. We are offering our ritual as a space to honor and let go.

Can you share with us any of your future plans?

I am returning to Teatro Dallas to direct The Merit System by Edwin Sanchez in October. I have worked on that play in readings over years and I am excited to finally bring his beautiful play to life. Also excited to facilitate The Cornelia T. Bailey Writers Group at Primary Stages, a year-long, educational program focused on finding, nurturing, and amplifying the voices of women, non-binary, and gender non-conforming artists. Hopefully, I will be back teaching in person classes for all my theater organizations. I am really looking forward to a real vacation after 18 months of surviving a pandemic in New York.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Please help us sell out our show (we are almost sold out) and make a tax-deductible donation that will directly go to our artistic team.

IG @a_grave_is_given_supper

For more info visit http://NewOhioTheatre.org. The full Ice Factory show schedule is here: https://ci.ovationtix.com/34708

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Claudia Acosta


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