Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Müller, Giorgia Valenti, Ana Moioli and Isabella Uzcátegui.
Maria, Giorgia, Ana and Isabella, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
We’re all international women artists who united our diverse voices to share our stories with the US audience. It all started when Maria Müller (from Romania) reached out to Giorgia Valenti (from Italy/India) and Ana (from Brazil) to put up a play. We didn’t know what play, where and how it would be produced, but we were determined to make it happen. Ana had worked with Isabella Uzcátegui (from Venezuela/Panama/Mexico) on another show before and invited her to join as the director. After a few conversations, we soon realized that our interests were very much aligned, and there was so much we were eager to create together that one project would not be enough – we had to become a group and we had to keep working. We had to become Et Alia. “Et Alia” is Latin for “And Other.” Together, we create art for the other, by the other and about the other. For our first show, we ended up choosing Running in Place, a play by Hasnain Shaikh, a playwright Giorgia knew from back in India, whose work had never been produced in the US. Since then, we’ve been working on plays written by our own members, and we’re now open for submissions of original plays for our future projects.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road. It has been an amazing learning process, but it had its ups and downs. Some of the struggles we had included having to do everything ourselves, finding trust-worthy collaborators and getting audiences to come to our performances. None of us had any marketing experience, for example, but Giorgia took on that responsibility and became our marketing director. Maria has only ever designed her website, but she volunteered to design the company’s and to update it regularly. Ana helped a lot with finding collaborators. It seems like every one of her friends has probably helped us at some point, in one way or another; whether it was taking pictures/videos of our shows or jumping on board as actors last minute, Ana’s network quickly became our network as well. We all had to bring our resources and skills to the table, because who else was going to do it for us? Things were especially challenging at the very beginning because it took some time for us to make a name for ourselves and get people interested in what we have to say. Although we still have a very long way to go, we are learning from our experiences and trying to cultivate our community.
Please tell us about the company.
We mostly do theater! For now. We are open to taking on other disciplines in the future, especially because our interests are so diverse. We are all dancers/movers and we all love on-camera acting as well, so who knows what the future will bring for us in that sense.
Our first show was Running in Place, written by Hasnain Shaikh and directed by Isabella. Our second full production was On How To Be A Monster, written by Maria and directed by Federica Borlenghi. In between the two productions, we organized two staged readings: one of Maria’s play, directed by Patricia Marjorie and another of Isabella’s play, Lolique, directed by Ana. We are very interested in giving opportunities to women and internationals! We think that what sets us apart is exactly that. Our mission is to create an accepting community that inspires artists to create beyond their comfort zones and collide with an array of international voices that may be culturally unfamiliar.
The thing we are most proud of as a company is not a project per se, but our willingness to explore and take on challenging work. The word “no” is not in our vocabulary. We are open to all sorts of ideas and collaborations and we have been good at making things happen; things that might have sounded impossible or things for which we had a very short period of time. We are a company of dreamers and we are making those dreams come true. And we are all about new work! We want to read new scripts written by new writers and we often encourage artists to step into a role they have never had experience in but are drawn to. For example, Ana directed for the first time one of our staged readings. Maria wrote to her play and more! All of this is extremely thrilling.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Many essential characteristics comprise a successful company, so it is difficult to choose one. But we would say the most important ones are perseverance and willingness to say “yes” to every challenge. There have been so many obstacles in our way, but instead of giving up on a project, we continued. For example, we only had three weeks to put up our most recent show, On How To Be A Monster, which has a cast of 9. Looking at everyone’s schedule, we thought it was going to be impossible to rehearse. But we finally made a rehearsal schedule. Soon after, one of our actors had to drop out, so we had to recast him! Then, it was so difficult to find time for tech.
We thought we weren’t going to have a tech at all – which is disastrous for a show. But we finally figured out a date and time – the day before the show from 8-10 AM and then from 11 PM-1 AM. It was exhausting, but we did it. We also didn’t have a big budget for the show, so it was challenging. Most of the money went to one particular costume because without it, the show wouldn’t have made sense. So, since we were out of money, we had to source props and other costumes. It felt like such a battle. But we persevered and in the end, when the show was done and the reviews came out, it was so worth it!
Similarly, had we not said “yes” to the new roles this company almost “forced” us to take on, we would not have been able to get the company to where it is now. There have been many times when we were faced with things that we had no idea how to handle, but we opened our arms and said, “Come on challenge. I am saying yes to you!”
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