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Daily Inspiration: Meet Maria Müller

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Müller.

Hi Maria, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I don’t know what one considers a ‘starting point,’ but I want to talk about my journey coming out of school. I graduated with what felt like a lot of knowledge (joke was on me), a great community, a lot of nervousness and no expectations. I didn’t know what was coming, but I knew I didn’t want to sit around and wait for it to happen. I called up my best friend Giorgia and asked her if she wants to start a theater company. She agreed to my ambitious idea and brought on Ana. In a few months, we had a name (Et Alia), a mission, a logo, and LOTS of questions. Slowly but surely though, we had less questions and more answers. I was also doing other productions outside of the company and trying to apply what I was learning to those as well. In the meantime, I was also doing film work. I always said that in an ideal world, I’d do both an equal amount. I landed my first role in a feature, ‘Queen Marie of Romania’ and then did a lot of other shorts that did very well in the festival circuit (‘Fugue,’ ‘Staying Afloat,’ ‘Pied Piper’ etc.)

Of course, the pandemic had its own plans for me and for the rest of the world, so during 2020 and most of 2021, I focused on what I could do online. I was against internet theater at first but quickly realized that saying no to it would only close doors for me. So, I gave it a shot and I’m happy I did. I worked on five big productions, some with my company, some by myself: ‘Where Are You? (Digital)’ directed by Sim Yan Ying ‘YY,’ ‘Lasagna. Cu de toate’ directed by a Romanian director Theodora Herghelegiu, ‘None of the Above’ (as part of Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre’s Global Forms Festival), ‘Can We Talk?’ (a TEDxYouth project) and ‘Little Egg. Big World’ (as part of the National Women’s Theater Festival) and many smaller ones. To my surprise, I learnt a lot about storytelling during this time and I was reminded that, without a strong narrative and a well-established point of view, all the sets and the lights in the world can’t help a production reach audiences.

As things have been slowly going back to in-person, Et Alia had the honor of receiving a considerable amount of grants and we put up ‘Stella, Come Home,’ an adaptation of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams both at HERE and at The Brick.

Film-wise, there are a few projects coming out that I’ve been filming for the past few years, and I’m really excited for them to get the recognition they deserve.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Smooth road? Not at all! While I’m very grateful to be able to say I never had anything catastrophic happen to me, I can surely talk about some obstacles I’ve encountered along the way. I’d say the biggest one is dealing with rejection. As I’m sure, many actors can agree, rejection is SUCH a big part of this job and it unfortunately used to have such a big impact on me (still does sometimes, but I’m working on it; God bless my therapist!). It’s difficult to feel like you’re doing all the ‘right’ things and taking all the necessary steps and you’re still not chosen. For the longest time, my brain couldn’t reckon with the fact that sometimes there is NOTHING you can do. I used to think there is always something you could do, but while that thinking might sound noble, it was never helpful. As an actor, I’ve learnt that I need to let go of questions like “Maybe if I wore something else to the audition?” “Maybe if I made different acting choices?” and just accept the fact that casting has to do with a lot of other factors and that it’s out of my control.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am an actor, writer, producer, and Co-Artistic Director at Et Alia Theater. I also host events and teach chess to children. I want to say I am a storyteller, but that doesn’t feel sufficient. Yes, I tell stories, but I don’t just communicate them. I also create them and bring them to people. I am happy to ‘tell a story’ (meaning, act in a film/show I get cast in) and I am also interested in making a story – whether that’s done by writing it down in a play/film (I do both!), sharing my experiences with people who are interested in them or simply creating one from scratch with my 3-year-old students. I want to say that the past few years of my life have been about doing.

Whenever I am in conflict with myself about something, I find that making a story about it always sheds light on certain aspects I hadn’t considered before. It is how I know to make sense of things. What I’m known for? Project wise, I guess I’d have to ask people which one of my productions stood out to them the most. Otherwise, I hope I’m known for being an artist who stands by what they believe, a good friend who always shows up and a person you can rely on.

In terms of what sets me apart, I think it is the people I have around me. I must be doing something right if so many incredible people are always there to cheer me on. I am constantly in awe of my friends’ kindness and of their hard work. I learn from them all the time and I am always reminded that I’m special just by being part of a community of artists and friends who create work together, share their resources, and are vulnerable with each other.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes actually! I want to leave here a list of things I wish for, so that in a few years I can look back at this interview and either celebrate them as achievements or be reminded of ongoing goals that are worth pursuing. I want to organize an international theater festival together with my theater company and invite selected shows from all over the world to perform at the venue of our choosing. I want to finish two more plays and write two more films. I want to have a world tour of a show I strongly believe in, and I want to learn either a fourth language, an instrument or how to ride horses.

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Image Credits
Julianna McGuirl Gabriela Amerth Federica Borlenghi Jessica Wall Ayanna Nathifa

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