After winning “Best Festival Debut” in the 2018 United Solo Festival for her autobiographical one-woman show, Velvet Determination ~ a young pianist’s journey to New York ~ Cynthia Shaw is thrilled to join the cast as the troubled mother in William Considine’s autobiographical play, Moral Support at The Medicine Show Theatre.
Born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado, Cynthia moved to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Music and pursue a career as a classical pianist. She soon moved on to musical directing and finally to acting in theatre and film. Favorite stage roles: Claire, the strong woman standing up to her bombastic literary husband in The Woman at His Side (The Gallery Players); Mrs. Winemiller, the wacky mother in Summer and Smoke (Gloria Maddox Theatre); the rigid Grandmother in the Tartuffe-inspired, After Tartuffe (The Wild Project); self-important Mrs. Drudge in The Real Inspector Hound (The Producer’s Club); The insightful juror in 12 Angry Women (Adam Roebuck Theatre); the starstruck Liz Fuller in Me and Jezebel (Kentucky Repertory Theatre); and both sexy Arkadina and clueless Ranevskaya in Mr. Chekhov & Mr. Porter (Medicine Show Theatre).
Her films have screened at the Cannes, Soho, and Big Apple Film Festivals. Mara, in which she starred, was an Official Selection at the Soho International Film Festival and won awards in fourteen other festivals, including Best Experimental Film at the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Her episode of the web series, Brooklyn is in Love, won two awards at the LA Webfest.
Read the Review of her solo show, Velvet Determination
Read the Review of her appearance in Mr. Chekhov and Mr. Porter
Read the Review of her appearance in Summer and Smoke
CYNTHIA SHAW appears as the ailing mother seeking a cure for her ailienation in William Considine’s Moral Support (opening at Medicine Show Theatre on February 21.)
Tell us about yourself as an artist?
Born and raised in a musical family in Pueblo, Colorado, I moved to NY to attend the Manhattan School of Music. I soon moved on to musical directing and finally to acting in film and theatre. My recent film work has been presented at Cannes Festival Corner, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, The Soho International Film Festival, World-Fest International Film Festival, Indie-Fest, The LA Movie Awards, The Big Apple Film Festival, Manhattan Film Festival, to name a few. My episode of the web series, “Brooklyn is in Love” won two awards at the prestigious LA Webfest.
Stage work includes Off-Broadway theaters in New York City including The Medicine Show Theatre, The Barrow Group, T. Schreiber Studios, The Wild Project, The Articulate and The Secret Theaters.
My one-woman show, “Velvet Determination~A Young Pianist’s Journey to New York” was presented to sold-out houses by the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row this past September and October. The show won “Best Festival Debut”. About the show:
I enjoyed my childhood of piano lessons and music-making. But as time went on I developed bigger dreams: moving to New York to attend the esteemed Manhattan School of Music. However, this goal was a bit more difficult than I expected. As I struggle with my self-sabotaging demons, shaky memorization and insufficient technique, I master a falling piano, a sweltering practice room, a music-hating neighbor, a condescending teacher and other obstacles that confront a young Colorado classical pianist who has decided to tackle the Big Apple!
In this music-filled 60 minute solo show, I create over ten characters including my piano teachers: a kindly childhood teacher, my University of Denver teacher who opens up my eyes to the world of New York and my formidable first NY piano teacher. Throughout the show I play the piano music of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy and Schubert.
As a singer I’ve sung back-up vocals for both Paul McCartney at Carnegie Hall and Björk at Riverside Church and sang with the New York Philharmonic when they won three Grammy Awards in Classical Music for John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls.” My singing has been featured on the New York Times website and as a pianist I’ve performed with The New York Revels on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” at New York’s Town Hall and on NPR.
How do you prepare as an actor … does it change when you have something of such powerful emotion?
I prepare as I always do for any character I portray. As I work on the scrip, I try to understand the need of the character and her objectives. I focus on the relationship with the other actor(s) and what drives our relationship. I dig into my own experience and let the emotions of those experiences inform the character. Before performing, I focus, breath, calm myself down with meditation and breathing exercises and try to live the moments of the character on stage.
OK, Shakespeare’s gone now. Considine is not. What’s it like having the author right there?
I like having the author there. I like being able to ask questions of the play and clarify things. Sometimes the writer can make you nervous because you want to create what he has in his head, what his vision was while writing the show. This show is particularly character demanding because I play a real person who was in the life of the author. So I want to portray her in a real, connected way for him and hopefully do the character justice.
What do you hope the audience will take away from this piece?
I hope the audience will take away that life is complicated and people live confusing lives. That they try their best, but oftentimes falter. That alcoholism can break people and families apart. Alcohol can make family life cruel and unjust. And it can break people. This play will give them a glimpse into the life of an alcoholic family and what they had to live through.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be taking my one-woman show, Velvet Determination, to The Millibo Theatre in Colorado Springs for four performances, March 14-18. Then April 4-7 I have four performances of the show at The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. I also have a short, comedic film, d’Urn it!, which I produced and had a leading role. It is the story of three women who, according to the will of the deceased, have to play a game in order to win the right to inherit his millions. The film is nearing completion and will be making the festival circuit in the coming month.