Women in the Arts 2019: Aviana Rivera emancipates a powerful character

Common Ground, the new musical by Granville Wyche Burgess and Stan Wietrzychowsk, tells the yet-untold story of what really necessitated the Emancipation Proclamation. This special book-in-hand presentation, will be Monday, December 9 at 7:00 p.m. at The Actors Temple, 339 West 47th Street, NYC. Common Ground begins with a veiledly racist President Lincoln, carrying a country-at-war on his back, deliberating on how to make peace with his foes and forge an alliance with the formidable Frederick Douglass. Douglass, a literate, courageous “Moses” to his people, must show President Lincoln a new realty.

This is a “manly” story with two masculine forces etching our history. But – as the musical displays – the wives of these two statesmen played an integral role. Aviana Rivera creates the role of Ann, Frederick Douglass’ wife. Creates is the right word. As little is known of her. Aviana’s creative ground is fertile for interpretation.

image3 (4)We wanted to speak with her about her role and her role in the arts.

Tell us about yourself as an artist

I have just recently decided to ascend into the professional world of theatre and it was the best decision I ever made. I grew up in a household that moved around all of the time, so in my travels I’ve had the opportunity to meet, understand, and observe people in their different ways of life. So as an artist, I find that it is my duty to constantly try and understand people to their fullest capacity and use that knowledge to help me best portray characters truthfully. 

Do you feel an added sense of responsibility when handling apiece of history like this?

I definitely feel an added sense of responsibility when handling a piece like this. Not only because it’s based on such an important part of American history, but also because of the weight it still holds in our modern American society. The problems that are evident in this piece still affect our society today and it’s interesting to explore and play upon those parallels in order to create a sense of catharsis that anyone can relate to, or in the very least empathize with. 

48365497_2028974293850583_1165766532018470912_n.jpgTell us about a staged reading … pros cons

I would say the pros of doing a staged reading versus a full production would be it’s easier for the audience to focus on the words and emotions the actors are trying to portray. Once you get into a full production, the glitz and glam of the lights, costumes, and special effects has the potential to overshadow the playwrights work. On the other hand, I would also say that the con of doing a stage reading would have to be for the very same reason. That same glitz and glam, if done correctly, could emphasize the playwrights work in the best way possible and really bring the piece the life it might need.

The company for this presentation features Kalonjee Gallimore as Frederick Douglass; Dan Pavacic as Abraham Lincoln, with Aviana Rivera, Miranda Luze, Maurio Brown, Brenden MacDonald, Hannah Bonnett and Steven M. Singer as John Wilkes Booth. Reservations are required for this event. Contact Liz Cope at JMAE.events@gmail.com or call 347-497-4814

 

 

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Women in the Arts 2019: The Rodeh to Success

Eliya7

As 2019 starts wrapping up, we spotlight Eliya Rodeh, a member of the Dirty Laundry Theatre, which is a member of the Alliance of Alien Artists. As New York indie theatre opens its minds to new ideas, it opens its doors to new artists from around the world.

“My passion for creating art and my strong belief in art as a form of communication and storytelling led me to join forces with a few other passionate actors and form a theatre production company,” says the Israeli-born Eliya. She doesn’t just present … she brings ideas to the table.

Tell us about yourself as an artist.

Eliya3I’m a passionate Israeli actress and singer, currently based in NYC. I’ve been singing on and off the stage ever since I can remember. With the support of my mother, I was lucky to take the path of artistic studies from elementary school through college, while performing for local and international communities. My love for theatre brought me to New York City to pursue continued development, completing the Stella Adler Conservatory Program and currently flourishing at the HB International Students Program. I believe in the power of theatre to bridge the gap between different people, to break down walls and bring people together. I want my art to touch people, give them a new perspective and open their hearts.

What are you doing now?

Eliya1My passion for creating art and my strong belief in art as a form of communication and storytelling led me to join forces with a few other passionate actors and form a theatre production company, ‘Dirty Laundry Theatre’; together we seek to tell cross cultural human stories and help our audience relate to other ethnical groups they’re not necessarily familiar with or fond of. We’ve just received our first ‘validation event’ when our first play “Borders”, which we premiered at the NY Theatre Festival in the summer was nominated for Best Play of the year!!! I’m super excited about what’s coming up next! We’re now planning our first official season and just launched our fundraising campaign! Other than that I’m working on a solo cabaret show that is inspired by my unique family story. It’s still in the very early stages of development so it’s a bit too early to discuss, but I’m very excited about that! 

What are the biggest obstacles you face? What’s the biggest reward?

13-Edit-2Living the artistic life in a big city is not easy. The struggle is real! It’s a very competitive field, full of rejection and instability. In addition to all that, being a foreigner brings its own obstacles. Acting in English was a major struggle for me to begin with. I started learning English at a very young age and spoke the language well when I moved here. But I lived my life in Hebrew. All my experiences – the good, the bad and everything in between were in Hebrew. And suddenly I had to bring life to characters in another language. A language that I knew, but didn’t feel in my bones. Luckily, this is something that got better with time. The more I experience, the more I live in English, the easier it gets.

Another obstacle is the cultural differences. After moving here I realized I was a lot more “Israeli” than I thought. And as most Israelis I’m very straight forward. I consider it better than giving polite hints and circling around an issue. Unfortunately, some Americans might find such directness a bit… rude. And I’m still learning my social boundaries: what is polite and what isn’t, where my Israeli chutzpah plays nicely with the American passive-aggressiveness, and when I should tone it down. I still find myself confused sometimes when I’m not completely sure if I ‘read’ the other person right. It might sound cliche, but I do learn something new with every day that goes by, and I’m happy to do so.

The best reward is the one I don’t always get to experience or even know about: the impact of my work on the audience.

Even though I might never know about it, if my work will affect and impact just one little girl, that’s my best reward. One little girl who might be insecure or afraid, who thinks her experience of life is not ok, who got singled out for being different, who feels alone or discouraged. If that little girl sees my work, hears or watches the story I’m choosing to tell through my acting, singing or theatre-making and realize that she’s not alone and that there are people out there that go through similar experiences – that’s the best reward one could ever get. There’s a saying in Hebrew “One who saves one soul, saves the world entire” – for me, this is how I save the world.If you could give advice to all artists thinking of coming here what would you tell them?

NYC has it all: money, drive and the know-how. Know that it’s there, even if it’s not always easy to find. Do your research, find resources here, be active in finding your tribe/community and don’t ever get too shy or afraid to reach out for help. The acting world is very competitive, but the community is also very supportive. everyone’s going through the same struggle and most are happy to help.

What’s next for you?

Eliya5As part of Dirty Laundry Theatre’s first official season we’re developing an immersive piece, which combines a theatrical experience with a high-end dinner. The audience is invited to join a traditional family Shabbat dinner where they become a part of the family dynamic, when it goes right and when it goes wrong.

In this project I have the opportunity to both assist as part of the production team as well as be a member of the cast, which is an incredible opportunity for me to learn more about the business of indie-theatre in NYC.