The Soul of the American Actor

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

BRIAN COX

NICOLE ANSARI

DAVID SHINER

DAVID GREENSPAN

BILL D'ELIA

FYVUSH FINKEL

LYLE KESSLER

JENNIFER FOUCHÉ

SHELDON EPPS

MYRIAM CYR

JIM SEALES

ROBERT STAFFANSON

IAN FINKEL

WILLIAM S. YELLOWROBE, JR.

EDDIE MARTIN

PETER JENSEN

TIM STEVENSON

Spotlight On

“One wishes to know something but the answer is in a form of being more aware – of being open to a richer level of experience.” 
- Peter Brook

“The actor must constantly remember that he is on the stage for the sake of the public.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“In everything, without doubt, truth has the advantage over imitation.”
- Cicero

“The body does not have memory.  It is memory.” 
- Jerzy Grotowski

“Above all, you must remain open and fresh and alive to any new idea.”
- Laurence Olivier

“Life is meaningless without art.” 
- Karen Finley

 

 

“How do we re-establish a culture of caring?  There are many things that we can and do. The arts can help. Becoming educated – but having a good education doesn’t necessarily mean that a person knows how to be a “caring” person. It’s time to re-define what “being human” means. What is it that makes us different from animals? Mainly, it’s when we accept the discipline of “being human.” When we genuinely care about each other.”
- Rita Fredricks

 

 

“Above all, you must remain open and fresh and alive to any new idea.”
- Laurence Olivier

 

 

 

“The healing power of the theatre consists in its bring the place where we can finally recognize and remember, often through laughter, our own dreams and desires on stage.  It seems that by acknowledging the wild cut-off parts of ourselves, we remove their power to commit uncontrolled violence, we become more integrated, and somehow more compassionate.”
- Jean-Claude van Itallie

 

 

Ronald Rand in Let It Be Art

 

Hirschfeld

Oh Eagle, come with wings
Outspread in sunny skies.
Oh Eagle, come and bring us peace,
thy gentle peace.
Oh Eagle, come and give new life
to us who pray.
Remember the circle of the sky, the
stars, and the brown eagle.
the great life of the Sun,
the young within the nest,
Remember the sacredness of things.”
- Pawnee prayer

“And above all,
watch with glittering eyes
the whole world
around you
because the greatest secrets
are always are hidden
in the most unlikely places.
Those who don’t believe
in magic
will never find it.”
- Roald Dahl

David Parsons

David Parsons rehearsing with his dancers

David Parsons Artistic Director of Parsons Dance which he founded in 1987 with lighting designer Howell Binkley. Mr. Parsons has toured and taught with his company on five continents. He has created more than 80 works for the company, through commissions from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, the American Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, the Spoleto Festival, and Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, among others. His works have also been performed by Batsheva Dance Company of Israel, English National Ballet, Feld Ballets/NY, Hubbard Street Dance Company, Nederlands Dans Theatre, and Paris Opera Ballet, among many others. He choreographed and directed the dance elements for “Times Square 2000,” the 24-hour festivities in Times Square celebrating the turn of the Millennium. Mr. Parsons directed and choreographed Gotham Chamber Opera’s production of “María de Buenos Aires,” which made its world premiere at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Arts. Mr. Parsons was the first contemporary choreographer to stage work at the Arena di Verona, where he choreographed Verdi’s “Aida.” From 1978 to 1987, Mr. Parsons was a leading dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, where Mr. Taylor created many roles for him in works such as “Arden Court,”Last Look,” and “Roses.” He has appeared as a guest artist with the Berlin Opera, MOMIX, the New York City Ballet, and the White Oak Dance Project. As a director and choreographer, he has collaborated with John Corrigliano; Earth, Wind and Fire; East Village Opera Company; Morton Gould; Donna Karan; Alex Katz; William Ivy Long; Santo Loquasto; Dave Matthews; Milton Nascimento; Robert Rauschenberg; Steely Dan; and Billy Taylor, among others.  His film and TV work includes:  “Fool’s Fire” directed by Julie Taymor; and Rita Blitt’s documentary, “Caught in Paint;”Aeros”; PBS production of “Remember Me,” a world premiere production by Parsons Dance and the East Village Opera Company; Parsons Dance repertory production in Denmark; the hit Italian reality television show, “Amici;” PBS production of Billy Taylor music with Parsons Dance,’ and a RAI television dance celebration of Pisa, Italy. Mr. Parsons has cultivated educational partnerships with Marymount Manhattan College, Broadway Dance Center and Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, and has presented workshops and events at Juilliard, Columbia Business School and UCLA. He is a recipient of a Dance Magazine Award, American Choreography Award and the 2011 Dance Masters of America Award.

David Parsons

Heartiest congratulations on your performances at The Joyce.  Were you pleased with the response?

"Round My World" Dancers included : Ian Spring, Melissa Ullom, Steven Vaughn, Elena D’Amario, Eric Bourne, Sarah Braverman. Photo by Krista Bonura

David ParsonsI was, and one of the wonderful things about Parsons Dance being at The Joyce over the years is being able to share the variety of what we do. People became very satiated, and it is something I’ve developed over the years.

How young were you when you began dancing?

I was twelve and was a gymnast; it’s how I really started moving. My first performance was on a trampoline in Kansas City. I was born in Illinois, and raised in Kentucky. When I came to New York at seventeen, I was with a small dance company, Missouri Dance Theatre.  I also got a scholarship at Alvin Alley’s. When I saw Paul Taylor come and dance in Missouri, I was very attracted to what he did with dance, the very deep way that he moved as a male dancer; because of the profundity of the work. He was able to do that in dance, and you don’t see that enough. I spoke with his assistant and he said if you come to New York, come by Paul’s. I did and in six months, I premiered in “Rigoletto.”

David Parsons

: "Remember Me"

How did you move to choreographing your own work?

I went into ‘sponge mode’ where I would soak everything up, and learned pieces not in the repertory so when I walked into the studio, I would be ready. That was how I got a part in “Esplanade.” I knew the whole thing. Paul was very impressed. There was an injury in the company back in the states and I was on tour in Latvia sponsored by the State Department. I heard that there was an opening so I returned quickly, looked at the film about “Esplanade” and learned it as quickly as I could.

A Stray's Lulluby" Dancers:Christina Ilisije, Elena D’Amario
& Jason Macdonald. Photo by Krista Bonura

David Parsons

Who were inspirations for you at that time?

Paul was, because like I said, I was there and able to study someone who had done it all, so to speak, in all the aspects, being a choreographer and running a company. Paul was an artist, and he also knew how to run the business end of keeping a company going. It’s really how you deal with your life, how you get your inspiration, and he was an inspiration for that.

You were a leading dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and Mr. Taylor created many roles for you in several works including “Arden Court,”Last Look,” and “Roses.”  How did this strengthen your abilities?

David ParsonsI spent two years learning his style, to make sure I fit into the company, and then I started choreography. He was supportive. Not only was I learning the style, the physicality, I learned the music. He helped me again with all the aspects. It’s so necessary in that it’s what we do.

As a director and choreographer, you’ve collaborated with many thrilling artists. How would you describe the ingredients necessary for an inspiring collaboration?

Energy. As William Ivey Long had said – it’s really showing up. That’s something the artist doesn’t necessarily understand, it’s about creating, about making people constantly excited. There has to be an environment of openness. Though your choreography, they have to see that energy. It’s important to sustain it; it’s a big component in creating.

How do you keep your energy up?

Different  projects have taken me away from sole choreography. I started early on producing dance, artists like Robert Battle, Katarzyna Skarpetowska. Basically it gives me more time for myself. It also reminds me how I started when you bring in young people. It’s incredibly satisfying to sustain an artistic vision.

You created educational partnerships with Marymount Manhattan College, Broadway Dance Center and Manhattan Movement and Arts Center.  What led you to want to do this?

One of the things that sustains a career is having people around you to build a legacy. You can’t do this on your own, so that’s part of finding ways inside the world of dance – to give other people work, to get young people excited. It’s very important because it’s such ethereal art form.

How have you learned to balance being a dancer/choreographer and run a dance company?

That’s one of the hardest things to balance, and right now I changing out an administration, and we have retrain people. It’s sort of like starting from scratch. That’s a part of the longevity, the commitment to a whole new group of people. You have to realize it’s a necessity; it’s not a choice. All the great artists who have been able achieve a longevity have reached those points many times.

David Parsons

In 2007, you choreographed Verdi’s “Aida” at the centuries-old Arena di Verona. What did that mean for you?

It was a wonderful experience because of the historical experience; to be the first contemporary choreographer at Arena di Verona.

How do you view the relationship between the audience and what you create in the rehearsal room?

It’s a very interesting question. Artists and choreographers are different people or we’ll be looking at things with a similar structure. I was graced at an early age with an ability to connect with the audience, so you rarely see something without some context or slight something the audience in what I create.

I think when you make it accessible to the audience something occurs. It’s something I love to do – communicate with an audience. It’s who I am. It’s something that flows for me. I do think about concept. I’m making a new dance, planning to do something about gender which I’ve never dealt with before. It’s conceptual, and I rarely do anything without some sort of a concept.

In what way do you see the company developing in the future?

I see it expanding, based upon my producing ability. I’ve done well with young chorographers. I would also like to have, at some point, a school because it would spread what I’ve done over the years. It would make it much more easier to see young people when they come to New York. It’s about building energy and sustaining energy.

Dance has certainly become more prominent on television and in films more recently – has that had an effect on how audiences view your work and the different dances you create?

I think it does, I would imagine so. I think there’s an attention span that’s been developed. With most dance it’s not more a minute long. It’s amazing how short that is but I think the digital world is having such an impact in the last ten years. There’s developed a dichotomy, where some people will get their entertainment digitally, while others will go for the human element. People will get weary of some of it at a certain point. It’s also easy to manipulate people through its use.

What do you draw upon for your source of strength?

I would say that there’s not one person who makes this happen. You’ve got to realize that you have to challenge people and yourself constantly. I think there’s a need to create, and that makes you find the strength, because the journey will never end for us. You and I are ‘cursed’ in a way, with the ‘bug’ for creation. It’s one of those things in our system, in our nature.•



"It is a law of life that man cannot live for himself alone. Extreme individualism is insanity. The world's problems are also our personal problems. Health is achieved through maintaining our personal truth in a balanced relation of love to the rest of the world. No expression is more emblematic of this relation than the creative act which we call art. No art by its very constitution typifies the social nature of that creative act more than the theatre. The theatre, to be fully understood and appreciated, must be seen as a manifestation of this process of interchange between society and the individual. It must be judged as a continuous development of groups of individuals within society, a development which becomes richer, acquires greater force and value as it grows with the society in which it originates. Only in this way can the theatre nourish us.  - Harold Clurman

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