Days fallowing istanbulberlin's publication, the newest member of the New York based multi-cultural theater company Et AliaDeniz Bulat, got in touch with me. She wrote: "I would like to introduce our new project to you and also get to know you."
The name of Et Alia comes from Latin, meaning "And Other". Founded and run by international women, I thought the theater company reflects the soul of our time. They started a project during quarantine called “This Is Me Eating ______” which is open to everyone's contribution.
To get to know the group and its members, I asked six women of the group three questions each. One about the company, one about their views and a random one... And got very inspiring answers.
S: Et Alia is “founded and led by international women”. Why is giving the voice to women and multiculturalism important?
For a long time, this industry has given opportunities to the same people over and over again. Fortunately, things are changing now and audiences want to hear a variety of stories and voices and see the same diversity in art as they see in the real world. Through Et Alia, we are creating a space for international womxn to share their stories in order to reach audiences that can either relate to them and feel represented or that can’t relate to them, but want to get educated and broaden their horizons.
S: You want to make art that tells important stories. What is an important story? Can a very personal one be important?
An important story is one that helps audience members better understand their reality or someone else’s; that makes them ask questions and dig deeper into complex issues; that makes them empathize and take action towards certain things. A very personal one can absolutely be important - the more specific a story is, the more universal it becomes.
When audiences are presented with a detailed and personal experience, it is easier for them to understand that person’s journey and therefore relate to it (or at least parts of it).
S: If you were a colour...
M: I would be blue!
S: “You are inspired to create art for the other, by the other, and about the other.” Could you dig into this idea?
G: I am passionate about telling stories that are not ‘common’ and that will make the audience learn something out of their cultural comfort zone. Because I have felt like ‘the other’ for a major part of my life (when I moved to India, went back to Italy and finally moved to the US).
I am very motivated to use my craft as a way to make, what one might call ‘outsiders’, feel like they are not alone. Et Alia wants to do this specifically by relating to stories they know, stories they make and stories about them.
S: And “This is Me Eating My Eating Disorder”is what you wrote and choreographed for the project, which I found full of feelings. What was the feeling you wanted to convey with it?
G: I wanted to convey a feeling of community, courage and comfort. By sharing my experience in such detail, I wanted to spark conversations between people who go through the same things I go through and for them to connect with one another.
I need the topic of eating disorders and food to not be an elephant in the room, I need people affected to start realizing that it’s okay and love themselves despite it.
S: You are inspired by the complex relationship between home and identity. What is home for you?
G: That is the question centering my life! I don’t have a physical nor an emotional home, this is because I’ve lived in three different continents during my life and each of them were very different and culturally rich. Art was the one element of my identity that was a constant, and hence I feel drawn towards exploring how it can give me and others a sense of empathy and groundedness.
S: “Et Alia creates an accepting community that inspires artists to create beyond their comfort zones.” Why is it important to go and create beyond comfort zones?
A: Because making art shouldn't be comfortable! There are so many stories that aren't being told, and settling with comfort means denying the need for deeper connections. Being an artist implies being brave enough to leave your comfort zone and express vulnerability, honesty and passion, in order to provoke genuine experiences and expose the audience to original perspectives.
S: You are Brazilian, you've studied in Moscow and now you are in New York. How does your experience of living in three countries far away from each other with very different cultures affect your acting?
I think the more I get to know different cultures, the more I learn about the human essence. What, in spite of cultural disparities, connects us all? Knowing that all humans share some of the same struggles and fears allows me to feel empathy for a greater variety of characters and bring them to life in my body.
S: And “This Is Me Eating My Taste Buddies”is your production. Watching it made me think about freedom from different aspects. Did you have a question in mind starting the project?
A: How much do I rely on food to be happy? The term "freedom" in times of social isolation has a completely different meaning. I believe "surrendering" is a good synonym for it, and that's what it feels like when I allow myself to enjoy my food in the moment without any concerns about the future or the past.
Who do you want to reach with "This Is Me Eating ______" project?
It’s super important to reach out to the artistic community with a project like "This Is Me Eating ______". This is a time to interact with the artists in ways that can spark creativity as well as a dialogue. "This Is Me Eating ______" is the wonderful project developed by Giorgia Valenti to bring into discussion our relationship to food and body image during this time. With this project we hope to create a platform to expand our communities and give a platform to create.
Why do you find working in interdisciplinary fields interesting?
I: It’s the best part about being an artist. It allows for a sort of excuse to be curious and interested in so many things. What excites me the most about being in the artistic world is jumping between acting, writing, and directing - and seeing how each of those facets of me speak to each other.
S: If you were a book you would be...
I: My favorite book is a series called The Neapolitan Novels by Elena FerranteThe way she writes these incredible novels would be a great way to express the way I think and feel, especially in regards to friendship and memory.
S: We share an interest in connecting people with different stories and backgrounds. How can theater do that?
L: Theater is a sacred moment of sharing an unique experience: different kinds of people leave their homes to live an event together. What they see on stage is an intersection of thoughts that came from people with different stories and backgrounds, and it reflects on them according to their own circumstances. It’s amazing how embracing people from such different cultures deeply enriches these experiences.
S: Where do you get inspired in your acting?
L: Each day I learn more about the complexity of human behavior, about how people deal with life’s conditions, and I think it’s absolutely fascinating! It’s priceless to be able to engage people in real affecting and strongly reflective stories. I’m inspired by the beauty of the survival of the human mind.
S: What do you think is the relationship between old and new?
L: Maybe it’s a little cliché to say that we learn from the past to evolve, but I couldn’t give a different answer. Everything we create, everything we are, comes from our backgrounds. We get inspired by the old to revolutionize and build the new.
S: Your artistry is motivated by your curiosity about bodies’ movement in space. What does one do when they are curious about this?
D: I people watch a lot. It’s fun, but don’t get caught:)) I’m curious about what our bodies are capable of when we give ourselves the right to move freely without thinking.
You can only honor your physical impulses on stage if you are aware of them. As actors we’re used to getting physically close, but how does one react to someone touching their hand? How do people affect each other physically? I’m always curious about this.
S: As the newest member of the club, tell me what you find most exciting about joining Et Alia?
I am so inspired by their mission. No matter how diverse New York is, if you are a foreigner in any place, you’re always going to be one. It’s important to find a homebase for yourself. Now, Et Alia and the women who run it became that homebase for me. After following their work through mutual friends from school and witnessing their creations, I wanted in!
S: You “hope to focus on getting voices from different backgrounds all over the globe heard, and helping passionate artists’ ideas turn into productions on stage or through film.”
S. Starting from the Turkish stage actors, what do you want to tell them?
“Aren’t we kinda bored to listen to the same story, and even see the same people tell those same stories over and over again?” That’s what I would ask them. I’ve seen what happens when people from different backgrounds create art together.... Everyone should witness that.
I want people to be able to rely on me to advocate for their art; because there is a lot of talent around us to take a chance on.