Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Spotlight On...Carol Tandava Henning

Name: Carol Henning, stage name "Tandava".

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Education: BA English/Creative Writing NYU

Favorite Credits: Shakespeare's Cleopatra and Titania, Diane from Lanford Wilson's solo show The Moonshot Tape, Flora from Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton.

Why theater?: Theater is the form of storytelling that suits me the best. It's a way not just to tell, but to fully and meaningfully live out experiences, taking the audience on a powerful emotional journey.  Sharing stories in this way both creates understanding in the audience, and validates the experiences being portrayed – both of which are invaluable for our development as individuals and as an interconnected community.

Tell us about Blood On The Veil: One way to put it is:  “What do you get when you cross a crash-course in bellydance with stand-up comedy?” The show is an autobiographical monologue about how I got into bellydance to recover from a traumatic abdominal injury and surgery, how it not only helped me to recover my health and strength but brought awareness to and appreciation of my body that had been missing from my life and creative work. The show describes how, through bellydance, I found a new lease on life, the courage to travel abroad, produce my own work, develop integrity as a person and artist, and encourage others to do the same. I also learned a lot about the true history of bellydance, which is properly called raqs sharqi – literally “dance of the east” – so BOTV delves into that as well.

What inspired you to create Blood On The Veil?: The first part was a story I had been telling informally for years when people asked what inspired me to bellydance, and in 2008 I digested it into a stand-up routine that was received well. As I began to have other adventures in bellydance, I wrote those down too, and in 2011 I realized I had the beginnings of a show. So I took the PIT’s DIY workshop, taught by solo artist Jen Nails, which gave me the tools I needed to create a workable solo show.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’m usually drawn to psychological drama – anything that explores how we relate to ourselves and each other and why, anything that challenges conventional assumptions about who or what we should be. There are several popular actors who I feel embody this in their work – Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, James Gandolfini, John Hurt, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Aaron Sorkin, in a heartbeat. Yes, he takes some heat for being preachy, but it’s SUCH GOOD preaching – well written, compelling, and very concerned with trying to figure out right from wrong in a nuanced way.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: One of the shows I sang the praises of was the recent Broadway production of 39 Steps, which was a tour-de-force of brilliant physical comedy, which we don’t see very often these days.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would probably have to play myself unless we could find a six-foot actress who could also bellydance…

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Meryl Streep's Flora in 27 Wagons.  I'm told her performance was so exquisite you could feel the Mississippi heat in her sexually repressed Southern drawl.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Staying up late; sleeping in later.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Practicing human rights law - speaking for those unable to defend themselves.

What’s up next?: I will probably tour BOTV again to a few more cities that have shown interest in mounting it (we have produced it in San Francisco and twice in Orlando). I’m also colloborating with fight choreographers to develop theatrical bellydance works that include slapstick and swordfighting.