Monday, November 12, 2012

Spotlight On...Ildiko Nemeth

Name: Ildiko Nemeth

Hometown: New York City

Education: Actor’s Studio MFA

Favorite Credits: Since I founded The New Stage Theatre Company in 2002, in New York City, I have been the creator and director of all of the company’s shows, which I think does credit to my drive and determination, given some of the difficulties that go along with mounting an Off-Off Broadway production. I have hard time singling out any of these shows as a favorite; I see them as part of the process of realizing who I am personally and artistically, and of what preoccupies me at a certain time. Perhaps the most “iconic” New Stage productions have been Come and Go, Some Historic/Some Hysteric, The Round of Pleasure and Mapping Mobius. When I came to the U.S., I thought that if I could direct at La MaMa, I would be able to say I’d arrived. I was very happy to receive in 2008 our first invitation from this legendary institution. I’m looking forward to more challenges and milestones with my company.

Why theater?: Theatre was always a platform that freed me, a place where I felt authentic and safe in expressing my thoughts, concerns and questions. It is a way for me to communicate, a pathway to self-actualization. The personal investment, I believe, is what makes it resonate with others, touching artists and audience alike. And theatre is such a complex art form: I thoroughly enjoy creating a movement sequence inspired by a poem or a visual, and designing the set or soundscape of the production—I like to translate ideas into visuals, or expand a dream image into a full scene. I see and enjoy theater as a Renaissance endeavor, you could say: I participate in all aspects of the creation, in all the different art forms that only theater, with its complexity, combines.

Tell us about Garden of Delights:
The main character is Lais, an actress who lives in a huge mansion with a beast and a flock of sheep. She lives in great isolation with her illusions and fantasies. She needs to confront her past memories and ghosts in order to liberate herself from the paralyzing effect they have on her present life, to liberate herself in order to open the door to a more psychologically and spiritually mature Lais. That’s the play in a nutshell.  As with all the plays I’ve done, it’s marked by humor, a bizarre atmosphere, and extreme situations.

What inspired you to direct Garden of Delights?: I have a personal response to the character of Lais, but also I believe the story is very universal. It is about the individuation process—the hardship and pain of an encounter with oneself, but also about the possibility of acceptance. It’s a theme I’ve explored before— Some Historic/Some Hysteric and Mapping Mobius come to mind. In SH/SH, you have women struggling to find their voices in the patriarchal society of the 19th century; in MM you have a scientist on a quest for objective understanding that will transcend his personal experience. Garden of Delights is Lais’ creation story, showing us the forces and beliefs that have shaped her and the obstacles to her becoming what she wants to be. And to do this, we enter into her subjective world completely. The boundaries of her past and present, reality and illusion, art and life are blurred, giving us an all-encompassing display of her psyche. Arrabal’s play is wonderfully unique material, with its symbolism and humor, but also very challenging, not least because of its cinematographic nature. I’m fascinated by this challenge.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am inspired by theatre that goes beyond the everyday, that illuminates what life could or should be; theatre that shows the essence of the human struggle rather than a story mired in the particularities of today. I am a great fan of Robert Wilson; his beautifully crafted images and precision in staging communicate without regard to time or place. We can all recognize the archetypal entities.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I want to see, up close, the great eastern European theatre masters at work, those that influenced me on my way. I would be a character in the Dead Class of Tadeus Kantor, or observe Vsevolod Meyerhold rehearsals, or be part of Jerzy Grotowski’s laboratory theatre. As for the living—as I mentioned, I am a great admirer of Robert Wilson, and I would love to work with him in some fashion.

What shows have you recommended to your friends?: Sleep No More. It totally challenges the way we see theatre and audience participation. I always check out BAM’s Next Wave festival also, as it offers a wide array of national and international companies, amazing and innovative works by, for example, Pina Baush, Ivo van Hove, and Siti company, just to mention a few. I still carry in me last year’s The Threepenny Opera with the Berliner Ensemble. What a great production.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
Gina Rowlands from the 70’s, and would be called, perhaps, "The Story of a Woman Who Embraced Experimental Theatre as an Antidote to her Socialist Upbringing and Blindly Followed a Gypsy in the Woods to an Unknown Future". Or let the executives decide. It’s hard to be succinct with your own life.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: As anyone who has seen my plays probably suspects, I’m encouraging myself and others not to feel guilty. I think we’re too suppressed. Pleasure is good. 

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:
At this point in my life, I have hard time seeing myself doing something different. Theater is essential to my life. As I alluded to in my movie title, I’ve had visions of an iconic gypsy woman in a wood, so maybe this means I would be a rootless wanderer, traveling to many lands.

What’s up next?:
I am proud that this year my company is turning 10 years old. We will celebrate it with a production in the spring of 2013 at La MaMa E.T.C . New Stage Revisited will take the most memorable moments of the last decade and give them new life. It will be a reinvention of previous works with additional material and with a union of past and present company members. It will be celebratory, fun, but will still have that edge that New Stage is known for. We hope to see many of you there.