Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Spotlight On...Ella Dershowitz

Name: Ella Dershowitz

Hometown: Cambridge, MA

Education: Yale BA and one random fun semester at LAMDA

Select Credits: Intimacy (The New Group), Card and Gift (Clubbed Thumb), 4,000 Miles (Hudson Stage), Visitors (Vineyard Playhouse), Screenwriter’s Daughter (Vineyard Playhouse), A Splintered Soul.

Why theater?: I got into acting because I wanted to be as many different people as possible in one lifetime.  In theater you get to really live as someone else for a few hours a day.  It’s like hopping on a roller coaster at 8pm and going on whatever crazy adventure it takes you on for the next few hours.  It consumes all five senses; nothing else in life is as all encompassing. I also love rehearsing, and getting to throw spaghetti at a wall for a few weeks and see what sticks, and then previews getting to throw spaghetti at the audience.  There’s no regret in theater because you can always do it differently the next time around.  And there are so many other people to rely on.  Creating this person and this world with every other actor and crewmember allows you to take risks and play with ideas you could never realize on your own.  And I love having the audience right there as part of the experience.  You work on a play in a vacuum without an audience and then just as you’re starting to feel totally insane and delusional, the audience comes in and gives the story a home. Also, as an audience member, theater is a way to feel like you’re part of something and you’re with people, whenever you need that.  It’s a remedy for loneliness.  All you have to do is show up and buy a ticket and you’re included in this amazing gathering of stories and emotions and humans.  Whenever I feel lonely or homesick or overwhelmed and need a break from my reality, I go to the theater.  And I love going to see friends in plays.  It’s one of the rare professions where you actually get to see the people in your life do what they do best.  There’s nothing like walking to the theater with a friend and then parting ways while they perform and you watch, and then meeting up again after.  Seeing someone on stage and then talking to them right after makes the process of transformation even more magical and mysterious.

Who do you play in CONNECTED?: We all play multiple characters.  My main girl is Sharon, whose World Of Warcraft avatar is doing a lot better at life than she is.  I also play Sarah, the best friend of the 2nd or 3rd most popular girl in school.  And the TV host of a morning show.

Tell us about CONNECTED: Connected is an awesome balance of FUN and thought provoking.  It examines the ecosystem of a suburban New Jersey school from all different angles, through the lens of technology and social media.  You get a really clear picture of this school and its key players.  And of a generation so immersed in the virtual world that they are completely disconnected from a lot of what is real and right in front of them.  Everyone remembers being a teenager, so I think everyone will see themselves somewhere on the stage.  And, because there are 8 actors playing like 20 characters, we are not limited to the typical high school archetypes. It’s a play for all ages and types, from people who know nothing about technology to people who couldn’t live without it.  I would have loved this play in high school and I love it now.

What is it like being a part of CONNECTED?: It’s amazing.  High school is such a weird and vulnerable time for everybody, the play hits close to home for all of us, and we all bonded really quickly.  It has lead to really interesting discussions for us, and I think it will for the audience too!  It’s also been fun getting to revisit high school now that I’m older, and to go back as two so different characters.  And technology has gotten so ubiquitous that it’s hard to “opt out” of it these days.  It’s crazy to watch that play out in the high school world. It’s changed SO MUCH since I was a teenager.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’ve always been drawn to coming of age stories in one form or another.  There’s something nostalgic and inspiring about watching people grow up in all different ways.  What inspires me as an artist is sitting in the audience next to a friend and, when the play ends, having COMPLETELY different opinions about everything we just witnessed, from the script, to the story, to the direction, to each performance.  I love that reminder that what we are creating is so fluid and so subjective and can mean so many different things to different people.  Young audience members and first time audience members also really inspire me because I SO vividly remember being one of them.  I love remembering just how magical theater was when the process was a total mystery to me.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Charlotte in Mysteries of Love and Sex.  Kayleen in Grusome Playground Injuries.  Evelyn in Shape of Things.  Thomasina in Arcadia.  Claire on "Six Feet Under".  Pippi Longstocking.  Juliet? And any musical ever, because that would mean I could sing and dance…

What’s your favorite showtune?: All of them.   Especially the newer rock opera persuasion.  Also "One Day More".

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Surprise me!    

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Helena Bonham Carter, because my childhood self would flip out.  It would be called "Learning to be Human".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Ordinary Days at Roundabout Underground.  I saw it in London with the awesome British cast, but I am totally obsessed with the original soundtrack.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Curious Incident.  I saw it when it first came out, but my mind is still pretty blown.  I remember reading the book as a kid and thinking, “this is a book that could never be turned into a play or movie”, and then they did just that.  It’s the first play I’ve seen that, rather than creating a character, has put you inside that character’s head and recreated the entire world.  To me, that’s what Broadway should be able to accomplish.  Also Fun Home.  

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Re-watching series finales of my favorite TV shows and just BAWLING.  And then watching the pilot episode and feeling like I’ve rewound time.  Also beer. And "Gilmore Girls".

What’s up next?: Visiting some friends across the country, and lots of really amazing readings that I hope turn into plays.

For more on Project Y, visit www.facebook.com/ProjectYTheatre