It’s astonishing that with all Liat Ron and Shelly Feldman have in common they haven’t met already. They are both talented Israeli-American women working in theater in New York and happen to have shows which are opening presently. But even though the world of Off-Off Broadway is a small one there’s still a chance to make new bonds and form new bridges. That’s why when we added up the body of work, history, common background and upcoming shows of these two women it was almost a no-brainer – let’s have them connect! More than connect – we thought it would be a fantastic idea for them to interview each other to see where they merge and where they diverge.
First let’s meet Liat Ron, superwoman–smart, savvy, Israeli-American-New Yorker, similar to the semi-autobiographical character she created, Hellthy.
In Liat’s one-woman show, GUTS, Hellthy moves back to Israel, after an exhausting breakup, she is the center of attention for her over-bearing parents. Hellthy battles with a dangerous obsession to fit into a size 0, at any cost. Her heart never seems to be in sync with her brain and her diary is her only real confidante.
How does she overcome it all? — She has GUTS!
Liat has GUTS too–and to meet her is to love her.
Now let’s meet Shelly Feldman.
Antonio Minino, THM Contributor and part of the production team who is working with Feldman on Costa Rehab would like to personally introduce Shelly to our readers:
“Shelly Feldman is a magnetic artist – her allure is due to her concentration, strength and no nonsense attitude towards life and the craft. As an actress she took on the role of Anaïs Nin in MTWorks’ production of Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell at the New York International Fringe Festival back in 2008 and made Nin her own. She was not trapped in research or what she should have been like, she simply was Nin. She was childlike yet assertive, sensual and powerful. She made bold choices yet portrayed them in the subtlest most fascinating ways.
“She brings that bold quality to her directing and to motherhood, a new role she has recently taken on at the same time she directs Costa Rehab. Her offspring seems to convey the same magnetism as her parents, just ask the cast who has embraced him fully in the rehearsal room as she juggles notes and rocks him to sleep.
“I read the stage directions for the reading of Costa Rehab in the National NewBorn Festival and in those rehearsals I could tell that she just got it — was it her humanity itself or the fact that she had served in the Israeli army that helped her nail it? who knows – why question theatre magic when it happens. The truth is Shelly Feldman is not a soldier, but a warrior that charges her craft with great passion. She has been able to illustrate and enrich playwright Rich Rubin’s play in ways that will never be recreated again. They now belong to Feldman’s world premiere production and I hope you get a chance to check it out.”
Liat and Shelly spent some time getting to know each other and found that they had so much to talk about from art to creating to Israel, true love, work, giving birth and so much more. They settled on some things that they really wanted to know about each other that they thought our readers would enjoy hearing about too.
Shelly: How did this play come to you?
Liat: GUTS was culled from diary entries during a very pivotal time in my life, not too long ago, while trying to move back to Israel where I was born and raised. When I returned to New York, I read a few lines from my diary to my mentor, Gregory Simmons, and he said to me, “A play must come out of this”. My reaction was very strong- “No way!” There was no way that I was going to share any parts of my diary with the world, since I am a very private person (and by the way, a lot of people who know me will be shocked to learn about the issues I have been hiding until now). I try to maintain my image as a superwoman, and not someone who has struggled or struggles. I know, hilarious. I take a lot of pride in how I am able to inspire others, but my tendency is to do it from a position of strength. This is new for me to try to affect the world by sharing my vulnerabilities. So…Mr. Simmons kept insisting that there is something unique about my language and the way I personalize “things”, including my own diary. Also, he argued that the themes in (what became) GUTS are very universal and can empower, inspire, educate and open many eyes…Now, a couple of years later, I finally believe in the power of GUTS. It tells a story of triumph, learning what home really means, and finding health. The name GUTS came to me one day, and made so much sense. All the associations of the word GUTS exist in the play, except for the actual word.
Shelly: As an actress, how does it feel to act in your own play?
Liat: It’s quite a ride, I’d say. Not only is it a play that I wrote, but it’s also based on my personal story. Even though a lot is fictionalized, it is theater after all, the seed is still my very personal story. I will say that the role of Hellthy is the hardest role I’ve ever worked on, but also provides the most rewarding and thrilling acting experience I’ve ever had. The autobiographical aspect of GUTS definitely added an acting challenge I’ve never faced before.
Regarding the dual role of playwright and actor, it can potentially blur boundaries during the rehearsal process, which is something I had to be mindful of throughout my intensive work with my director. It requires relinquishing control and being constantly mindful of your role as a performer in the rehearsal room. It is also an incredibly empowering experience, knowing that I have ideas, life lessons and inspiration to share with the world, and that I am able to utilize my skills as an actor and a dancer in order to do so. As an actor, I have always felt that I have more to offer artistically than performing-wise, and since I’ve always written and had “big ideas” in me, such as changing the world (call me naïve), GUTS has become the culmination of that aspiration. Acting in my own play also created comical moments during rehearsal in which I felt extremely challenged as a performer by what the playwright created, whether it was my set vision or scenes that were simply difficult to perform. And I will say that it is truly a strange phenomenon to feel angry with the playwright while performing one of the very demanding scenes in GUTS …when I am the playwright!!! You’ll know what I am referring to when you see it for yourself. All in all, I have a remarkable director to share this exhilarating ride with me.
Shelly: How does your Israeli origin manifest itself in this play? (Does it?)
Liat: I would almost risk it and say that Israel actually plays a role in GUTS. Israel is where Hellthy came from and the place she is trying to move back to. In my writing, I used my own experience, my childhood memories, the culture, the traditions. There is even a little spoken Hebrew in the play, and I feel like you can actually smell and sense Israel throughout the play, even when Hellthy is in New York. It’s where her roots are.
THE TABLES ARE TURNED …
Liat: How did this play come to you?
Shelly: I’m one of the MTWorks company actors and knowing about my experience in the Israeli army, they suggested that I direct Costa Rehab for their NewBorn stage readings festival. We got wonderful reactions from the stage reading and decided to go ahead and make a full production of the play.
Liat: Being an actress, how do you feel being on the other side as a director?
Shelly: As an actress, you have the privilege to not care about anything but the story, your partner and your character. You have the room to dive in to your character’s world and find as many ways to enrich it as you can. I find that to be extremely fun and fascinating. However, to be a director is a lot more creative and a lot more of a headache. You’re not just responsible for the acting, but for the whole piece. You have to make sure that the acting, music, lighting, set… all of that needs to come together to one story that makes sense. And it’ll be nice if you can make it entertaining while you’re at it… So it’s a lot more to think about. Totally different kinds of energy. But I truly believe that if you want to be a better director, you need to experience acting. It makes you a lot more helpful to the actors because you know exactly what they are going through and it makes it a lot easier to help them and easier for you to get what you want out of them.
Liat: How does your Israeli origin manifest itself in this play? (Does it?)
Shelly: In Israel, the army service is mandatory so I know what it means to be a soldier. I know that humor that comes from a very painful place. I understand sarcasm as a defense mechanism. I know fear and I know the ways to hide it. I know what you look like when you go in the army and what you look like when you come out. I know what’s it like to grow up real fast and I know how to laugh about it all. Even when you really want to cry.
Thank you so much, ladies, for taking the time to interview each other as you juggle so many other important things in your life! We can’t wait to see your shows.
Please check out GUTS and Costa Rehab … see below for details
~~~GUTS A multi-media fantasia by Liat Ron Performed by LIAT RON Directed by SHOSHONA CURRIER
November 3 – 20, 2011 at Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm / Sundays at 5 pm
The 9th Space
150 First Avenue at 9th Street Click here for tickets or call 866-811-4111
Tickets are $20 and are now available. They may also be purchased in-person at the Theatre Box Office, 30 minutes prior to the performance.
~~~COSTA REHAB Written by Rich Rubin Directed by Shelly Feldman . Nov 3-19, 2011 Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7pm Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm Special talk-backs following Tuesday performances ‘ The WorkShop Theater 312 West 36th Street, 4th Floor Click here for tickets or call 866-811-4111 . TICKETS are $18 (Veterans $12; Seniors & Students $15)