Monday, August 24, 2015

Betsy Struxness

Photographed By Matt Murphy

WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND RAISED AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST THINGS ABOUT LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY?
I was born in Knoxville, TN but moved to Kansas City, MO when I was five and was raised there until I moved to NYC after high school to go to college.

WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME AN ACTOR?
I've performed since I was six years old, and according to my parents, that's when I decided I was going to be an actor.

WHAT KIND OF TRAINING HAVE YOU GONE THROUGH TO GET YOUR POSITION?
I began my training as a ballerina with State Ballet of Missouri (currently Kansas City Ballet) but in the summers would do theater around Kansas City at Starlight Theater and Gladstone Theater in the Park. I attended ballet summer programs at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle and School of American Ballet in NYC, where I fell in love with the city. After high school I attended The Juilliard School and got my BFA in Dance. While there I studied voice and acting as electives.

WHO DO YOU PLAY IN “HAMILTON” AND WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE SMITTEN WITH THIS MUSICAL?
I am in the ensemble of Hamilton. This show seems to strike people hard. From the conversations I've had with friends and family I gather that they are overwhelmed in the best of ways by the amount of material we all have to carry, but also the quality of that material. Everyone who created this show is at the height of their abilities. The lyrics are so smart, clever and well researched that they ask the audience to pay attention and use their brain. The music is epic and soaring and keeps your ear delighted and entertained with memorable melodies and fantastic orchestrations. The choreography is non-stop and unlike anything audiences have ever seen. As the ensemble of this show, we are the set at times, the props, and act as a Greek Chorus through our movement and vocals, but also as actors constantly watching and reacting to the scene work happening around us. I believe it raises the bar and shows that if you create good work with collaborators who serve the piece as a whole and not their own ego, you can't go wrong. On paper, this piece sounds absurd: A hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, but on stage it makes so much sense. The multi-cultural casting is a breath of fresh air and only adds to the allure of the show.

YOU'VE WORKED WITH BOTH THE THEATER AND TELEVISION, WHICH MEDIUM DO YOU PREFER?
Theater is clearly my main squeeze but I am only just beginning my courtship of television, and I'm digging it. The relationship between the audience and the performers in a theater piece cannot be replicated and is so incredibly special. But the grueling schedule of being in a Broadway show is starting to take its toll on my body and I believe I would enjoy the break that more television work would offer me. That being said, I can't ever picture myself no longer dancing.

WHAT IS THAT LOOK THAT IS SO DISTINICTIVE TO THE TALENT WHO WORK ON BROADWAY?
The look really varies from person to person but I feel like there's a change in trend that's happening. For years I feel like there was a very classic look that casting directors and creatives looked for in their performers and showing up to auditions in more simple outfits (leaving room for them to use their imaginations) was the way to go. Today I feel like the trend is leaning more towards individuality and personal expression. Walking into the room as the best version of yourself you can be. Whether that means still wearing that classic outfit or walking in with tattoos out and multiple piercings. As I've gotten older I've also grown into an edginess that has always lurked on the outskirts of my personality. Now it is very much at the forefront and I don't shy away from it, or apologize for it, even if I'm going in for a show that is set in a different time period such as the 20s or 50s.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU AND WHO ARE YOUR INFLUENCERS?
I’m inspired by strength and hard work. I look up to people who don't allow stereotypes or being an underdog to stop them. I'm not very dainty or girly, although I have some of those tendencies every once in a while, and I gravitate towards those who embrace dichotomy and live on the front wave of trends rather than following along. Female artists who operate from a place of freedom, such as Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Olivia Wilde, Rose McGowan, Katee Sackhoff, the entire cast of "Orange is the New Black", encourage me to keep operating in the manner that feels comfortable to me.

WHEN DID YOU GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY?
My mom took tons of pictures when I was a kid and I was drawn to it at first because of her. The advent of digital photography allowed me to learn so much faster due to the instant gratification of seeing the image you just photographed. I really fell in love with it when I was on the All Shook Up tour. After that tour I went to Europe for six weeks by myself and took a new camera with me. My camera was my travel buddy and was when I really started to see myself as a photographer and not necessarily just a hobbyist. Almost five years ago I decided to do Picture of the Day project. I've kept it up everyday since then and am in the middle of my fifth year. You can check out some of the work on Facebook at my Struxness Photography page and also in Instagram or Twitter. My website is currently under construction but once up will contain a full gallery of each year.

DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF WORK AND HOW WOULD YOU SPEND AN IDEAL DAY OFF?
Biking, reading, beaching. I pretty much had my ideal day off yesterday. My boyfriend and I rode our bikes to the train station, hit Long Beach for a few hours (laying out, playing in the waves and reading) and then spent time with my dog Ozzy while having dinner. It was relaxing and restorative. Another huge hobby of mine is travel. I've been to about 27 countries over four continents. Anytime I can leave the country I try to go to some place in the world that I've never been. I love the adventure and the unknowns that happen when in another country. Through my travels I've gained so much compassion and empathy by sharing in the culture of others and imagining how different life could be if I lived elsewhere or was born elsewhere.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD GIVE SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO DO WHAT YOU DO?
Stay at it. There is no pre-planned timeline and no ideal path. Do work that makes you happy and keeps you challenged as an artist, and never take a "no" as no. Look at it as a "not now."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Somewhere

Photographed By Betsy Struxness

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Slang Of The Fifties

Photographed By Ellinor Forje

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cleo T.

Photo Courtesy Of Cleo T.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
I grew up in Paris. But, in the last five years I’ve spent a lot of time between Florens and Rome for my work. I consider Italy my second home. Now I’m in the process of moving to Berlin. I love the city and it's really the right atmosphere to prepare for the next album.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO MUSIC AND CAN YOU EXPLAIN YOUR GENRE?
I don’t know when it started. I fell in love with the piano. It's part of my childhood memories. Music is like growing up, my everyday life. It’s difficult to describe my genre especially as I’m trying to set up a personal dictionary and approach to art. It's about energy and spirit. I get the same kind of feeling from a byzantine icon and a painting by Motherwell. What matters to me is the connection my music seeks to offer to people. The connections to their dreams. I focus on those emotions.

WHO ARE YOUR MUSICAL INSPIRATIONS?
I love popular music along Italian and French traditional songs. And Latin music where the power of rhythms irresistibly speaking to your body then your soul. Elvis to start the week, Nina Simone on Tuesdays, Serge Gainsbourg for Wednesday afternoons, The Lecuona Cuban Boys on Thursdays, Beyoncé on a Friday night, Dalida on Saturday evenings and Isaac Delusion on Sunday mornings.

FIRST SONG EVER SUNG?
My father is an Elvis fan. My mother listened a lot to the French singers of the 60’s. My first song ever sung was probably “That's Allright Mama”, Brigitte Bardot’s version.

DO YOU WRITE YOUR OWN LYRICS AND WHAT ARE YOUR SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE WORDS (OR PHRASES) IN ENGLISH, FRENCH AND ITALIAN?
Beauty. Absolu. Avventura. (Et risotto ai funghi porcini, ma non si dice!)

WHEN YOU PERFORM DO YOU COME ACROSS YOURSELF IN A STATE OF PERPETUAL DISCOVERY?
I’m lucky because I play in front of different audiences. In Southern Italy or in cities like New York, few people know my music thus far. I have to give them something significant. Something unique that stays with them. It's the kind of arena where only what's real matter. I never know what's going to happen. It's ritualistic. I try to open a door to somewhere else through the energy people give me.

IF YOU WEREN’T SINGING WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I would be a bird. Or, a horse.

WHAT DO YOU GET UP TO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
Travel. I think I've spent about five weeks at home this year.

WHERE DO YOU GO SHOPPING?
I love clothes that tell a story. I wear a lot of my grandmother’s clothes. She was fashion-forward and designed many of the pieces she was wearing herself then had them made sur mesure. They showcase an amazing savoir-faire. Also vintage from CĂ©line, Burberry or Saint Laurent. I buy a lot of accessories and shoes from Rome and Milano. I appreciate their craftsmanship. In London I get dresses from Karen Millen for the slim fit.

WHAT CAN WE EXCPECT FROM YOU IN THE FUTURE?
Anything. Tomorrow is a magical day.

La Nouvelle Vague