Nicole Ari Parker Discusses Life, Career Choices and “HeadShop”

                                                  Image courtesy of Kim Bass

Getting and maintaining traction in the fashion industry is a circuitous journey that takes talent, perseverance, hard work, providence, and nerves of steel. Acting has similar requirements. And success and good fortune have eluded talented thespians who would have become household names if only the fickle of fingers of fate were pointed in their direction.Nicole Ari Parker is one of those fortunate actors who has been blessed by providence. Well known for her role in the Showtime series “Soul Food,” Nicole Ari Parker for the past two decades has successfully portrayed characters that run the gamut of emotion, sensitivity, humor, and pathos.

Equally known for her roles in television, as well as film, Nicole Ari Parker continues to hit her stride in the upcoming independent film “HeadShop.” Conceived and directed by Kim Bass, “HeadShop” examines issues of gentrification, class, cultural appropriation, and community.

Scheduled for release in early 2018, Nicole Ari Parker chatted with Fashion Reverie about her love of acting, her career trajectory, and her role in “HeadShop.”

                                              Image courtesy of Kim Bass

Fashion Reverie: Now you started out as a ballet dancer, why the shift to acting?Nicole Ari Parker: Well, I studied ballet mostly as a kid and I was more serious about becoming a classically trained actress. My mom had me involved in lots of things as a child, and theatre and acting kind of stood out over the other creative pursuits.

FR: Where did this love of acting come from? 

Nicole Ari Parker: I was just full of drama as a kid. I am an only child and I had a vivid imagination and read a lot of books. I would turn the stories I read in books into plays. I would also write my own plays and produce them. I just had a natural affinity for the stage; it is truly my first love.

I am from Baltimore and my parents had sacrificed so much to put me through private school that lead me to going to New York University (NYU) a year early at the age of 17. I went to NYU as an English and drama major that I thought would be more stable than majoring in theatre. I wanted to do something that would make my parents proud of me.

In my second semester I auditioned for the Tisch School of the Arts—that is a part of NYU—and I called my Dad and asked him if I could change majors. He said if I did, I had to be diligent and not give up. So, here I am!!

FR: Your range as an actress is phenomenal from “Boogie Nights” to “Subway Stories” to “Soul Food’ to “Brown” Sugar,” and “200 Cigarettes” to “Almost Christmas.” The depth and width of your roles have gone from comedy to drama, and back again. That said; what do like best comedy or dramatic roles?

Nicole Ari Parker: The older I get, the funnier I have become. Life teaches you so much. My heart is always on the stage and with more dramatic roles. There is a whole world of opportunity out there to tell more stories, and we need more people of color writing those stores (both funny and serious), so that there is more range and a diversity of voices.

                                           “Headshop” cast images courtesy of shadowandact.com

FR: You have done a lot of big studios films and well as independent films, what do you like best, independent or big studio?

Nicole Ari Parker: I like work that is more character driven whether it is from a big studio or it is independent film. I jumped at the change to work on the character I play in Kim Bass’ “HeadShop” when the role fell in my lap.

FR: Why did “HeadShop” excite you?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim is a visionary and that is a rare opportunity in this industry to work with someone who is a visionary. When you are creative person in this industry, you have to take a lot of jobs to pay the bills that don’t challenge you as an artist. You have to take guest starring roles in television and other mediums that are not always challenging.

I have played some sort of executive on television now for over ten years. You get pigeon holed and then you get a script that is just beautiful on the page and saturated with color and nuance and all the sensibilities that excites you as a creative person. Add to that, Kim Bass, a director of color, and “HeadShop” as a film is a dream come true.

FR: Without giving too much away, could you talk about your character Dr. LaTrice Monroe?

Nicole Ari Parker: She is a therapist in San Francisco in private practice. She breaks up with her long-term boyfriend, and reconsiders the direction of her life. She drives into her old neighborhood in Oakland, and decides to open up a practice in Oakland, meeting a coterie of characters that change her life in unexpected ways.

FR: What appealed to you about this character?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim wrote this character with a keen sense of where a lot of professional women are in their lives. They have sacrificed so much to get ahead and now they are at a crossroad. And it is right in this moment of that success that these women are looking for a deeper connection. And that crossroad is what appealed to me about the LaTrice Monroe character, because she is at that critical moment in her life.

                                                  “Headshop’ set images courtesy of Kim Bass

FR: There are some gentrification storylines in the film. How does your character relate and play that out in the film?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim layers a whole lot of themes that are affecting communities right now in real time in this film. Things that are going on with small business owners; issues around gentrification; misconceptions of cultures, all these things are packed into this sweet film.

FR: Now you worked with Michael Jai White in ”Black Dynamite,” and Kimberly Elise in the “Loretta Claiborne Story” what was it like working with both again?

Nicole Ari Parker: This was my third time working with Kimberly Elise and it was awesome working with some of my former co-stars again. Come on, I am working with Marla Gibbs and Loretta Devine, what couldn’t be better than that?

It was a real pleasure. I also worked with Evan Ross, Deon Cole from “Blackish,” it was good times on the set. Kimberly and I laughed so hard and had so much fun.

FR: What was the shooting schedule like, and how long did it take to shoot the film?

Nicole Ari Parker: We shot the entire film in under a month with really long hours and a six-day schedule. We shot mostly in San Francisco with exterior shots done in Oakland.

FR: Fashion Reverie is an online fashion magazine, so our viewers would like to know, who are your favorite designers?

Nicole Ari Parker: I love Byron Lars and CD Greene.

FR: Which designers would you like to wear that you haven’t worn, yet?

Nicole Ari Parker: I love Monique Lhuillier, Oscar de la Renta who I’ve worn before, but I would like to keep wearing him. I also would love to wear Michelle Blanchard. I have a real eclectic taste, so I am open to a lot of designers.

                                                     Image courtesy of people.com

FR: What’s next for you? 

Nicole Ari Parker: I have a movie out on TV One with my husband Boris Kodjoe called “Dowsized” about a couple that had a baby when they were still teenagers and now they are in their early 40s, and everything is different. I just wrapped filming a thriller with Forrest Whitaker. And I am just very busy and happy with my life.

—William S. Gooch

 

The Bold Truth of “The Bold Type”

Image courtesy of rubensramblings.com

“The Bold Type” cast image courtesy of rubensramblings.com

When Fashion Reverie heard about a new fashion-based series, “The Bold Type” on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) expectations were low. Based on the description, an exciting drama set in a fashion magazine following the adventures of three women in their late 20’s, Fashion Reverie’s first thought was a “Sex and the City”/”Devil Wears Prada” rip-off with a dash of “Pretty Little Liars” thrown in to brew up a flavorless tea. That “The Bold Type” was debuting during the summer season, a time when so many networks burn off their rejects, didn’t help our opinions.

Depictions of the fashion world in popular culture has always been problematic and a thin veil for aimlessness. From Mallory Keaton on “Family Ties” on NBC in the 80’s to the current portrayal of Hailey Pritchett on ABC’s “Modern Family,” an interest in fashion has been shorthand for being shallow and dumb.

Well, Fashion Reverie is pleased, if a little shocked, to report “The Bold Type” bucks the trend of fashion magazine’s airheaded, but fashionable staffers, depicting an honest, if exaggerated, version of the halls of the fictional Scarlet Magazine. (It’s about time!!)

Image courtesy of thehollywoodreporter.com

Image courtesy of thehollywoodreporter.com

ABC’s “Ugly Betty” showed us the inner workings of Mode Magazine, except the staffers never really worked, did they? There were frequent staff meetings, but it seemed like no work was ever done. In its pilot episode “The Bold Type” shows a fashion magazine presenting its August issue to the board of directors—all major fashion magazines answer to a board of directors that represents the investors interests—who question aspects of articles and ask about advertising.

Yes, the editorial staff of Scarlet Magazine writes articles, and does other things that are critical to a magazine’s success. The show even takes the time to depict the articles as something that WOULD appear in Marie Claire or ELLE.

Melora Hardin image courtesy of freeform.com

Melora Hardin image courtesy of freeform.com

The “The Bold Type’s” main character, Jane, portrayed by Katie Stevens, has spent years as an intern and assistant before landing a job as a staff writer. Okay, she is absurdly young to be a staff writer; however, her portrayal feels authentic. Asked to come up with ten ideas for her first day, an overly excited Jane comes up with 20 only to be crushed when succinctly told by Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline (played by Melora Hardin), “These aren’t working for me, what else do you have?”

The “The Devil Wears Prada” may have been a big hit commercially but among some actual fashion industry professionals, it was reviled. Not only did it illustrate a view that working for a fashion magazine despite being exhausting never seemed to involve any writing or editorial work, but “The Devil Wears Prada” writer Lauren Weisburger never attempted to disguised main character’s Andie Sach’s contempt for fashion. Weisburger’s doppelganger Andie Sachs took pains to remind us that working for a fashion magazine was beneath her. While stories about Anna Wintour’s legendary diva status abound, there can be not debate she turned American Vogue around at time when it desperately needed an overhaul (whether or not American Vogue needs an overhaul now … is another matter), Wintour is well-educated, insanely smart, financially savvy, and dead serious about her job. (Any editor-in-chief whose magazine has subscribers numbering the millions, HAS to be or they will be replaced in minutes.)

It would have been very easy (and more than a bit misogynist) to show Jacqueline as a dragon lady, bitterly jealous of her younger counterparts and treating them with cruelty as a result. “The Bold Type” executive producer Joanna Coles, former editor-in-chief of ELLE and current Chief Content Officer for Hearst Magazines, refused to let this cliché stand.   In order to spearhead a global and extraordinarily influential media operation effectively, an editor-in-chief must work with her staff to get the best from them, challenging them to push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

Image courtesy of thebusinessinsider.com

Image courtesy of thebusinessinsider.com

That said; “The Bold Type” is television so there are some uneven elements. Would a busy editor-in-chief really have so much time to mentor people just one step above entry level? How does the show’s unpaid staffer afford the high-end designer clothes they wear? What do characters Jane and Sutton’s afford their palatial Brooklyn apartment with a GIANT living room? (Are they trust-fund kids, with rich parents helping out?)

Still, none of these uneven elements detracts from the main takeaway of “The Bold Type” which is that fashion journalism can be a difficult and exhausting, but also a fun and important job.  At a time when Teen Vogue is featuring excellent political coverage aimed at young people, the level of empowerment cannot be understated.

And as Scarlet Magazine would argue, if you can change the world wearing a killer pair of heels that only makes your victory that much sweeter. “The Bold Type” airs on ABC’s Freeform channel on Tuesday nights at 9pm.

—Cameron Grey Rose

Misty Copeland Dances “Don Quixote” Her Way

 

Image courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor/ABT

Jeffrey Cirio and Misty Copeland in ABT’s “Don Quixote.” Image courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/ABT

The sign of a world-class ballerina is when that ballerina puts her individual stamp on a classic role. Misty Copeland did just that in her debut as Kitri in American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Don Quixote.

Traditionally, ballerinas who have excelled as Kitri play up the athletic, kittenish, soubrette quality of the character. After all, Kitri is the spicy daughter of inn keeper Lorenzo, who lustily flirts with every man on the stage with her true affections projected toward Basilio, the barber. Also, Don Quixote is set in Seville, Spain. You cannot get any spicier than that.

The list goes on almost ad nauseam of iconic Kitris that have brought a lot of sass and vitality to the role (Ekaterina Maximova, Maya Plisetskaya, Cynthia Harvey, Sylvie Guillem, Lauren Anderson, Nina Ananiashvili, and Paloma Herrera, just to name a few. Gelsey Kirkland who originated the role in ABT’s full-length production was fiery, but she simmered instead of exploding.)

Misty_Copeland-rehearsing_Don_Q

Misty Copeland rising “Don Quixote”

Misty Copeland is a different kind of Kitri. Yes, she she does pepper the role with joie de vivre and punctuated battements and winks. Still, her Kitri is more layered and superbly acted. With Misty’s interpretation, audiences can actually rout for the two main characters—Kitri and Basilio—instead of waiting for fiery variations and multiple pirouettes.It would been a bonus if Copeland’s temps de fleche had more pop, and some of her jumps had more elevation. However,Copeland made up for the slight downgrade in pyrotechnics with her well-thought out portrayal of Kitri. Copeland’s Kiti was earthy, yet determined, full-bodied and contemporary, but still technically pure. (In a recent New York Times article, Copeland talked about working with an acting coach on her debuts this season in ABT’s Don Quixote and Giselle.)

Where Copeland really shined was in the Second Act “Dream” sequence. Her dreamlike Dulcinea was the epitome of the ethereal, grand ballerina, in the mold of Russian Imperial ballerinas, without the mannerisms. Her balances and hops on pointe were exquisitely executed, and her menage of pique turns were extremely fast, keeping time with the conductor’s tempi.

bb_don_quixote_2_Jeffrey_Cirio

Jeffrey Cirio in Boston Ballet’s “Don Quixote

Copeland has an admirable partner in Jeffrey Cirio. This new partnership holds lots of promise, and Cirio brought many of the pyrotechnical fireworks he acquired while performing Basilio with the Boston Ballet. His Basilio was one balletomanes have come to expect in the mold of great Russian dancers—Vasiliev, Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Ruzimatov, and Mukhamedov. Other great performances came from Calvin Royall III’s intense and passionate Espada; Luciana Paris’ fiery Mercedes; Veronika Part’s pristine Queen of the Dryads; Cassandra Trenary’s fleet-footed Amour; Jonathan Klein’s airborne gypsy; and Catherine Hurlin’s very musical flower girl.

Still the star of the evening was Misty Copeland, and in this very auspicious debut, Copeland proves once again that she is a prima ballerina. Fashion Reverie cannot wait for her Giselle debut.

—William S. Gooch

 

 

Peter Fletcher Brings Fireworks and Subtlety to Carnegie Hall

Collages1267Peter Fletcher is very clever. After several appearances at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, classical guitarist Fletcher has assembled a performance repertoire that is both familiar and thought provoking, as well as highly entertaining.

After two decades on the performance circuit, Fletcher has learned his performance craft well. He has assembled a repertoire that comforts the soul with warm, melodic harmonies and excites the intellect with transcribed work of composers not usually associated with classical guitar. (Fletcher’s transcribed Erik Satie favorites “Gymnopedie No. 1” and “Jack in the Box” come to mind.)

Still, Fletcher’s concerts are much more than rich, soothing melodies or a cerebral excursion down unfamiliar roads. Fletcher has ingeniously composed programs that highlight that classical guitar goes way beyond the Iberian-infused rhythms of Albeniz, Rodrigo, and Villa-Lobos. With Fletcher there is Bach, Mompou, Scirabin, Rameau, Ravel, and Couperin. And in this particular concert Fletcher introduced some new repertoire additions, William Walton’s “Five Bagatelles,” Andres Segovia’s “Oracion” and the show-stopping Niccolo Paganini’s “Caprice Opus 1, No. 24.”

This unusual assemblage of favorites and soon-to-become new friends makes for an evening of comfort, adventure, and intellectual stimulation. That said; there were a few hiccups in Fletcher’s recent concert at Weill Recital Hall, but whatever the faux pas’, Fletcher’s dexterity, joy and commitment to excellence triumphed on this particular evening.

As a mature artist, Fletcher stands out in his emotional interpretation of the works he performs. And this is particularly apparent in the less pyrotechnical pieces in his repertoire. Though the more virtuosic works get pulses racing, the gentler works give room for reflection and in Fletcher’s corner demonstrate more accurately his craft and technical nuance. This is good calculated move on Fletcher’s part!!

Images courtesy of Peter Fletcher

Images courtesy of Peter Fletcher

Standouts on the program were Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, “Simple Gifts”” William Walton’s “Five Bagatelles,” Niccolo Paganini’s “Caprice Opus 1, No 24,” and Isaac Albeniz’s “Cordoba.” Fletcher brought tenderness, poignancy, and variety to the traditional Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” transcribed by John and BJ Sutherland, while Walton’s “Five Bagatelles”—only three were played on this particular program—was infused with warmth, skill and a unique understanding of Walton’s musical intentions.

The firework piece of the evening was Paganini’s “Caprice Opus 1, No 24, a work that has had many a musician quaking in their boots. Fletcher—minus one major hiccup—handled this well-known work with an almost pristine brilliance and aplomb. And by adding this work to his repertoire, Fletcher demonstrated that his transcription captures the true essence of this work, taking this prodigious masterpiece beyond pyrotechnical efficiency.

Bravo, bravo Peter Fletcher!!

—William S. Gooch

Ballet Hispanico Celebrates Strong Women

Images courtesy of Paula Lobo

Images courtesy of Paula Lobo

When it comes to celebrating strong women through movement, no dance company has more capacity and generosity than Ballet Hispanico. Strong Latin women have always been at the core of Latin culture and are a focal point in Ballet Hispanico’s repertoire. However, for their spring 2017 season at the Joyce Theater, Ballet Hispanico pulled out all the stops, dedicating whole programs to Hispanic female choreographers.

With that effort, Ballet Hispanico’s female dancers have never looked more magnificent and fully realized than in works by the female choreographers in question—Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Michelle Manzanales, and Tania Perez-Salas. In dance circles, many cultural critics contend that only a woman choreographer—with the exception of a few male choreographers—Balanchine, Robbins, Ashton, and Ailey—can bring out the full range of female dancers’ abilities and craft. Most male choreographers only actualize female dancers’ attributes through the lens of delicate beauty with occasional pyrotechnical displays thrown in for good measure. Not true for Ballet Hispanico’s choreographic triptych. All three female choreographers in Ballet Hispanico’s all-female program aptly manifested the range and depth of what Ballet Hispanico’s women can bring to the stage.

"Linea Recta" images courtesy of Paula Lobo

“Linea Recta” images courtesy of Paula Lobo

Doesn’t everyone love flamenco? Well, if that does not ring true for some dance lovers, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Linea Recta” will make flamenco naysayers true believers!! And true to the theme of the night the female dances of Ballet Hispanico wore at the core of Ochoa’s “Linea Recta.”

Performed to original guitar music by Eric Vaarzon Morel, “Linea Rectoa” is Ochoa’s modern interpretation of flamenco infused with a mélange of modern dance techniques from Graham to Horton and Cunningham. Though the women are the central characters in this brilliant work, Ochoa provides some exceptional choreography for Ballet Hispanico’s men.  And the dance language between the sexes is modern, explosive, deliciously sensual and above all celebratory.

"Con Brazos Abiertos" images courtesy of Paula Lobo

“Con Brazos Abiertos” images courtesy of Paula Lobo

In “Con Brazos Abiertos,” Michelle Manzanales explores through dance language and the spoken word of Edward James Olmos, Cheech Marin, as well as the musical renderings of Julio Iglesias, Daniela Andrade, Gustavo Santolalla, and Juan Carlos Marin, assimilation and the immigrant experience in the US. Manzanales looks back to her own childhood and how the mixed messages of Mexican pride and assimilation informed her.

“Con Brazos Abiertos” is a wonderful amalgam of folkloric movement styles, and modern dance fusions used to relay the immigrant duality. Again, Ballet Hispanico’s women demonstrate their ability at interpret mood, nostalgia, humor and reflection through their mastery of modern and folkloric styles.

"Catorce Dieciseis" images courtesy of Paula Lobo

“Catorce Dieciseis” images courtesy of Paula Lobo

“Catorce Dieciseis” reflects the many modern dance works seen on major stages in the beginning of the 21st Century. As had happened in the early 1930s and 40s many modern choreographers in the late 1990s and early 2000s looked to Baroque composers as their musical sources. (Many of Mark Morris’ best know works found inspiration from Baroque composers in the 1990s through early the 2000s.)

Tania Perez-Salas’ “Catorce Dieciseis,” which debuted in 2002, is one such work. Like many ballets from this period that used Baroque music there is a strong emphasis of group movement or corps de ballet that dance similar or the same steps that follow the repetitive canonical-like qualities found in Baroque works. That said; “Catorce Dieciseis” is a joyful feast for the senses that celebrate the theatricality of Ballet Hispanico’s women and also demonstrate that the company is totally capable of excelling at dance works that go beyond Latin themes.  Also, the circular, meandering patterns in “Catorce Dieciseis” reflects Salas’ projections of the number Pi.

Every season Ballet Hispanco proves that their dancers, both women and men, can handle almost any choreographic style. The time is now ripe for Ballet Hispanico and many dance companies of its ilk to receive the global and financial recognition worthy of its brilliance.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Exclusive: Antonia Franceschi Comes Full Circle

Antonia_Franceschi1“Do you know where you’re going to, do you know the things that life is showing you, where are going to? Do you know? — Theme song from “Mahogany”

Antonia Franceschi may not have known exactly where life would take her, but she sure she has ended up in some pretty spectacular places. And where she is right now is just right!!

Most people, if they are old enough, know Antonia from her role as the spoiled ballerina in the movie “Fame.” But that was kind of just the beginning. After “Fame” Antonia spent 11 years in the New York City Ballet and another two decades working in Europe. And all those years on the world’s stages have given her a keen eye and life perspective that is more precious than gold.

Still, life didn’t turn out exactly the way Antonia envisioned. (It rarely does for most of us.) Antonia was the ‘It’ baby ballerina of the early 80s with name recognition and a promising career at the New York City Ballet. That potential went unrealized and for those who never saw the movie “Fame,” or New York City Ballet in the 1980s and 90s, Franceschi’s name does not resonate.

But, life is more than some familiar nods. And Antonia has turned what could have been just 15 minutes of fame into a lifetime of nuanced experiences and creative satisfaction. How many people can name George Balanchine, Natalia Markarova, Jerome Robbins, Alan Parker, and Karole Armitage as personal influences? Not many.

Fashion Reverie was given the extraordinary opportunity to reminisce, revel, and luxuriate in the meandering, sometimes slippery slope, of Antonia Franceschi’s life. And we are all the better for it. We expect our readers will be, too!!

Fashion Reverie: How did you get started in ballet?

Antonia Franceschi: I was born in Ohio and then we moved to Detroit, later to New Rochelle and finally Manhattan. My mom is a painter and she loved ballet and used to take evening classes when we lived in Detroit. I would accompany her and sit on the floor while she took class. I started to imitate her and my mom thought I had some talent and enrolled me in ballet school. 

FR: How did you become one of the dancers in the movie “Grease”?

Antonia Franceschi: “Grease” happened in a very interesting way. I was a student at the High School of the Performing Arts in New York City (PA) when the school was located on 46th Street. I auditioned for both the drama and dance departments because I wanted to be a great dramatic ballerina. I was accepted into both departments, but I opted for the drama department and took ballet classes after school.  I studied the Cecchetti technique with Margaret Craske. Cecchetti technique is one of the hardest techniques because you work without mirrors; you have to feel everything. The core of the training is so good that it keeps you from getting lots of injuries.

One of my very good friends Jerry Regan at PA told me about the “Grease” open call. Now mind you, I had never heard of the musical “Grease,” although it had been a successful production on Broadway. Patricia Birch was the choreographer and she gave a dance phrase and you had to replicate it very quickly. I did my phrase and they kept me and told me to come back the next day for the second part of the audition.

The next day at the audition Pat Birch told anyone under eighteen to leave. (I was sixteen at the time.) I stayed because I figured I would never get the job. A month later I was contacted that I was cast in “Grease.”

The only way I was able to take the job—all the filming was in LA—was that the film was shot during the summer. That way I didn’t get in trouble at PA. But I got kicked out of PA anyway because filming went into early fall and PA found out. It is really hysterical when you think about it because the following year I am cast in the movie “Fame,” which is about my alma mater, PA.

The good thing about “Grease” is that I earned enough money to go to Professional Children’s School (PCS), which was necessary for me because I was now studying at the School of American Ballet (SAB), being that I was expelled from PA.  At the time no one knew that “Grease” would turn out to be the box office hit that it turned out to be.

Antonia Franceschi in "Grease" and Franceschi with "Fame" cast

Antonia Franceschi in “Grease” and Franceschi with “Fame” cast

FR: Now, lets talk about the movie “Fame”, we all know that you played the character Hilary van Doren. How did that all come about?

Antonia Franceschi: Because of the filming of “Grease,” I felt I had lost some valuable ballet training. So, I auditioned for SAB and got a scholarship while attending PCS. I lot of the students from PCS and SAB were talking about auditioning for the movie “Fame.” I didn’t want to lose more time in my dance training, so initially I was not interested. And at the time the ballet world frowned upon doing anything outside of the dance world.

The producers of “Fame” were having a hard time finding ballet dancers of the appropriate age to be in the ballet classroom scenes. So, a bunch of students from SAB went in and auditioned. Also, one of the casting agents from “Fame” contacted me and asked me to audition.

I went to the casting and they had me read Hilary van Doren’s abortion clinic scene. They liked my read and immediately had me read for the director Alan Parker. And just like that I got the part. I really liked the script and Alan Parker, so I thought it would be great to be in the movie.

The only thing that had me kind of freaked out was that George Balanchine would sometimes observe the morning advance class and choose dancers. I was worried that the day he scouted dancers for New York City Ballet (NYCB), I would be filming “Fame.” The day that Balanchine did come in, my filming schedule was in the afternoon. I was in Stanley Williams’ class that morning and Stanley organized the class to show off my best qualities. After filming “Fame” sequences that afternoon, a friend of mine, Cynthia Lochard—who was also in “Fame”—called me and screamed in the phone, “We’re in. We both got into City Ballet.” So, it worked out perfectly, I got to be in “Fame” and I was signed to the NYCB. Coincidentally, I didn’t go to the premiere of “Fame” in NYC because my graduation performance from SAB was the same night. But, I did go to the “Fame” after party at Studio 54 with my boyfriend in a limousine.

Collages1232

Images of Antonia Franceschi in “Fame”

FR: By the time “Fame” was released you were already in the New York City Ballet. Did you know that you wanted to be a ballet dancer as opposed to an actress while you were filming “Fame”?

Antonia Franceschi: Honestly, I only wanted to be a ballet dancer and work with a genius like George Balanchine. With “Fame,” the director Alan Parker is also a genius. So, early in my career, creative masters surrounded me, and that desire to collaborate with the best has stuck with me.

Also, Hollywood turned me off when I was in “Grease.” I was sixteen and very insecure. I had acne, I didn’t have large breasts, and I didn’t think I had anything special. After “Grease,” John Travolta’s manager wanted to manage me. But, I knew at that young age I couldn’t emotionally manage being in Hollywood. I didn’t have a strong support system, my parents had separated, honestly, and I really just wanted to dance. So, I opted out of becoming an actress.

When the “Fame” television series was being developed, I was asked to be a part of the cast. But, by that time I was already in the NYCB. I didn’t realize at the time that Mr. Balanchine would be dead in three years.

Even after I got into the NYCB, Hollywood would always call. I got offered a three-picture deal after “Fame.” But, I had blinders on; you have to if you are going to have a career in ballet. When I left the NYCB, I did other things. I moved to London, I acted in plays and did some film. I even wrote a play that I choreographed and starred in.

FR: You were one of the last dancers that Balanchine personally chose for NYCB. What was it was like working with Balanchine?

Antonia Franceschi: Even though Balanchine didn’t live a long time after he chose me for the NYCB, I was so fortunate to work with him closely. When Nureyev and Patricia McBride performed Balanchine’s “Le Bourgeoisie Gentilhomme,” I was one of the six SAB students chosen to perform the work. I also was in some of Balanchine’s last ballets—“Ballade” and “Noah’s Ark.” He would talk to me a lot in class and in rehearsal. He was nicest man, but his classes were not kind to your body, everything was extreme.

NYCB, at that time, was an amazing ballet company because Balanchine chose every dancer for their unique gifts. That was my environment and everything was sugar for me. Just to be in his presence and learn from this great genius has made an indelible mark on me as an artist.

FR: How were you received at NYCB because of your early fame?

Antonia Franceschi: By the time “Fame” came out I was already in the corps de ballet of NYCB after having danced with “Markarova and Company.” While I was dancing with Markarova, she got injured and I had to dance one of her roles. Clive Barnes, the dance critic for the New York Times, predicted I would be a great star.

So things at NYCB for me were a little odd in the beginning because I was already famous. Ballet companies tend to make dancers stars because of their association with certain choreographers and/or for dancing major roles. I was already well known before joining NYCB because of “Fame” and “Makarova and Company.” There were some people at NYCB that were threatened and were not as nice as they could have been. It took a while for me to prove to certain folks at NYCB that I was serious. There was some jealousy because early on choreographers would make roles on me, which is highly unusual for a new dancer. It was a tricky time.

Antonia_Franceschi

Images of Antonia Franceschi in the New York City Ballet

FR: Do you realize that to people who were not ballet fans you were more well known because of “Fame” than most ballet dancers with the exception of Nureyev, Baryshnikov and maybe Margot Fonteyn? How did you deal with that recognition early on in your career?

Antonia Franceschi: Because of the Internet and social media it is now a good thing to be famous. However, thirty years ago in the dance world you had to be humble and self-effacing. I would take the subway and people would recognize me and I would pretend I was someone else. The best compliment I ever got was this girl came up to me on the subway and said, “I hated your ass in the movie.” That comment confirmed I did my job well.

The whole world has changed since “Fame” and being in NYCB from 1980 to 1992. You can live your life in a bubble in a ballet company. I was working from 7:30 in the morning to 11pm at night, six days a week. The only people you meet are mostly those involved with the ballet world. You give everything to that world. If you had any energy left over, you’re made to feel you were not giving enough. Mr. Balanchine used to say, “What are you saving it for.”

FR: How long were you in the New York City Ballet, and what was your experience there like?

Antonia Franceschi: For most of the 11 years I was in the NYCB, I would say it was great, but very hard. One of the hardest things is that I didn’t have the success at NYCB that I wanted or that was predicted. The good thing about NYCB is that you perform a lot and dance a wide range of roles, even soloist and principal roles, while still in the corps de ballet.

I had the great disadvantage of being a transition dancer. Balanchine chose me for the company and then he passed away in 1983 and Peter Martins became the creative director. You hope things will stay the same, but they weren’t. By the time I realized how different things were I was 27 years old and too old to go to another company; which is not the case now, but back then you stayed where you were.

When Peter Martins took over NYCB, he had to learn how to run this huge institution. That said; I was never a hater; I felt I had to work harder and continue to prove myself. So I continued to work really hard, but nothing was happening. At 27, I got married and decided to get really thin, because Peter Martins liked really thin ballerinas. Immediately, I started getting soloist roles. I stayed really thin for three years but couldn’t maintain it. It was too hard counting every little calorie all day. I was worn down mentally trying to maintain my weight.

I would always get asked to do things outside of NYCB, but I would always turn things down. However, in 1992 I was offered one of the leads in a production of “Brigadoon” and some other things and I decided why not leave NYCB on a high note while I was getting all these major roles. So, I left with my dignity at the age of 30.

FR: You were in the NYCB corps de ballet for 11 years. What lead roles did dance and what roles were created on you?

Antonia Franceschi: Jerome Robbins made “Piano Pieces” for me and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous made a beautiful pas de deux for Ib Anderson and me. I did leads in Balanchine’s “Four Temperaments,” “Episodes,” a demi-soloist in “Diamonds,” Tenderness fairy in “Sleeping Beauty,” and one of the leads in Lar Lubovitch’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” When I moved to Europe I danced as a guest artist in the works of Mark Baldwin, Wayne McGregor, Michael Clarke, Arlene Phillips, and Karole Armitage for ten years and then started producing and choreographing my own work. I had a second life in Europe in my thirties that has taken me to where I am now. If I had become a principal dancer with NYCB, I never would have explored more acting opportunities and dancing with these great European chorographers, as well as realizing my gifts as a choreographer and producer, and teaching at the Royal Ballet and Rambert Dance Company.

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Antonia Franceschi’s dance company AFD Just Dance and Antonia Franceschi in rehearsal

FR: How would you describe your choreographic style?

Antonia Franceschi: When you start choreographing, your work looks like everything you have ever danced. You don’t have your own voice yet. The starting point for me, like Balanchine, is the music. My style is an amalgam of all the things I have learned from Cecchetti to Balanchine and the contemporary choreographers I worked with in Europe.

You don’t really learn to choreograph when a choreographer puts a work on you, you learn watching them work and teaching. I have worked with Richard Alston for over 15 years and I learned from him how to get people on and off stage and link movement.

FR: You continue to perform, why?

Antonia Franceschi: I continue to perform because I stayed healthy. I am so healthy because I was trained by Margaret Craske in the Cecchetti technique which when done properly keeps you from getting so many injuries. If I am asked, I will dance things that I can still dance well. I have no injuries, I have no pain and my body feels good.

I recently danced some excerpts from Balanchine’s “Serenade” and “Symphony in Three Movements” for a group piece called “Museum de Dance” at the Sofia Museum in Spain. Mark Baldwin recently made a solo for me. Still, I only perform if I think it is the right thing to do.

Downloads361FR: How has the dance world that you were such an integral part of changed? Have the dancers changed?

Antonia Franceschi: I am at a disadvantage answering that questions because I just moved back to NYC after living in London for 22 years. One of things I noticed was that there is just a quick turnover at NYCB. Balanchine rarely fired dancers. You could stay there until you didn’t want to perform any more. That is not the case now.

Also, when I was dancing I was very much on the down low about going to classes at Fordham University on my day off. Now, everyone talks about what they are going to do after they stop dancing. Dancers are now more realistic about their careers. However, the flip side of that is that maybe dance is less precious and there is less of a commitment because there are more options. And some of the magic is gone. So, there is a trade off.

FR: In your ballet for New York Theatre Ballet “She Holds Out Her Hand” one of the lead dancers was a dancer of color. That said; how do you feel about diversity in ballet?

Antonia Franceschi: When I was in “Fame” I had scene where I had to kiss Gene Anthony Ray. Now, that was back in 1979 and I was advised not to do it because it could ruin my career. I did what I wanted to do, kiss Gene Anthony Ray, because I wasn’t going to be an actress.

Now, that incident was over 30 years ago. However, I was producing a ballet program in London some years back and I brought some dancers over from the NYCB—Wendy Whelan, Peter Boal, and Albert Evans. There was beautiful poster featuring Albert Evans with the caption “New York Ballet Stars.”  Albert Evans is African American and a big star with the NYCB at that time. One of sponsors didn’t want me to use the poster because a black person didn’t represent ballet to her.  I went with the poster and we sold out. So, there!!

Still, even in Europe there is this embedded racism in ballet. They don’t want to see a brown or black girl in the corps de ballet of “Swan Lake” because in their minds all the swans should look the same. That is still a factor on the other side of the Big Pond.

To use Amanda Smith as the lead in my ballet was a no-brainer. She is deep, musical, and has a beautiful quality. Perhaps, I got that from Mr. Balanchine, he liked people who could dance.

Image courtesy of NYTB.

Antonia Franceshi’s “She Holds Out Her Hand” image courtesy of NYTB. All other images courtesy of Antonia Franceschi

FR: What is life like for you now back in the States, and what’s next for you?

Antonia Franceschi: Well, my son is 13 and I moved back because I wanted him to experience NYC and more cultural diversity. I have been substitute teaching at Barnard College and Julliard, I have two ballet commissions and I have work back in London for the summer.

I started a company called AFD Just Dance in London and we were invited to perform at the Opera House in Malta. I handpicked dancers from the Royal Ballet, Rambert, and Random DV8. We sold out, so I decided to keep the company going. We performed at the Royal Winchester and also sold out.  So, voila, I had a company. I am planning to do the same thing in NYC, mix British dancers with American dancers, performing to live music. And there were other things in the works.

—William S. Gooch

 

Antonia Franceschi’s choreography will be a part of Barnard College/Columbia Dances at Miller on April 21 & April 22.

New Theatre Ballet Programs Vintage Works with New Ballets

NYTB's "L'Apres Midi d'un Faune"

NYTB’s “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune”

In this political and economic climate, how does a New York City–based chamber ballet company continue to attract audiences and keep itself afloat? Though New York City is a global dance capital, for quite a few decades it has not been kind to small dance companies.

In past decades, New York City housed such varied dance companies and collectives as U.S. Terpsichore, Ballet NY, formerly the Feld Ballet, New York Chamber Ballet, Dennis Wayne Dancers, and more recently Complexions, which has since relocated to Atlanta. The list goes on and on. Even Joffrey Ballet moved to Chicago two decades ago.

Higher rents, fewer resources, and surprisingly a decreased number of high-quality dancers with a strong technique have made maintaining small dance troupes presence in New York City almost a herculean task. Still, after 35 years New York Theatre ballet has soldiered on, managing to do almost the impossible.

For their season at New York City Live Arts, New York Theatre Ballet presented six works. New York Theatre Ballet has been a reservoir of presenting iconic ballets and not often-performed works from some of the most beloved choreographers. Three decades in their reconstruction/conservation efforts, New Theatre has presented rarely seen and/or iconic works by Frederick Ashton, Bronislava Nijinksa, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anthony Tudor, Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille, Jose Limon, and many others.

NYTB's Elena Zahlmann and Steven Menendez in "L'Apres Midi d'un Faune"

NYTB’s Elena Zahlmann and Steven Melendez in “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune”

The most anticipated ballet of the evening was Vaslav Nijinsky’s seminal work, L’Apres midi d’un faune. L’Apres midi d’un faune was Nijinsky’s first choreographic work for the Ballets Russe and this extraordinary work rest almost entirely on the performance of the faune, portrayed in its debut by Nijinsky himself. Great male dancers have performed this role—Serge Lifar, Nureyev, and Faruhk Ruzimatov—and following in that tradition the male dancer must have a sensual, animalistic, otherworldly quality. Unfortunately, New York Theatre Ballet’s faune, Joshua Andino-Nieto, didn’t have the necessary qualities to render a memorable faune. Andino-Nieto struggled with the exotic, otherworldliness that Nijinsky and Ruzimatov brought to the role. And the wild, animalistic quality that Nureyev brought to the role was far beyond Andino-Nieto’s abilities.

Elena Zahlmann in NYTB's "La Chatte Metamorphosee en Femme"

Elena Zahlmann in NYTB’s “La Chatte Metamorphosee en Femme”

Elena Zahlmann adequately danced Frederick Ashton’s La Chatte Metamorphosee en Femme. As showpiece for the great British ballerina Meryl Park, Ashton in this solo work choreographed in all the nuances and idiosyncrasies that made Meryl Park had a great ballerina. Zahlmann was able to pull off with some aplomb Meryl Park’s bouree flutterings, and fast allegro footwork. Though this solo was quite charming with its feline characterizations, it is one of Ashton’s minor works.

Amanda Treiber and Steven Melendez in NYTB's pas de deux from "Such Loving"

Amanda Treiber and Steven Melendez in NYTB’s pas de deux from “Such Loving”

Richard Alston’s pas de deux from Such Longing was well performed by Amanda Treiber and Steven Menendez. The beautiful music by Chopin added to the ebb and flow longings of a mature couple. Alston’s whose background was from London Contemporary Dance Theatre was ever present in this lovely pas de deux. Typical of the movement style of London Contemporary Dance Theatre of the early 1970s, there were lots of posed movement and modern dance couple work interspersed with modern ballet partnering, all well dance by Treiber and Menendez.

Amanda Treiber and Joshua Andino-Nieto in NYTB's "She Holds Out Her Hand." All images courtesy of Rachel Neville/Michelle Tabnick Communications

Amanda Treiber and Joshua Andino-Nieto in NYTB’s “She Holds Out Her Hand.” All images courtesy of Rachel Neville/Michelle Tabnick Communications

Antonia Franceschi’s She Holds Out Her Hand was a very good ensemble work for the company. The work was fresh and contemporary with a slight nod to Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering. The ensemble work was well done with some intricate and innovative partnering for the main couples.

Works of this nature should be more a part of New York Theatre Ballet’s repertoire in that these types of work stretch their dances and gives them to opportunity to dance choreography that is more accessible to younger audiences. Standout dancers in this work were Amanda Smith, Amanda Treiber and Joshua Andino-Nieto.

New York Theatre Ballet appears to be prepared to weather the storms of upcoming national cuts to the arts. Though they been through this cycle before, it would be nice if concert dance companies of this caliber didn’t have deal with the kind of ignorance and misunderstanding of what they bring to the world at large.

—William S. Gooch

Everything Adds Up for Brianne Davis in “Six”

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

Some actors go from triumph to triumph. Brianne Davis is one such actress. Well, at least it seems that way.

If you reflect on Brianne Davis’ early success in “Dawson Creek,” that success was 16 years ago. Still, Brianne Davis has gone from one hit film or television series to the next. And with each new role her acting achieved more depth and nuance. From reoccurring roles in “Dawson Creek,” “Hollywood Heights” “True Blood,” and “If Loving You Is Wrong” to supporting roles in “Jarhead,” “Prom Night,” “American Virgin,” and “Magi,” Brianne Davis has proved that she is not going anywhere but up!!

Making the transition from adorable teen actress to acquiring more mature roles is a difficult challenge for any actress. In a culture that trades in young ingénues like a business man changes his shirts, Brianne has weathered the vicissitudes of  Tinseltown; in fact she has triumphed. And “Six” is her latest triumph.

In “Six” Brianne Davis plays Lena Graves, the wife of a Navy Seal serviceman who has recently loss her four-month old daughter. Brianne Davis talked with Fashion Reverie about her role in “Six,” her acting career and fashion.

Fashion Reverie: What first attracted you to your character Lena Graves in “Six”?

 Brianne Davis: Lena is such a strong, reserved, quiet and dignified character. I have never had an opportunity to play a character like her. She has stay strong for her husband to do his job. If she breaks, the family dynamic disintegrates. Her husband is a Navy seal and his job is very stressful. So, he needs the support of his whole family.

Lena is a schoolteacher at home while her husband is off on military duty. This is a very intense character. Lena and her husband were high school sweethearts and they lost their four-month old daughter. So, in this first season we deal a lot with the loss of their daughter.

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

FR: While your production team was shooting “Six” were you going back and forth between shooting combat scenes and Lena’s life back home in the States?

Brianne Davis: Yes, the Navy Seals are not like other military servicemen. Sometimes, they leave on a Thursday and come back the next week and have to readjust to civilian life until they are off on military duty again. The most difficult part is when the spouses leave, you don’t know where they are going, they cannot reveal their location and you don’t know when they will return. So, how do you navigate a relationship when there are so many unknowns? It is a huge challenge

FR: Your character is a military wife and your mom was a military wife. Did your experience with your Dad serving in Vietnam provide could source material for this role, and why?

Brianne Davis: Completely. My mom is a strong businesswoman. She really kept our family together when my father wasn’t able to. I definitely got a strong work ethic and independence from my mom. So, I did bring those childhood influences to my character on “Six.”

FR: Is this your first time playing a wife and mother?

Brianne Davis: I have played a wife before, but this is my first time playing a wife and mother, although my child is deceased in “Six.”

FR: What aspects of the character do you most identify with?

Brianne Davis: I probably most identified with Lena’s strength. She is a very strong individual. I least identified with how she expresses herself. When Lena speaks her words are very thought out; everything she says is for a reason. She is very contained. Lena also comes from a military background, so she knows how to communicate in a careful manner in certain situations, thus she chooses her words very wisely.

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

FR: You garnered some tangible experience for this role by starring in “Jarhead” with Jake Gyllenhaal where you got to meet servicemen in Afghanistan. Could you talk about that?

Brianne Davis: William Broyles wrote the “Jarhead’s” is screenplay and is “Six’s” show runner and creator. When I came in to read for the part, he couldn’t believe how much I had grown up. (“Jarhead” was filmed in 2005.)

My character is different in “Six” compared to my character in “Jarhead;” however, I was informed by the army veterans I met in Afghanistan while filming “Jarhead.” “Jarhead” did give me some good source information.

FR: “Six” is on the History Channel. Why the History Channel than a more traditional network?

Brianne Davis: The History Channel is the perfect network for “Six” because in a sense this show is the history of what is going on military life right now.

FR: What do you hope audiences will get from this series?

Brianne Davis: I hope they see how much Navy Seals give up for our country. These families are sacrificing just as much as the Navy Seals themselves. Whether you agree or disagree politically with the military presence in certain countries, we should support the soldiers and their families. “Six” is a real, authentic look into the lives of military families and I hope audiences can feel the emotion, heartache, and joy of their experiences.

Brianne Davis in "ChromeSkull," "True Blood," and "Dawson Creek," respectively.

Brianne Davis in “ChromeSkull,” “True Blood,” and “Dawson Creek,” respectively.

FR: You have had reoccurring roles in “Hollywood Heights,” “Murder in the First,” “True Blood,” and “If Loving You Is Wrong.” What was your favorite reoccurring role, and why?

Brianne Davis: That is really hard, but if I had to pick, I would say “True Blood” because of the fantasy aspect of the show. Also, “Murder in the First” was fantastic because who would not want to be a part of a Stevhen Bochco show.

FR: Let’s look back at some of your earlier roles. Could you talk a little bit about “Dawson Creek”?  You were on that show while you were high school.

Brianne Davis: “Dawson Creek” was filmed in Wilmington, NC and I am from Georgia. So, the only way I was able to be a part of the cast while in high school is because I didn’t live that far away from the film location.

Being a part of the cast was amazing. First, I was star struck with all my cast mates. “Dawson Creek” was my first television series. James Van Der Beck was such a great person to work with. I was so knew to television and film and he was so encouraging.

FR: You are a great beauty and you started commercial modeling at the tender age of 12. What made you switch to acting?

Brianne Davis: I am naturally a very shy person and modeling didn’t really allow me to come out of my shell and express myself as much as acting did.  I love fashion and shooting editorials; however, in fashion I felt more like a prop instead of a person. And for me that was not fulfilling enough. The moment I took an acting class, I knew acting was for me. Acting brought me closer to myself and out of my shell.

Images courtesy of pinterest.com, zimbio.com, and amazoncom, respectively

Images courtesy of pinterest.com, zimbio.com, and amazoncom, respectively

FR: Who are some of your favorite designers?

Brianne Davis: I love Donna Karan and Calvin Klein because both of these designers have a minimalistic aesthetic that appeals to me. I am one of those consumers that could have an expensive bag from Philipp Plein and pair it with something from H&M and Zara. I love to mix and match; have one expensive item and everything else you could find a lower priced retail stores.

FR: If you had a fashion fantasy of wearing a particular designer to the Oscars, which designer would you wear?

Brianne Davis: I would wear vintage Donna Karan. However, you cannot go wrong with Tom Ford or Oscar de la Renta.

FR: You have segued into directing, has that made you a better actress?

Brianne Davis: Yes, it has because being on the other side of the camera you see how important continuity is. Continuity is doing something the same way every time in a scene. Being on the other side of the camera you recognize what is important to a scene, you began to understand the whole story and how all the elements must come together. Also, you understand more fully that any direction that the director gives an actor is not personal. The direction is to get the scene to work better. Sometimes actors can be very sensitive and emotional. Working on the other side of the camera you learn how direction is not personal

FR: What’s next for you?

Brianne Davis: We are waiting to hear about season two for “Six.” I just finished my application for the Warner Brothers directing program. If I get accepted, that would be amazing. I have a series that I created with my husband for our production company, Give and Take, and we are starting to pitch that. I have also been asked to direct the film, “The Place Apart.” And also I like most actors, I continue to audition.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie’s 2016 Holiday Movie Picks

Just as diversity was front and center in a lot of fashion publications, so was 2016 a year of films that featured diverse casts and stories that put people of color front and center. This holiday season several holiday films feature strong performances by actors of color. From Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (“Fences”) to Taraji Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) to Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”), 2016 has turned into a year where Hollywood embraced the wide swarth and tone of the African American narrative and voice.

"Fences" images courtesy of postgazette.com

“Fences” images courtesy of postgazette.com

Since opening on Broadway in 1984, there has been much talk about bringing this epic African-American story of love, strength, betrayal and forgiveness to the silver screen. Finally, August Wilson’s great American story has come to the big screen and Denzel Washington and Viola Davis do the late August Wilson pride in the pivotal roles of Troy Maxson and his wife.

Set in segregated Pittsburgh of the 1950s. Sanitation worker Troy Maxson, played with nuance, passion and strength by Denzel Washington denies his son’s chance at a football scholarship, opting for a trade career for his son. Maxson own career as a professional ballplayer was deferred due to his age.

The long-suffering wife, played magnificently by Viola Davis, as the tensions between the human triangle reveals raw wounds, witnesses the tension between father and son. Wilson’s “Fences” is in the great tradition of “Death of a Salesman,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” and with exquisite film adaptation global audiences can finally witness its glory.

"Moonlight" image courtesy of highlighthollywood.com

“Moonlight” image courtesy of highlighthollywood.com

In a somewhat opposite vein is “Moonlight.” Set during the ‘War on Drugs’ era in Miami, “Moonlight” centers on a young man dealing with his sexual proclivities while struggling with a dysfunctional family. Told in three stories as the protagonist Chiron moves through childhood to young adulthood.

This poignant film, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, not only examines the raw, sometimes violent life of drug communities in Miami, but also the emotions of abandonment, sexual ambivalence, and denial. Though dissimilar from “Fences” in many ways, the thread of deferred dreams also runs through “Moonlight.”

Amy Adams in "Nocturnal Animals." Image courtesy of variety.com

Amy Adams in “Nocturnal Animals.” Image courtesy of variety.com

Most people know Tom Ford from his stint at Gucci and later as the creative director of eponymous brand. With “Nocturnal Animals,” consumers will get to see Ford in a different light.

Based on 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, “Nocturnal Animals” is a neo-noir psychological thriller that looks at the dark truths that people run away from.  Haunted by a script by her first husband that arrives unexpectedly, Amy Adams is forced to look at her own deep past that has lots of secrets.

"Jackie" image courtesy of salemwebnetwork.com

“Jackie” image courtesy of salemwebnetwork.com

Jacqueline Kennedy was the epitome of classic style and regality. As the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy distinguished herself as the FLOTUS that brought style and sophistication to the White House. Jackie as the FLOTUS used luxury designers to dress her, namely Halston, Oleg Cassini, Coco Chanel, Givenchy and Dior.

In the biopic “Jackie” after John Kennedy’s assassination, Jackie’s (Natalie Portman) world comes apart. Over the course of the next week she must confront the unimaginable: consoling their two young children, vacating the White House and planning her husband’s funeral. Jackie quickly realizes that the next seven days will determine how history will define her husband’s legacy—and how she herself will be remembered.

"Hidden Figures" image courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

“Hidden Figures” image courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

Did you know that African-American women in the early 1960s played an important part in the development of NASA, putting the first American man into orbit? You probably didn’t know that fact, most people don’t.

“Hidden Figures” tells the untold story of three African-American women that played an indelible role in NASA’s early history. Taraji Henson, Olivia Spencer and Janelle Monae portray three African-American mathematicians who must deal with racism, sexism and bigotry as they build their careers and fight for the opportunity to play a significant role in launching the first American astronaut into space.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Feature: Andy Warhol’s Letters and Cadillac

Image courtesy of knockturnal.com

Image courtesy of knockturnal.com

America has perhaps lived through one of the biggest rejections in its current political history. Strangely enough this rejection was not based on the majority of the US electorate, but the result of a critical mass that rejected governmental power, as we know it, and opted for the unknown.

Paradoxically, rejection often comes from a fear of the unknown. However, for this recent rejection, the unknown had a wide appeal. That said; rejection is a part of life, and for most artists, rejection is a constant bedfellow. As popular as Andy Warhol was in life and posthumously, early in his career as with most artists of his ilk, he was not immune to rejection. This early rejection and other letters from his archive, housed in the Andy Warhol Museum, is the subject of a traveling exhibit, the result of a collaboration of the Cadillac House and the Andy Warhol Museum.

The “Letters to Andy Warhol” exhibition features rarely seen material from the museum’s archive, including artwork and Warhol’s personal correspondence, plus artistic contributions from several modern-day cultural creators including Brian Atwood, Sienna Miller, Sean Lennon, JJ Martin, Zac Posen, Chiara Clemente, Aimee Mullins, David LaChapelle, Francesco Clemente, Nick Rhodes and more. The “Letters to Andy Warhol” exhibit features five interpretations: Mick Jagger’s letter to Warhol asking the legendary artist to create the artwork for the Rolling Stones’ 1969 “Sticky Fingers” album is brought to life by Sean Lennon via a virtual reality experience; Warhol’s letters to Truman Capote discussing fame, determination and ambition are explored in a short film directed Chiara Clemente featuring Sienna Miller, Zac Posen, David LaChapelle; a letter from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) rejecting Warhol’s “Shoe” artwork into the museum’s collection is interpreted via an illustrated children’s book by shoe designer Brian Atwood;  and a letter from famed designer Yves Saint Laurent expressing his gratitude for Warhol’s friendship is explored in a portraiture series by writer and author Derek Blasberg.

Images courtesy of Kovert Creative

Images courtesy of Kovert Creative

“This collaboration came [with Andy Warhol Museum and Cadillac House] together to celebrate two American icons. Andy celebrated Cadillac as a brand along with Campbell Soup and Coco-Cola,” detailed Patrick Moore, interim director of the Andy Warhol Museum. “That is where the idea behind this exhibition started, but as we got to immerse more into Andy’s world we developed a deeper relationship. We were really inspired by these letters from his archives, and we realized that some of things that we found in his letters reflect the Cadillac story of today. The Cadillac story of today is about reinvention, perseverance, innovation, and challenge. These are some of the themes we find in these letters that we are bringing to life in a really immersive way.” “This exhibit also demonstrates Cadillac’s commitment to redefining the role of a brand in culture. A brand should be a producer of culture and not just an advertiser who takes advantage of culture. We talk about Cadillac redefining what a patron of the arts can be, and really supporting the arts in an immersive, experiential and added-value way.”

Perhaps, the most innovative feature of the exhibit was the 100 ft., life-size,  illustrated children’s book, “Bobby’s Brilliant Heels” illustrated by shoe designer Brian Atwood with text by JJ Martin. “Bobby’s Brilliant Heels” is about a young boy who likes to dress in and design women’s clothes and how his family and friends support him. The book is loosely based on Brian Atwood’s childhood with shoes produced by Atwood as a part of the exhibit display.

Image courtesy of Kovert Creative

Image courtesy of Kovert Creative

“I was approached by the idea of this collaboration by a friend. The rejection letter that Warhol received from MOMA inspired me to write a children’s book based on the rejection letter. I approached my writer friend JJ Martin because I had never written or produced a children’s book,” explained Brian Atwood. “The book was based around the Warhol shoe photo that was rejected by MOMA. We didn’t want the high heel in the book to be a heel for a little girl, we wanted it to be more contemporary and celebrate creativity” … “This book is also about rejection and redemption. Who would’ve thought that Andy Warhol experienced rejection in his career, but he did. Everyone does, and everyone has to figure out their of moving past rejection, and this book is about that.”

“Letters to Andy Warhol” will be on display at New York City’s Cadillac House through December 26 and then will embark on a national tour. For more information, go to cadillac.com/experience/cadillac-house.html.

—William S. Gooch

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