Sunday, November 14, 2010

Interview with Sunilda Caraballo and Joe Ricci of Hardware Dreams

By Byrne Harrison

Sunilda Caraballo is a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico. This multitalented performer, now a proud mother, began her career in the performing arts as a dancer. She started her training with Ballet Teatro Municipal de San Juan and later on with the School for the Performing Arts. Dance credits include: Ballet Hispanico, The Metropolitan Opera Ballet The Magic Flute directed by Julie Taymor, The New York City Opera La Traviata, Thomas/Ortiz Dance Company, Radio City Music Hall, MTVTr3s, Telemundo, Olga Tanon, Jerry Rivera, among others. Theatre credits: Off-Broadway and tour company of Celia, based on the life and music of Celia Cruz, where she got rave reviews for her multiple roles, including the role of Tia Ana; Repertorio Español and the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre. She has also performed her own writing material as a stand-up comedian at Carolines on Broadway, Nuyorican Poets Café, and the Triad Theatre. Her one-woman show Hardware Dreams, has had successful runs at the People Improve Theatre, La Tea’s One Festival, and the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Sunilda is the recipient of the 2009 NBC Improv Diversity Scholarship, as well as the 2009 and 2010 "Best Choreography” HOLA Award. She holds a B.A. in Communications, with a minor in theatre and dance from the University of Puerto Rico.

I'm always fascinated by people with a diverse training background. You've done dance, theatre and stand up. What is your favorite part of performing?

Sunilda: Being able to express my creativity with and without words it is truly a blessing. With dance as much as theatre and stand up the most rewarding thing is to see people react… with laughter, a tear or any other emotion.

Tell me a little about Hardware Dreams.

Sunilda: Hardware Dreams is a show full of comedy, dance and Latin flavor. The show tells the unique fun moments I had with my family while growing up, which sometimes made me feel a little “different” or even embarrassed, but as an adult and now as a mother, they are not only joyful but also the strength that allows me to keep pursuing my career in New York City. I’m not only sharing my family story, but my culture, my dreams and how I’m dealing with motherhood in such different and difficult times.

So it is based on your own life and experiences.

Sunilda: The stories are very personal and almost 99 percent of them are told word for word how they really happened, even though at times they might seem made up stories. I grew up in a family and a neighborhood full of very unique and eccentric characters, like for example, my dad, which besides working at the hardware store with my mom, the four kids and four dogs, was also a passionate inventor. He invented a wheelchair for my disabled dog and made news in Puerto Rico . He was so creative and outspoken that once, he picketed in front of our school because they were asking for too much money.

What made you decide to do a solo show?

Sunilda: It all started at an acting class I took 4 years ago, where I had to write a personal monologue as part of an exercise, and when I told the class my monologue they didn’t only laughed pretty loud about it, but they also couldn’t believe that it was true. Right then, I felt the need and responsibility of telling more of my story and make people laugh even harder at me and my family. And I also get to showcase all the different talents I have in my little “bag of tricks”, including my accent.

If you could say anything to your potential audience, what would it be?

Sunilda: You will not only have a great time laughing , but also relate to my story by remembering all those fun moments you had with your family, the struggles we all go through to follow our dreams and goals and like my mom use to say “when life gives you lemons make lemonade”.

Any advice for people just starting out in theatre or dance?

Sunilda: Always keep that inner kid alive and don’t forget to have fun.

What's next for you after Hardware Dreams?

Sunilda: I can’t wait to see all the great projects that will come from this run of Hardware Dreams; who knows, maybe a TV show or a movie could be made about the show, it certainly has potential for it. I’m also finishing my studies in Improvisational comedy at the People Improv Theatre with a scholarship I won from NBC last year. But the biggest project I have ahead of me is raising my baby, and being the best mom I can be.

In addition to directing Hardware Dreams, Joe Ricci is the writer and co-host of the ongoing hit Vintage Variety at the Triad theatre. He is also in pre-production as the director of a new play, Anywhere, Anywhere, due to have its premiere in early 2011. He directed the critically acclaimed Tricia Brouk Dining Alone - an amazing experience where he not only had his first foray into directing a dance play, but he ended up marrying the star, Tricia Brouk. As an actor, Joe recently made his Broadway debut as Mike in the hit A View from the Bridge starring Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson. He spent a better part of the last 10 years in and out of the Off-Broadway hit, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.

What attracted you to Hardware Dreams?

Joe: Having worked with Sunilda before as an Actor, I jumped at the chance to work with her again in any capacity. But, when I read the script, it was really her story that grabbed me… I got excited to help tell the story when I read it.

You've directed solo shows in the past. As a director, what are some of the pros and cons of this type of show?

Joe: The pros are that you are accomplishing something that is very difficult. Not many performers can pull this off. It requires a lot of stamina and focus and guts. So when you pull it off, it’s an incredible high. I spend a lot of time analyzing the script as the director. And when you’re working with an actor who is also the writer you have an incredibly collaborative experience. Sunilda has been great about working with me on the script. The con is that because there is only one person on stage, your focus is never off of them. There is never a moment when you can say, “Great, now work on that while I go over here and stage this other scene that you’re not in.”

Since you're both a director and an actor, you've seen the process from both sides. Do you find your acting experience informing your directing and vice versa?

Joe: I also write and everything influences everything. Each is influenced by the other. But there is always a need to translate depending on what you’re doing and who your audience is. I process a certain way as an actor, but that doesn’t mean someone I’m directing will work that way.

Any advice for young directors out there?

Joe: To quote Nike… Just Do It!

What's next for you after Hardware Dreams?

Joe: I am the writer and Co-Host of a show called Erotic Broadway-Vintage Variety. Currently, we’re performing it once a month at the triad theatre. It’s a very sexy show, with hot dancers and singers. I’m in pre-production for a play that I’m directing about two men who fall in love after leaving Vietnam. And just to round things out… I’m writing the book of a musical.

Hardware Dreams
By Sunilda Caraballo
Directed by Joe Ricci

November 18-21, 2010
Thursday and Friday 8 PM
Saturday and Sunday 3 PM and 8 PM

Theater for the New City
155 1st Ave,between 9th and 10th streets

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