2003 – 2006
I studied with a lot of different teachers at HB.
My first teacher at HB was Edward Morehouse. I took his classes for nine months. I adored Ed and did everything he asked me to. He was strict, but fair. Ed always insisted we see and read as many plays as possible. He loved when actors worked hard and had fun on stage. Funny thing was that if Ed liked my work, he would brag about it, and when he didn’t like my work, he would scorn me in front of the class. I didn’t mind, I just worked harder. At the end of the ninth month, I’ve performed scene from “I’m My Own Wife”. I played transgender man with German accent. I had a lot of fun preparing for that role. Ed was thrilled, he was beyond words of praise. At the end of the class, he suggested that he taught me everything he possibly could and I should go out and work as an actor. He also suggested, if I wanted to study more, I should find female teacher.
I went on to study with Carol Rosenfeld and Austin Pendleton. They were incredible teachers. I’ve got to work with some wonderful actors in their classes, particularly Luca Rodriguez, Liz Grey, Catherine Siracusa and Marcy Occhino.
Carol taught me to read plays constantly, even if there’s no part in it for me. She insisted we always read and analyze the text. She was generous and kind teacher. She’s also wonderful performer. Watching Carol perform, I learned that it’s important to have fun on stage, with your character.
I auditioned for Austin’s class with monologue from “I’m My Own Wife”, and a little bit towards end, I forgot my lines, and this never happened to me, but I stopped, and excused myself. Austin was kind to let me know, that was fine and he saw what he needed to see. I’ve got in his Tuesday morning class. Austin is incredible communicator. He is gentle, kind and generous with his comments. He gives suggestions, and tells stories that inspire an actor to go and research more, and work more on ones craft. He’s generous teacher, actor and director. He also taught me, there are no small roles for an actor to play. Austin is one of the hardest working people in the business, and I always had him as example of an actor who always works. I would see Austin on the late night train, going home after rehearsal, and then again next morning, on an early train, going to HB to teach. Austin loves actors and that’s comforting to know.
While I was in the school, I would wake up every morning at 4am. I would go to Equity call; sign as non union member at 6am; wait until 9am to see if we were going to be seen that day, and wait around, studying for my classes, or if I had class that day, I would go to class, and come back to Equity call after class, to audition. Sometimes I would wait at the audition for eight hours and be seen at the end of the day, sometimes I would wait and not be seen. But I kept coming back every day for three years, rain or shine. I would often be the first person in the line, all alone on the street, with construction workers passing by Equity building at 6am.
In 2005 or 2006 (I’m not sure), I got into HB Ensemble. New Ensemble was putting on their first festival in June 2005 (2006), and it had happened that I’ve got triple cast in the festival. I’ve got cast in three very different and challenging roles: as Young Woman in Mountain Language, Florence in The Daughter’s of Edward D. Boit, both directed by Rasa Allan-Kazlas, and in Picnic on the Battlefield, directed by Aleksey Burago. I kept auditioning in the morning, taking classes, rehearsing. It was a lot of work, and I enjoy work and challenge. I had great time in the shows, and made some fantastic friends with my cast mates and fellow Ensemble members.
Year later, I think, Laura Esterman was directing play “New York” at HB Playwrights Theatre and she cast me in. Laura is strong director, who knows what she wants and is not afraid to direct you. I enjoyed working with her immensely. I’m flexible actor, I adapt easily. If director wants me to do specific things, I go for it, I totally trust my director. And if director let me figure things on my own, I again go for it, because I love to play. I love my job, I love being an actor, I love these characters who are getting their life and message to the audience through me. I feel like messenger. And it’s incredible honor. At the same time it’s humbling, because for me, everything is in the text, so you have to collaborate with writer, director and your fellow actors, to bring project to life.
I was directed by Aleksey Burago again in “Lady With The Lapdog” by Anton Chekhov. I loved working with Aleksey, he’s creative, and gets very specific as a director. He would ask you to deliver line, while doing stage combat, stop, deliver another line, turn, leave, deliver line, come back, deliver another line, and so on. It’s physical and mental acting at the same time. I loved it; I had a lot of fun with it. I’m very athletic, and I have an appetite for words at the same time, so working with Aleksey fed these two different aspects of me. For this show, I had to learn how to tap dance in less then month. I had Daniela Mastropietro teach me tap dancing and I would rehearse every day for two-three hours, until I was able to do it smoothly. I also had to sing, in Russian, which I didn’t speak. Snezhana Chernova taught me song in Russian and I learned it in three days. I love singing and I have ear for languages. I use to be opera trained when I was six years old until I was fourteen, and I sang in acapella group and choir. That was before war. I stopped singing when war had happened and never got back to it, until I came to study at HB. I studied singing with Anne McCormick and my favorite songs were from Disney’s animations.
Then I was in the readings: Strangulated, written by Liz Grey and directed by Kate Bushman, American Myth written by Christina Gorman and directed by Rasa Allan-Kazlas.
I was in production of Midnight City directed by Laura Shaine Cunningham, where I met one of my dearest friends, Florencia Lozano. Florancia inspired me to do something I call “natural acting in the theatre”. It’s like acting for TV or film, very intimate, but on the stage.
I took master class with Victor Slezak, who is wonderful and emotional actor, not afraid to get vulnerable on the stage. So I learned to open myself as an actor even more, thank to Victor. To make bigger, bolder, emotional choices.
Then I was cast by Fred Timm in his “Fugue For Four Voices”, where I could implement and play with choices I learned from Victor. It was incredible experience to play anorexic, abused, Israeli woman who struggled with her relationship with her mother. Fred is very specific as a director, but he guides and actor gently through performing journey.
Then I was cast in play Bite, directed by Laura Shaine Cunningham again, and I’ve got to work with Florencia again. Laura is smart writer, and her plays are mix of drama and humor. She is versatile and very giving writer and director. I loved working with Laura. Laura is good friend, and amazing person.
Through HB Studio I worked with Fred Timm, out of HB. He cast me in his play “Accord Of the Angels” and we performed at Mary Anthony dance studio.
Laura cast me in a play iBaby directed by Dan Gallant, and we performed at Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
And Giovani Villari, with whom I worked in “Lady With The Lapdog” cast me in a play “High Cheekbones” that he directed at Gallery Players. Giovani is wonderful director. We studied together dialects at HB Studio, and we acted in a play together. So it was pleasure to get to work with him as a director. He’s creative, hard working and he lets an actor play, and run with it. And I auditioned for many other plays at HB and out of HB, thank to HB. I’ve made many friends, with whom I’m still in touch and I’m grateful for that.
HB is wonderful place for an actor to learn craft, to practice acting skills, meet and work with other artists. It’s wonderful and creative community and I will always be grateful to Herbert and Uta for making this experience possible for us.”