Thursday, September 19, 2013

Diana Oh & The Fierce Collaboration that is The Sister Rosettas

"Watching other artists be fierce makes me feel fierce."

Diana Oh
Lead Vocalist of The Sister Rosettas

What was the inspiration for The Sister Rosettas?

In July of 2013, I agreed to a theatre space in September of 2013...I didn't have a show yet...but I knew I'd dig something up out of my pile of past projects or some brilliant strike of inspiration would hit. Fast forward one week, I meet a stranger in the street. His name is Eric Miranda. A veteran guitarist who's played with every famed musician under the sun. He used to have a rock band called Ming Dynasty fronted by an Asian woman. He introduced me to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, we bonded over her, four days after we met, we played a set together, I thought, "let's really put together a theatrical event focusing on reviving Ming Dynasty's music, and paying homage to their work." Naturally, that brought up a whole slew of questions about identity and race.  

The Sister Rosettas is a theatrical event that centers around the music of Ming Dynasty, and also features original songs written by Philippe and me. The show, The Sister Rosettas features myself on lead vocals, Eric Miranda (founding member of Ming Dynasty) on lead guitar/vocals, Philippe Arman on bass/vocals, Matt Harrington (previous Ming Dynasty band member) on drum/vocals, Kole Smith (previous Ming Dynasty band member) on guitar/vocals. And opening acts by my friends who I think are a really big deal: Artist, Christopher Gabriel Nunez (9/13), Queer Asian Comedian, Jes Tom (9/20), Performer, Lauren Hennessy (9/27)

What was it's development? How did you get involved with terraNOVAcollective? 

After Eric and I met on the street and played our first set together, I sent Jessi D. Hill (creative director for The Sister Rosettas) a text that said, "Jessi, we are going to make an art baby." I decided I wanted to do this for real, texted Eric as well. He was way down. Eric called in Matt for drums and Kole for guitar (both who were original band members of Ming Dynasty), Eric met this sexy bassist on the street named Philippe after he met me. Boom, band formed. Jessi and I would work on storyline. Eric would work on musicline. Music practice, music practice, music practice, endless music practice. Script rehearsal, script rehearsal, script rewrite, endless rewrite, rehearsal. Tech. Fancy lights. Show. 

terraNOVA has been an artistic home for me over the past year. I was cast in Rob Askins' P.S. Jones and the Frozen City, had a sold-out extended run of my solo show, Diana Oh is GOING ROGUE, the solo show in their 10th Annual soloNOVA Festival, participated in a handful of their Groundbreakers work. Jennifer Conley Darling and Jessi D. Hill (Producing Directors of terraNOVA) saw me first in Mariah MacCarthy's work (The Foreplay Play and Magic Trick).

How do you like to develop material? 

With a director holding my hand, with friends who make me laugh who encourage me to by myself by virtue of them being themselves, with the hours between midnight and 4AM. Songwriting though is different--that takes on more of a form of journal writing, super private weepy stuff.

How did you come to the theater (i.e. what is your background)?

 Oh, you know the usual. Some teacher touches your heart, encourages you, makes you feel invincible. For me, that was my high school Madrigal choir teacher Mr. Pressman, and my acting teacher Ms. Grant. 

How did you get so fierce? (and while you're at it share your definition of fierce for us). 

Fierce. Fierce to me means "I don't give a fuck." Fancy lights make me feel fierce. No joke. A stage is a stage and there is nothing that makes you feel more present than a hot light shining on you. Dancing makes me feel fierce. Drums make me feel fierce. Watching other artists be fierce makes me feel fierce. Eric Miranda is FIERCE. MUSIC. Music makes me feel so fierce. If I'm not feeling fierce, I call my mom, talk to my room mate Leta, I write a song about it, or write a gratitude list. Confidence is fierce. Whenever everything else around me is sucking ass, as long as I can go to that place of knowing who I am, how I want to affect the world, how I want to correspond with people, then it's all good man, I'm gonna be fierce, and you're gonna be fierce. And life is too short--be fierce! 

Salty or sweet? 

OH MY GOD please don't make me choose. Salty and sweet: chocolate covered pretzels, salads with apples! I can't choose--I like both. At the same time. 

When you need inspiration what do you do? 

I leave my effing apartment. I watch a movie. I watch a show (any show--music, theatre, dance, anything). I have sex. I make my friends hang out with me. I read Play by, Dr. Stuart Brown. I go to a new restaurant. I do another Filling the Well retreat. I watch Youtube. Anything that lets me shut off, and allows me to enjoy other people's work. 

What's next? 

Hopefully, a continued run of The Sister Rosettas. Leta (director ofGOING ROGUE) and I are planning a tour of Diana Oh is GOING ROGUE, the solo show. Christopher Gabriel Nunez is producing An EP and music video of my songwriting work. Filling the Well retreat in November. I have some callbacks coming up for acting work that will pay my rent so who knows, really. Something. I'll be working on something.

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

Doing exactly what I'm doing. But on a greater scale. 

Where do you see yourself tomorrow? 

At a callback. Literally. And continuing doing exactly what I'm doing.

Where do you see yourself right now? ;) 

Right now, I'm in bed in my underwear answering these questions. And I'm doing exactly what I'm doing. 

Anything you'd like to add? 

Your support system is everything. Thank you Micheline for your support.

The Sister Rosettas plays two more shows Friday, September 20th and Friday, September 27th at 9:30 PM at IRT Theater (154 Christopher Street). For more information and tickets click here.

Diana Oh (Lead Vocals): is the Lead Vocalist for The Sister Rosettas. She recently closed an extended sold-out run of her solo show Diana Oh is GOING ROGUE, the solo show that was based upon her original music, songwriting, and relationships. MFA, NYU Musical Theatre Writng (Elphaba Thropp Fellow). National Theater Institute Alum. BA, Smith College. As an actor, musician, lyricist, and songwriter, her work has been featured at Lincoln Center, The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Barrington Stage, Goodspeed Opera House, Caps Lock Theatre, LAByrinth, Gideon Productions, FullStop Collective, the Bad Boyz II soundtrack, BBC National Geographic. She also leads Filling the Well Artist's Retreats.

Eric Miranda (Vocals/Lead Guitar): has sung and played guitar with Rick Derringer and Rainbow's Joe Lynn Turner, played bluegrass with Boo Reiners in the Demolition String Band, written and performed with Jesse Malin and Francis Dunnery, and been on stage with the Counting Crows and Ryan Adams, who called Miranda's The Plums, his favorite band. He's played punk, power pop, rock and bluegrass, drums, bass and guitar and was also the vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, and drummer for Ming Dynasty before the band dispersed in 2009.   

Jessi D. Hill (Creative Director): is Associate Artistic Director of terraNOVA Collective in NYC where she curates the Groundbreakers Playwrights Group. Recent and upcoming directing projects include work at The Public/Joe's Pub, New York Theatre Workshop, Women's Project, Primary Stages, The New Group, Dixon Place, New Dramatists, The Lark, The Playwrights Realm, The Playwrights Center, Chicago Dramatists, New Georges, Ensemble Studio Theatre and others.  She has been a guest director in professional training programs at Yale School of Drama, Fordham University, Long Island University, Powerhouse/NY Stage & Film, NYU/Tisch, NYU/Atlantic, NYU/Strasberg Institute of Theatre and Film, NYU/Playwrights Horizons, Hunter College and others. MFA: Yale.

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