Big Voices in Small Theater

Small theater is one of the most welcoming places for fresh new voices. In this series I will begin to prove why.
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The first in a series of big voices in small theater

Small theater is one of the most welcoming places for fresh new voices. In this series I will begin to prove why.

Introducing Mrs. Tjasa Ferme -- One of New York's finest up and coming actors who writes, produces and stars in her own work!

How would you characterize yourself as a writer, and as a performer?

My work revolves around transformation, around the search for the divine that allows us to fully realize our potential. I want to challenge both my audience and myself -- push the boundaries of what is possible; I strive to push my audiences to be themselves in a more daring and non-judgmental way. I'm willing to fail in all of my attempts. Performing my own material implies the inevitable blind spots, but that is the challenge I must accept. I like to think that each of us is an experiment in the lab of the universe - but at the same time, everyone is also a scientist, conducting the very same experiment.

What are your female characters like?

I love strong women, who choose their destinies, who don't conform, who create their own realities regardless of what the rest of society thinks of them. I'm strong and opinionated, and this shows in my heroines. When I create a character, in writing or in performance, I always look for the point of power. I ask myself: what is the driving force in this person? How does she try to liberate herself from the particular constraints, how does she fight for whatever she believes in? On the other hand, I am also interested in my characters' fatal flaws and vulnerable spots.

Who are your role models?

There are many female figures I find important. I love Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett. I love Marina Abramović's courage and her idea of "simplicity as innovation." Among the writers, Sarah Kane and Lisa Kron are definitely strong influences. In a way, so is Lena Dunham. But there is more to my view of the feminine: I've been performing different versions of Confessions of a Nymphomaniac since 2008 and what I've been flashing out is the reality of female sexuality and desire versus what's portrayed in the media and myth we buy into and are oppressed by. Originally, it was a Grotowski-meets-Karen-Finley one-woman show, called I Want a Penis. That being said, I am also very inspired by two extraordinary men, Carl Gustav Jung and Wilhelm Reich.

How did you end up as an actress in the first place?

My dad was a rock star in Slovenia when I was a small kid. He would put me on stage with his band as a mascot, and I'd play a tambourine and spin in my little dress... Then as an eight-year-old, I was cast as an evil witch in a in a school play based on a folk fairy tale. After the opening night performance, I was so excited I just couldn't come down from the high. My mom asked how did that feel, and I replied: "I was on god's frequency." Imagine that coming from a little girl who received a completely secular upbringing.

How do you think your European background influenced your style and the kind of characters you choose to portray?

Tremendously! In theater, most Americans are attracted to "realism" or matter-of- factness, whereas a European in me leans towards expression, high stakes, and raw emotion. I am interested in more absolute and extreme expression, and also in exploring the territory where different art forms interconnect. In my mind, the European esthetic, sensitivity, search for multiple layers, for the irrational is crucial for all art.

How much does New York City matter for you as an environment where you work?

I came to New York because everywhere I have traveled in Europe, people have been telling me I should go to NYC because I am such a New Yorker - cosmopolitan but idiosyncratic, sophisticated but also a little gritty... and bilingual! New York provided me with the perfect material for my new one-woman show. I think my stories are coming from the city ripe with opportunities and options, and my character is hungry for experiences. There may be a lot of mishaps, blunders, maybe even fiascos in real life, but they can be turned into very funny stories.

How was Wild Child In The City conceived?

My apartment stories are endless. In all my years here, I moved about twenty-five times. Only for four out of seven years did I have a long-term lease; the other places were short-term, and usually catastrophes. That is what Wild Child In The City originated from. I wrote it as a piece that people can connect to through all the misery, absurd, and funniness of what I have been through...

I also want to challenge the traditional relationship between an actor and audience. My favorite parts of this show are those in which I go off script and initiate interaction with the audience. I want their input and participation; I ask them questions, provoke them to punish and insult me; they are faced with all sort of choices. I love this improvisational unpredictable component.

Why was the director Ana Mărgineanu your go-to lady for this project?

In the process of developing the script, I realized that it calls for a very specific kind of director. Ideally, a female who could be a collaborator in the course of both writing/structuring and staging: from my experience, women are more process-oriented when it comes to this kind of work. I needed someone sensitive and smart who knows how to push the envelope and has experience with interactive theater. Also, I was hoping my director would understand the absurdity I am trying to convey - and there's something European about that. Ana has all of the above, and therefore was the perfect choice.

What kind of humor appeals to you?

The dark, grotesque, absurd kind. It has to be edgy, "out there" stuff; nothing lukewarm or tame appeals to me. I keep hearing all the time that I'm "too much" or "too intense I am not the kind that just blends in. I'm a stranger and an outcast wherever I go; however, I think most people think the same way about themselves. We all feel out of place at times, square pegs in round holes. I can tolerate quite a lot of other people's quirks and weirdness because philosophically I can find justification for almost everything.

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