We had the good fortune of connecting with Et Alia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Et Alia, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Et Alia came together because the founding members, Maria Müller, Ana Moioli, Giorgia Valenti and Isabella Uzcátegui felt the need to provide artistic opportunities for themselves. As international women, we oftentimes lack the chances American citizens have in the theater industry. Thus, through this theater company, we found a way to make ourselves seen and heard and to tell the stories we want to tell.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Because our company is focused on international artists and women, we provide a platform for people who identify as such to create the art they want to create. Although we have and will continue to work with Americans as well, our primary goal is to help the international community have visibility and a space where artists feel they can take on any role, without being limited by accents/looks/citizenship status etc. As an artist, putting yourself out there is a risk. The art you create is so personal and exposing, that by putting it out into the world, you’re taking the risk of having people criticize it, judging you for it or simply seeing it through their own lens, which is sometimes limiting. At the same time, that is what is beautiful about art. If it wasn’t personal, it wouldn’t be specific. And if it’s not specific, it doesn’t reach people. For example, for our project This is Me Eating____ (an online series turned documentary that deals with food, eating and body image) we had a lot of conversations that made us vulnerable. We all have a complicated relationship with the themes of this project and we had to be extremely open and honest about how we feel. Because of that, we were able to reach a wide audience and, as a result, women from all over the world sent us their incredible videos and expressed their feelings on these issues. Similarly, when we were invited to be part of the TEDxYouth@Columbia conference which has the theme Borderline Boundless, we chose to deal with our insecurities around language. English is not our first language and yet somehow it is tied to our identity as artists. Again, navigating our native language and English language in the same project allows the audience to see two different sides of ourselves and gives them a deeper understanding of who we are as people, as scary as that may be. As a company, although we have encountered a lot of support from our community and the reviews we have received for our shows have been very encouraging, we still have extensive conversations about risks, pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, exposing parts of ourselves that we’ve never exposed before. These conversations happen every time there is a new project and we make sure to take care of and listen to each other. Getting to where we are today wasn’t easy. And we still aren’t where we want to be quite yet (which is probably a good thing, we want to continue working towards better versions of ourselves). But there are many factors that influence the success of our company. Some of them could be the fact that we rarely say no to challenges, that we make informed decisions regarding every aspect of our brand, that we take into account every member’s perspective on the issues we’re confronting, that we always have open dialogue and mutual support and that we are disciplined and persistent. We never considered giving up. Maybe it’s because we have never encountered a big setback as a company so far (and we realize we are very lucky to be able to say that) and have never been discouraged. But there are definitely moments in which things get difficult, especially when it comes to funding. Getting grants has been a challenge and there is definitely a feeling of disappointment when we work so hard for countless applications and don’t get any of them. However, this company has been very rewarding to us both professionally and personally and we will not give up on it (at least until it gives up on us). There is a lot of love and drive in what we create and as long as that’s there, there’s no reason to stop doing what we’re doing. We all have different stories of how and why we wanted to be in this industry. Here they are, in short: Maria: Although it started as a fascination for performing on stage when I was very young, as time went on, it turned into something else. The fascination and the feeling I get when I perform will never go away, but there is so much more to it now. I realized that I’m interested in telling particular kinds of stories and that even though acting has been and always will be my one true love, there is so much more I am interested in. Writing and producing have given me an agency over my work that empowers me. Every aspect of art-making informs other aspects, thus making me feel a fuller artist. Ana: Since I was as young as 5 years old, I’ve been obsessed with the power of stories – while they’re definitely one of the most universal sources of pleasure, I am a passionate believer that their effect also goes far beyond entertainment. Empathy is the most powerful weapon to bring people to action, and that’s what stories do. Besides being an artist, I also teach chess to young kids through storytelling, and my work with my students has brought me to witness the power of tales as an educational tool – the kids want to play chess because they want to help the character King Shaky overcome his “fear of the grass” by “tiptoeing one step at a time”. When I see the impact I cause on the children I teach, I am reminded of why I chose to be a creator. By reaching more and more people with truthful, unheard stories, and hopefully providing both fun and intellectually enlightening experiences, I strive to contribute to a world with more empathy. Giorgia: I honestly think I started dancing before I started walking. Dance was how I learnt that I loved the stage more than anything, that to me it was like stepping onto a place where I truly felt like myself. As I moved around to India, Italy and the US in my life I also realized that when I performed was the only time I felt at home. As time passed and I became a fuller artist, I discovered the power of exploring all my capabilities and what it really means to find myself while studying humanity on stage. Deniz: Most of my acting work prior to college has been devised performances and physical improvisation. I started out when I was really young and the feeling of creating something with your body and expressing your inner life through movement felt so freeing. Before I fell in love with being on stage, feeling the bright lights, presenting something to an audience, I fell in love with how freeing my art made me feel. This isn’t just physical liberty, but also the liberty to do what I love. It gave me an escape, allowed me to live many realities, and gave me the freedom to tell the story I want to tell, the way I want to tell it. Luísa: I started doing theater in school when I was 10 and just never stopped – acting has been part of my identity since then and I don’t know myself without it. I slowly fell in love with the magic of the stage. The power of storytelling in the present moment became almost sacred to me. Being part of the uniqueness of experiencing different nights of the same show, of seeing different people having different experiences is just… extraordinary. And the energy of collectiveness with the entire team involved in a production is inspiring. I am just obsessed with everything involved. Although different, they all have one thing in common: storytelling. Through this company, we are committed to telling our stories and the stories of our communities in a way that is honest, respectful and inclusive.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Pre-pandemic, the spots that we enjoyed most were The Strand Book Store, The Grey Dog, by CHLOE, Fotografiska New York, The International Center of Photography Museum, Tompkins Square Park, MoMA, Ahimsa Garden, Brooklyn Whiskers, The McKittrick Hotel (Sleep No More), Vapiano NYC, The New Museum. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We want to dedicate this shoutout to the people who are always there to support us: Ryan Cairns, Kaylee Shahira Rodriguez, Larissa Castilho, Kyvon Edwin, Pranav Kothary, Federica Borlenghi, JP Pacca, Quinn Cavin and Mafalda Pinto Correia.
Pranav Kothary JP Pacca