Joshua Torrez and Jen Anya in "Temple of the Souls", Photo Credit: Luis CarleThere is a hot new Off-Broadway musical in town called "Temple of the Souls" and I had the honor of interviewing the writer, director, and co-composer. What makes this show and interview so special is that the creatives behind the show are two generations of women from the same family. The grandmother, Anita Velez-Mitchell, wrote the book while one granddaughter, Anika Paris, is the co-composer, and her other granddaughter, Lorca Peress, is the director. Not only did generational and family ties influence the show, but it also shaped this interview.

"Temple of the Souls" plays at The West End Theatre in NYC (263 West 86th Street) through December 23! Click here for tickets!

Anita Velez- Mitchell (Book/Libretto) is a poet, writer & performer from Vieques, PR. She appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” at Carnegie Hal & in nightclubs as a solo artist, her career culminating in 1963, as Anita in West Side Story, returning in 1972 as dance coach for the Lincoln Center revival. Her many awards include 2011 Family Pride Award (Inst. of Puerto Rico for the Elderly) “Poet of the Year” (Puerto Rico’s Julia de Burgos Poetry Prize for bilingual, book-length poem, Primavida: Calendar of Love, 1986, Mairena Press); Primavida (Association of Puerto Rican Writers & Poets Award & University Press Award); Prince of Asturias Award for Belles Lettres; Partners in Education Award; Center of Ibero-American Poets & Writers Awards in short story, poetry, essay & drama; Isaac Perez Award (1994); Thanks Be To Grandmother Winifred Foundation Grant; “2000 Woman of the Year” (National Conference of Puerto Rican Women in the USA). Publications include bilingual poetry, short stories, plays, essays, translations, novelette Loco de Amor, a Vieques tale published in 2006; A Newyorican Tale premiered for Danisarte at Julia de Burgos Center in 2009. She is the subject of two documentaries, received the Proclamation from NYC in 2006 & has addressed the UN General Assembly several times on behalf of Vieques, PR.

Anika Paris (Composer, Additional Lyrics) is a singer/songwriter & recipient of ASCAP’s Abe Oleman Scholarship at the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Nashville’s City Song Festival & ASCAP’s Pop Plus Award for the past seven years. A published songwriter with Universal Polygram & Warner Bros, her songs are featured in major motions pictures starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Mariah Carey, Mira Sorvino & John Turturro, & on soundtracks alongside Carly Simon, Dido, Belinda Carlisle & Six Pence None the Richer. She has also released three solo CD’s (EAR/Sony, Warner Brothers London, Abbeylane Records). Anika is the only female composer for Telepictures Television shows (“Ellen,” “Extra,” “The Tyra Banks Show,” “Bachelor,” “TMZ”) & has songs on Lifetime, MTV, HBO’s “Sex in the City” & the Gracie Allen Award-winning documentary Dancing Through Life. As a performer, she has been a musical guest on TV’s “Late Night with Craig Kilborn,” “Latin Explosion” (with Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin), “Celebrity Justice,” toured Canada, the states & even performed for the Royal Princess of Thailand. She had the honor of sharing the stage with legendary Stevie Wonder, John Legend & John Mayer in an MI & HPA benefit concert. She is a published poet with Kansas City Star, Helicon Nine Editions, Gival Press, Soft Blow Poetry & soon to be three-generation poetry book with Scapegoat Press featuring poems by Anika, her mother, Gloria Vando & her grandmother, Anita Velez-Mitchell.

Lorca Peress (MultiStages Artistic Director) specializes in multicultural & multidisciplinary theatre. She founded MultiStages in 1997, has directed the majority of its productions & has acted in & designed others.  Her recent credits are Black Girl You’ve Been Gentrified at Joe’s Pub, Alcestis (American Thymele), LPTW New Play Fests (w/Kathleen Chalfant at The Cherry Lane, Kathryn Layng at New World Stages) & Lincoln Bicentennial Concert (w/Queens College, Ruby Dee & Sam Waterston at Riverside Church). She teaches at Strasberg & NYU-Strasberg Studio & was a curator for NYU hotINK Festivals for nine seasons. She has been a Judge & Panelist for theatre companies & organizations. She is a graduate of Bennington College, NTI & the recipient of the La MaMa Inky Award, N.W. Dible Foundation Grants, Manhattan Community Arts Grants from LMCC & DOCA, Dramatist Guild Fund & Jewish Communal Fund Grants. She is Co-President of the League of Professional Theatre Women & an SDC member.

1. Who or what inspired each of you to pursue your chosen craft? 

Anita: It's a matter of the different things that happen in showbiz. I actually was a singer since I was a little girl, and then I became a dancer later. I danced with Marina Svetlova, the prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera, and she was a gorgeous, gorgeous dancer. And then, since I was training for dancing and for singing, I could get fit in almost anywhere, you know? And what happened was that I went from one thing to another, until all of a sudden they were doing Anita in West Side Story. My son-in-law was the conductor, assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein. they took my name, Anita, for the character of Anita! But when Chita and I went to audition, the kids that they had taken were very short because they had to look like young boys, and so when I stood next to them I was way higher, so they took Chita, who was short, and she could do that kind of dance, jazz, which was great. And they offered me and said that as soon as they could, they would put me in it. So, when Chita was pregnant, they began to call me. I came from a tour to NY and I went to take a ballet class at Carnagie Hall and there they said "They are looking for you all over NY City! Go to the theatre!" and in 4 days I had to memorize and learn the whole show, as Anita, in 4 days! Incredible, no? But, anyway, it chose me, you know? It's a matter of fate. It chose me. It's not that I chose it.

Anika: I think I’ve always been a writer, poems first, then short stories, then humming melodies and eventually songs. It is a natural extension of who I am. And I’ve been playing piano since the age of seven. Growing up in a nurturing environment with a symphonic conductor father, who worked with Leonard Bernstein and a multi-award winning poet mother didn’t hurt either. They were both huge influences in my life. I am probably the blend of the two, melody from my father and lyrics and poetry from my mother. We were always going to concerts, putting on shows, and traveling a lot. The world of fine arts was really our way of life, no television, and no sports, nothing conventional. Lorca also asked me audition for “The Sound of Music” when I was seven, and I got the part of Marta. And my high school choir teacher Dan Zollars, the schools football coach, advanced me into Chamber Singers when I was a Junior (only Seniors were eligible) and we won the all state championship. It was during that time, I knew I wanted to be a professional singer, and this was a career choice not just a hobby for me.

Lorca: I was introduced to theatre, music and literature through my family: my grandmother Anita was a performer and writer, mother Gloria Vando is a fantastic and deep poet, and my father Maurice Peress is a renowned music conductor. I was onstage as a child in various operas he conduced. As a teenager I studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute Young Persons program (and returned to study there as an adult, I now teach there), and at 14 in an acting class taught by Bettina Janic Calder during a summer opera festival where my father was conducting in Austria. The work I did there cemented my desire to be an actor.  My mother also introduced me to poets and inspired me with her poetry readings and approach to text and presentation. I watched my father conduct Bernstein’s MASS at the Kennedy Center, and Candide with Madeline Kahn; both productions were life-changing. There have been many plays that have inspired me. One that stands out is Athol Fugard’s, Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, which I saw in London as a girl. I found Margaret Edson’s W;t (WIT) riveting with the amazing Kathleen Chalfant, who I was fortunate to direct a few years ago for the LPTW New Play Festival. Both plays brought nudity onto the stage that was human and visceral. Angels in America also made a huge impact on me, as did Jane Wagner’s Search for Intelligent Signs of Life… with Lily Tomlin, and led me to create my own one-woman show, Women Under Glass. I started directing 17 years ago while studying playwriting with Gene Frankel where I developed Women Under Glass, which received an Inky Award from Ellen Stewart at La MaMa. And my work and studies at Bennington College led me to pursue interdisciplinary art and theatre, which led to the creation of MultiStages.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? 

Anita: I would love to work with so many people. Gene Kelly. I worked with his brother, Fred Kelly. I danced with him. And it was wonderful. But Gene was by himself. He actually never choreographed, he just danced from his spirit, and I admired him very much and I've always wanted to dance with him. His brother was not as able, as artistic. I never danced with Gene. But that would have been wonderful! Gene Kelly and I!

Anika: I have so many artists I am in awe of, and working with them would probably completely intimidate me. But I’d like to sit down and learn from a few; Paul McCartney, Carol King, Tony Bennett and a big band orchestra, and Stephen Sondheim. Then there are some who are no longer with us: Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, and John Lennon. I still want to learn as much as I can from my father. And I’m really longing to work in animation one day, writing music for the next musical animation aka Tangled.

Lorca: I am excited to be working with my father in May when I will be directing two operas at Queens College by Bruce Saylor that my father will conduct. One is a world premiere, The Image Maker, set to poet James Merrill’s one-act play.  The other is the first revival of My Kinsman, Major Molineaux that Bruce composed many years ago.  I have sung in operas and musicals but this is my first stab at directing them.  I have worked with Maurice as a narrator for several concerts, including Shoenberg’s Survivor from Warsaw, and I am honored that Maurice asked me to direct with him.

3. How did your collaboration of "Temple of the Souls" come about?

Anita: I come from PR, a part called Vieques, which is an island. You know, my uncle was mayor for 20 years there. So, until I was 10 years old I was in Vieques, and I didn't see much of PR, and then I came here to NYC. So what happened is that I went there after I was married, my third marriage, and we went traveling around, they're showing us PR and all of a sudden we went to a cave and I said, "I want to go in the cave! I want to go in the cave!" So we went and there was the most extraordinary thing I had ever seen, because I had never been in a cave. It's immense, and when I came in there was a noise which was very, what shall I say? Very mystic! It was "aaaahhh!" and it kept going, and it was like people were drowning, you know, the sound. And what happened was that I felt that that was the soul of all the Tainos, you know? All the Indians that had been killed, because, you know, the Spaniards came and they killed the Indians. They called them 'Indians' because they thought they were going to India. And they killed them. The Tainos lived in the caves and the Spaniards would go in the caves and kill them and take their women and rape them. The little kids were sold to other people, so they grew up as criados, slaves. So, anyway, I felt so sorry for them, and all of this came to my mind when I was in that cave. The stalactites, they flow down, and all of a sudden they are crying, crying! They are tears! And they make a noise when they fall. It was so sad, it was like the whole thing was crying! So I came out and we went to have a coffee, and I said "I have to take this out of my chest!" and I sat down and wrote a beautiful poem that has been published. The Indias here in NYC, the Puerto Rican Tainos, they love it. It's called "Totem Taino." They have an Areyto, which is a yearly fest, and I went there and recited the poem and they loved it! And so, what happened was all of a sudden the Tainos are coming out! Before, they weren't present, and all of a sudden, they are reviving the whole race and the whole culture of the Tainos! So, I sat down and wrote this story about things that I had heard, so it was like a folk tale! And now to see it on stage is absolutely wonderful! I wrote it with great love, and I am so lucky that I have two grand children that are very creative. One is Lorca Peress, who is very involved with Strasberg and with the women in theatre, she's the president of the League of Professional Theatre Women and she is a director. I used to bring her along so she learned a lot! And she did it with great love. And then my other granddaughter, Anika Paris! She is a composer, and she's wonderful. She wrote beautiful music for these songs! And our relative did the painting for the poster, it is beautiful and it's in the family!

Anika: There was originally another composer who backed out of the show due to time conflicts. Lorca had been developing the script with Anita for about a year, and called to ask us if we’d be interested in composing Anita’s opera. It was first a classical opera. I thought opera? Don’t get me wrong, I do love some operas, but it is a skilled specialty and to honor its art form, I knew we were not the right matches. We are contemporary songwriters first and foremost. So we all spoke about it with the understanding that if Dean and I composed the music, it would lean more towards a classical pop feel in the realm of Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Weber. We all agreed that this would change the direction and style of the show, but we would navigate our way through the process. After we hung up the phone, we immediately went into the studio and wrote the finale that night in a little over an hour. It was as if the words and music were floating off the page and into the air, taking on a life of their own. There was an unheard message in the history of the Taine people and we were telling it. We sang every voice part on the demo including bass, baritone, tenor, mezzo, and soprano, even hitting a high C, and then collapsed. After we listened back, we knew we were working on something magical. And now I can’t believe that two years and twenty songs later we have completed a musical drama.

Lorca: My grandmother and I have worked on plays together over the years as actors, directors, dramaturges, and writers. This collaboration began when Anita read me a poignant tone poem, “Totem Taino,” that she was developing into an opera. She began writing the script in verse, and we brought the work into MultiStages 2008 Script Development Series. Anita contacted her friend composer Joseph Lliso, whom she collaborated with on a stunning operatic aria with the lyrics to “Love is Stronger than Death,” but due to other commitments he had to leave the project. Anita suggested Anika, who has written music for several MultiStages productions, and is a superb songwriter. I wasn’t sure if she had the time to work with us. Anika contacted her writing partner Dean Landon, an amazing orchestrator, record producer and composer, and I flew out to LA and pitched the story to them. They sent us an mp3 of the “Temple of the Souls Finale.” Anita and I heard it and I burst into tears. We knew this was the right match and the best way to make her beautiful story sing. It has been an absolute joy working with Anita, Anika and Dean. We have learned so much from this process, and have had a fabulous artistic team to support us along the way.

"Temple of the Souls", Photo Credit: Louis Carle4. What has been the best part about working together on "Temple of the Souls"? How has this strengthened your relationship with each other?

Anita: The relationship is that we are all so much interested in doing something that comes from us, you know? It's not like Anika would be writing somebody else's music, somebody else's idea. Her idea is mine, my idea is hers. So we are all intertwined, and it's wonderful. And they are professional and they are well nourished in theatre, so it came out really nice.

Anika: We think a lot alike, and have the same goal in mind. It is not about ego, it is about telling this story the best way possible. And working with everyone bringing their gifts to the table makes the process so fascinating. We have the perfect blend of popular culture and theatre. We work in two different types of entertainment, Dean and I are very commercially driven writing for television, radio and film in a media driven world. Lorca’s company MultiStages is a not-for-profit theatre company committed to exploring multidisciplinary and multicultural new works that challenge and bend conventional theatre. Anita who is 95 years old, grew up in a time very different from today. Her writing style is of a generation with older values and traditional gender roles between men and women that are fading away. So combining all three of these approaches when collaborating, results in a very rich texture. And respecting each other’s knowledge and expertise was a given.

Lorca: As members of the same family, we have much in common. We share similar humor, aesthetics, finish each others’ sentences, and have a shared history.  These have all lead us to create this work together. Anika and I have a shared sense of music and craft. We have now worked on three plays together, and she understands me implicitly. We have a bond that is rich and strong. We hear similar harmonies and have spent countless hours singing ideas together on the phone. Despite our physical distance (she in LA, I’m here in NYC), we have had a fabulous collaboration. Anita and I go back a long way in terms of working together, and we also have a similar aesthetic and understanding of language. She has taught me a tremendous amount. The revision process has been long but rewarding. We three get along very well and love each other implicitly. There is a safety in that relationship that inspires creativity. The judgment is absent. Anika and I approached this as a gift of love to our grandmother. We have worked on this for several years, and we believed in the project and its future. We knew we had to take this on for her, and to share her story with the world. We are very proud of its outcome.

5. What have you learned about yourselves from working together? 

Anita: Well, the working together is wonderful because you learn that you are doing something not just for you, but also for the family as well as for the friends and the people around you. It comes out of you, out to the world, and not just for yourself. It's not an egocentric thing, and you say "Well, it's an egocentric thing between three people", it's an ego that is no longer just one, but an ego of family. And then it goes out to people, then you make friends through that because people recognize the charm and the joy that it is working together.

Anika: I’ve learned to be patient, and to trust each other. I now believe we can take a seed, plant it and watch it bloom and grow. And as a writer my canvas is much bigger than I ever thought. Music has come out of me I never knew existed once I expanded my writing skills for the stage. I’ve done quite a few projects with Lorca who introduced me to writing for stage productions, plays and the like. And funny enough, it feels as if I’ve come full circle writing musicals, the very place where I fell in love with music and songs.

Lorca: Since this is not the first time we have collaborated in duos, but is the first time all three of us have collaborated together, it has been an exciting venture. I think one of the biggest things is that we trust each other. And we respect each other. We always have, and we haven’t had any fall outs or dramas to speak of other than a few script arguments here or there, but our trust in each other makes the work the central character and our egos are checked.

6. Did having two generations of women working on "Temple of the Souls" influence the story, music, or direction?

Anita: Well, actually, yes, it influences the work because my two grandchildren were not aware of the Tainos, they were raised in the United States and everything is American, and it's quite different.  Although all the things in the world are the same in a sense it is quite different. Each one has learned a lot from learning something else, and I have gained a lot too because we are reviving an ear that was dead for centuries, and yet when you bring it out you realize that life is the same everywhere. They have to eat, they have to work, they have to, you know, continue their life, they have children. You know, the world is the same everywhere, but at the same time there is a great difference between the ways they do things. And so, it enhances you and makes you feel wonderful. You look at it as what is the difference between yesterday and today. And then you realize that even though they are from another country, another century, we are doing the same thing they did in those days. And that's the theme of it, because Nana, who is the mother of the girl, Amada, the lead; she tells her that life is the same everywhere, love is the same everywhere. And the idea is to continue life, to continue propagating, and continue living, joyfully living. That is nice!

Anika: (See answer on questions 3 and 4).

Lorca: Yes, very much. All artists bring themselves and their histories to the work.  Here, too, we have done that. We are each individuals in our approach to art, and yet, we have found a common ground. We have spoken up where we needed to and have allowed ourselves to be influenced by each other. We have many years between us. I am almost 7 years older than Anika, and Anita is decades older than both of us. Anita is a modern thinker but also has a more traditional approach to certain elements in this work. Anika works in the commercial music industry in LA, and is extremely successful in that world. She knows what sells and what is a hit. I tend to be more from the avant-garde arty side. I like the inclusion of modern dance into the piece, the simplicity of the set, masks and puppets, and I tend to encourage a less expected approach to the work we create at MultiStages. Together, despite our differences, we have made something that works, that is cohesive and yet supports all our visions and aesthetics.

"Temple of the Souls", Photo Credit: Louis Carle7. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing "Temple of the Souls"? 

Anita: Well, they have talked to me, I was sitting down next to Miriam Colon, and she's an old friend and she has built a theatre, the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, she has done it with great love and work, and she was sitting next to me and she was open eyed and was saying "how extraordinary that you can bring back to life these stories! And they are excellent because everybody has a history and it's dead! So it's wonderful when you bring it up because you realize the effort that they had to do to be able to live in that century, right? And so it was wonderful that people were very enthusiastic, and I was amazed that they were because, who cares about what happened centuries ago to the Tainos? But to revive and to show how mean people can be when they have racial prejudices, when they take a whole country. Like what they did in Vieques. Vieques was a gorgeous, gorgeous island, and it had waters that were effervescent, people came out of the water and they were full of stars! And yet they came with bombs, the marines, and they didn’t realize that there were many people there, from Europe and everywhere; they were exiles from Europe! And so, it was a beautiful island to live in, because all these exiles had all these stories and were very interesting people, and all of a sudden they take the island, they bomb, they begin to do all their exercises for war and this beautiful thing that was nature itself, all of a sudden it was destroyed and we had to leave. We had to exile ourselves from there. And all of these happened this past century.  So you realize that life doesn't change very much. And they are doing the same thing in Iran and in different places, you know, the war. I'm completely against war, and I think it should be stopped one way or another.! I've gone to the United Nations and spoken about Vieques, and there's nothing they do! They do nothing at all! You speak for nothing! My brother, who was not only a beautiful looking man, but a worthy person! He was at a Spanish college. It was a religious college. He would come out and he used to speak; he had a beautiful voice, he was actually a voice! When he was a young man they told him "Shoot against that parade!" and he decided that he wasn't going to do it! And he went to jail for it!

Anika: I’m hoping audiences will learn about the true history of discovering America. And the fact that we really didn’t discover a “New World” because people were already here. We need to learn how to live together as one. I know that sounds cliché, but this story is about a history that keeps repeating itself over and over again. How long will it take until we stop hating each other, or judging one another, or invading each others countries and creating wars? I hope people will walk away looking at their own prejudices and let go of preconceived notions sold to them as “truths.” I hope they leave singing:

I BELIEVE ONE DAY LOVE WILL BRIDGE THIS GREAT DIVIDE
WALK ALONG THE WAY ECHOES IN EACH OTHERS LIVES
SEE FAR BEYOND OUR FEARS AND OUR POSSESSIONS
AND SHARE MOTHER NATURES 
MOUNTAINS AND SEAS, THE AIR THAT WE BREATHE

 

Lorca: I want to introduce our audiences to original collaborative theatre that is multidisciplinary and multicultural. I want to move and inspire them with the work we do.  As an artist (visual as well as theatre), I believe in merging disciplines. The work that inspires me is a fusion of art forms ranging from the language of a play or poem to the visual and stylized physical elements we create in collaboration. I am stimulated by vision and transformation, the unknown, the unexpected. Ideas abound, and art emerges. As a woman of mixed cultures (Puerto Rican, Iraqi and Polish Jewish), I have always been drawn to the stories and perceptions of others. I seek out new voices and worlds to bring to the stage and aim to challenge the audience and artists involved. I founded MultiStages as a means to explore this work. We are honored to be presenting Temple of the Souls in a community that includes over 900,000 Puerto Rican descendants, and we hope this show will encourage our audiences to learn more about the amazing Taíno race and culture that is absent from most text books and classrooms.  And that they will relate to the universal theme that is present in this new work.

8. After working together, would you want to work together again? If so, what kind of project would you want to work on? 

Anita: Well, if we work together, I would still be doing plays! I have a number of plays I have stored.  So, we work together all the time, as a matter of fact. The last play that Lorca did, I played a part! I was able to play the part of an old woman. I didn't have to act very much, hahaha! But that's not true, because people say I look 70 instead of 95! Anyway, I was able to do it, it came out wonderful and Anika and my daughter Gloria and I wrote a book together of poetry and it's wonderful and it's coming out in 2012! And so, we work together all the time! I have a play called "A Cave Named Ego", that's another cave, which is yourself. It's all inside the person and the ego is inside that doesn't come out. Then there's the consciousness, which is called  "Desatino", which means it's a little bit cocky, and he says "Your ego is like an egg! It has to reproduce itself. It has to do something! It can't stay within you!" and she wants to stay within her, with "Dolor" and "Placer", which are the other two characters; "Pain" and "Pleasure". She wants to stay with Pleasure all the time, and she pays no attention to Dolor, which is Pain. And it's very funny because at the very end they are crying, because she's dying, and Placer is crying because he lived within her, and Dolor is laughing, she's very happy that the woman is dying because she never paid attention to her, and Desatino, who is consciousness, says, "Lets go and get another body immediately! She's gone!" and the other two look at her and say, "She has had her last orgasm!" (Laughs!) The whole thing is very sexy, but it's a beautiful piece! So we will work together again, the three of us!

Anika: I would love to work together again! I’d like to continue working together on Temple of the Souls and see it take off and performed with a “real budget” and in full production, on Broadway! I say dream big or go home! And I’d love to write another musical, write music for another play, explore more in this new media. It has been the most challenging work, and some of my best work that I am truly proud of.

Lorca: Yes! And we want to continue with this project as well. We have discussed adding more Spanish to the show, and preparing it for a tour to Puerto Rico and the US. Anika and I will continue with other projects. I have a production coming up in Fall 2012 that is in need of a composer. Depending on the status of Temple, we might bring her back on board to write songs for that new play with music.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? 

Anita: The best advice I have received...The three of us have received different advices, because we have different lives. Lorca is happily married, very happily married to a wonderful guy! Everything you need to be completely happy, and she is, because she also does things, she goes out and does everything with love, for everybody. And so is Anika! She's a teacher of poetry and song, so they are both very happy people. And I go out, for example, to the Museum of Natural History. I used to go every summer and teach kids on the weekend to do theatre. And they did their own theatre. We wrote it, directed it and they worked on it. They learned a lot! I don't do that any more, but I've done it! So, most of the time, the three of us, we have been working creatively. The thing that we have learned is that, that is the way of life! If you keep everything to yourself, and you just satisfy yourself, you don't mean anything in life, because we are all individuals and each one of us is a world in itself, but think of the fact that each one of us is unique! There's nobody else that is like Anika! Her world is unique! Lorca! Her world is unique! Me! There's nobody else in the world like me! When I die, Anita is gone! And there's nobody that can replace me because I am one and only. And each of us is one and only, and if you realize that, that is the meaning of life. I'm just happy that something that I wrote is published and worked on. It's a beautiful life for me!

Anika: Enjoy the process. We are in an “end result” world. And truthfully, by the time you get there, it’s over. I’m living in the moment, seeing the show every night and remembering how amazing it is to be here watching this show come to life. I try to apply that to any project I’m working on, and my everyday life. Wake up and honor the sun, kiss the moon goodnight. Love my family and friends every day I’m here. Love my work and every process it takes.

Lorca: I am so used to giving advice, that it’s been a while since I received it.  I am a teacher, so it’s a natural part of me. I guess I could say now that it was Gene Frankel who said, “why don’t you direct it yourself?” when I was looking for someone to direct a show I wanted to do. I was feeling that I wasn’t ready, but he encouraged me, and started me on this journey. I am forever grateful to him for his belief in me. And directing led me to create MultiStages.

10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? 

Anita: Oh! Well, I had four husbands! All quite different from each other! My first husband was a Puerto Rican guy who was fabulous, he was the father of my child, Gloria, and he used to stand and fight for Puerto Rico, like my brother did. Then the second one was a man from Argentina. He was representing Argentina in the United States. So we lived in Washington D.C. And he was wonderful until all of a sudden it became a really hard time, very difficult, and they closed the communication between Argentina and the US. Later, he became a member of the mafia, and it was awful. It ended in a great tragedy, so it was a very, very ugly thing that he did, but anyway, c'est la vie. Then the other one was the famous, famous artist Yannis Spartacus, he was a composer and the most beautiful musician! A beautiful pianist. Just now I was interviewed after maybe 60 years. Somebody came from Greece because one of his songs became very famous. A Greek bolero! And I had translated it to Spanish! So they came to me. I was married to him for three years, and we were very much in love, but he needed to go because his mother was at the age of death, you know? And he had to go to Greece, and he wanted me to go and live in Greece, but I didn't want to, so we separated. And he was a beautiful man! Then, my other husband, who was also a wonderful guy, was Pearse Mitchell. He was Irish. So the Irish are very much like the Puerto Ricans! They love to sing, they love to dance, they love to eat, they love to love, and we had a wonderful time together! And he was a very intelligent man. I couldn't cook, and since I couldn't cook, he began to do advertising for restaurants and we went to the best restaurants in NYC! Every night we would go to the Russian Tea Room and other places, and we had dinner for nothing! And I didn't have to cook! We had our daughter, Jane Velez-Mitchell, who works in television. She is a cable personality. She just came back from being inside the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor! We had a wonderful, wonderful time. Well, so, I would like to dream that my family is in good state, health wise, living happily. And I would like to dream that we are all together forever. And even though I am 95, I am still a romantic! Right? And I would love to have a man around the house, as they say! (Sings) "So nice to have a man around the house!" So, I would choose Antonio, my friend. We have no sexual feelings about each other, but he is such a wonderful friend! He actually does things for me that no other gentleman has every done for me, not even my husbands! He loves me and takes good care of me. And so, I would like to dream that my life is full of my family and this guy and maybe I'll find a lover every now and then! You never know!

Anika: I don’t want to dream about anyone in particular. I just want to have normal happy dreams, and not the ones where I‘m always naked in a crowd of people, or being chased by a dinosaur while I’m flying through the air on top of a giant spoon, or traveling to the bottom of the ocean in an upside down helicopter to visit the bubble people. Yes, my mind is a bit over creative. But when my family passes onto the other side I do want them to come visit me in my dreams.

Lorca: Some say you are everyone you dream of, and I have been many people in my dreams. This is a tough one to answer. I guess I would love to dream of friends I have lost. In a dream you feel they are still alive with you, and that is one dream I wish would come true.

Melissa van der Schyff

Andrea Marcovicci