Ten Questions with Vanessa Severo
Vanessa Severo headshot in black and white
Vanessa Severo

1What was your most memorable theatrical experience as a child?

I saw a production of A Little Night Music in Frankfurt, Germany when I was twelve years old. There was a British group of actors who had taken residency there and formed a small, ambitious theatrical group. The performance felt human in the way that everything was at stake, but the thing that stood out was the actor who sang “Send in the Clowns.” The actor sang it with such anger and vehemence, my twelve-year-old self resonated with her to my core. I have never heard that song performed that way since, but of course that character is angry with herself beyond belief.

 

2What production do you wish you’d seen?

Antigonick by Anne Carson, directed by Jonathan L. Green at the Victory Gardens Theater. Age, race, and gender did not dictate which actor was in which role, only their voices telling the story.

 

3Who is the person who’s made the biggest impact on your career?

Ellen Lauren, who trained me in Suzuki Method, as well as Viewpoints, and taught me to approach everything from a place of stillness. Joanie Schultz, director of Frida…A Self Portrait, who has the compassion to sit with a writer, ask questions until they have maneuvered themselves out of the pin-ball machine mindset and back to a place of reverence. She is an artist who thrives in the abundance of others, and celebrates the truth of their experience.

 

4What are you reading right now?

Frida Kahlo And My Left Leg by Emily Rapp Black.

 

 

5 When you sit down to work, what must you have with you in the room?

A plant in water so I can see the roots. A window for an honest distraction. There’s always a good plot happening at the bird feeder.

 

6When you’re in despair with a piece of work, how do you maneuver out of that?

I go on a walk. Being outside and shifting perspective usually hits the reset button. Otherwise, with my writing, I’m just rearranging furniture in a room I’ve already been in. After a walk, I feel like I return to the room and discover a door, and I open it.

 

7If you hadn’t become a dramatist, what profession would you have chosen?

I would have loved to have gone into acupuncture. I’m fascinated with how connected we are in our bodies. I’m always intrigued to find that a needle in my ankle has to do with my uterus!

 

8As a writer, what have you not done that you’ve always wanted to do?

I want to put together a book of poems/short stories from children with disabilities. When I was growing up, I never met another kid like me. I always had a homesick feeling that someone else out there was like me, and not until my 30s did I start to find my peers. I would love to facilitate the opportunity for young artists with disabilities to have their voices heard. As Frida Kahlo wrote, “…If you hear this, then know that–Yes, I’m here. And I’m just as strange as you.”

 

9Whose work do you drop everything to see?

That’s tough! I would travel to live inside the worlds created by Do Ho Suh.

 

 

10 What’s next?

I’m working on a full-length play/children’s fable about the choices we make and the consequences they have, as well as co-writing with Joanie Schultz a bare bones, eight-person production of A Christmas Carol.

Vanessa Severo
Vanessa Severo

is the recipient of the TCG 11th Round of the Fox Foundation resident Actor Fellowships, 2017. She is the playwright and actor of Frida...A Self Portrait (2020 Kilroys’ List) a one-woman production about the tumultuous and brilliant life of Frida Kahlo. Vanessa is passionate about utilizing the element of Suzuki method in her work to challenge the boundaries of storytelling and explore the depths of movement, composition, and the power of stillness.