By : Monteque Pope Le Beau
Edited By: Colleen Page
Images By: Elisa Manzini
To speak with Elisa Manzini is to speak with someone who knows her mind. An import from Italy to California this wonderful free spirit is not just about creating art, but creating a difference. She is a talented artist and playwright. Who is humble, graceful and full of gratitude. To listen to Elsa is to learn about how to receive and how to give. She is a passionate person and artists who believes in the imagination and living life to the fullest.
Thank you for making the time to speak with us?
Elisa Manzini: Thank you for having me.
What is your definition of art?
EM: Art for me is something that inspires and affects me in a positive way.
In your opinion what makes an artist?
EM: Artists are people who channel their inner life creating something other people can relate to.
What does being an artist mean to you?
EM: It’s like therapy!
What was the inspiration for you to become an artist?
EM: I never liked rules, I always needed a creative way to express myself.
What was your family life like growing up?
EM: I am an only child, my mom was a teacher, my dad worked for the unions. My parents were and still are very open minded, they taught me honesty and solidarity. I grew up with a strong sense of community.
Did your family support your decision to become an artist?
EM: They let me be free to express myself through music and theatre, but for many years they asked me to find a “real” job. At some point they gave up asking.
How much did the times you were growing up in influence you as an artists?
EM: I was surrounded by music (my mom teaches guitar to kids) and I was very lucky to have school teachers who encouraged me to pursue art. I strongly believe family and teachers are capital in the process of becoming an artist.
Did you have mentors to help you along your way?
EM: I met many people who helped me and taught me how to improve in my profession, but I wish there were more mentors in the world.
Who were your mentors?
EM: Teachers, writers, actors. My head writer at Comedy Central, and now people at the Actors Studio.
Being that you are an artists from Italy can you speak to what it is like to be an artist in your country and what is it like to be an artist in this country? How do they differ in their treatment of the arts and artist?
EM: I went to a theatre academy to become an actress in Italy and I really enjoyed the experience, but when it comes to work I appreciate what United States have to offer: better chances to be recognized as an artist and more tools. Unfortunately Italy is losing art in favor of commercial products, in movies, theatre and TV.
Do you find it hard or discouraging to be a female artists?
EM: I don’t think about myself as a female artist honestly, I’m just a person who tries to create forms of art. Sometimes it upsets me to realize we still have to achieve a lot as female artists, but we started later than men to be recognized in art… we’ll eventually surpass them.
What was your early years as an emerging artists like?
EM: I was struggling as an actress back in Italy, dealing with the stress of auditions and rejection, I always felt out of place at auditions. I was very lucky I won a writing competition for Comedy Central and that’s how I began working as a professional writer.
As an artist and female playwright what is the significance of your work and what do you want it to stand for?
EM: I love to explore subjects as psychology, relationships, love, sex. Probably being a woman influences the choice of my topics. I always try to understand why people behave the way they do.
What is the artistic meaning and statement of your work?
EM: I want people to be more understanding, tolerant and open minded. I am happy if they tell me: “I’ve been through that too” and I’m satisfied if someone leaves one of my plays with a new point of view or something to think and talk about.
What accomplishments and achievements are you most proud of?
EM: I loved working for Comedy Central as a TV writer because I learned from the best and during the time I was there I worked on a sketch comedy show and we were able to talk about “taboo” topics such as religion, immigration, gun control, sex etc in a very politically incorrect way. Recently I became a playwright member of the Actors Studio West and that gave me the chance to meet incredibly talented people who appreciate my work, I feel blessed for that.
This is a hard time for the arts. Some artists have stated that it is becoming harder and harder for them to do what they love. What about your career in the arts do you love and what about it do you hate?
EM: I think every artist hates the lack of money and stability, but I always say: “better than work in a mine”. Being an artist is a state of being, not a choice. Nobody would choose to struggle, be poor and unappreciated most of the time, but we can’t help it. Art is a necessity. For me it’s therapeutic.
How do you continue to stay motivated when it is becoming increasingly hard to find support and funding for projects?
EM: It’s really hard! I say I’m giving up every other week, but then something happens, I get a positive feedback about my work or a phone call from someone in the business who tells me not to give up. And honestly I wouldn’t know what else to do in life. I want to create something meaningful and share it, that’s what life is about in my opinion. Share a vision is really important. I often used crowd funding for my short films, I had people working for free on my projects and I would then return the favor.
What kind of impact do you want your work to have in creating change and why?
EM: Right now my goal is to promote solidarity and understanding with my work. I’m writing about social issues and mental disabilities because I think it’s important to recognize the beauty of these diversities.
What are your thoughts about art in the schools and it being systematically taken out of the curriculum?
EM: I hate that! Hate it. I really hope this trend will stop because school is the first place where kids should be able to express themselves freely. Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Can we speak for a moment about your experience and what it is like for you to be one of the few female playwrights to be excepted recently in the west coast Actors Studio Playwright Unit?
EM: It’s a wonderful experience. I met many talented directors and playwrights, it pushed me to write more, and hopefully better. It gave me back the love for theatre and theatre people.
What have been the obstacles you have had to overcome?
EM: The basic obstacles for me are how to make a living, how to meet people who can help me on my path and how to be competitive as a writer who writes in a foreign language.
What has been the hardest thing you had to do pertaining to your work?
EM: Probably convincing myself I’m good enough… I’m actually still working on that.
Are there any projects you are currently working on and if so can you tell us about them?
EM: I am writing a play called “Portrait of a Soul” about a schizophrenic artist who did something bad before being diagnosed with schizophrenia. The play is about understanding and forgiveness. Also I wrote a short film called “Colors of Love” directed by Sal Tassone, a love story between a woman with autism and a business man, we are in post production.
Is there a link so people can find out more about the you, your project and how they can help?
EM: Yes, there is.
My website: http://elisamanzini.weebly.com/
My IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2765433/
The Facebook page of “Colors of Love”: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Colors-of-Love/1395356160735252
My book page, “Dreams”: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dreams-Sogni/279260162094701
What is it that you live for?
What is your inspiration?
EM: Usually I get inspiration from my personal life (most of the important people in my life are in my plays or screenplays in some shape or form). I also get inspiration from current events, books, movies, stories I hear about.
What is your dream?
EM: My dream is to be able to support myself with my art and give back.
What moves you creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
EM: Every strong emotion moves me, love, anger, pain, sadness, joy. I am Italian, I’m very dramatic.
I see…….. Who is the person you look up to and why?
EM: In terms of personality I look up to my parents because they never let me down and they always supported me even when they disagreed with my choices.
Who is the person you look forward to and why?
EM: My next love.
That is something to look forward to. What is the goal or purpose you are chasing?
EM: I want to enjoy life doing what I love. Life is too short to waste time doing things we don’t enjoy.
Where do you see yourself in five, ten or twenty years?
EM: I would love to have my plays staged all around the world and spend most of my day writing in a lovely house at the beach sipping hot chocolate.
Is this something you would still do even if you never got paid?
EM: Yes, nobody becomes an artist for money, I think.
If you were not an artist what would be your ideal job, and why?
EM: I guess a singer is still an artist so… probably something related to psychology and helping people.
Right now I am going to mention a word and I just want you to say the first word that comes into your mind:
EM: My favorite word
What advice do you have for upping coming emerging artists?
EM: Ask for help and collaborate with other artists, it’s important to have a great support system for those days you feel like giving up.
What does life is Art and Art is life mean to you?
EM: I wish Life was always Art, hopefully it’s an important part in many people lives. Art definitely reflects life.
EM: Grazie! [TAOMR]