By Bessy Reyna — Member of the CT Critics’ Circle
Talia Thiesfield is the kind of actress who can achieve a complete metamorphosis from one scene to the next and who feels equally comfortable performing in Off-Broadway productions, the Berkshire Theatre Festival or in stages as an actress and singer. Her website (www.taliathiesfield) informs us that she has an “array of animated voices and expressions.” She can be cast equally as a Prima donna, a wide-eyed innocent, or a revolutionary.
Most of all, she is a talented and beautiful young woman whose looks allow her to play characters from many different ethnicities and cultures. Her experience in productions in many of the best known national stages, has taken her from Lincoln Center in NYC, to being cast in TV and movie roles, as well as appearing in the popular TV-show Jimmy Kimmel Live. Her work has been recognized by the L.A. Times and other papers. Having graduated from UCONN School of Fine Arts, she continued her studies in California where she obtained her MFA.
Luckily for Connecticut audiences, Talia is back at home performing in the musical mystery LMNOP, produced by the Goodspeed Opera House at their second venue, the Norma Terris Theater, in Chester, Conn. The play deals with the important issue of governmental censorship. The musical is particularly timely, as people in the U.S. are discussing issues of deprivation of civil liberties and privacy among other scandals exposed by Wikileaks and Snowden. In the land of the play, the government bans certain letters as they fall from a monument. It’s up to teenage girls to fight against this limitation of their freedom of speech. LMNOP is fun while reminding us of how precious our freedoms are.
In spite of her busy rehearsal schedule, Talia was very gracious and generous with her time in granting us this interview. I confess that I can’t wait to meet her and John Herrera, one of the leads, when I attend one of the performances.
BR–Where are your parents from? Did they speak Spanish at home?
TT: My parents are both first-generation Caribbean New Yorkers. My father’s side is from the island of Haiti and my mother’s side is Puerto Rican. Though Spanish wasn’t spoken regularly in my home, my grandparents and other family members would often speak in Spanish, so I can understand fluently. As far as speaking goes…well…I’m much more fluent in Spanglish.
Do you identify yourself as Latina/Hispanic?
Claro! I’m a very proud puertorriqueña!
Where did you grow up?
I was born in CT, though growing up I told people I was from New York City so people would think I was cool. Now that I’m older and have lived in both New York and Los Angeles, I truly appreciate my CT roots. I appreciate the “country” life more and I miss things when I’m gone for too long, like trees…and stars.
When did you become interested in the theater?
I come from an artistic family. My father is a photographer, and both my parents made sure to expose me to a great deal of music, art, and theater as a child. I remember attending the Hartford Ballet and seeing exhibits at The Wadsworth Atheneum at an early age. Also, every Sunday my parents would ONLY play either jazz or classical music. My father had box sets of all the classic composers — Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky… So it was only natural that I had a love of the arts early on. My interest in theater specifically began when I was about 10 years old and watched Audrey Hepburn in the movie version of My Fair Lady. I was singing and doing the accent for weeks, driving my mother nuts. She eventually enrolled me in a theater camp.
First play? Which are the memories you have of that experience?
Aye, this is one of my mom’s favorite stories! I went to a theater camp at The University of Hartford when I was 10 years old and we did a production of The Wiz. I desperately wanted to play the part of the lion. I wanted to paint my face, and wear the costume, and roar and growl at everyone. I always liked being a character. So, I auditioned (I sang a ballad by Vanessa Williams with my Walkman in hand). When they announced the roles the next day, I learned I had been cast as Dorothy…the lead. I was so devastated! I went home and cried for hours. Well, after the first day of rehearsals, let’s just say I got used to being the star pretty quickly. Haha! I continued performing with that same group for about five years and I credit the program director, Tobi Silver, with being the first to encourage my interest and skill for what would be my future career.
Do you have a favorite playwright or play?
I am a bit of a Shakespeare buff. I think I read my first Shakespeare play at the age of eight. I also love the plays Seven Guitars by August Wilson and By The Way Meet Vera Stark by Lynn Nottage. I enjoy slice-of-life plays…shows that give you a peek inside someone else’s world. The musical In The Heights also holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it a heartfelt peek inside the life of Latinos living in New York City, but the whole show really has a heartbeat like a conga! I mean, the sabor just really gets into your system. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you fall in love with the characters, their culture, their pride and tenacity.
You have participated in plays in different places in the USA, do you have a favorite theater were you have performed?
I’ve had the good fortune to work in different theaters around the country, and I’ve found that it is the most unassuming places that are the most enjoyable. In all honesty, I am absolutely loving working for The Goodspeed right now. The location in Chester, is just stunning, the people are kind and so supportive, and the staff really cares about their team and their actors. I also have very fond memories of the times I’ve worked in The Berkshires (at The Berkshire Theatre Festival and The Colonial Theatre). It’s always an added bonus to be doing what you love in a beautiful setting.
Aside from the theater have you also worked in movies and TV? Do you prefer one type of acting to the other?
I’ve done film, TV, voice-overs, theater, and live concert performances, and each one has both benefits and disadvantages. The one thing I truly live about doing theater is the opportunity to work on building something from scratch over the course of a longer period of time. Film and television work on a much faster schedule and often don’t require all actors to work with each other. There are some movies where one actor may never even meet another actor if they don’t share a scene together. The director of the show I’m working on now here at The Goodspeed (LMNOP), Joe Calarco, said it best on the first day of rehearsal. In the theater, we get to make “insta-families”. And it’s true! I’ve made life-long friends while working in the theater and on stage productions. There’s a certain satisfaction in the theater that I think is harder to achieve in other mediums.
Your next project?
I have an audition for another show coming up this week, so we will see! Cross your fingers for me. I am also in the process of remounting and redeveloping a show I produced and performed in New York last April called Funky Divas which features music made famous by R&B girl groups of the 90’s.
What do you do for fun?
I love television…I’m a bit of a TV junkie, so I catch up on my favorite shows during my free time. I also love trying new food, spending time at the beach, reading, and exploring New York City when I have time. And seeing shows of course! I have some amazingly talented friends who are doing brilliant work on Broadway. I highly recommend taking the trip to see some of the shows that are running right now…even if you can’t get to NYC, come visit us at The Goodspeed! One night at the theater can be life changing.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and wishing you continued success.
Thank you! It was a pleasure!
LMNOP is presented until August 18th, at The Norma Terris Theatre, 33 N Main St,Chester,CT 06412 For ticket information please call (860) 873-8668. Or visit www.goodspeed.org