Ryan talks with Ali Vesey about her extensive carreer as a singer, dancer, actor, and everything in between. We also get an in-depth look at her time spent with the ground-breaking show, Fuerza Bruta, what brought her across the globe, and what's next in her artistic endeavors.
Did you go to school for performance? If so, where?
Yes. I studied in multiple dance studios from age four through high school. Then I moved to California at age eighteen to study Musical Theatre at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Los Angeles campus.
Any particular form of acting, singing, dance that you studied?
Both stage and on-camera acting. All styles of dance. A variety of vocal techniques as well. My main course was for Musical Theatre.
Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you knew that you wanted to pursue a career as a performer?
When I realized I was terrible at math? Haha. I feel like that's every actor's excuse. But really, I knew when I was about sixteen that I wanted to make performing my career. I had done a few school plays by then, and I was constantly singing/dancing around the house. I was highly influenced by young actors my age on TV/ Film, as well. I just knew I wanted to do what they were doing.
How did the opportunity to audition for Fuerza Bruta come along?
I was fairly new to New York City, and I had heard from multiple friends to go see this show. I finally went. It impacted my life immediately. I had never seen anything like it. As an artist, I was in awe of the production value and emotional experience it offered. My friend and I asked one of the performers for a photo at the end of the show. He said we had a great energy during the performance and told us about auditions the following week. I called my agent right away to get me in, but we missed the deadline. So I attended the open call.
Can you describe the audition process/experience for it?
Since it was the open call, it was insanely crowded. Huge groups of people went into the space to audition. I think they took about eighty people into the theatre at a time. I was in maybe the 3rd (out of 6 or 7?) herd. The first audition skill was dance. We learned a short, but very specific routine from the show. I made the cut, and was asked to return for a callback the next day.
Day 2: Dancing again…they cut people throughout the day.
Day 3: Treadmill…..cuts throughout.
Day 4: Harness work…..cuts.
Day 5: Mylar(Water)….cut.
Day 6: Drummimg, and a little bit of everything from before.
Six days of auditions! Needless to say, the show is very specific. I couldn't believe I made it through the entire process. I had NEVER done most of the things required to do in the show. It was exhilarating, intimidating, and even therapeutic. The thought of getting to perform something so special every evening, was extremely appealing to me at this point. Especially because I could feel how much I would grow as an artist (and a person) if given the opportunity.
How did you find out that you were cast? What was that experience like?
My agent called the day after the final callback saying I was on hold. I went to California for a few days for a friend's wedding. My agent called again and said I had been released from hold. I was really sad, but also so grateful to have experienced the audition process. He then said I had been released from hold because I had been cast! He's a sneaky shit. I started crying. I was overwhelmed with happiness.
What was the rehearsal process like?
Intense. Overwhelming. Exhausting. We had alot to learn in a very short amount of time. Rehearsals were scheduled everyday for about 2 weeks. Majority of the new members, myself included, had never trained in harness work; a huge part of the show. Our show captains were tough on us, but it was great to be challenged. It was a very memorable and special experience. I'll never forget the team effort my cast mates and I displayed. It felt really good to be around hard-working actors whom all wanted to do their best.
Can you explain the show, in your own words?
Fuerza Bruta is freedom. It is a therapy session, where you can throw all emotions out there. For the audience and for the artists, the feelings unite. It's a mix of highs and lows. It's thrilling, yet dark. It's unlike any piece of theatre or art. It's constantly evolving. You can experience something different every time you perform it, or watch it.
What was the most challenging aspect of performing in the show? Most rewarding?
It was extremely emotionally exhausting. For the first seven months or so, I was killing myself just to understand it. I was so inspired by the veteran actors. I really wanted to get a grasp on it so I could perform it as they were. But I learned, in my own time, that I was hired as myself. I was not hired to act in this show. They chose me because of my individual persona. I needed to tap into who I really was and trust that what I brought to the show was special enough.
Any stories from a particular performance that really stick out in your mind?
I had a few memorable performances. But I'd have to say, having my Dad watch the show was my most special performance. My mother was there also, and she has been my # 1 fan all my life. My Dad and I recently started a real relationship, so it was really incredible to see him be vulnerable, having the time of his life.
What was your favorite part of the show?
The music. Argentinian composer, Gaby Kerpel is brilliant. I still listen to the tracks often. As far as which scenes I loved performing - It changed every week. I love the Argentinian street dance we perform, called The Murga. It's so fucking fun. I also really loved performing Cortinas ("curtains" in Spanish, where two females are harnessed, running along the perimeter wall of the theatre, high above the audience). I loved connecting with the other runner, and using my whole body to express the scene. It was challenging and alot of fun.
You had the opportunity to travel with a different production of the show. What set this show apart from the previous incarnation? Can you explain this show in your own words?
We opened a newer version of all of Diqui James' (director) visions. Wayra, meaning "wind" in Quechua (South American Spanish), is the latest and current production in NYC, Buenos Aires, and China. Four new scenes have been added, more cast members, and just more stimulation all around. It's not as intimate, and it's quite a larger spectacle. I personally prefer the older version. However, I do love the addition of the cast playing musical instruments and singing chants. The music is so powerful and truly epic.
Where did you travel?
England, Ireland and Japan.
Any interesting stories from the road?
Absolutely. This is one of my favorite stories of my life thus far! Fuerza Bruta NYC closed January 5th, 2014, due to renovations being done in the theatre. We weren't given a re-open date, so I decided to take myself on a trip! Fuerza Bruta has had productions in many different countries over the years. Main productions have always been in Buenos Aires, (where the show was created) and then NYC, 2007. Whilst closing the show in NYC, a production in London was just opening and would run until the end of February. I arranged plans for Europe for the month of February. I first visited Scotland, then I went to England. Besides the obvious thrill of visiting London for the first time, I was also looking forward to seeing some of my Fuerza Bruta cast members, experience the show in a new space, and to hopefully learn some new material by watching. Timing was eerily impeccable, because I ended up replacing a cast member who was leaving the production. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! I couldn't believe I ended up working on my joy trip. It was a dream come true, because I really wanted to keep learning and growing in the show, and I was given the chance.
The show just wasn't done with you, was it?
I worked in London for about a week, but I still had my own personal travel itinerary to stick to, so I continued to Germany as planned. Fuerza Bruta then extended my travels and asked me to join the cast for Ireland, in March. I flew back to London after one week of visit in Germany, then the next morning we all flew to Ireland. During the Ireland production, they asked me to join the upcoming Tokyo production!
What was your favorite place to visit? Perform in?
I have two... First, Ireland. Being half Irish, it was a huge deal for me. I dreamt of visiting Ireland since birth. To perform there was absolutely incredible! My grandfather was born and raised in County Sligo. He was a well-known Fiddler throughout the country. I wanted to explore where he grew up, and also had high hopes of meeting a few distant relatives I didn't know existed until only a few years ago. After multiple attempts, I finally got in contact with one cousin. She came to see the show in Limerick. It was so amazing. My heart beats harder remembering meeting her and seeing how much she looked like my family, because she was! I was the only cast member with any Irish blood, and as soon as word got out, local TV stations and radio stations were asking for interviews every week. I couldn't believe this show brought me to Ireland. I am forever grateful for that.
What was # 2?
Japan. The beginning of my two month contract in Tokyo was not easy. I was learning a lot of new material very fast. I already had an ear for Japanese, but I was working with all Argentinians, and only four Americans. Spanish was spoken mostly. I was trying to communicate in 3 three different languages, every single day. It was extremely exhausting, yet so addicting and stimulating. My brain now craves that focus. Being in such close proximities with different cultures is very challenging. Sometimes I just wanted to mumble some bullshit and know that everyone in the room would understand, but it couldn't be. It was so special to make connections with these people through Spanglish/Japanglish, but the language barriers would sometimes defeat us. Our manager was bi-lingual, and for the last month of our contract she offered English lessons to the Argentinians, and Spanish lessons to the Americans. It was so cool, and so helpful. I'll never have a more appreciative audience than the Japanese. Oh, and I am a complete Sushi snob, I miss the food so much!
How did the response differ from region to region?
The British were a bit uppity and reserved (surprise surprise!) They might've been impressed, but didn't show it much. The Irish had a wonderful time. They were blown away, and weren't afraid to approach us afterwards and share a chat. My people know what's up. The Japanese are fucking hilarious. Honestly. They're a bit robotic in their responses. They know whats happening is cool , so its a very audible "ooh" and "ahhh". They thoroughly enjoyed the experience, sometimes a little too much! We'd walk through in a line at the end of the show, and they were literally in tears screaming and grabbing us as we walked by. They went nuts for the dancing in the rain. It was really good to see them loosen up.
What message do you feel the show conveys?
To just remain open, throughout your life. You never know whats coming, and you can't control everything. It's about staying true to who you are and being comfortable in your own skin.
Is there anyone who has directly influenced/inspired your career?
My friends. I happen to have the most talented peers around me on a daily basis. They are motivating and they encourage me when times are tough. I have friends from college who are doing great things, friends from my first performing job at Disneyland I still get to create projects with, foreign friends from my contracts overseas whom are greatly succeeding, and friends from my first professional theatre jobs in Los Angeles who are now Broadway stars. I grew up next to these fine artists and they have inspired me throughout my entire career.
What do you feel is the most important thing to remember as a performer?
Stay true to what you want, and ALWAYS believe in yourself. If you want something bad enough, do the work and make it happen. I also love to keep in mind that everything happens for a reason. That's life in general, but I can't stress enough how much that motto has created peace within me. It's just so fucking true. No matter what crazy lessons you have to learn, no matter how many rejections, no matter which director doesn't like you or if he got the role over you….it's happening for a reason. Stay humble. No room for egos.
What is your dream job?
Dream job(s) have already happened. I keep dreaming of more to come. I just want to perform, and keep creating. I would love to be in certain musicals and plays and I'd love to do a great film. I want do it all. I also love working with children. I'd also like to be a flight attendant at some point to fulfill some more travel dreams.
What other projects are you currently involved in?
I just recently started performing in a burlesque show at a variety theatre in the Lower East Side. There's a lot of campy acting and sexy dancing. So much fun! I'm having a blast! I've always wanted to be involved in this type of theatre. I mean, come on… it's legit burlesque in New York City! I feel like I'm in a movie every night I'm there.
Where can we find out more about what you do, Ali?
I don't have a website. My Instagram might be my most prized possession at this socially awkward year that is 2014. It's basically my work, travel and photography diary.