On Facebook and here on the SITI Company blog, SITI has been spotlighting alumni of our many training programs. Today, we have the great pleasure of spotlighting Tina Mitchell, who has trained with us regularly since 2007 and was once SITI’s Artistic Associate. Tina is a New York based actor, director, teaching artist and theater maker. Hailing from Australia, Tina is a graduate of the Adelaide College of the Arts and holds a Masters of Arts Practice specializing in Performance. Tina was co-Artistic Director of Chopt Logic, a company dedicated to producing inter-disciplinary live performances that respond to women’s role in contemporary culture, from 2003-2014. She specilaizes in making work that fuses text, movement and music and has performed in some of the leading arts festivals in the world. Her latest project Miss Julia, a bilingual adaptation of Strindberg’s classic play, premiered at the prestigious Iberoamericano Festival de Bogotá and has been performed in festivals across Colombia, Italy and Spain. Most recently, she played the title role of Mata Hari in the interdisciplinary opera of the same name, which premiered in the 2017 Prototype Festival. She appeared in Ann Hamilton’s the event of a thread with SITI Company and worked with The Metropolitan Opera on Lulu, directed by William Kentridge. She is the recipient of the Helpmann Academy Emerging Director and Mentorship Awards, a State Theatre Company of South Australia Assistant Director Fellowship and the 2015 Leimay Fellowship.
1. When did you first train with SITI?
Skidmore Summer program 2007.
2. What are you most excited that you’re doing or working on right now?
At the moment I am most excited about the New York premiere of Miss Julia. This piece was created by an international collaboration of artists who came together through SITI Company: myself (an Australian now based in NYC), Colombian actors Jhon Alex Toro and Gina Jaimes, Italian director Lorenzo Montanini and US violinist Helen Yee. Miss Julia is a bilingual adaptation of Strindberg’s famous one act play Miss Julie, and sets the action in present-day Colombia. Adapted by SITI Company’s J.Ed Araiza, Miss Julia is an examination of the power relationship between the United States and Latin America and men and women, issues which have become rather potent under the Trump Administration.
Using the shared language of the Suzuki Method of Actor training and Viewpoints Miss Julia uses three different performance languages. The language of the spoken word, the language of the body and the language of music. We created this piece in the SITI Company studio in 2012 and it has had seven successful seasons in festivals and theatres in Colombia, Spain and Italy and will be having it’s US premiere at La MaMa in June. It has been quite a huge feat to get this production to the US but what excites me most about this show is that it demonstrates the power of cross-cultural collaboration to tell stories that promote mutual cultural understanding. This piece has resonated with audiences across South America and Europe and I’m looking forward to sharing it with audiences in New York. The season runs from June 8-25 at La MaMa.
In direct relationship to Miss Julia, I’m also working on a Spring Soiree, a night of music and sketch comedy to raise money for the La MaMa season. The Spring Soiree brings together the talents of violinist Helen Yee, renowned jazz pianist Matthew Fries and a wonderful slew of actors, for a great night of entertainment. I’m going to be performing sketch comedy, which is very rare and quite exciting. The Spring Soiree will be held at Cornelia St Cafe in the West Village on April 9th. Tickets can be bought here.
3. What is the most important thing you learned from SITI?
That artists are a valuable and vital part of society and that my artistic voice is valid. Also that international collaboration is possible and extremely rewarding.
4. What in your creative life are you most proud of?
One of the first shows I created in my professional career was a show about body image that toured to high schools in my hometown of Adelaide. The Most Massive Woman Wins tells the story of four women who want to change the way they look and the audience gets a glimpse of their individual struggles with low-self esteem. We decided to set the piece in a mud wrestling ring as a metaphor to show how women’s bodies are exploited for entertainment in contemporary society.
This piece caused a bit of political controversy when a Family First politician (the Australian equivalent of the Tea Party) accused us of using tax payers’ money to present immoral material to impressionable teenagers (we received a government grant for this tour). He had made this judgement without even seeing the show and assumed that we were just performing gratuitous mud wrestling. We were actually using mud wrestling to highlight the misrepresentation of the female form in the media and this idiot had made an uninformed judgement call that was picked up by the local news outlets. We invited him to see the show, he declined, and in the end we were thanked by the school audiences for addressing an issue that resonated with all of them, in a powerful and entertaining way. I am proud that the concept of our little show was powerful enough to create a stir and upset this bigoted man, who in the end tried to use us as political fodder to raise his profile. He was the one who looked like the idiot in the end as the show had a great impact on many young people.
5. Tell us about a piece of art that has recently inspired you.
Late last year I saw an extraordinary piece of physical theatre at INTAR. The Maids, produced by One-Eighth Theater, adapted by Jose Rivera and directed by Daniel Irizarry was inspired. Daniel was also in the show and his performance was electric. I’ve never seen a show that was so full of energy, passion, fun, pure joy and unbelievable risk taking. I was blown away by what they were attempting. It reinforced my belief that all theatre should be dangerous and unpredictable and that when fully utilized, the actor’s body is a powerful storytelling tool.
Keep up with our blog to read and learn about more SITI Alumni and what they’re up to by following SITI’s bolgs at siti.org/blog. If there’s an alum you want an update on, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!