- Natalie Wisdom
Marina Kondo, Professional Actress.
[Interview Date: December 1, 2020]
Frozen National Tour, King and I National Tour and more.
What were your initial thoughts on March 12, 2020 when you packed up unexpectedly to leave Portland, OR?
At first, I didn’t let myself think too deeply about this pandemic. It was an absolutely unimaginable concept to me. Even when the state of Oregon had shut down gatherings of over 200 people, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of a pandemic. The moment my mood shifted was when rehearsals were suddenly cancelled for the day, and the whole company was called into a meeting. I realized that even the veterans of the industry in the room; the ones we lean on for reassurance or for comfort, also, were at a loss for words. That’s when I knew this was more than serious.
What was the week following the shutdown announcement like for you?
The week following the shutdown was… actually kind of happy, and in a way, relieving. Luckily, our company was able to provide us with immediate flights out of Portland, and all of a sudden, I was home. All future plans were scratched, and somehow, I was safely with my family whom I rarely see, and spending unusually limitless time with my long-distance boyfriend. I felt really lucky and grateful for this time together.
Did you initially anticipate that Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long?
I think, like others, I did not foresee anything closing down for this long.
What have you been doing over the past several months to stay sane? What has helped you the most?
I’ve actually been doing the most normal things you can think of to pass the time. I love food and cooking, so I’ve tried to recreate some of my favorite dishes and foods like Pho, Pad Thai, Gyros, even Kimchi… just to name a few. Despite being in Michigan for most of my life, I’ve never traveled much within the state. Some of my bucket list things were to visit every Great Lake, hike as many trails as possible over beautiful sand dunes, go to as many Cider Mills around Michigan, and have the famous Pastie from the Upper Peninsula. Most of all, getting to know my family and loved ones throughout this quarantine has been the greatest blessing and something I will cherish forever.
You have spent a lot of time helping your family since the quarantine began. Can you talk a little bit about what this has been like for you?
With my mother and father’s situation, my two brothers and I were left to lean on each other for a lot of this time. We have always stuck together, so this wasn’t our first rodeo, but navigating and handling Covid-19 seemed to be a very unique idea for everyone. We were left to take on some really serious issues. With that comes with a lot of difficult decision making, sometimes sudden and awkward choices about what is appropriate, safe, and “best” for everyone in the household. I think the youngest brother was left with the most confusing situation in terms of schooling, his extra-curricular hobbies, and his social life with friends. But through it all, we have been in it together and forming a closer bond with each other. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?
Like many performers, I’d like to think that we are used to the ups and downs of our industry and the uncertainty of our jobs. Having it all shut down completely while the rest of the world slowly bounces back and find remote ways to work is another story. Even within our industry, Casting, Film & TV, Sound Engineering, Costume, or Make-up have found ways to continue their work safely, and the only exception has been live theatre.
I actually had and am still having (after 9 months) a hard time making myself sing and be vocal. What has been more mentally challenging for me is to not panic and judge myself for it, or beat myself down, especially in this unique age of Social Media. On the other hand, I have put my artistic tendencies towards taking ballet classes on Zoom, and going back to painting. For now, I am just telling myself that “it’s ok” and “it’s enough” to be not doing much, and take advantage of this still time to look inwards and love on the people that are around you.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
I needed a break from the pressures of the industry and being on the run every day of the year. By March, I really felt that I was losing steam, spreading myself thin, losing sight of who I was. I was starting to feel torn away from my family, friends and loved ones. In a way, the halt of the world healed me. I feel stronger by re-tapping into myself and feeling nurtured by the building blocks of my life.
How do you think your job/theatre will be different when you return?
If you look at the world, serious racial injustices were faced head-on during this time. We now have a new president, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to help heal our wounds and make real changes. The whole country was clearly exhausted and run down by our old ways. This pre-Corona system was not working. So, when theatre returns, I sure hope that many things will change, and they slowly will. I really hope that we will have more diversity in the stories that we tell. I hope we find diversity in the core where the foundations of our creative team, producers, and casting reflect the actual world we live in today. To my fellow people of color actors, I hope we are consciously and deliberately chosen to be the players of a story because of who we are, and not just to fill a quota. I also hope we continue to challenge the industry and be able to call out behavior that is detrimental or corrosive, and slowly break down this “white” favored industry. I hope we stop conforming and allowing white people to award “whiteness” in BIPOC industry people… this list goes on and on.
What do you miss the most about live theatre?
This is the reason why I fell in love with theatre in the first place, and it is the community of people the theatre brings. I love these people to my core, and appreciate them for their wild personalities and vibrant inner life. I look forward to being reunited, to squeeze, and celebrate each other when life becomes normal again.
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
As hard as it is, I encourage young performers to do what makes them happy! If you’re being drawn to something, now is the time to try! That could be dancing in your own house in a safe learning environment, or learning a new song that you were too nervous to try, or pick up an instrument! I know I should listen to my own advice, but keep pushing yourself to be creative in any direction. Please stay in touch with your fellow art lovers, and if you need some encouragement, be creative together! Learn a scene from your favorite show, or sing a duet together and record it! Most of all, please remember that you are not alone, and it is 100% ok to feel discouraged and feel lost.
Favorite Broadway Musical Hadestown
Favorite role you’ve played Anna
Dream role (IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN but…) Tracey Turnblad from Hairspray
Favorite Movie Musical Dreamgirls and The Sound of Music
Favorite Broadway Theatre Ritual and/or Tradition Doing planks in our “Hidden Folk” costumes during “I Can’t Lose You” in Frozen with Tyler Jimenez, LaVoid, and any of our local crew members backstage!!
Favorite NYC Restaurant Klong (Union Square), Hanoi House (LES), Waverly Diner (Washington Square), Tim Ho Wan (Midtown), Pho Bang (Chinatown), Xian’s Famous Foods (All over NYC)- just to name a few!
Favorite city on tour San Diego
Favorite Dressing Room Item Tiger Balm
Trunk must-have Humidifier