Q & A with Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellows

A question-and-answer series on the lives and artistic careers of the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts fellows. The program, which began in 2008, honors artists who show exceptional promise with career development grants to make the transition from formal training and education to a career in the arts.

Q & A with André Holland

André Holland, actor. He is a star in Cinemax's TV series "The Knick," and appears in the fall 2016 film "Moonlight."

Q: How do you build a character from scratch when approaching a new role?

A: I start with research. I find out as much as I can about the time period, the people, the politics, the fashion -- everything I can get my hands on. From there, it’s about deciding what this particular character wants and what they are doing to get it. Imagination is also a big part of building a character. At the end of the day, I have to make the audience’s imagination believe in mine -- that’s the job.

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Q & A with Angel Otero

Angel Otero, painter. His sculptures and process-based paintings have been exhibited around the world.

Q: Mentoring is a key component of our fellowship program. How did you benefit from your mentor’s advice and support?

A: I think the school was one of the main factors that helped me grow, not only in my practice but also in seeing the other side of making art. In the studio critiques, the advice I had from some of my professors was so diverse. ... The combination of things I absorbed all together let me have the right attitude when I had finished school, to confront the art world on my own.

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Q & A with Bryce Pinkham

Bryce Pinkham, actor. He starred in the 2016-17 Broadway revival of "Holiday Inn."

Q: How has the Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship helped you?

A: I could focus my efforts on Broadway and New York, where I wanted to be. With renewed confidence, energy, and focus (not to mention singing lessons, yoga practice, and new head-shots) I was able to actively pursue my goals. Within a few months I had booked my first lead on Broadway.

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Q & A with Calvin Royal III

Calvin Royal III, American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet. He is in ABT's 2017 "Swan Lake."

Q: Could you elaborate on your statement that “dance chose me”?

A: I started studying ballet my freshman year of high school because I’d been exposed to other styles of dance like West African dance and hip-hop. I really wanted to try something new, so I auditioned for the dance department at my arts high school. Once I was accepted, I discovered it was something I could be challenged in, and after a short time could actually do it, and it became infectious.

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Q & A with Crystal Gregory

Crystal Gregory, sculptor. Her multimedia works juxtapose textiles and architecture in unique ways.

Q: What draws you to work with such a range of materials and techniques?

A: I think a lot about the poetics of materials. I often choose materials that are opposites of one another, and by setting them in opposition I highlight the social connotations projected onto them. I discover a tension between industrial materials and the pliability found in cloth...

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Q & A with Dan Visconti

Dan Visconti, composer. He is Fifth House Ensemble's Director of Artistic Programming, working on their genre-crossing "NEDUDIM."

Q: How did “ANDY: A Popera” come about?

A: “ANDY” has been a fantastic, exciting, and challenging project as we are treading truly uncharted waters by mashing up two distinct art forms normally viewed as 'high' and 'low' art... The work is about Warhol as a phenomenon rather than a telling of his biography, and it’s been wonderful to have such a diverse palette of sonic colors to paint with.

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Q & A with Francesca dePasquale

Francesca dePasquale, violinist. She released her self-titled debut album in March 2016, aided by her fellowship funds.

Q: Why is classical music outreach and community engagement important to you?

A: My parents showed me the importance of outreach by involving me in their presentations and visits at an early age. ... If you are never exposed to classical music, as many are not now due to cuts in funding public school programs, how can you know that it can change your life?

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Q & A with Isabel Leonard

Isabel Leonard, Grammy Award-winning singer. She makes her debut as Charlotte in Massenet’s ‘Werther’ in Bologna, December 2016.

Q:  Do you have any advice for younger opera singers?

A:  This is always a hard question.  The answer I come up with 9 times out of 10 is: solidify your vocal technique.  Never settle for a technique that isn't as close to perfect as your organic body will allow.  It is so important!  It is the core of this career.

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Q & A with Isabella Boylston

Isabella Boylston, American Ballet Theatre principal. She will dance the role of Odette/Odile in ABT's 2017 production of "Swan Lake."

Q: Do you have a favorite role?

A: So far, Giselle has been my favorite role. At the time I was first cast in it, I felt that my dramatic abilities needed to catch up with my dancing abilities, so with help from the Annenberg grant, I was able to hire an acting coach to prepare me. Working with him has changed the way I approach every role.

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Q & A with Jeremy Strong

Jeremy Strong, actor. He co-starred in "The Big Short," and had a recurring role in the series "Masters of Sex."

Q: You summarized your fellowship experience as “a wealth of opportunities..." How did you benefit from those opportunities?

A: The greatest luxury the fellowship afforded me was time. When you are a struggling actor, time is the most valuable commodity; the time you have to devote yourself wholeheartedly and single-mindedly to your work... With one miraculous stroke the fellowship gave me the means to devote my time utterly to the creative work I was hungry for.

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Q & A with Mia Rosenthal

Mia Rosenthal, visual artist. Her finely-wrought ink drawings often depict things unseen by the naked eye.

Q: What do you find fulfilling about your art work?

A: I’m not fully expressed as a person without making artwork, and I start getting antsy if a few days have gone by without working on something. It’s very much a part of who I am. I do also enjoy being able to share the drawings with others, particularly when a viewer has an unexpected take on a piece, or relates to something on a personal level even if from a different perspective.

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Q & A with Michelle Ross

Michelle Ross, violinist & composer. She spent a month performing Bach’s solo works in free pop-up concerts across NYC.

Q: Do you have any advice for younger musicians?

A: Never stop dreaming: instead, enjoy the eternal process of finding the tools with which to bring those dreams to life; I think this applies both to practicing, and when thinking about projects. Art is endless, and this struggle to dig deeper, master our craft, and express ourselves, is a continual journey. Remember that this process is the greatest gift. Always approach music with honesty, humility, and love.

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Q & A with Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre principal. She was named one of Time's 100 most influential people in 2015.

Q: You’re an author, public speaker, the marketing campaign “face” of Under Armour and Seiko, a member of the President’s Council on Fitness and Sports, and a trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. How do you remain focused on your work?

A: Ballet is and always has been No. 1, and is why I have these opportunities. The hardest part was getting everyone else on board with that. My career keeps me centered and brings me fulfillment. As a performer in a live art form, a lot of pressure is put on us to be 100 percent prepared for each performance. That’s enough to keep me focused.

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Q & A with Sarah Sokolovic

Sarah Sokolovic, actor. Previously on Showtime's "Homeland," she will appear in HBO's series "Big Little Lies," premiering Feb. 2017.

Q: You act in plays as well as movies and television.  Why is such diversity important to you?

A: They’re all fun, and they all give you different experiences. Theater has a long process, an immediate audience reaction, and changes night to night. Camera work can move very fast, so sometimes you have to learn to just let moments go when you’re losing time... I think if you accept that it’s all out of your hands, and that any moment might surprise you, any of the three will feel magical.

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