Theo Van Gogh worked with the Somali-born writer and politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to produce the short film, Submission (2004), which exposed the treatment of women, and resulted in an outrage from the Dutch Muslim community. He was murdered in November of 2004. Natalie Menna’s play, COMMITTED, explores the inevitable tragedy when artistic radical temperament collides with religious and political realities. Can friendship, family, or love save Theo from his biggest threat — himself?”
The cast features Francisco Solorzano.
Most notably, Francisco adapted, directed and acted in the critically acclaimed/sold-out Off-Broadway world premiere of DOG DAY AFTERNOON. Collaborated on award winning revivals and world premieres with EST, INTAR, THE FLEA, LABYRINTH, Hi-ARTS, RATTLESTICK, CHERRY LANE THEATRE, EDINBURGH FRINGE, NY FRINGE, FLORIDA STAGE, GLOUCESTER STAGE, ORLANDO SHAKES, BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS THEATRE, NYLON FUSION, PLANET CONNECTIONS, DIXON PLACE (nomination) and many others. Francisco has led the Barefoot Theatre Company as Producing Artistic Director / Co-Founder for the past 17 years from Off-Off Broadway to become a critically acclaimed and award winning bi-coastal (NYC&LA) ensemble. Co-Founder of the film production company, Barefoot Studio Pictures in which he’s written and directed several award winning short films. BFA in Acting: CUNY’s Brooklyn College; Recipient of the Brooklyn College, Alumnus of the Year Award. Member of The Actors Studio’s PDU, AEA and SAG-AFTRA.
We met with Francisco for a few moments prior to the start of the production’s second week of running (see Dorian Palumbo’s review in Drama-Queens.
Tell us about yourself as an artist/artisan.
Originally from Far Rockaway, NY, I have been studying acting since the age of 14 and proud to be a part of the arts community ever since. As a co-founder and Producing Artistic Director of the Barefoot Theatre Company and sister film co., Barefoot Studio Pictures, I feel strongly about creating opportunity for the voiceless, for the underrepresented in our society to be heard and seen in front of a larger general audience. I am particularly drawn towards stories that share the experiences and struggles of the middle class, people of color and female driven experiences. As an actor, director and filmmaker I can’t stress enough the importance of community and the idea of supporting one another. Playing a film editor in Committed allowed me to use much of my experiences as an artist, a collaborator who wishes to reach a wider audience with a subject matter that’s truly important and worth discussing. Thankfully, Natalie Menna has created a role that is as complicated as the actual short film directed by Theo van Gogh.
When dealing with topical dramas like this – especial such a hot topic – do you feel a stronger sense of responsibility in conveying the play’s message?
Definitely, without a doubt. Details surrounding the play’s events become much more rich and fun to uncover in the rehearsal process. Research is one of my favorite aspects of character development. Natalie has done a tremendous job of dramatizing events leading up to the murder of Theo van Gogh. I’m extremely grateful for the chance to play Azaad, the fictional character caught between his religious beliefs, loyalty towards Theo and the message behind their artistic collaboration on the film, “Submission.”
What role does independent theater play in the New York art scene ?
I believe that independent theater plays a major if not one of the most important roles in our NYC art scene. Indie theater brings all kinds of people of racial, age and economic backgrounds together, in one room. It’s the most accessible because a story well told can take place in just about any space, place or time with the financial and “commercial” rules of Broadway not applying. The “DIY” community has done an amazing job at taking risks in theatre that involves many other art forms. Nowadays, indie theatre involves use of multiple art forms not just in design from onstage but to marketing and advertising. The possibilities are endless when the only true “rule” is that there are NO rules. Indie theater is where the underrepresented are given a chance to have their stories told. Women, POC, people with disabilities have a platform and support system in the NY indie theater scene that is growing more and more every season.
Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee William’s classic, A Streetcar Named Desire. There’s not much I can say about this play besides stating the obvious. Williams’ Pulitzer Prize winner is a true treasure and the role of Stanley would be a gift to any actor who had the opportunity to explore such a complex character. I work every day for an opportunity like that and am grateful for every moment in my never ending development as an actor.