Fast Forward Friday with Lois Dilivio

Babs-Prod-Shot-1For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed  Zip Creative client, New York-based musician-actor-writer Lois Dilivio. Her current project is a workshop production of her play Who is Babs del Rio? a memoir fable … with music , which will be staged at The Nu Box Theater at John DeSotelle Studio, 300 W 43rd St. 3rd floor, New York City, Oct 22-25. For more information and tickets, click here.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

 I’m in rehearsal right now for Who is Babs del Rio?, which is going up for six performances at this wonderful intimate space, The Nu Box Theater at John DeSotelle Studio. It deals with the trauma of, and healing from, childhood abuse. In this case, sexual abuse. I created the work, and wrote the music and lyrics. The book really came together when Richard P. Keeshan came in as a co-writer.  It’s two actors ˗ myself and Patrick Ryan Bolger ˗ playing 14 characters. There’s seven instruments, seven original songs, poetry, a little dance and lots of comedy.

 Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

In 2007, I just wanted to perform. I really missed acting and I was confused and intimidated to get a headshot and go to auditions. So I thought if I just wrote my own show, I could perform it. An old friend and artistic comrade actress Cordis Heard was active with the Red Harlem Readers. They still meet every week to read and discuss at Suite, 992 Amsterdam. I had that stage to do the first reading, and I had Cordis’ support and guidance as a dramaturg-art doula for that first sprawling draft. I just went for it. The joke was on me. I had no idea I would end up writing about this topic. And here we are eight years later, and now she’s directing it.

 Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

There’s something about the art we encounter as we become young adults, the impact of art as our “I” is developing when we are … 11? 12? 13? Artists I really enjoyed then who kept me looking ahead and showed me wonder and humanity: Melanie, Barbra Streisand, Janis Joplin, Ken Russell. More recently, Budd Schulberg especially for What Makes Sammy Run. A masterpiece. Alice Walker goes so very deep. Heroes is a big word. These are just art-makers I love. Kris Kristofferson. Keanu Reeves.

 Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

I have no idea. I’m old enough at this point that if I’m feeling “uninspired” maybe I’m just tired. Or something is bubbling in the back of my head or consciousness, and time will pass and something will be ready to emerge. Of course, other people’s art is nourishing, educating, thought provoking. Other people’s excitements. Talking about the process. Talking about successes and failures and about the making of things, over and over and over again. So I guess, involvement.

 Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I’ve got a lot of songs and concert music, some recorded, some not. I’ve got three beautiful books that I wrote with painter-musician-director Damien Drake and exquisite artist -illustrator Ro Da. The books and music all need to see the light of day, be more available. I’ve got a companion book for this Who is Babs del Rio? show in the works. I’ve approached some playwrights about writing short monologues about characters who play violin. An old gypsy woman in the subway, a young neurotic auditioning for an orchestra or Juilliard, an old master in an Irish pub. I would get to act and play violin. It’s a full-length piece, a multi-faceted prism of humanity, and all fiddle players. And there’s the ridiculous trombone-ukulele comedy duo Trombolele, and other projects, I have going or in pots boiling with multi-talented Rand Hoppe. Not enough hours in the day.

 Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

 “Living in my vision” is not a term I’ve really heard before. I don’t know that I have visions. I do know when I write a song that I end up loving, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. When and if it all clicks into place, it’s cosmic. Sentences too, but those are harder than music. Maybe one instance of knowing I’m “living in my vision” is when Patrick Ryan Bolger, my co- actor for this Who is Babs del Rio? show, responded well to a new song I showed him. That was very gratifying. I knew I liked this new song well enough, but when something you make becomes a conduit for someone else’s creativity, and then THEY make something which never existed before, and which comes out of their taste and life experience and their desire to express something unique, that’s pretty fine.

 Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Comedy through characters? I don’t know. Teaching. Something with the environment, animals. Women’s rights. Genital mutilation??? MUTILATION. No words.

 Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Having a vision. I’ve been so open to the many artistic opportunities I’ve encountered. Who is Babs del Rio? is me in the driver’s seat, WHEE!!! Not a passenger this time. I’ve had so much pleasure and personal success supporting someone else’s vision. Obstacle? Having a vision. Committing to achieving it. Deciding to try.

 Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

Nothing. I am. If I feel disconnected, I just let time pass and I’m reconnected before I know it. I feed myself with Stephen King’s On Writing. Quiet, alone time is very, very good. Silence and time. Two very precious and rare commodities.

 Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?


 Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Too hard. What Makes Sammy Run? is just perfect. Alice Walker goes so deep in Possessing the Secret of Joy. I think I could listen to Buddy Holly’s Rave On and never get sick of it. Ken Russell, especially the composer movies ˗ Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Mahler … so sensual and love-filled, they make me nuts and so happy. Stephen King, especially the short stories and novellas. Mel Brooks. Beethoven 6, 7, 8 and yes 9.  His violin and piano sonatas.

 Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

No clue. Something about people who really stand up for the “little guy.” The Budd Schulbergs and Dalton Trumbos of the world. That psychological warfare of human value ˗ what is valued, how it’s rewarded, where we put our energies, how the world responds to the choices we make. Something about the strength of those characters in the Red Scare era. People who take a stand for the primacy of the individual.

 Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

I love the way Abbie Hoffman and Ricky Gervais take the p%$s out of things. I’d love it if anything I did caused someone to think I was one of those people pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.

 Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

 No clue. Distracted? Impatient?

 Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Watching a movie on TV, with a newspaper or magazine, and with food. Alone, but with our cats. An hour or two of quiet downtime. Maybe there’s a nap. Just taking a break from the endless obligations we all have.

 Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Just keep going. Maybe, focus in a bit if possible. Don’t under value the preciousness of time. Be a little more discriminating with how you spend your precious TIME.

 Q: Where would you most like to live?

A place with four seasons, in the woods where I could walk in the morning with dogs.

 Q: What is your idea of success?

So vague. Hard to answer. A good night’s sleep. When someone has a strong positive reaction to a piece of art I’ve made. And the basic creature comforts of a roof over my head, and ability to treat a friend to a nice meal.

 Q: What is your idea of happiness?

 Self-acceptance. Looking at the people whom I’m close to, and the high quality of people they are and saying to myself “that is a really good accomplishment.” Don’t look further than this. My marriage.

 Q: Final Thoughts?

What a strange experience this has been. New for me. I’m very curious to see how it will be to read this in print.  Hey! I’m doing a show! I’ve never seen or done a show like what we’re about to do. It’s a workshop production. What a wonderful thing it is to be out on a limb. On the high wire. No clue what’s around the bend. But our little team is rolling on and we don’t know what will happen until we get there. Very happy to be taking this wild artistic ride, especially with this theater and this creative team.


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