I feel so lucky to get to do another interview with two-time Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega. I am definitely one of her biggest fans and when I found out she was going to be the spokesperson this summer for REBEL VERSES Youth Arts Festival, I knew it was time to give her another call to talk about this venture. Much to my delight, Daphne answered my call yet again!
I love how Daphne & I tied in her life experiences with what she hopes these students will learn from her & the program. Daphne always opens up to me with great personal experiences and these kids are very lucky to be learning from her.
Developing Artists, in a new partnership with Vineyard Theatre, brings its REBEL VERSES Youth Arts Festival to a new home at Vineyard Theatre (108 E. 15th St.) with performances Thursday, July 27th, July 28th, July 29th, August 3rd, August 4th and August 5th. Daphne Rubin-Vega is the spokesperson for REBEL VERSES Youth Arts Festival, which presents some of the best youth companies in the region. Unlike any other theatre festival, REBEL VERSES provides an opportunity for high school students to perform their own original work and to celebrate the work of their peers, and gives audiences a platform for open dialogue with emerging young artists from other companies in New York City and around the region. Now in its 13th year, the festival was born out of the need for a platform where young artists can express themselves honestly and in an environment that recognizes the legitimacy of all stories and backgrounds. With a mission to journey into the unapologetic and unrestrained creativity of the next generation, REBEL VERSES Youth Arts Festival values diverse stories ranging across age, sex, race and time. For tickets and further information visit http://www.developingartists.org!
1. This summer you are the spokesperson for the REBEL VERSES Youth Arts Festival. How did this come to be? I have known Jill [DeArmon] and Jinn [Kim], the founders of Developing Artists and REBEL VERSES Youth Arts Festival, for many years. We share roots in the theatre going back to our days at The LAByrinth Theater Company. When they approached me about working with their students this summer, I was ready to jump in and help any way I could.
2. What do you hope the kids partaking in this festival will come away with after the festival is complete? I hope these kids experience a level of awareness that their voices have an impact - that they are not alone in their struggles to be heard and they can find strength in discovering and developing their own voices. I want them to walk away knowing that their creativity matters in a world that often appears neither to notice nor care.
3. What do you feel you will bring to the festival that another spokesperson might not? I bring me! I was in these students’ shoes - I was that child that wished for and would have benefited so much from this artistic outlet. I know how vital this program is for the development of a young person in poor or working class conditions in this city, especially in the middle of summer, when distractions and temptations are around every corner.
4. What do you think the kids will find the most fun part about this festival and what will be most challenging for them? The fun is in the challenge to express themselves at this vulnerable stage of their lives. It’s exciting and terrifying all at once! It’s also a great experience to discover talents you didn’t know you had, or cared to explore further, and be encouraged and empowered to pursue them. Perhaps not everyone will pursue work as an artist, but everyone involved in REBEL VERSES will grow for the better because of the tools they gain here.
5. What excites you about working with this next generation of artists? It excites me to be involved with and of service to the younger generation, period. If these kids want to exercise their creative voices, so much the better! I’m here to encourage them and say, "Yes, I came from where you are. I did it. And you can too!" I also can’t underestimate what I learn from them - most times, I think that I’m the lucky one here!
6. As a mother yourself, if your son wanted to take part in this festival, why do you think it would be a good idea for him to do so? omg My son plays soccer, which is all about teamwork, as is REBEL VERSES. It would present him with different approaches to collaboration and leadership. These students learn to work together, respect and support one another, and have fun while doing it!! My son plays soccer.
7. What do you think the established artists taking part in this festival will learn from the students? We have the opportunity to wonder again! We are reminded why we are artists in the first place. That’s a huge idea to meditate on. I get very moved and inspired watching young people create. There’s infinite possibility in wonder. The older I get, the more fascinated I am by the resilience of youth.
8. What is something that you wish you knew as a young actress that you can impart on the next generation? Society is stumbling over itself to mold and define you. When you look a certain way, wear certain clothes, and speak a particular way, the world is making judgments and trying to understand where you fit in. This is YOUR time to see that - rebel against it, accept it, reject it, question it, embrace it; but whatever you choose to do with that, be undeniably YOU! No one else is or ever will be you - make that a good thing!
9. What is the one mistake you made, either professionally or personally, that you hope they don't make? There was a period in my life when I was very ashamed of my past. What a waste of time! My past and my experiences are the very things that make me special. Don’t forget that. Also…be punctual. Early bird gets the worm.
10. What is a F.U.Q. you hope to be able to answer for one of these students? OOOOH! What is the one things that separates us all? Being me. Otherwise, we are all one.
Daphne Rubin-Vega is a two-time Tony and Drama Desk nominee (1996/2004) and the recipient of the Theater World, Obie (1996) and Blockbuster (1998) awards. She has been a member of the Labyrinth Theater Company since 1992. Daphne is perhaps best known for originating the roles of "Mimi" in RENT and "Conchita" in Anna in the Tropics; both were Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway shows for which she was nominated for Tony Awards. She originated the role of "Rahmi" in Karen Hartman’s Gum, "Sofia" in Nilo Cruz’s Two Sisters and a Piano, "Canary Mary" in Suzan-Lori Parks’ Fucking A (Lucille Lortel nomination) and "Lucy" in Bob Glaudini’s Jack Goes Boating at the Public Theater. She also starred in the Broadway revivals of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Magenta) and Les Miserables (Fantine).
Daphne’s film credits include detective "Gloria Perez" in Wild Things, starring Kevin Bacon and Matt Dillon (Blockbuster Award for Best Supporting Actress); "Tia" in Flawless, opposite Robert De Niro; and, most recently, reprising the role of "Lucy" in the film version of Jack Goes Boating, which was Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s film directorial debut. Other films include Justice, Skeleton Woman (New York Independent Film Award), Virgin, Sex and the City, and I Like It Like That. Daphne is recognized for her singing as well as her acting. She was a member of the girl group Pajama Party, whose single "Yo No Se" reached the top of the Billboard dance charts. They made two albums on Atlantic Records before Daphne began writing and recording solo singles for the indie dance label Maxi. In 1997 Daphne released her first album of original music Souvenirs on the Mercury label, and in 2006 she produced, performed, and primarily wrote Redemption Songs (Sh-K- Boom). Daphne has contributed to various musical projects, including her notorious version of "Feliz Navidad" for Broadway Cares and her club smash cover of "Rocketman." In 2005, she received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Kean University. "Dr." Rubin-Vega was born in Panama and raised in New York City, where she lives with her husband and son.