Featured Artist: Marlene Villafane

Welcome to the Platform For Self Expression With Ane’. This is a safe space where artists can share what they are working on, and/ or their thoughts on concepts for the purpose of freedom of expression.

Today we are honored to have with us  and I’d like to introduce to you:   Marlene Villafane 

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What is your name?
Marlene Villafane. I use Marlene Villafane for the stage as well.

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What is your career?

I am a singer, actor, and sketch comedienne. My aim is to perform full-time.

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Where did you study and for how long?

I studied and graduated from La Guardia  High School of the Music & Performing Arts
and I attended and earned my BM & MM from Manhattan School of Music.
I attended Manhattan School for 6 years all together.
I also studied acting at the Simon Studio with Roger Hendricks Simon
and I also studied with John Pallotta.
I have been involved with performing on and off for about 16 years.

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What are some things that you’ve done with regard to your career?

I traveled to so many parts of the world performing for so many people
nationally and internationally. I’ve experienced so many eye opening things from my travels;
about the people, the culture, and the beauty of different sounds, different airs, etc.
It has made more cultured; more aware. It has made me grow even more as a person and artist.
I remember my very first major overseas trip was to Croatia, then Bosnia for almost a week and then Macedonia.
It was towards the end of the war. I was invited by my former sight-singing teacher Ms. Carol MacCauley to join her and several other alumni students of MSM to participate in a performance for a new piece which involved 12 other choruses; each from a different part of the world and Jose Carreras would be singing the lead. So we the alumni and two teachers of MSM, one of them being Ms. MacCauley, flew over gleefully yet a little nervous to represent the U.S.

People thought we were insane because of the political upheaval that was happening there at the time. A few people told me ” Wow. You’re crazy.” Maybe I am but not in a negative way. The war was actually dying out but nonetheless it was an opportunity for all of us to make some sort of sound in a place that was so unsettled and was so negatively impacted by the war. I remember leaving Croatia and crossing the border to Bosnia.
As we were entering and going forth  into Bosnia the view of unending rubble from each structure from what were once houses was heartbreaking; yes they were devastated by the war. I remember looking and then trying hard NOT to. I grew so much from that experience.

As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?

I guess as a child I’ve always wanted to act and sing and portray theatrical characters. I was a big TV head. I could hum to you almost every melody to most tv shows.
I watched so much of it. I wanted to be IN that television set.
In kindergarten, I used to pretend I was Kelly from Charlie’s Angels. I loved Jacklyn Smith in Charlie’s Angels and many others.

What was your neighborhood like when you were a child and how did it impact your career?

I grew up in the projects in the Upper West Side. My neighborhood as I was growing up was very colorful; never dull. It has a mix of many Puerto Ricans like myself, Dominicans, Haitian and African Americans.
My best friend in elementary school was Haitian. I loved hanging with her and her family.
I remember going to a few of their get togethers and listening to Haitian music. It was cool!
I also would go outside in front of our building to the playground and hang out with my cousins Javier who is a song interpreter/artist, Gabriel and Norma, our friend Jose Mojica who lived across from me, his sister Amada and our mutual friend who lived across in the same building as Jose and Amada as well named Gothalyn.
I also would sing and pretend to do shows in the grass or in doors with my friend Cyndi Toro and Waleska Aguilar who both lived on the 1st floor and with Jahaida Jimenez and Latasha Peters. We would create all kind of songs and sketches.  I remember we made up our own girl gang called the Pink Ladies after the Grease and Grease 2.

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What was the motivating force that led you down that path?   

Well, as I mentioned I was a big TV head. I loved watching the comediennes like Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy, Madeline Kahn, who was one of my biggest inspirations too, and Tracey Ullman. They played wonderful characters. Carol Burnett , Madeline Kahn and Tracey Ullman; not only did they sing, they were comic geniuses who sang. Kahn was a lyric soprano like myself who did comedy; a singing comedienne! Fanny Brice is another one! It’s so freeing to play such characters. I grew up pretending to be other people without losing my true self.

Anyway, I loved watching sitcoms like The Odd Couple and The Honeymooners.
I love Rita Moreno and Natalie Wood. I grew up watching West Side Story, Annie and Grease. I also grew up watching All in the Family and Danielle Brisbois in Archie Bunker’s Place who also started on Broadway.

According to my mother, I already started singing and making up my own melodies around the apartment when I was about 3 years old while running around like a ball of fire. These were motivating forces for me.

I found out how much this moved people to laugh and smile. That’s a great feeling. One cannot take themselves too seriously.
It gives me such a natural high to perform. I can perform without imposing myself in any negative way on others but giving them the space to feel good and it feels good to really give of myself somehow. It’s all energy. It goes out and comes right back.

5unnamed (1)Are there some issues today in the world today that challenge you?
First of all, I am American born in NYC and both my parents are from Puerto Rico.
I remember whenever I told people that I was Puerto Rican particularly when I was in high school and college, some would question that and look at me with incredulity. I chuckle at it now because again, we cannot take things too seriously. Hmm. I think that if we travel to Puerto Rico, Cuba and Dominican Republican and anywhere else; one will see how diverse we are in our appearances. In truth is there really a Latin look? No. Definitely not because we come in so many different hues even to our hair and eye color. There is definitely a great mixture. It’s so diverse. Many people may or may not be aware of the diversity. I guess we are so used to seeing a certain type of Latin image; a particular look of Latinos on the screen of people with olive skin AND dark super straight hair. Hmm. I think it’s time to break that stereotype; break the barriers and to be very very careful not to continue the stereotype. I have European, a bit of Taino and some African from generations before in my family tree.

Furthermore, I find that my appearance is definitely has been an asset; a definite high note in finding work as an actress and singer. Some people may call it ambiguous.  For example, I had the enormous luck to play Julie in the  Harold Prince’s Australian production of Show Boat with Livent. The character of Julie is a biracial woman passing for white in the late 19th century. That was so much fun and I am very grateful.

 
How does your career impact the ways in you affect change in society or help you cope? 

Well, performing is therapeutic for me. It’s a release.

Laughter is very powerful; helps keep things in a better perspective and keep you in the moment.

The more we can laugh at ourselves and let go, the faster we can heal and be so much happier.

We all deserve to be happy.

For example, I experienced my own sets of fears years before from stage fright to this and that. So I rose above that  that by praying a lot, did a lot of meditating, spent more and more time with my family and friends which I did not do nearly enough of, writing, performed a lot more and laughed a whole lot more. I have been very good for a long time now. I’ve changed a lot.

You know that laughter that so heartfelt that tears come pouring out your eyes?! Oh my! That’s the best.

I think that is so intrinsic plus taking some sort of deeply spiritual introspection and inventory; whatever that may be for you. Find your own way that works for you to keep the mind and spirit in high place and keep it strong. It’s deep inside every one of us. It’s given to you.

What does this form of self-expression do for you?  The above response pretty much says everything.

Of the projects that you are currently working on now, which ones are you at liberty to discuss?

Well sometime in the late fall, I will be doing my one woman show again; an extended version. I will be doing impressions of my favorite icons and singing the songs they made famous. It’s called All By Myself.

14unnamed (1)What do you see yourself doing in about 3 years from now?
Performing on Broadway, Off- Broadway, film

TV; having my own variety show or sitcom, singing at the Tonys and the Oscars. I see red carpets and fabulous dinners with my family and friends; living extremely well; living in abundance but most importantly, just being content; just being; really making a living of this and spreading the fortune with my family and my close friends.

My family will be very very well taken care of. That makes it even more worthwhile to have family in one’s life. I see a lot of writing too not just for me but for other actors. My cousin Javier is a song interpreter and artist in the Salsa genre and I have recorded with him and performed with him many times. We did Sob’s more then once and I see even greater things happening for him too; for the both of us. Plus, he’s a hard worker and making great waves for himself.

I also see myself investing my own studio for children. I was not a very good student at all. I was an average student; I was not a hard worker at all in elementary school and high school too. I didn’t put in much work unless we had someone who was on us about it. Anyway, I learned from this much much later on and now, of course, I no longer behave the same way.

As for children, I love kids and teaching them. I’ve taught kids and young adults acting and voice. I’d like to go into the public schools and teach children and teens voice and drama in workshop settings. I’d have a great team of people involved as well.

Furthermore, I’ve always wanted to start a center for healing. I believe in one’s power to heal IF they truly allow it and believe it; if they are opened to it.

www.backstage.com/marlenevillafane/

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