Artist of the Month features Broadway veteran Mary Testa. She is a two-time Tony Award nominee, for performances in revivals of Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town (1998) and 42nd Street (2001). Ms. Testa will appear in NYFOS’s upcoming gala 30! on March 26 at Carnegie Hall.
You’ve been singing with NYFOS for over ten years. How did you first get involved with the organization?
I think Steven Blier asked me to do a gala. I think that is how I started.
You’ve been performing on Broadway for almost 4 decades. How has the industry changed since you began your career? What’s remained consistent?
I don’t really think it has changed too much. What has changed is the pay scale. It has gone down. What has remained consistent is the fact that an actor is always out of a job, and always has to get another one when a show is over.
To what do you credit your ability to sustain your career over the years? How do you take care of yourself to ensure that you are able to perform at your best night after night?
I enjoy doing all kinds of things, and I am constantly involved in readings, benefits, etc, so I am always working my craft. And I really enjoy working in different mediums, concert, television, film, plays and musicals, so that keeps one very fresh. I have had to perform many times when I am very ill, so I am not always 100%. But you just do the best you can in any situation.
You’ve appeared in revivals as well as originated roles in new musicals. Is there anything different about your approach to material with a history versus brand new projects?
I don’t think there is. I think I approach everything the same. I work from the inside out. I find the similarities between me and a character, then I build from there.
Do you seek inspiration from past performances of certain roles or actively avoid their influence as you craft your interpretation?
I never watch someone else do a role that I am doing. I don’t find that helpful at all.
What projects are you most excited about at the moment and why?
I am very excited about the fall. I cannot say what I am doing, because casting has not been announced yet, but it is a project I have been involved with for 3 years.
Are there any popular musicians of today that you listen to or who you think are doing interesting work?
I am a very big fan of Michael John La Chiusa, and have been very fortunate to do 5 of his shows. I love working with him, and his music to me is genius. And I love and miss Prince. And I must admit, I love everything that Missy Elliot does.
What was the last music you listened to before answering these questions?
Television music. Sorry.
When you aren’t making music, what is your favorite way to spend your time?
Hanging with my dog, hanging with friends, shopping, etc. regular stuff.
NYFOS is devoted to ‘song’ and the wide variety of styles that term encompasses. What is special about ‘song’ to you? Is there anything about this particular form that is significant to you?
Song to me is monologue. You must be able to make sense, and make music at the same time. Love it.
What is your favorite song? (Qualify your answer to this possibly impossible question as needed.)
Right now, it is “Lush Life”.