An interview with the brilliant, talented and inspirational Nana Ponceleon. Here's what she had to say:
Please introduce yourself to the readers:
I was born in Venezuela in a city called BArquisimeto. I left Venezuela when I was 1 years old to come to Louisiana, where my father went to school at Louisiana State University -LSU. Baton Rouge became my second home and still has a very special place in my heart. English became my first language and since we were going back to Venezuela my parents did not worry too much about me learning spanish. So at seven years old, back in Venezuela I was faced with the painful process of learning a new language.It was not fun. School was a horrifying experience, because I would be the only child in school that did not understand a word anyone was saying. Many times I escaped from school to walk home, but they always brought me back. I don't remember the exact moment I began to communicate, but I do know that once I learned spanish I did not want to speak english again, even though my father insisted in speaking to me in english. I would always answer in spanish. Then our pilgrimage started. Because of my father's work I did not spend more than 2 years in any city. So I lost friends rather quickly, but at the same time I learned to make them very quick as well. I had to survive.
At the age of 9 I danced flamenco in one of the most reputed flamenco schools in the country at the time, but had to leave when we moved after a couple of years. Then I started to learn music, to play the cuatro (a four string instrument used to play typical venezuelan music) and started to play guitar on my own. Later my father would buy me an electric guitar, which our neighbors did not appreciate too much. In high school I got into gymnastics and became part of a team that would represent Venezuela in the Pan American Games, but after a severe pull of my hamstring, which never healed properly, I had to opt out.
During my last years of high school, I was in every play, concert, event that my high school organized. I also sang and played guitar in the choir during sunday mass. Then I graduated and went to college. Being the daughter of a chemical engineer and an economist, arts and drama was not really an option for me. So I ended up graduating from Pace University in NY from business administration with a minor in computer science, and my artistic life stayed behind except for some jazz classes in a studio that operated out of Carnegie Hall and also kickboxing for fun.
Today I am the mother of two beautiful and wonderful girls which are here in NY with me and a wonderful and patient husband who is the owner of an Art Gallery in Venezuela. This is a very hard situation at times because we can not be together a greater part of the year but no one said dreams come without sacrifices.
How and when did you first get into performing?
Back in Venezuela after college I started to work in the corporate world for many years, I worked at Microsoft for over 11 years and as a business consult after that for a couple of years. After realizing I needed to change my life to be closer to my family, I left the corporate world but did not know what I wanted to do. Then a friend suggested I take an acting workshop every saturday for a couple of months, and so I did! This is when it all started and hasn't stopped ever since. This began in 2006.
Who were some of your biggest inspirations?
Since I was little girl I wanted to be a dancer, then a singer and in third place came acting. So Barbra Streisand was one of my idols. I thought she had one of the greatest women's voices on the whole planet. I also enjoy her acting. Dancers like Baryshnikov, who followed a great Nureyev where one of my most admired. Actors like Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, the great Meryl Streep, Glen Close, from earlier years Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Peter O'Toole have been some of those who have served as inspiration for my work.
What kind have training have you done?
I have taken many workshops in Venezuela. My first one was with actor/ teacher/director Antonio Cuevas. He was the teacher who started the sparkle that has not stopped burning. I also studied in Venezuela with director/teacher/producer/casting director Elia Schnider. In Los Angeles with people like Joshua Bitton an excellent actor and teacher, Anil Kumar, Donovan Scott. In New York with one of the most admired coaches for actors, Susan Batson and recently graduated from Stella Adler Studio of Acting.
What has been your favorite role to play so far?
In theater Die Alte from "A Bright Room Called Day" by Tony Kushner, which made me learn so much more about the world before Hitler and why he came about. And in the film "Karla" a nurse from the best selling film in Venezuelan history, who had to take care of a newborn baby who was the center of an enormous crisis which reveals the politics, health system and life of Venezuela in the 1980’s.
What projects do you have coming up?
I plan to continue my training, which I am doing now at the Susan Batson Studio in a magnificent class with Susan Batson called DYOM (develop your own method) and I am on the list for other very well known teachers that I am very interested in working with. I am also at the very beginning stages of preparing myself to possibly interpret the life of an actress I have come to admire more and more as I investigate deeper about her, Rita Moreno. If everything goes well, this will be a one woman show in the near future. I am also working on a project for a pilot series for web or TV. This is where I may be participating as a writer and actress, also.
Who would be your ideal co-star and why?
A young, very young talented actor like Ayush Mahesh Khedekar from Slumdog millionaire, Ignacio Montes from Azul y no Tan Rosa, a venezuelan film which very recently won a Goya Award for best Latin American movie. Someone like a very young Henry Thomas when he played Elliot in ET. I believe these kinds of actor are the ones that challenge you the most, teach you and help you have fun while working. They are truthful, free, spontaneous, new every time; where all of us actors aspire to be when we act. It would make me be on my toes, give the best of me and my talent or I would be completely overpowered by my co-star.
What are your plans for the future?
First to stay in New York and as I have mentioned before, continue my training while continuing to work in film and theater. I also want to continue my writing, which I did in Venezuela when I wrote, co-directed and produced a musical play called "Volver a Empezar". I would like to revive this play either in Venezuela or NY, this is something I have to evaluate in the near future.
What is your advice to aspiring performers?
Whatever your passion may be go out there and look for the best training you can afford or you can find. Not everything that is good costs a lot of money, there are great teachers and resources out there at affordable prices. Then, train, train and train your elf until you feel you are over trained. Then you may need to go back for more! Realize that this is a never ending process. We never stop learning. Competition is fierce out there, so you have to make sure you can be as good as the top 10% to be able to get that job that you want some day. And equally as important as the training is to have fun. don't take yourself so serious and don't become your worst critic. This can really kill your talent. Enjoy the ride, the roller coaster makes your heart stop but it also makes it go faster.