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In the Spotlight

America is considered to be the land of opportunity. But how difficult is it for a young actor to break into the acting industry in the USA? Austrian actress Esther-Sophia Artner has lived in New York for the past four and a half years. She studied acting at Al Pacino’s renowned Actors Studio Drama School and is about to launch her acting and directing career. We spoke to the talented Viennese about auditions, discipline, tough competition, and why there are no leading parts for actors with accents.

Georg Kindel & Christina Zappella-Kindel10. Juli 2018 No Comments

How do you feel about young actresses who capitalize on their physical charms and sexuality to get ahead?

I think it’s everyone’s personal decision to which extent they utilize their sexuality. Everyone should know what feels good and right to them. Sure, sometimes you flirt a little; there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. I would never judge a woman who flirts. And if flirting leads to the next step, in a direction that she is not comfortable with, she will know.

You are currently developing a web series.

That’s right. I am very interested in directing. I wrote two short movies last year, which I also directed. I acted in one of them as well, which made me realize that acting out a part I wrote does not work that well. It’s too personal. Maintaining enough distance to let the character unfold was quite challenging. I worked with a great team, all women. That was a conscious decision, of course. It is much harder for women to get jobs in this industry; camera women, for example, are often not taken seriously at all. I co-directed and made clear decisions about what aspects of the characters’ subconscious emotions I wanted to transport visually. We are in the middle of the editing process. As the old adage goes, a film is made three times: once when it’s written, once when it’s shot, and again when it’s edited.

Quote: I teach yoga six days a week in yoga studios in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Acting is all about yourself, so teaching yoga gives me an opportunity to offer my knowledge and experience to others.

What is your typical week like?

I teach yoga six days a week in yoga studios in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I enjoy the work a lot; it is like a counterpart to acting. Acting is all about yourself, so teaching yoga gives me an opportunity to offer my knowledge and experience to others.

For how long have you been doing yoga?

I started ten years ago, with Jivamukti yoga. I had a teacher, Rima Rani Rabbath, who became my mentor over the past couple of years. She is going to visit Vienna pretty soon, actually. To me, she embodies a perfect unity of spirituality and a down-to-earth approach to life. Jivamukti is yoga with music, by the way.

And apart from yoga?

At the moment, I have three rehearsals a week. I am working on a play that is a composite of texts by William Shakespeare, including passages from “Richard III” and “Romeo and Juliet.” A woman and a man love and hate each other; they want to be with each other, but they can’t. Sara Fay George, who created the play, also directs it. We started rehearsing in April, and the piece will premier in June. This is actually a really long rehearsal period by New York standards. I enjoy it very much. And on top of all that, I am working on two short movies. One is inspired by Romy Schneider, another is a man–woman drama.

Quote: Everyone is using dating apps, dates are discussed matter-of-factly, and meetings are arranged during 45-minute lunch breaks. It’s exhausting.

As a single woman in New York, are you living the classic “Sex and the City” life, enjoying the city to the fullest?

It is exciting and very cool to be here; you meet people all the time, and it can get quite flirty at times. On the other hand, it can be quite exhausting. Everyone is using dating apps, dates are discussed matter-of-factly, and meetings are arranged during 45-minute lunch breaks. I am an open person, so if I see someone I like, I start a conversation, and if there’s a spark, we may meet up. But the dating culture has largely shifted to apps, and I don’t have time for that. I do yoga every day, rehearse, produce and write my films, teach yoga, and go to castings – that leaves little time for men.

What time do you get up in the morning?

At 8:00 a.m.

That is very disciplined.

It’s the only way in New York. If you are not disciplined as a freelance artist, you have already lost. The city moves so fast. I have not had a weekend off in weeks, and I do miss that. Whenever I’m out of town for a few days, I make the resolution to keep Sundays free. I’d like to do as my grandma said: “On the seventh days, the lord rested.” And then I get back to New York, and before I know it, I’m all caught up again.

Do you miss Vienna?

I miss my family, my sisters, and my nephew. I fly home twice a year. I see my father the most frequently because he is in New York on business from time to time. I think most of all, I miss the sense of humor. It’s easy to feel like I’m on the same wavelength as Europeans and Latin Americans. I’m not always so sure about Americans in that respect. I love coming home to Austria, ordering a croissant at a café, and being served by a waitress who is just un-self-consciously grumpy, without pretense. It relaxes me. Giving your emotions space in daily life is so real.

Which actors inspire you?

Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep. I am impressed by the career Marion Cotillard built, despite her accent.

What did you learn in New York?

That you always have to get back up when you fall. The industry is incredibly hard. If you tell your agent your visa arrives in a month, he’ll tell you, “Darling, I don’t know if I’ll still be able to help you then.”

Esther-Sophia Artner is currently performing in “Last Life: A Shakespeare Play” by The Box Collective.

 

 

10. Juli 2018