The Madrid’s Edie Falco on Carmela, Jackie and the High School Musical That Launched Her Career

By Kathy Henderson
Twitter @KatH_NY
February 27, 2013

Before Edie Falco donned mob wife couture as Carmela in The Sopranos, she won a Theatre World Award for her harrowing performance as the embittered wife of a jazz musician in Warren Leight’s Tony-winning drama Side Man. Falco continued to make stage acting a priority while becoming only the second person in history to win lead acting Emmys in both drama (The Sopranos) and comedy (the title role in Nurse Jackie). Now starring as a runaway mom in MTC’s off-Broadway premiere of The Madrid, Falco chatted with about her iconic TV heroines, three favorite stage roles and the high school musical that gave her the confidence to pursue a career in acting.
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Role That Changed My Life

“I was a shy, awkward kid—I didn’t know how to be popular and never wore the right clothes—and being chosen to play Eliza in My Fair Lady at Northport High School [on Long Island] was very, very meaningful. My mother had been an actress, and the idea of auditioning for a play was mortifyingly scary for me. But Fran McGarry, who is still performing, cast me and gave me the confidence that I could carry a play and lead an ensemble. The fact that she trusted me was a huge part in my becoming an actress. My Henry Higgins was David Troup, who now works at a theater in Maine [Everyman Rep] and was one of my dearest friends. I would love to do a [Broadway] musical. I almost did Threepenny Opera with Alan Cumming, but I had a conflict. I find the whole mode of expression in musicals very moving.”

Fran’s Comment:

As Edie’s high school drama teacher, I am grateful and humbled to know that I played a small part in the arc of her career; nevertheless, there are thousands of teachers who have impacted the lives of so many students. Edie was the first to share her story:
“Fran McGarry and Eve Terry, perhaps unbeknownst to them, played a huge part in my path to my present career. Though I was just a schoolkid, they treated me like an artist; made me believe I had something unique to offer. They helped grow my confidence which I believe can take you anywhere you want to go. I am so grateful.” Edie Falco, July 11,2011

What about you?
How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

First Online With Fran: 7,388 Views

First Online With Fran is endorsed by the African American Playwrights Exchange!

ff12_katori_hall[1]Friday, February 22, 2013
Cherry Lane Theatre playwright mentoring program (NYC)

Katori Hall

First Online With Fran is a TV talk show dedicated solely to arts advocacy as a means to raise sustainable national attention to the Arts. Hosted by Frances McGarry, the pilot episode features an interview with Angelina Fiordellisi, Artistic Director and Founder of the renowned Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. It’s worth a watch for a couple of reasons because 1) playwright Katori Hall gets a plug, 2) you get to meet the person behind the playwright mentoring program, and 3) it helps support Ms. McGarry’s goal of creating the first TV talk show dedicated solely to arts advocacy– and us.

Testimonial #20: Erin Yanacek, Classical Musician

depressed-artist1 Seeking the Love of Music That I Once Felt

I remember the moment when I fell in love with music. I was 12 years old, attending a high school orchestra concert. My brother was playing horn, and while the concert was anything but perfect, it was perhaps the first time that my budding adult mind witnessed a large ensemble in performance. Captivated and slightly embarrassed, I allowed myself to cry when the music moved me. It was as though I was both hearing sound and understanding tenderness for the first time. My lungs, it seemed, were filling with oxygen for the first time, and I could not have been more infatuated. Yet in the 12 years that followed, the story has changed.
Today, it is difficult for me to listen to classical music. I leave concerts at intermission, even when the performers are excellent. I insist that the radio be off while I drive, or at least turned to a pop or news station. And at home, I can only stomach the sound of jazz, if not only the chirping of birds or silence.
And yet, my profession is as a classical musician. I play the trumpet for a living and long to be furiously in love with this art form. Why does this awful feeling plague me?

The problem likely began with the decision to create a profession out of music-making. The standard first step was a successful audition for a university that offered a Major in music. My acceptance and matriculation into a program inspired the confidence that this would be the right step toward allowing my passion to mature.

The academic system, despite its well-intentioned faculty, was lacking. Numbers and test scores were easily quantifiable, while concepts like communication through music and aesthetic value were more difficult to grade. Emphasis was often placed on skills that contributed neither to artistic development nor to a helpful understanding of entrepreneurship.

As I developed, I began to participate in the local gig scene. Orchestras, chamber ensembles, and churches provided some opportunities to get paid to perform. Here I discovered an interesting set of unspoken rules related to hierarchy, ability, and camaraderie. It was crucial to network with the right people, and it was just as important not to step on any seasoned musicians’ egotistical toes. I learned to navigate the system, but I still squirm with feelings of guilt and superficiality when I paint on a smile for a potential boss, colleague, or patron.

As time went on, I discovered that classical music does not lend itself easily to a healthy salary. Capable musicians outnumber available gigs, and thus a battle for survival ensues, where more hours of practice per day will likely win in the end. It is amazing that any musician manages to keep creativity, musicality, or originality in mind with all of our modern-day challenges.
Now it is as though my initial love and passion for music, for creative, original, fascinating sound, is quelled. Difficulties persists in trying to juggle my own creative needs with the demands of a system that I had hoped would nurture my abilities. I am left exasperated, creatively frustrated, and unable even to hear classical music without facing a flood of conflicting emotions. And yet, I stay in the field—out of habit, perhaps, but also out of hope and trust that someday, classical music will somehow register with me once again.

The prospect of changing my career path arises… or I could simply continue to follow my mentors’ advice and practice my excerpts faithfully. Perhaps I will one day arrive at a point of happiness and understanding with the craft, and my original passion will return.

I recently stumbled upon a relevant piece of advice. Renee Fleming, who is arguably the most prominent soprano in the world, had an opportunity to sing for renowned mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani in her early 20’s. Fleming had arrived in the conservatory system by way of a humble background, with music infused as an everyday part of her family life as a child. DeGaetani, hearing Fleming’s natural and intuitive understanding of music, told her, “Don’t train all that naturalness out of your voice.” What a wonderful perspective —and one that I will certainly adopt from this point forward.

I long to enjoy music. To have the same uninhibited rush of the emotion, of tears, of clarity that I did in my first experiences of listening to ensembles perform, half of my lifetime ago. It is not entirely clear to me where to turn to achieve this, but I trust that the path will present itself over time. And in the meantime—back to the practice room I go.

This story was originally published in The Muse Dialogue

Testimonial #19: Lynne Harrington-Crick, Self-employed free lance photographer-filmmaker/ retired elementary school teacher

“Music is something people will always remember and be grateful that they had stuck it out learning to play or sing. It is something one carries with them all their life.”

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

I don’t know truthfully how to answer this question because the problem is here in San Diego and all over the state of California, as far as I know presently, the arts are not re-igniting anything in our community and are not sparking innovation and creativity in our local schools. This is why I retired ten years ago burned-out and stressed. Now I am ready to take a stand for a new possibility of what our community and the way our local schools could be by putting music back into the curriculum as part of the core.

Without music education, I see more students being deprived of a well-balanced education one which enriches and restores a love for learning. Backing up what music does for students and people of all ages are numerous current studies proving how beneficial and necessary it is to have music in everyone’s lives, not just for those special students who are deemed to be the only ones that should be provided a music education because of the born talents. By providing music education it is shown through studies how it develops the brain in all people that sparks that ability to think creatively bringing more creative solutions to any problem we are currently facing in the world today. In fact, it is my theory that we are dealing with so many problems because we need to expose more people to a well balanced education that includes the arts. This is what art does and I do believe most people agree with me already on this as I have yet spoken with someone who did not agree with me on this.

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

I have to go way back to my elementary-junior high school days to answer this question. Looking back on my life, I can see how I was in a way somewhat of a split personality if you can call it that, I don’t know. I definitely had become psychosomatic. Whenever I was involved in academic subjects in school that had nothing to do with music, I was very withdrawn, timid and shy, and most fearful particularly of people in authoritarian positions such as teachers. That changed once I started music lessons and I became so naturally outgoing and loving learning in school. There was one particular music teacher in my junior high school that was more inspiring to me in wanting to be a music teacher. He was such a fun teacher that involved all his students every day getting us to come meet in his classroom after school to learn a new instrument or music theory, etc. things that were extracurricular to the program. We were so automatically self-motivated to want to learn more. I blossomed in musical ensemble groups which contributed to why I was so attracted with such ambition to major in music education when I got to college level. Music is something people will always remember and be grateful that they had stuck it out learning to play or sing. It is something one carries with them all their life.

Music Moves Us is a film project to show how important music is, to start up a movement to bring about a change in our schools, our communities, as well as the healing arts. We encourage ordinary people who have a love for music to participate in this project in ways that they feel most comfortable doing. There will be new interviews posted every month of people sharing stories how music has impacted their lives, and people are invited to participate in another way by posting comments and/or testimonials.

Designing for Deep Space | News | About | RISD

RISD’s artists and designers are attempting to answer a question that’s had NASA engineers scratching their heads for decades: how do you make a glove tough enough to withstand the moon’s harsh atmosphere while allowing the hand to move freely? In the Wintersession course Designing Space Gloves for NASA – a studio offered by RISD’s Apparel and Industrial Design departments – students are pairing up to create functional prototypes that can weather the unearthly elements of deep space.

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