Rising star Joana Knezevic is pounding the pavement in the City of Angels, forging a path for herself as an actor in theatre, television and film. When we last checked in with Joana, she had just graduated from Cal Arts' MFA Acting Program. Let's see what she's gotten herself into since then.
Roger Q. Mason (RQM): Since we last spoke, you were working on your first
theatre production in Los Angeles. What was it like making theatre in Los
Angeles for the first time?
Joana Knezevic (JK): My first role after the graduation was in Ibsen's ‘Ghosts'.
Technically we started rehearsing just one month before my graduation and that show
was kind of my bridge to the real world in LA. I was lucky to present my work in front of the Hollywood Fringe audience and received good feedback.
Making theater in Los Angeles is quite different then in Europe. It seems to me that in LA everything is faster. A lot of work you have to do on your own, before and after the rehearsals. It is very exciting because it always keeps you in shape and you have to make quick and smart acting choices. That said it is important to nourish your instincts and listen to your inner voices. That requires constant work physically and mentally. I'm in love with the LA artist community. They are very supportive and they really want to help you and navigate you into the right direction. I feel I am growing here as an actress and that's the most important thing for me right now.
RQM: Have you done any plays since then? What were those experiences like?
JK: Last November artist Edgar Arceneaux and Hauser & Wirth gallery invited me to be part of the project called ‘In response: Zoe Leonard's I want A President'. Edgar directed my solo show that we called ‘Rasputin for president', where I played a Russian monk Gregory Rasputin who came to the States to be a new president. I was fully in drag and we talked about gender issues, what does that mean being a female foreigner in the States, and problems about immigration. That day I had a chance to perform and show my work with fantastic and notable artists in LA. Some of them are Lita Albuquerque, Neo Bustamante, Patric Stuff performance Artist and co funder of Black Lives Matter, Edgar Heap of Birds, Patrisse Cullors… That day was very special because we share our deepest thoughts, concerns and feelings about our society and it was cathartic. I'm thankful to Russel Salmon from Hauser & Wirth who was there all the time helping and supporting us.
RQM: I did a little Instagram spying. You have done some film work. Tell me about some of your recent film roles.
JK: Yes, I did some short films, one music video and TV. The short film ‘One of Many' directed by Mikel Dever was part of his final exam at UCLA. It was nice experience because it reminds me how little you need to tell the story. The budget was not high and the time for filming was limited. So, again in a short period of time you have to create your character, tell the story and allow yourself to trust a young director. Working on the music video for the Danish band called ‘Idimish' was quite different. Director Inka Rusi had time to prepare the locations, story and the script. She really knows what she wants and how to direct actors. The last work that I did for TV is a short episode in the new TV show ‘In Ice Cold Blood' for Oxygen TV. Big production and huge team. It was a pleasure working on those projects.
RQM: What differences did you notice between film and theatre acting? How did you change or alter your artistic process?
JK: In terms of acting no matter which medium you use you are oblige to tell the truth.
Through the lens of camera everything looks bigger. I am a very expressive actress and that means I have to be more focused on the details of the movements, and follow the rule ‘less is more'. (laugh) Film forces you to be very intimate with the camera when everything else around you is quite the opposite. You must stay grounded and focused in the world of your character no matter what's happening on set. You can make mistakes on camera and try another take but theater will never allow you to do the same scene twice in front of the audience. That's one of the reasons why my heart belongs to theater. The stakes are higher with the live audience.
RQM: What is your current project?
JK: Currently I am working on a new show directed by Edgar Arceneaux called ‘Boney Manilly'. In this production I get to portray two men: Frank and Rasputin. I enjoy a lot in this process because this is my first time playing men in the disco world.
We have three more weeks of rehearsals before our tour to Nigeria to present a preview of this project as part of the Lagos Theater Festival in March. This is such a great opportunity to meet artists from all around the world and potentially collaborate with them. Our Los Angeles premiere is coming soon, so stay tuned!
In May I will be traveling to New York where I will be doing a workshop for the show ‘Medea' directed by Michael Alvarez and written by Peter Gray. Michael and I know each other very well from CalArts and this will be our first professional project together. I trust him fully and I can't wait to start.
Also, NY based choreographer and dancer Sophie Bortolussi is directing her new show
and I'm very lucky that she cast me to be part of her magic. It's very early in the process so that's all I can say for now.