We had the good fortune of connecting with Marianna Varviani and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marianna, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Working in any field relies on opportunity. In the arts, it may take a while until this opportunity reveals itself. Because of this, I decided not to wait… but rather start on my own. Through my education, I practiced devising as a form of creating from scratch. With the same principle, I wanted to create a platform that would enable me to work and create freely. Taking after its name ‘Selcouth’ (my company) aims to curate unfamiliar, strange, and yet marvelous artistic experiences! Centered around theater and dance, we create, produce, share performances, and cultural events. Through teaching seminars and workshops, we hope to inspire artistic exchanges. I have been empowered by the power of people coming together; collaborating, working sharing time, and space through different experiences. Living in Los Angeles for the past two years, I have had the privilege to be a part of a very diverse and rich environment. Working in a new city could be a creative challenge. I feel that one needs time to absorb, understand, and sense what each place has to offer; in order to be a part of it, and give back to it. I question: what would be a useful contribution to the culture of each city? 2020 has been a challenging year, but one that also created new possibilities. During this time, we embark on new creative journeys that take into consideration what is happening around us. We want to make art that is relevant and ‘useful’. So, tune in for our upcoming projects!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When creating a project, I am looking for two things: What would be useful to share? This question related to the location and circumstances that each project takes place. Secondly, how can we (as a group), create a hybrid artistic language (physical, verbal, musical, visual), that is routed on the main idea and expresses our diverse perspectives? In this sense, each project is different, depending on its collaborators. Naturally, I have my own aesthetic, but the end result is the creation of the ensemble. I am uninterested in notions of normative beauty, instead, I am usually drawn to ‘raw’, ‘instinctive’ ways of expression. I work with the unique individual traits of my collaborators and try to amplify them within the group. Getting to where I am now, took time and effort. From strange auditions to amazing rehearsals, from teaching 3-year-olds to 80-year-olds, from touring and sleeping on buses to having a costume department transforming you; each experience has contributed in forming my work. I think the most important lesson that I have learned through this process is to trust my instinct and to dare. Dare to try the impossible. Even if it doesn’t work, something else will be born! That is how I landed in Los Angeles. I am very excited to be working on two new projects with ‘Selcouth’. During the months of the quarantine, I have been considering different possibilities of sharing artistic work. This pandemic has brought many issues to the surface, shacking our everyday structures. I feel that it has created the time to dive deep. Thus, it is a perfect moment for change. We are in the pre-production production phase, for one project that will bring performances to its audience members, creating a live experience while ensuring safety. The second project revolves around sensory storytelling. Unfortunately, I cannot share too much at this stage. But! I would love to invite L.A. performers and fine artists to collaborate. So, if you would like to learn more please get in contact with ‘Selcouth’ as soon as possible!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First of all, I feel like to grasp LA’s energy, one definitely needs more than a week. The amazing and yet strange thing about this city is that is doesn’t have only one vibe. It is so diverse, that you can really find everything. So, if my best friends would visit I would firstly want to take them to the beach. There is nothing more magical than the endless horizon. Plus, I would say that there is a big chance that we would see dolphins! Walking around would be a must. Yes, Los Angeles is huge and people do not tend to walk as much. But when one does, there are so many intriguing details to observe: from the peculiar composition of architecture to beautiful flowers and trees, mansions, and cozy neighborhoods. We would definitely walk until we drop! And what a better way to get reenergized but by trying yummy food from food trucks. We would have to explore DTLA. We would start at the Last bookstore, walk to the Broad museum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, see the Grand Park, and eat bits and pieces at the Grand Central Market. We would go to the Arts district to check street art and what’s on Hauser & Wirth gallery. LACMA would be another must! To take a break from all the exhibitions we would chill at the park behind it. We would get coffee from Hilltop and hang out at Ladera Park. Or we could spend an evening at Echo Park and have a drink at the Echo. On a sunny day, we would rent bikes from Marina Del Ray and cycle to Manhattan beach. We would try as many tacos and ice cream as possible. One can never have enough! We would definitely keep an eye on performances and concerts (such as on Zebylon) depending on the season!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My journey has been enriched by so many people and experiences. From a carrier perspective, I have to give credit to my amazing teachers and mentors: One of my first acting coaches, Victoria Haralabidou, advised me to persevere. If you want to make something done, just keep working on it, ask questions, send emails, letters, it doesn’t matter if there are hurdles, find a way. Brian Astbury, introduced me to political theater and devising. His passion for group work was inspiring. When working with Uri Rooner, I experienced how accessing one’s freedom of imagination could lead to unexpected results. How to embrace and ‘make sense’ of beautiful chaos. Augusto Boal and ‘Theater of the Oppressed’, showed me how theater can play a vital part in society, creating change. A big shoutout goes to my first choreography teacher and amazingly talented choreographer Patricia Apergy, who made me believe that dance was open to all, not only related to classical forms; but could be approached from various perspectives! Additionally, I am very grateful to Frosso Trousa, who has provided the space and structure for so many upcoming artists to share their work. Last but not least, I have to acknowledge how privileged I am to have a very supportive and loving family. They say that if your parents believe in you, then you are mostly equipped to face the world, so a big thank you there! I am always inspired by street and traditional art and dance forms. Art works by JR, Banksy and Shepard Fairey, reflect a more direct conversation between artists and their audience. I also look at dance forms like Krump, Popping, Greek traditional dances and cultural events like ‘paniguria’ festivals.
image credits: Kelly Sarry, Arsenio Apillanes, Sophia Alexiou, Lauren Man, Christine Kao