We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Moschitto and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, how do you think about risk?
In my 20s, taking a risk was about adventure. From moving to Spain on a tourist visa to work with a theatre company in Sevilla or packing up my two suitcases at age 24 to relocate to NYC without a job (classic!). I realize that my ability to make those choices was thanks to the safety net of a supportive – if skeptical – family.
I’m the kind of person who pours my whole self into my work, passionate if not downright obsessive. I risked a lot in order to start and sustain a theatre company, most notably with a lack of boundaries. In many ways, my work has paid off, but much was sacrificed along the way.
Too often, people equate risk with financial risk. And in that sense, producing live theatre is pretty darn risky. The basic definition of risk highlights harm: are you going to be exposed to harm or avoid it? Too often, artists are asked to endanger their mental and physical health in order to do their work.
My thinking around risk-taking has evolved over the past nine years, coinciding with the birth of my older child. Each day I work to unlearn the old model of theatre and to become more attuned to how to prevent harm. In many ways, I embrace what others might find risky, like preferencing relationships and process over product and including people who are typically excluded, like parent artists. Above all, I continue to build within a prolonged creative process that offers space for reflection and anti-racist practices.
Risk can also be incredibly motivating. When you’re with a team you love and trust, you can collectively take the risk of trying out someone’s ideas, doing your damndest to bring that vision to life. Every piece of work we make is a creative risk in the best sense of the word. We don’t have a template – we’re always reinventing, evolving, discovering. It’s insanely satisfying and keeps us energized. Creative stagnation is definitely a risk I won’t ever take.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I make weird new plays, built by an ensemble, on a foundation of research and found text and artifacts. My plays are always trying to answer the question of how we can live in this world a little bit better and a little bit bolder. When I began my career in NYC, I said yes to every gig. I soon realized that I didn’t connect with the stories that were being produced onstage, or how they were being told. So, I naively started my own theatre company. Honestly, I think that’s the best way to start – naively – because if I knew all the many hours of work, the multiple hats I’ve had to wear, the personal funds I poured into those early shows… whoo! I never would have started. But now, 13 years in, I have sensed a shift, a maturity to our work and our organization. The Anthropologists is dedicated to the creation of investigative theatre that inspires change. We use source material and archives to re-contextualize our present and re-imagine our future. We’ve created a home where artists can hone their craft and evolve their creative practice, a space where collaborative experimentation is highly valued. I am incredibly proud of the team of women who are now working with and for the company and bringing our mission to life. When I consider all those relationships and our collective artistic vision, and consider our collective power – wow, that’s incredibly satisfying.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’ve lived in Washington Heights for nearly two decades and I adore our community. Here are my favorite spots:
On a hot summer day, we’ll first grab a smoothie at the family-owned Green Juice Cafe (183rd & Broadway). We can sip on that en route to the Highbridge Pool – it’s gorgeous and clean and FREE!
For dining, my favorite spots are Terravita (Broadway & 176th) or Saggio (181st & Pinehurst).
We can stroll through the gorgeous gardens and grounds of Fort Tryon Park, up through Inwood. I adore Tannat (Broadway & Thayer) – a wine bar turned market with incredible locally sourced food.
All of those restaurants are locally owned and fantastic!
When we’re ready to explore other parts of the city, we’ll visit my absolute favorite museum, The Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street, Lower East Side) and catch a show at The Kraine (85 E4th Street) – I don’t know any other venue that programs as many shows and artists as they do!!
At the end of the week, we’ll take the A train all the way out to my other love: Far Rockaway. Beach 67th is where it’s at! Tons of new food options and the best beach in the city. (Shhhhh.) Hopefully we’ll have time to visit the nearby urban farm, Edgemere Farm. Yes! A farm with chickens in the city!
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 early mentorship in theatre and leadership was under the loving guidance of Marion Wright. When I worked for her at New WORLD Theatre, she planted the seeds for me as a leader and producer, teaching me how to get and stay organized and build systems to support the work as well as what it means to take care of other artists. She has been a great source of love and encouragement to me over the past two decades.
I also have to send love to a special group of fellow theatre directors that I’ve been in community with for the past 10+ years. We have supported each other through rough spots and successes, at openings and closings and all the moments in between. They’ve provided so much guidance, solidarity and encouragement – I am incredibly grateful to them all.
There are two other people who have been critical to my career. The first is my husband, who has always been my biggest cheerleader and helped me weather many a storm. The other is my dear collaborator Mariah who always commits to the work with an enthusiastic “yes!” and has been an incredible artistic partner. I am so fortunate!
Jody Christopherson Jim Anness Hunter Canning Allison Newcombe Tara Bracco Kim Nora Moses