La MaMa Blogs: 6 QUESTIONS: Nicky Paraiso

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

6 QUESTIONS: Nicky Paraiso

Nicky Paraiso's annual holiday show, CHRISTMAS IN NICKYLAND will take over The Club at La MaMa December 20th & 21st, 2014. Now in its 10th year, the show brings together a host of Downtown performers to celebrate the holidays in true Off-Off-Broadway style. We spoke with him about the evolution of the East Village, playing a robot in The COIL Festival and his first piano teacher:

1. Christmas in Nickyland has been a fixture at La MaMa for a decade now. How has the show changed, or stayed the same, over the years?
Christmas in NickyLand is an extension of the Salon format that I began in 1998 at PS 122 ‘s 1998 Spring Benefit, and also presented a version of, at The Club at La MaMa in October 2000, by inviting performers, friends and colleagues to perform, from the Downtown theater, dance, music, and performance scene. The idea behind this was my fanboy sensibility, eager to show a clear manifestation of the idea of a performance community, which actually did begin in the East Village in the mid-1980s, at now legendary clubs and performances spaces like: WOW Café, the Pyramid Club, 8BC, Nuyorican Poets Café, Limbo Lounge, Chandelier, Save The Robots, Darinka, King Tut’s Wah-Wah Hut, The Gas Station, some which of course no longer exist. And of course there’s Dixon Place, PS 122 and The Club at La MaMa, still going strong.  In 2004, Ellen Stewart said I should be doing a holiday show, which I called Christmas in NickyLand. This year marks the 10th Anniversary of this holiday gathering of artists.

2. What can you tell us about this year's featured performers?
If you look at the line-up, there are a lot of duos this year, individual artists who somehow have had a tradition of performing in tandem, or new duo collaborations of singular artists who admire and like each other’s work: David Cale & Dane Terry, Peggy Shaw & Lois Weaver, Yoshiko Chuma & Vicky Shick (on Saturday night’s show), and Yoshiko and Jeremy Pheiffer (on Sunday’s show). I’ll also be teaming up with Mike Iveson Jr to perform a song from his upcoming show “Sorry, Robot” which will be performed at The New Ohio Theater in January as part of PS 122’s COIL Festival. Storytellers & monologuists David Cale, Edgar Oliver, and George Emilio Sanchez, Heather Litteer, Chris Tanner, will also be on board this year. And there are sometimes special surprise guests who are always welcome to the stage.

3. What is your favorite part of the holiday season in the East Village? Any inside scoops on things to do / places to go in the neighborhood?
I actually like that the East Village, like much of New York City itself, gets very quiet during the Christmas holidays. People either go away to visit the families out-of-town, of course, and other EV residents gather in their own homes and apartments to celebrate with their families and friends.  Of course there’s always a tradition of Christmas and holidays shows at La MaMa, this year including Yara Arts Group with the Ukrainian musicians’ group, the Koliadnyky ensemble, “Koliada and Music from the Carpathians,” and the East Village Dance Project’s annual take on The Nutcracker, “The Shell-Shocked Nut.”

4. Many know you as an actor, vocalist and curator, but you're also a great piano player. When did you first start playing? Who do you listen to for inspiration?
I started piano lessons when I was five years old, with the kind neighborhood spinster piano teacher lady, Miss Evelyn Olt. And then more music training at the Dalcroze School of Music on Saturday afternoons, attending classes with friends like musical theater composer David Friedman, and choreographer/administrator Joan Finkelstein, now Director of the Harkness Dance Foundation.  I remember going to see the great Vladimir Horowitz at the Metropolitan Opera House, and also loved Artur Rubinstein, Leonard Bernstein (who was a great pianist) in the classical realm, and then Art Tatum, Thelonius Monk, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Dr. John, Laura Nyro, in the jazz and pop realms. I also admired the late Bobby Short, and Barbara Carroll, Diana Krall, for their cabaret elegance and class. And the current crop of downtown musical directors, especially Lance Horne and Thomas Bartlett, who sometimes play with Mx. Justin Vivian Bond.

5. What should audience members expect from this show? 
A lot of love & passion, some virtuosic talent, and a strong sense of community and fun. I know I know, it does go on a bit long for a cabaret show, although it always amazes me how the audience responds so generously, they really do stick with the shows for the duration, and there’s a hardy few who love to stay around and mingle with and talk to the performers after the show is over. It’s also a time for these wonderful performers-in-their-own-rights to catch up with each other and enjoy each other’s company!

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you, both as a curator and as an artist? 
La MaMa, first through Ellen Stewart of course, and now with Mia Yoo, our Artistic Director, and the La MaMa staff of artists and technical people, have always handed me the full reins of creative freedom, and from the beginning of my working life as an actor and musician, La MaMa has always been an artistic home for me.


La MaMa presents


MC - Nicky Paraiso
Featuring - The All-La MaMa Ding-Ding Christmas Chorus, David Cale & Dane Terry, Yoshiko Chuma & Vicky Shick (Saturday only), Jeremy Pheiffer (Sunday only), Adam Feldman, Ellen Fisher, Mike Iveson Jr., Joseph Keckler, Heather Litteer, Edgar Oliver, George Emilio Sanchez, Peggy Shaw & Lois Weaver, Pearse Redmond (Guest MC) & More TBA!

December 20th-21st, 2014

The Club at La MaMa
74A East 4th Street
(Between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003

Tickets: $18 Adults; $13 Students/Seniors; ten tickets are available (in advance only) as part of La MaMa's 10@$10 Ticketing Initiative.  These tickets are available to anyone, first come - first served, via web, phone or at the box office - but they are not available day of show!

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE 

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