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Andrew J. Nemr and Friends

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Andrew J. Nemr
April 5, 2013

What is your job on this show?
writer/director/performer.

What is your show about?
A story of love, mentorship, joy, and friendship, told through tap dance, music, and the spoken word.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
It wasn't so much theater as it was tap dancing. When I was nine years old I saw the movie tap. It was opening night at Union Station in Washington, D.C., and after seeing that film I knew that I wanted to become a tap dancer. The individual voices, and freedom and joy in the performances of Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, and a number of the legends of tap dance including Arthur Duncan, Bunny Briggs, Steve Condos, Jimmy Slyde, Sandman Sims, and Harold Nicholas really did a number on my heart. The years following were spent discovering what it actually meant to become a tap dancer.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
Theater is immediate and it's honest. My performances include a lot of structured improvisation, so although the basic framework and story remain the same from night to night, the subplots definitely have the freedom to change. And so every performance is different and a special moment in time that I am able to share with the audience and fellow performers. That doesn't happen many other places.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
Every one of my fellow artists I've met as part of this journey of discovery of tap dance and what it means to be an artist. Whether it's members of my tap dance company Cats Paying Dues/CPD PLUS or fellow musicians, we've all crossed paths exploring the intersection of dance and music. One of the things I so enjoy about this show is the variety of genres of music that we explore in the show. Everything from percussive guitar, classical music, pop, jazz, and even some Appalachian mountain music is represented - and that's because of the variety of people I have had the pleasure of meeting on trip.

Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
All of them - with deference to Groucho.

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
I think theater is very special in that is one of the few remaining spaces that exists for the exploration of humanity, for the telling of stories, in which the audience attends with an open heart, in the hopes of enjoying their time at the theater. To that end good theater has the ability to change peoples hearts - and that can definitely bring about societal change - one heart at a time.