by Sherif Awad
I am from New Jersey, USA. My parents were working middle class. I was taught to respect others and to work hard and be successful. My mother Delores was a professional singer who performed with bands in New York City and in Atlantic City in the 1950s and 1960s with some well known names such as Gypsy Rose Lee, Doc Severson from the Johnny Carson Show and worked with the Hines Brothers; I even met a very young Gregory Hines to name a few. My father owned a nightclub in Union City, New Jersey. She auditioned for him and performed at his club and that’s how they met.
-My mother Dolores was a big influence. She saw something in me. She would teach me little songs and would take me to dance classes. I modeled for a local department store as a child in Union City, New Jersey. It paid for my school and clothes and I learned what work was ethical but modeling was not easy.
I could always draw. In fact it came very natural to me. While most five years olds were scribbling and trying to color within the lines I was drawing landscapes. As a teenager, I auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. It was a teen program; not yet an adult. I was accepted and that’s where I fell in love with acting, literature, the great writers of theatre. I also learned about history being only 16 years old I had interests that others couldn’t perceive. I eventually attended the two year program at the Academy of Dramatic of Arts. I went on my first audition at 17 years old and didn’t do well at all. I had no idea what to do. I did not audition again until I was 19 years old. At that time, I was auditioning for stage and some film. A stage director saw my work and cast me in an Off-Broadway show with a young Rob Morrow from NORTHERN EXPOSURE. That’s when I earned my “ Equity card “ and finally began to get paid.Just going to the theatre on Broadway in New York was a treat.
My favorite role models were: Maureen Stapleton, Elizabeth Taylor, Steve Buscemi (with whom I would later would work with), along with Betty Garrett, Estelle Harris from SEINFELD, Billy Gardell from MIKE AND MOLLY, to name a few. My dream would be to work with Al Pacino. I would have loved to be on the set of THE GODFATHER. I love actors who tackle the role without fear. I like actors who are earthy or can transform themselves into a role that you would not expect them to play. Another actress would be Meryl Streep. There is an old story about Streep when she first started... the artistic director, Joe Papp, at the Public Theatre in New York; she wanted a role so bad that she stormed into his office and demanded that he audition her for the role. Well, she got the role and they became friends that led to other roles for his theatre company. That’s creative clever tenacity.
-I studied with Herbert Bergdof and Uta Hagen at HB Studios and Curt Dempster at Ensemble Studio Theatre. Those days I would apartment sit in New York City which was a different world than New Jersey, I would attend classes and audition and house sit apartments. I began working in Off-Off Broadway’s original pIays. I would meet Leonard Melfi and perform in one of his plays BIRDBATH and Austin Pendleton. Some of the older more classic theatres in NYC were where people would just come in to see new pieces of work unfold. People always told me I had a good character face for comedy but I loved drama.
-To me, success is having industry accept you with their projects and to deliver their vision. The red carpets are nice if you get to walk one; that’s just icing on the cake. Or, when someone sees your work and comments, “I know someone who is just like that character you played last night on stage or in a film it brought me back to that point in my life”. To me, that is the greatest compliment any actor can receive which means I was successful.
-Sometimes. Hollywood, still does not embrace older women as much and parts are not as many written for them once the “the woman” is of a certain age. So what does she do? She creates her own content. That’s what she does.
-In the United States, cable is where the freedom to create is at along with net streaming television. New characters are developed which reflect individuals of today’s society. You don’t see that on basic Network TV or even film with all special effects which seems to be the norm; it’s about the event not the story as much.
But, in your world, you don’t need much money but you need guts to create your own path without waiting for that telephone to ring or that email to be sent. There are so many online platforms to put your content on and film festivals to be noticed which are another venue of expanding your career. It’s very independent. But, everyone is always searching for the next big hit. The industry does not even know and probably more so now as things move so rapidly within technology and the choices which are offered. At times, Hollywood is still not willing to take a gamble on topics that are risky, but in comparison to other countries, the USA is still very conservative with what they put out globally.
- I try to be open-minded when it comes to projects.
Now that I have started writing my own content which has done well in film festivals semi-finalist nominated. Take a look at a comedy web series that I co-created /co-wrote and produced a web series ALL ABOUT MANOS, www.allaboutmanostv.com and my other comedy scripted pilot, REDNECK WEDDINGS, both have been either been nominated and have come in as semi-finalists in film festivals around the world. These are the first two projects that I have written. As a performer/actress I was asked to actually work on a project, I have so much more respect for the written word now, and the vision than I had before. And, to be honored, to be cast by my peers what a thrill. The best compliment is when a writer says” I’ve just written a part for you with only you in mind”. That has happened to me. The process begins when can I deliver and live up to those expectations? The life of an actress is a complicated one and the life of a writer is even more risky and filled with celebration and rejection with both of them you pour your heart and soul in front of the world and hope for the best. That‘s what the life of an artist is all about. It’s a calling to strive and be your best and make a mark in this great universe.
IMDb link: https://pro.imdb.com/name/nm1264695/