Daniela Malave will appear as Yasmin Ortiz in our next Fresh Takes Play Reading of Water by the Spoonful on August 16 at 3 pm at No. Six Depot Roastery and Café in West Stockbridge, MA. Daniela is a bilingual Equity actress with extensive experience in theater, tv, film, voice over, commercial and print work who is returning to work with WAM a second time – a part-time Albany resident and graduate of Siena College, she appeared in one of our 24 Hour Berkshire/Capital Region Theatre Projects. We are delighted to welcome her back and to take this opportunity to learn what attracted her to this role in this play.
WAM Theatre: Water by the Spoonful is a 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Quiara Alegría Hudes, and it is the second part of a trilogy about a young Marine, Elliot Ortiz, coming to terms with his time in Iraq and his father’s and grandfather’s service in Vietnam and Korea. What attracted you to this play and inspired you to audition for our Fresh Takes Reading?
Daniela Malave: I read the description of the play and was intrigued right away. A Iraqi veteran, family boundaries, addiction and redemption. I could tell right away that there would be many layers to explore. I then read Yasmin’s character breakdown “31, Hispanic, Elliot’s cousin and closest confidante. A professor of music, she is empathetic, smart, articulate and level headed. She bears the weight of her family’s struggles on her shoulders.” I immediately identified with her. I also liked that a Latina character was described as successful and intelligent. Unfortunately not that many roles for Latinas are written that way.
WAM: In this play, Elliot is coping with his own life struggles, as well as sharing those of the other members of an internet support group to which he belongs. You play Elliot’s main supporter, his patient, empathetic cousin Yasmin. Tell us about her…
Daniela: Her divorce made her realize what a parallel life she was leading. She describes going to her in-laws for New Year’s Eve and “sit there wishing she could scoop the blood out of her veins like you scoop the seeds out a pumpkin.” She was always torn between being the girl in the hood and an exceptional academic. She has a large amount of guilt for feeling like she was too good and above her family, but finds herself going back to her roots. She’s there for her cousin Elliot no matter what. Although she is there to support him, his company and presence helps distract her from her own heartache. She finds that even with the dysfunction, family is family and that is where she feels she is truly herself.
WAM: Is Yasmin typical of the roles in which you are usually cast?
Daniela: Comedy and improv are more of my forte. I always get cast as the funny girl, which I love. Lately I’ve been finding myself attracted to characters like Yasmin. There’s something very challenging and gratifying about dissecting characters who are flawed, and going through the emotional turmoil of coming to grips with who they are. Finding ourselves is something that we can all identify with. In the past, the vulnerability that comes with playing a role like Yasmin would really scare me as an actor, but now I find myself gravitating towards more dramatic pieces.
WAM: How do you think Yasmin fits into the overall themes of the play?
Daniela: The overall theme of Water by The Spoonful is that we can find redemption, love, grace, and companionship in unexpected places. In Yasmin’s speech to her class she explains that Coltrane “democratized the notes” and gave “ugliness” a dignified freedom. “Dissonance is still a gateway to resolution.” Amidst the chaos and the messiness in life is where we find our true selves, and there’s a lot of pride in that. She’s a reminder that redemption can begin by being accepting of one’s self. The place she tried so desperately to not be associated with is the place where she found herself again – her cultural roots, her neighborhood, her dysfunctional family. Through these characters’ bleak realities and harsh revelations, they all come to conclusion they can’t go through these things alone, they must seek help. Yasmin is Elliot’s voice of reason and support. There’s no way that he could’ve survived his trauma on his own, without her. She is the only one who does not have an addiction, but tragedy, loss and trauma can happen to anyone.
WAM: Tell us about your career and training.
Daniela: I was a dancer for many years. I really wanted to be a Knick’s City Dancer but found myself with a plethora of injuries. I knew that I wanted to continue in entertainment, so I went back to acting. I acted in middle school and high school but put it on the back burner. It wasn’t till I was cast in Ken Davenport’s, “The Awesome 80’s Prom,” that I knew I found my real calling. Through that show I found my love of improv and comedy. Soon after, I started studying at the Barrow Group with Seth Barrish and Lee Broch. They were the ones that taught me that I was enough, to stop acting and most importantly follow my impulses and instincts.
WAM: This is not the first time you’ve worked with WAM Theatre. What appeals to you about our company?
Daniela: Kristen van Ginhoven’s philosophy for WAM is one that I really respect and admire. Producing theatrical productions where women are at the center and proceeds are donated to organizations that benefit women and young girls. How could you NOT want to be part of WAM?! LOL! Kristen also gave me many wonderful opportunities that validated I was on the right path. I am forever grateful for her for that.