Maria Dizzia

Ted Sod: Where were you born and what made you decide to become and actress? Where did you get your training? Did you have any teachers who profoundly influenced you?
Maria Dizzia:  I was born in Belleville, NJ. I fell in love with acting one day in the third grade. I was in a summer arts program and we had spent the day doing improvisations. I was not very good at them—I would stand at the perimeter of the circle and ask the other actor a lot of questions. But I loved watching the kids who were good at it. I wanted to learn how to do that and be free and surprise myself and other people. I got my training at UCSD in their MFA program. The most influential teacher I had was Bob Pridham, my acting teacher in high school. He has a vision for actors and the theater—he loves Greek drama—the size, importance and ritual of it and he imported that sensibility into his other work. Spare with big gestures. He helped me see acting as both art and work—the work was the service you paid to the text and to the audience, the art was your interpretation, your point of view—what will that look like?

TS: Why did you choose to play the role of Sharon in Steven Levenson’s If I Forget? What do you think the play is about?
MD: I wanted to play Sharon primarily because I love Steven’s work. I’ve known him for a long time and wanted to have the chance to be in the same room with him for awhile. I feel that way about Dan Sullivan, too. I’ve seen so many of the productions he’s directed. So many different kinds of stories that he’s brought to life and I wanted to learn from him—to learn from the questions he asks. The role of Sharon, in particular, because she has so many feelings and has a hard time expressing them. I think in a lot of ways she is conflict-averse, but ends up feeling backed into a corner and getting very upset. The play is about whatever the people watching it think it’s about. Really, I don’t mean that in a flippant way. It’s about family and identity and culture and history and those topics are so personal. It’s about what it means to care—it’s about betrayal and loyalty. And about the ultimate betrayal—time. Do you feel that the passage of time is your friend—does it heal all wounds? Is it a relief that ”this too shall pass” or does it make our lives meaningless. And if time betrays us, does that set the terms for us all? Can we create something in spite of the threat of being erased or are we doomed to betray—to misinterpret, to ignore, to forget.

TS: What kind of preparation or research do you have to do before rehearsals begin in order to play this role?  
MD: I have to learn more about Judaism. I don’t know Hebrew, I don’t know a lot of the stories of the Torah and I’m excited to read them and begin to study the way I believe Sharon is studying. I have to read the play every day to learn about the family dynamics and make sure I know their history.

Larry Bryggman and Maria Dizzia in rehearsal for IF I FORGET. Photo by Jenny Anderson.

TS: How is this character relevant to you?  I realize the rehearsal process hasn’t begun yet, but can you share some of your initial thoughts about who your character is with us? What do you find most challenging/exciting about this role?
MD: What I find most challenging about Sharon is that she has been living near the threshold for so long. She was with her mother through her hospice and death, and now she is with her father as his health declines. She’s been standing at the door between life and death for so many years. I think that’s a hard place to be. I think the reality of it is overwhelming and relentless and a person needs to cope somehow.

TS:  At the early stage in your work, how do you understand Sharon’s relationship to her siblings and her father?
MD: I think Sharon is devoted to her family. Preserving her family’s history is a way to honor the people who have shaped her. I think she has her own rules, however, about who is family and who isn’t. She’s the youngest and didn’t get to bond with her siblings when they were younger. They were already older and had their own sibling culture by the time she showed up. I think she feels a bit on the outside and wants desperately to be in the heart of it. She kind of is the heart now as first the primary caretaker of her mother and, currently, of her father. Maybe she sees herself as the new matriarch. I think about the line from August: Osage County: “I am running things now!” Sharon might like that, but she’s a little more dependent on others.

Maria Dizzia in rehearsal for IF I
. Photo by Jenny Anderson.

TS:  What do you look for from a director when working a new play?  What do you look for from the playwright?
MD: From the director, I look for support and clarity. Support in the way of nurturing things he can see, but that aren’t fully formed yet. And clarity in terms of saying what isn’t working. What things should be dropped to make way for behaviors that are more dynamic and truthful. In the playwright, I look for insights about where the characters and ideas came from. Guidance about what things are most important to a character.

TS: How do you keep yourself inspired as an artist?
MD: I try to pay attention to things. I try to learn new things. I look at art and watch movies and talk to people I like.

TS: Students reading this interview and will want to know what it takes to be a successful actress  -- what advice can you give young people who say they want to act?
MD: Believe in yourself. Which is such a hard thing to do and so confusing because who is yourself anyway. I think it’s the most important thing, though, because it contains the idea that we are a work in progress. I don’t think it means unconditionally love everything you do. I think the belief part means you are not there yet. You are believing you can achieve something so, therefore, you are in the process of building it. So, I think the self you are believing in is the self that wants to learn, that is curious, that wants to do something it doesn’t have proof of yet. This is becoming a weird answer. I mean believe in yourself and keep learning. Take classes, study films and plays, learn about people, read a lot. Take all the opportunities that come your way and learn from them. One of my favorite quotes I read in Backstage Magazine—I don’t know if they still print quotes in the magazine like they did when it had more of a newspaper format—but it’s Thomas Edison’s: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

If I Forget is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, If I Forget, Upstage

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Just Announced: 2017-2018 Off-Broadway Season

Posted on: January 29th, 2017 by Roundabout


Off-Broadway 2017-2018

We are thrilled to announce a line-up of all new work Off-Broadway, including two commissions by Roundabout Underground alumni Lindsey Ferrentino (Ugly Lies the Bone) and Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews, Significant Other). As part of the Underground’s mission, each participating playwright receives a commission for a new play, demonstrating a level of commitment to writers’ careers and the future of theatre in New York that is unparalleled.

The 2017-2018 Off-Broadway season at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre will feature the New York premiere of:

  • The Last Match by Anna Ziegler, directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch
  • Amy and the Orphans by Lindsey Ferrentino, directed by Scott Ellis
  • Skintight by Joshua Harmon, directed by Daniel Aukin

Roundabout’s Underground two-play 2017-2018 season will include Too Heavy for Your Pocket by Jiréh Breon Holder, recipient of the 2017 Laurents / Hatcher Foundation Award.

For more information, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, Roundabout News

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If I Forget

The world premiere of If I Forget marks the third time that Roundabout is bringing Steven’s work to the stage. I would say third time’s the charm, but frankly, our first two outings with this gifted artist (2008’s The Language of Trees and 2013’s The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin) were nothing short of charmed themselves. Steven was only the second playwright ever produced in our Roundabout Underground program, and to have this ongoing relationship with him as his career and work continue to grow has been incredibly rewarding. We’re particularly proud to be debuting this play in the same season that features Steven’s Broadway debut as the librettist for the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen. He’s come a long way from our Black Box in a very short time!

Steven has never shied away from taking on the major issues of the day in his plays, and If I Forget is no different. Treading into sensitive territory, this play asks us to really look at the America we were before 9/11, the way that American Jews have or have not assimilated, and the attitude of this country towards Israel. I think it’s fair to say that these are not issues on which everyone in the audience will share the same opinion, but the questions that Steven brings up go far beyond these specific areas of debate.

The play asks us to consider the larger question of history and our obligation to it. We so often say that we must learn history to keep ourselves from repeating its mistakes, but, as one character argues, can’t history itself become a burden? Can history prevent us from moving forward into the future? Through the lens of one particular family, Steven will ask us to examine what it really means to leave behind a legacy, and the emotional carnage that can come from choosing self-preservation over tradition.

If I Forget is sure to provoke discussion, which is exactly what a great new play should do. I am so thrilled by Steven’s work, under the direction of the great Daniel Sullivan, and I can’t wait to share it with you. I am eager to hear your reactions to it, so please continue to email me at I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!


Todd Haimes
Artistic Director/CEO

If I Forget is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, If I Forget

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