Christina was born in Bangalore, India. She received her BA in Medieval History with Distinction (Magna Cum Laude) from Yale University. She also studied at the Universite de Paris, Sorbonne. Christina eft the academic life after Yale, and studied acting with Anna Devere Smith at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre, before being accepted to The Juilliard School's prestigious Drama Division. After graduating from Juilliard, she acted extensively in regional theatre, including the Williamstown Theatre Festival (MA), Asolo Center (FL), Syracuse Stage (NY), and others. She also appeared off-Broadway with The New Group in Halfway Home.
Broadway: Coram Boy. Off Broadway: Eternal, House for Sale, The Duchess of Malfi, Tom Ryan Thinks He’s James Mason…, Halfway Home, Three Tall Women.
National Tour: Three Tall Women, The Laramie Project, and The LaramieProject: Epilogue.
Regional: McCarter: Tartuffe, A Christmas Carol; Yale Rep:The Black Dahlia, Tartuffe, Romeo and Juliet; Long Wharf : Our Town, Pera Palas, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Guthrie: Hamlet, Hedda Gabler; Old Globe:Vita and Virginia; La Jolla Playhouse: Continental Divide; Kennedy Center; Three Tall Women; Alliance Theater: Spinning Into Butter; Williamstown Theater Festival: Death Takes a Holiday, Ad Wars, Inherit the Wind, Marat/Sade; Westport Country Playhouse: The Circle, Dancing at Lughnasa; Center Stage: Permanent Collection; Playmakers Repertory: Cymbeline; Portland Stage Company: The Importance of Being Earnest; and many others.
Film: Ned Rifle, I Dream Too Much, MacGruber, Taking Chance, Fur, The Skeptic, Crazy Like a Fox, Winter Solstice, Herman U.S.A.
Television: Billions, The Good Wife, Elementary, Blue Bloods, Law and Order (recurring), Sex and the City, New York Undercover, All My Children, and One Life to Live.
Where were you born?
Where do you work/live?
New York City.
What fuels your desire to act?
My initial desire to act came from an intense wish to use my whole self in whatever work I was doing. I had been working very hard on my intellectual life as a student at Yale, majoring in History, trying to be the person my father wanted me to be. I came to a powerful realization that my whole self wouldn’t be involved in my work if I pursued an academic career. Acting (casually in school plays, etc.) had always been very gratifying to me because I got out of my head, forgot myself for a while and connected with other people in a way that was unique in my experience.
As I went on with my acting training, I realized that what really fueled my desire to act was my curiosity about what it really means to be human; my desire to dig underneath the shells that we all wear and see what was common to all of our experience. I felt as if there were moments when actors on stage could be courageous and skilled and crazy enough to unearth some nugget of truth about what our souls are made of and hold it forward for all of us to see in a way that allowed us as viewers and auditors of that moment to recognize and hopefully retrieve part of our humanity - a part that might have been forgotten until that moment. I wanted to be able to find that courage in myself and use it for that kind of coming together - for that kind of- if you’ll pardon the word-healing.
The best thing about being an artist is...
I think the best thing about being an artist is that you’re awake to the world, you notice things, you seek out what is specific and unique to people and situations and no person and no experience you come across is dismissible. Everything in your life can feed your work if you can figure out how to
fashion it properly. It means living with a sensitivity to life which is also, on the flip side, often difficult and painful. But nothing is lost.
The biggest obstacle to working with self is...
Well, self. Like so many riches it is, of course, paradoxical. I am certainly my own biggest obstacle. The voices in my head, the limitations I put on myself before I was even conscious enough of myself to know I was doing it, the assumptions I make about myself, the internal pressure and expectations I create, the comparisons I fall prey to - these are all things that keep me from being able to fly as freely as I want to. But they are also the gritty, grimy parts of me that give me texture and make me flawed and real. I dream about a time when I won’t be weighed down by them, but I don’t think
such a time could ever come about. They are my dragons and I have to make enough room in my heart for them to stay - I just need good tools to get them to sit still and shut up when it’s absolutely necessary.
What advice would you give self at the very beginning of your training and professional career?
I think the first thing I would try to teach my younger self would be to stop trying to figure out what other people want me to be, even when it comes to a specific audition or project. The question “What are they looking for?” is nebulous and useless for an actor to think about. Most of the time they don’t know. Stand strong in your own specificity, be true to what is uniquely you. There will be many forces trying to pull you away from this commitment but holding fast to it is one of the most powerful things you can do in a culture that fears difference and it is the only truly creative choice
you can make.
Are there any rituals you've created that help you "face avoidance" that plauges any artist occasionally? Can you describe what works for you?
I pray a good deal. For me, the act of prayer is my way of giving up. It’s an act of asking for help, turning something over to God and saying “I can’t do this by myself and I’m scared and I’m afraid I suck and I’m not up for this or I don’t really have any idea how to move forward” and then I just ask for help. I take the weight off my own shoulders to produce anything and I ask someone/thing else to help me.
And for me as an actor, anyway, this is always helpful, because what I really need is to be present in the moment I’m in, not “figure out” anything really. I mean, I do my homework and I look at beats in a scene and I think about character, etc. But when I’m actually going to get up and act something I have to get out of the way and let something else come through me. That means that I have to give up and not try and trust that something will happen to me - and it will because there
will be another person there and they will affect me. But I have to go through the process of actively giving the responsibility of making anything happen over to someone else. That creates the freedom for me not to do anything, which is always when everything happens.
What other art form do you connect to? How does this craft/discipline help you in your work?
I connect with dance a lot and also with writing, particularly fiction and poetry. I did some work in the dance division at Juilliard at the very end of my time there and it was so interesting and helpful for me. After talking so much about “moving out of your comfort zone” or “taking a leap” internally
in our acting classes, it was really great for me to have to take a literal leap and work with other dancers who were so much more skilled than I was. It was a great exercise in limiting my critical voice, controlling my expectations, allowing myself to be who I was instead of a great dancer, and
stepping away from language and into a whole other kind of expression - which is present in acting, of course, but not its essence. I was terrified most of the time and it was really good. I also just marvel at people who can write such a correct naming of human experience as some of the poets whom I love are able to do. I often find a name for my feelings or longings when I read poetry that I never find in any other form.
Describe effective techniques you use to increase your focus/productivity when working on a project?
For me, it’s very important for me to be “in” my body when I start to work on a piece. Even if we’re sitting around the table at the early stages of rehearsal. An actor’s subconscious is so important to access. For me, that happens only when I’ve connected with myself physically, have reminded myself that I have a body, that I’m living in it right now and that it has a lot of important information to give me about where I am. So stretching, meditating, vocalizing, getting myself connected to that ‘whole self’ I talked about way back - all this is very important.
Sometimes I also need to actively separate from all the other things that are weighing on me about my life before I go into a work session; children, husband, family, schedule, finances, plans, future, etc. It doesn’t feel so much like making clear space in myself for character as it does a kind of returning to ‘neutral availability’ - bringing myself into the work in as open and unencumbered a way as possible. Sometimes I have to do that several times in the course of one day. Life interferes and needs to be told to wait, from time to time.
How do you reward yourself for a job well done?
Wow, that’s hard. Do I ever feel that I’ve done a job well? I mean I do, but I’m also painfully aware of what could be better/different/more interesting, etc. I think I need to practice this!! Thank you so much for asking. It’s making me realize that I don’t really do this at all. I think I should begin by
talking to myself. I know that sounds a little kooky, but I think if I could hear myself say “Christina, I’m proud of you - I think you did really well tonight” and stopped it there without going on to suggest future improvements, I think that would be HUGE for me. I’m going to try it! And then maybe I’ll
take a nice, long bath with some fancy bath salts and drink a really good glass of wine.
In 2016, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2016.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2016
ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order.
Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.