James Blaszko is a first-generation American, raised in a Polish-Pakistani household. He directs and choreographs multidisciplinary productions that range from large-scale Greek adaptation to site-specific solo performance. In Boston, he worked as a Creative Producer for ArtsEmerson/Howlround and made his professional directing debut at the American Repertory Theatre (Cyclops: A Satyr Play). James now resides in Harlem, where he develops new plays at Dojo Theatre Company (It’s Not About My Mother, High Mantis) and supports work at the intersection of opera, theatre, and dance. James has worked with Harlem Stage, Big Dance Theatre, Concrete Temple Theatre, |the claque|, Bronx Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera Omaha, and visual artist Jeff Stark.
Where were you born?
I was born in New Britain, Connecticut.
Where do you live/work?
I currently live in NYC but travel around the country for work.
What fuels your desire to act/create?
Everything around me fuels my desire to create. I strive to make work that reflects, celebrates, and interrogates the world in which we live, and I best understand that world by experiencing it firsthand. My curiosity and intrigue for the unknown has taken me down bizarre and exciting paths, and I am consistently inspired by the diverse lives and stories I encounter along the way. There is so much beauty in the world, and inviting it into my own life is inspirational to my work.
The best thing about being an artist is...
Sharing your work with others. There is something so very human in telling stories with friends and strangers alike, and in live arts you get to create these shared moments in the same space. Exploring something beautiful, tragic, joyous, or downright confusing—it’s something many don’t often make the time for in their daily lives.
The biggest obstacle in working with self is?
The biggest obstacle in working with myself (and for myself) is time and self-doubt. Generating work can be extremely personal, and to share something that you are so vehemently passionate about with others can be terrifying. I am so very passionate about the work I create, and sometimes there is simply not enough time in the day to bring every idea to life. Patience is an incredible tool for artists that I am still grappling with on a day-to-day basis.
What advice you would give self at the very beginning of your training and professional career?
I don’t have to go very far back as I am still in my early career, but I would continue to yell “BE PATIENT!” to myself.
Are there any rituals you created to help you "face avoidance" that plagues any artist occasionally? Would you describe what works for you?
This may not be considered a ritual, but I find that fitness keeps my body motivated and focused in a realm outside of theatre making. The two are inevitably related to one another, but by working out five times a week, I take an hour or two out of my day to get out of my head and engage with my body.
Talk about a piece of work that you experienced recently (could be a book, theatre, film, etc...) that moved you and how it found its place in your your work?
A few months ago, I saw The Foundry Theatre’s production of O, EARTH in New York and was completely swept away. The piece pulls from Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” but completely deconstructs its themes of home and identity through a fabulously queer lens. It was almost epic in scale—encompassing decades of history, pop culture, and politics—and connected with me in such a profound way. My work often mutates out of a classic text for a modern audience, and to witness a production that did this so brilliantly was a treat.
What other art form do you connect to? How does this craft/discipline help you in your work?
Music as a stand-alone art form is a constant influence in my work. I often sound design my own theatre pieces because the sonic world of the play holds so much weight in terms of how an experience is crafted. I also love sculpture. In working with designers I imagine the physical world of the play as less of a “setting” and more of an extension of what the show is about. Sculpture inspires me to think of theatre design as an installation.
Describe your ritual or productive day at work?
The workday of a freelance director is difficult to describe because it is different every day. I suppose, though, that this is what makes it most exciting for me. Whether in rehearsal or not, there are always new ideas bouncing around in my head and the heads of my collaborators. To me, a productive day at work is touching on each of the various projects I’m developing, going to the gym, and leaving rehearsal having learned something new from my actors and designers.
Describe effective techniques you use to increase your focus/productivity when working on a project?
It’s hard to describe a technique when my focus and productivity on a project of my own is channeled through my obsession with the piece. I spend every day familiarizing myself with the text, the music, the themes…everything. In a way, I day dream about its potential when in production, and finding the time to do this while also remaining focused on the more technical realities of creating a show is very important to me.
How do you reward self for a job well done?
I’m not sure if I’ve reached a point where I rightfully reward myself for a job well done, but my satisfaction comes from the audiences who see it. My productions are meant to be seen and experienced by those uninvolved with its creation—everything we do is for the audience. To see a patron leave a production of mine somehow changed is reward enough.
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.