Interview: The World's A Stage With Eleanore Pienta 


She has given herself a name in films such as See You Next Tuesday and Unspeakable Act, but the journey Eleanore Pienta is about to embark on is unfamiliar territory. The 27-year-old actress has created a one-woman show titled HAPPY, running in NYC’s Under St. Marks Theater this Thursday, January 23rd through the 25th, and the idea is so crazy that it might just work. The hard work Eleanore has put into this play is something that she herself does not shy away from speaking about, yet don’t expect her to describe the process as anything but “fun.” Not to be fooled by the title, HAPPY is meant to evoke more than just one emotion from the audience, and from herself as well.

This is just the beginning for Eleanore, after having worked in both dance and film productions, her expedition into theatre is both natural and much anticipated. Her sense of humor about life and all it has to offer is what makes Eleanore Pienta a unique set of eyes and ears as a creator. With all that said, her inspiration for her show is simple: it’s life.

Looking at your reel on Vimeo, of the various projects you’ve done this far, it seems as if you have accomplished so much at such a young age. How old are you, when did you begin your career as a thespian, and what inspired you to get into this field?
[Laughs] that reminds me, I need to update my reel. Thank you for saying that, I'm 27 and I feel like, "Holy shit, what the fuck are you doing? Get your shit together." But if I take a step back, I'm doing alright. Or I just look younger than I am, and now you're thinking, "Yeah girl, get your shit together." I think when I was in high school I realized I wanted to perform. I didn't know what form that would take; I was always attracted to film and getting lost in a story and really feeling for the characters. I would go home after watching a movie and still be crying, and I would use the tears to make up my own scenario and play it out. Getting into another character was something I was always doing. I didn't really go out in high school; instead I would play with make up and costumes and talk to myself in the mirror. Freakshow! Listen, I hung out with people, but I enjoyed hanging out with myself just as much as hanging out with other people.

I have a nagging suspicion that this upcoming show is a bit more moody than the upbeat emotion that it is named after would lead us to believe. What’s the inspiration for HAPPY? Please explain the concept of the show a bit more.
The title "HAPPY" came from the first video I'm going to show called Shine, which is about four-minutes long and is divided up into chapters. I made it about a year ago and it was the first video I made after my dad died. So there are a couple tears in that footage, and as I was editing the footage and making the title cards for each chapter, the word "HAPPY" appeared right next to the image of me crying. As soon as I saw that juxtaposition, I thought "what a heartbreaking coincidence" and took a screenshot of it. Shortly thereafter I knew that was going to be the title of the show, even though the show did not yet exist. The show weaves itself in and out of live performance and video pieces. I'm trying to capture moments and curiosities, which I think is indebted to my dad. My dad was always curious, and always looking at things with a different odd perspective. And I get a lot of my humor from that. So the word "HAPPY" abutting an image of a girl crying is heartbreakingly funny to me. My family always uses humor to deal with life, even the hard stuff. And to me, the most interesting comedy comes from a very real, genuine place and often a sad place.

Speak a little bit about the different hats that you wore when putting the show together. I can just imagine that you were very much involved in everything from pre-production to promotion. Talk a bit about the process of putting the show together.
I pretty much wore all the hats. Aside from the lighting hat, my good friend Manny Psihountas will be in the sound/lighting booth. Drew Beattie has been an incredible consultant on all things visual and beyond. He's been my sounding board on a lot of the ideas going into this show. All of the videos that I'm showing I shot and edited, as well as starred in. And they sort of guided the structure of the show. I knew I had the videos I wanted to show, and so I used some characters from the videos to come up with the live portions. And once I had enough material it was a fun curation of flow. Seeing what worked together and what didn't, how to transition into and out of each piece.

Do you have a specific idea of success for the show? How do you imagine it all playing out at the Under St. Marks Theater? Oh man. I think if I'm happy after the run, I'll feel it was successful. I can be critical, so we'll see. I chose Under St Marks Theater because it's so intimate. Live performance is so much about the energy exchange between the audience and performer. When you're in a more intimate space, it's easier to pick-up the vibe of the audience which informs you of the tweaks you have to make for each piece and for changing audiences.

Performing a one-woman show sounds like a daunting undertaking. How do you feel about it?
Oh my god, I wake up every other morning thinking "What the fuck am I doing?" It's terrifying. I've wanted to incorporate my videos into a live show for years. I didn't know what form it would take and in what kind of space, but finally, it's like, do the thing you're aching to do.

Who do you look up to, and why?
My mom and dad because they are spectacular, kind, and funny. My grandma too; the strongest lady I've known. And Steve Martin.

Name your favorite theatrical productions or films. What make them so impactful to you?
One performance from awhile back was Tamy Ben Tor's at Zach Feuer Gallery, it was part of the show called Disembodied Archetypes. She makes up characters, and plays them out. The content of her work is politically driven often, but the commitment and absurdity of her characters is what makes that work. And it cracks me up. I also recently saw Beyoncé, and again, that commitment and follow-through is incredible. NOT TO MENTION THOSE LEGS!!!!! HEYO! I mean, I truly love watching any talented performer. Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine comes to mind. With any great performance, you get lost in it; it's thrilling.

What else have you currently got in the works?
I'm part of the dance comedy troupe COCOON CENTRAL DANCE TEAM, which consists of myself, Tallie Medel, and Sunita Mani. We perform around NYC regularly and are currently finishing a series of videos called REHEARSAL.The film I was in, See You Next Tuesday, is still in the film festival circuit and will have a theatrical and digital release in the spring. I was just cast in a new Bob Byington feature co-starring Jason Schwartzman that begins shooting in February, so I'll have to switch gears immediately after HAPPY. And I will also be making a music video for "BRAAINZZ."

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