Tabula Rasa Artist Interview: Frank D. Fainer

Singer and actor Frank D. Fainer is originating the role of Man Ray in the world premiere of TABULA RASA, a new jazz opera by Felix Jarrar & Bea Goodwin that tells the feminist story of one of the most iconic women of 1920s Paris who was immortalized, in part, by Man Ray's camera: Kiki de Montparnasse.

May 4, 5, 11, and 12th @ 8pm

Blue Building

222 E 46th St., NYC

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I was born in Seattle and I like the rain. I grew up learning three languages - English, Spanish, and Paraguayan Guaraní - and now I speak two - English and Spanish. (Sorry Guarani!) I love learning new things about human behavior and food. And I'm excited to go to Canada for the first time this summer!

All of the characters in Tabula Rasa are based on actual historical figures. What did you know about your character prior to working on Tabula Rasa, and how did you go about preparing the role?

I've seen the violin back photo before. Haha I really enjoyed finding what I could on the internet and some books filled with Man's art.

 Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

What's the most interesting thing you've learned about Man in your research?

I found that in my research for Man, I started to feel a certain way about who he was. After Bea met with Timothy Baum, a friend of Man Ray, I found out that Man was often misunderstood. Man was a socially awkward and anxious guy and this led to many misinterpretations that are apparently still being made... I'm exhibit A. I felt ashamed to have come to conclusions that I had no knowledge of and vowed to stay more open and to not get in the way of my curiosity like that. So thanks, Man.

The most interesting thing you've learned about one of the other characters in the opera?

Sara Lin was kind enough to share that Kiki, when she struggled with addiction and homelessness later in her life, would visit the elderly and bring them gifts. This touched me and I'm very thankful Sara shared this with me.

 Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

You and Sara Lin, who is originating the role of Kiki, are a real-life couple. What has it been like working on this opera together?

It's much like anything else we work on, together or not. If I have questions about what I'm doing or input about what she's doing, I feel comfortable enough to approach her. I hope she feels the same way. (I think she does.)

 Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

What are some of the rewards of working on a new work? What are the challenges?

The biggest reward is bringing something to life for the first time. I'm making all the final decisions of what's going into Man's character for the first time and that's so fun! That's also the biggest challenge. There's no one else to listen to or pull ideas from for the role.

 Recording "Phonies" by Felix Jarrar and Bea Goodwin. Photo courtesy of Felix Jarrar.

Recording "Phonies" by Felix Jarrar and Bea Goodwin. Photo courtesy of Felix Jarrar.

What as your previous experience with new music before Tabula Rasa?

I've sung two pieces by Felix & Bea. One is called "Phonies" which is about various assassins that had strong connections to the JD Salinger novel about Rye bread or something like that. The other is a song called "Tina" from their fantastic song cycle Songs of the Soul Beams. Tina is about chemsex. Wow, thinking back on all of this makes me realize how Felix & Bea know how to write stories for the whole family!

What is your greatest non-artistic achievement?

I was ranked #1 academically in my first quarter of high school.

Name a trashy TV show you secretly love.

Rick and Morty

In one sentence, why do you hope people come to see Tabula Rasa?

I want people to have some catchy tunes stuck in their heads and Tabula Rasa has just that.