Tabula Rasa Artist Interview: Marques Hollie

Tenor Marques Hollie is creating the role of Duchamp in the world premiere of TABULA RASA, a new jazz opera by Felix Jarrar & Bea Goodwin that tells the story of model/muse Kiki de Montparnasse who decides to take her identity and her fate into her own hands.

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

Blue Building

222 E 46th St., NYC

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My father was in the Air Force for many years so I've lived all over the place, but NYC has been home for the last 6 years. I am unequivocally a dog person (Siberian Huskies are my fave), and I will always eat tacos, peanut butter, or pizza. I've been singing professionally for about 10 years and if I wasn't a musician I would probably be a lawyer (human rights/international criminal law) or economist.   

Your favorite place to get tacos? 

Taco Shop on West 4 - they have an incredible brunch special. 

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

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 didn't know much, if anything about Marcel Duchamp prior to Tabula Rasa, so my first act of preparation was reading up on him; his works, Dada, cubism, and especially his relationships to other Dada artists (such as Man Ray). So much of who the Dada guys really are in the show, is in relationship to one another. After reading up on him, and his work, I was able to start physicalizing him; thinking about how he walked, how he gestured, etc. Bringing this artist to life has been a blast!   

What was the most intriguing thing you learned about Duchamp and how does it inform your portrayal of him in this show?

Two things I find really intriguing about Duchamp: Thing 1 - after 1923, Duchamp effectively quit making art and turned his attention to chess. I say effectively because he worked on his final piece, Étant donnés, in secret from 1946 -1966 and, per his own wishes, the piece could not be viewed until after he died (1968) and has been in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's permanent collection since 1969.

Thing 2 - Duchamp had a pseudonym/alter ego/drag person named "Rrose Sélavy"; Duchamp modeled for Man Ray as Rrose throughout the 20's. In Tabula Rasa, we're playing with performative aspects of this alter ego which is a lot of fun! I'm not saying that I WILL be taking the stage as Rrose Sélavy at some point in the show, but I'm also not saying that I won't. ;) 

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

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

One of the things I love about working on new music, and stage works especially, is that they give us (both audiences and artists) the opportunity to explore fresh perspectives on who we are and how we relate to each other. Don't get me wrong, I love Bohème, Tosca, Carmen, all the old war horses, but even with "modern" staging, those operas and the characters in them are still bound by the era(s) they were created in, and "things change, Jo". There's also this immense feeling of pride in knowing the I helped bring a new work to life. Maybe pride isn't the right word, but it's a feeling adjacent to that and it's absolutely incredible. One of the challenges presented by new works is that, interpretation of the role(s), with guidance from the composer and stage director, is all on you. You don't have the benefit of hundreds of performances to watch/listen to see what's been done already.  

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

What is your greatest non-artistic achievement?

THIS IS A HARD QUESTION. But I guess my greatest non-artistic achievement is that I've been bike commuting regularly since 2010 and I have managed to avoid getting door dinged (I'm sure I just jinxed that record).  

What's the longest distance you've ever biked? And any tips for people who are thinking of biking around NYC?

On a particularly busy day of errand-running, I clocked about 18 miles and definitely felt it the next day. My primary biking tip (NYC, Tuscaloosa, Des Moines, anywhere) is WEAR A DANG HELMET! I see so many people zipping about the city without any kind of head protection and it makes me so nervous for them (Citi Bike users are by far the biggest offenders here).    

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Name a trashy TV show you secretly love.

Hrm. I don't really watch TV, and when I do, I feel like the quality is pretty high. That said, there are definitely some trashy movies I love, Clueless being somewhere near the top of that list. 

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

I hope people come to see Tabula Rasa because the story and the characters are compelling, the music is absolutely gorgeous, and the cast is out-of-this-world talented.