Statera Member Spotlight: Andrea Prestinario

StateraArts Membership is growing fast! Since our official launch on January 1st, over 100 artist-activists have joined the StateraArts community! Our members come from all over the USA and all genres of art-making. They are educators, arts leaders, activists, content-creators, professional artists, early career, mid-career, patrons, and community organizers. The Statera Member Spotlight is just one way StateraArts uplifts and amplifies the voices of our members. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Andrea Prestinario.

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STATERA: What inspires your work most?
ANDREA PRESTINARIO:
First and foremost, my work is inherently inspired by a calling to use my gifts and voice to give back to the world. And secondly, my work is rooted in a foundational belief that being an artist has saved me. And I mean “saved” in a "I feel like I will implode when I can't express myself" way. My work is my release. My work is my life's purpose. I love the lyrics by songwriter Ani DiFranco: "Art is why I get up in the morning, but ya know, my definition ends there and it doesn't seem fair that I'm living for something I can't even define." It's all so undefined and ephemeral and magical and intense… but it's all inspiration to me.

SA: What is your occupation or calling in the arts?
AP: Actress / Singer / Producer / Community Organizer

SA: What does gender parity in the arts look like to you?
AP:
What I envision is a future where women and TGNC artists are valued equitably with the other half of the human race in this industry. In short - it looks like smashing the patriarchy. The first way we achieve this is through education: education of the white supremacist, patriarchal systems of power.  Have you heard the saying "fish don't know they're in water"? If you tried to explain it, they’d say, “Water? What’s water?” They’re so surrounded by it, that it’s impossible to see. They can’t see it until they get outside of it. The Honorable Hillary Clinton references it in her book What Happened in regards to patriarchy: some people can't see the structural systems in place because it's all-consuming and we're, er, swimming in it. And I think often about how the basic understanding of patriarchy is what hinders so many people from working against it. Once we understand it, we can work within the framework to dismantle it. As artists, we are resourceful and adaptable and we tell stories about humanity, so who better to achieve gender parity and dismantle these systemic power abuses than the arts industry?! 

SA: What do you love most about your artistic community?
AP:
I love my many artist circles because artists are resourceful, adaptable, creative, personable, entertaining, passionate, passionate, and passionate. I am obsessed with centering myself around people that feel their feelings and crackle and percolate at a high energy... it makes me feel alive. 

SA: What organizations are you affiliated with?
AP:
I'm the co-founder and Director of Operations of Ring of Keys - a national network of queer women, trans, and gender non-conforming artists working in musical theatre;  I am the Board Chair of National Queer Theater; I'm a member of my alma mater's Alumni Council for the Department of Theatre and Dance at Ball State University, I'm a 10-year card-carrying Member of Actors' Equity ...and I'm a member of Statera!


SA: Why did you become a STATERA member?
AP:
Because feminism and theatre have always been my two passions, and anytime I have the opportunity to see them existing at an intersection, it pumps me up! So in essence, Statera pumps me up! My personal mission aligns so well with Statera's: to use positive action to advocate for and amplify women and marginalized voices. Theatre has always been political, but in the musical theatre medium (which is the medium I work in primarily) a political ethos isn't necessarily at the forefront. Throughout my 20s, my passions felt very siloed: political activism in one corner, and musical theatre in another. And I feel like I spent most of my 20s searching for that intersection. There's been a surge of activism within theatre circles, which I feel has happened since the 2016 election, and it's the light in the Trumpian darkness. The Statera community has been one of those lights that I stumbled upon, and I'm grateful to be able to count myself as a member. 

SA: When did you feel most supported or championed by the women in your life?   
AP:
I'm fortunate to have a core group of 8 girlfriends from high school and we have remained strong for the last 20 years. I’m the only one working in the arts, but our friendship began in our high school theatre classes. From breakups to deaths to promotions to parenting - we have combated so many different life milestones together - it’s actually pretty remarkable. And despite our career, geographic, and lifestyle differences, they have still supported me throughout my career by championing me with their words and showing up to my performances all over the country. And I, in turn, champion them. I think it's actually really refreshing to have friendships outside of the business. And I think those friendships keep me grounded. 

SA: Tell us about your favorite project you've done thus far.
AP:
I have so many favorite productions that I've done, but I think Ring of Keys, as a whole, could be considered my favorite project. My co-founder and I launched Ring of Keys in January of 2018 as the solution to what we saw as a problem in casting and a lack of community. We were tired of feeling isolated as the token lesbian anytime we were in a production. I like to say musical theatre is gay but not queer, meaning: it’s representing cis gay male stories and artists, but what about the full spectrum of queer? Ring of Keys "strives to kick-(ball-change) the closet door open and reveal a vibrant, diverse musical theatre landscape for the future;" we want to queer the stage. As an arts service organization, we are about community and visibility and serve our mission through our Member Directory, located on our website, which operates as a hiring resource. Since our launch last year, we have grown from 3 members to 250+ Members all over the nation (as well as in Toronto and London!).

SA: Any upcoming projects you'd like to share with us? 
AP:
I've been working on and off on a documentary theatre piece about child-free womanhood. It focuses specifically on women in their 30s. It's an interview-based devised work that explores the theatricalized, tick-tock experience of being child-free - whether by choice, indecision, fertility trials, singledom, or a myriad of other experiences. I started working on this piece after a lot of research on "advanced maternal age" (the age of women over 35) when I was 35. I felt as though all of the women in my life were talking around this topic, but in private conversations. From a single friend who desperately wanted to have a child with a partner, to the married friend feeling indecisive about motherhood yet intensely urgent to make a choice, to myself (who is gay and has never wanted children). I personally have had to  defend this decision repeatedly against folks that treat motherhood as the default choice. It feels like something we need to be talking about as a community so we aren't wrestling with these choices alone. I'm currently collecting and transcribing interviews. Any person who feels they'd like to be interviewed for this project should contact me!

SA: Tell us about another woman or non-binary artist who inspires your work. 
AP:
I know this is probably cliché to say, but my girlfriend, Klea Blackhurst, inspires my work. She and I met doing a production of GYPSY, and she is such an inspiration for her insane talent, her resilience in the face of constant showbiz rejection, and her musical theatre knowledge! And a side note: I am sometimes full of rage that her name is not on top of every marquee in this city because she is such a star! She values curiosity most, and in our home we talk a lot about the importance of always maintaining this essential human characteristic: to be curious about the world - in people not like you, in interests outside of the arts, to even be curious in why you're not being curious! It's important to know the history of that which came before. It's important to ask why. That is our job as artists: to ask these questions and take it all in, and then express that humanity in our work. 

SA: Mentorship is at the core of the STATERA mission. Tell us about one of your mentors. How did they shape you or provide pathways for opportunity?
AP:
One of my earliest mentors is my friend Michelle. When I was 11, I was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Chicago Theatre with Donny Osmond and Michelle worked as a dresser. After the show closed (and because there was no internet yet), we became pen pals, and are dear friends still to this day. While I didn't know it at the time, Michelle, who is gay, told me in adulthood that what she saw in me was a gay kid growing up in the Midwest, and she wanted to make sure I had the support I may need as I grew up. It's incredibly emotional that she made the investment in me that she did. Not only was/is she a queer role model, but she has remained in the arts, and always has such sage advice for me within the business, about relationships, how to manage time... I can only hope to pay it forward someday.  


ABOUT ANDREA

Andrea Prestinario is an award-winning actress, singer, and activist who is NYC-based and Chicago-grown. Regional – Baltimore Center Stage: Fun Home (Alison); Weston Playhouse: Fun Home (Alison), Guys & Dolls (Sarah Brown); Asolo Rep: My Fair Lady (Eliza) dir. Frank Galati; A.C.T. San Francisco: 1776 (Martha) dir. Frank Galati; Paramount Theatre Aurora: RENT (Maureen), My Fair Lady (Eliza); Lyric Opera Chicago: Oklahoma! (Gertie) dir. Gary Griffin; Drury Lane Oakbrook: Gypsy (Louise), Curtains, Sugar, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Writers’ Theatre: Oh, Coward!; Boho Theatre Company: Side Show (Violet – Jeff Award, Leading Actress). Solo show – sMOkeyTOWN: The Songs of Smokey Robinson: Laurie Beechman, Mayne Stage Chicago, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Beverly Arts Center Chicago, Metropolis (Arlington Heights) Arts Center.
Education – BFA Ball State University (Musical Theatre), The School at Steppenwolf. Professional – Co-founder: Ring of Keys, a national network of queer women and TGNC artists working in musical theatre.
You can follow Andrea via her website www.andreaprestinario.com or on social media @andreaprestinario.