"The Other Mozart" is a suitcase play – one of those shows where a single actress can pack the entire contents that creates the setting – costume, wig, and props, and go anywhere in the world. It is the way Samantha Hoefer will arrive in Miami to present Sylvia Milo's one-woman play about Maria Anna Mozart, the not nearly as famous older sibling of that 18th century rock star Wolfgang Amadeus.
"The idea of portability is a way to reach more audiences," says Hoefer, who began performing the show in October 2015, alternating performances with Milo in an Off-Broadway run. Milo continues to tour the show, but now shares the part with Hoefer, who comes to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in four performances beginning Friday, April 13 through Sunday, April 15.
Billed as the forgotten story of Mozart's genius sister and musical prodigy, called Marianne and nicknamed, Nannerl, Milo based her play on many of the letters still in existence exchanged between the family. "Their father, Leopold, was writing back to whoever was left behind in Salzburg while he had the brother and sister on tour, and that is much of what the show recounts," says Hoefer. Through her research, Milo discovered that a young girl in the 1700s could perform and tour, but it would create for her a mark on her reputation, and therefore limit her chances for marrying. When she was 18, her father left her behind in Salzburg, only continuing to pursue Wolfgang's musical career.
The dress, as much a character in the play as Nannerl herself, is an 18-foot spectacle, which spills over the entire stage. Meant to help tell the story of the ghost of Nannerl, strewn on top of it are letters and sheet music. "Without giving away too much, there are a variety of props that are hidden in pockets and places in the dress that I use throughout the show," Hoefer reveals.
Designed by Magdalena Dabrowska from the National Theater of Poland with the dress concept created by Anna Sroka – the playwright is a native of Warsaw, where she had initially began the concept of "The Other Mozart" – is meant to show the restrictive world where Nannerl exists. Director Isaac Byrne later added another element to the dress, a corset which constrains Nannerl even further.
Not as constrictive, but just as challenging for Hoefer is commanding the stage solo for 85 minutes, but she says Milo has created a world where the actress doesn't feel as if she's going it alone. "There are multiple characters and voices, but there's also the audience. You want to entice them and hook them. She tells them her forgotten story."
Hoefer worked closely with Milo, but she was able to add her own personal touches and nuances to her portrayal. "Yes, it's much like seeing two different Hamlets, but the same show," she jokes.
What the actress also brings to "The Other Mozart" is another layer of opportunity for Milo's script. She's translated the play into German, with future sights set on the show to be produced in Germany and Austria. Hoefer has already performed her translation for two performances in German at The Players Theatre as part of "The Other Mozart's" off-Broadway run in 2016.
The German native has found a deep connection, not only to their kindred heritage, but to other aspects of Mozart's older sister. "Nannerl was confined by the societal conventions of her day," says Hoefer.
The actress, who appeared in the 2017 multiple Oscar nominated Netflix original film "Mudbound," felt her own pangs of discouragement when she announced her decision six years ago to change her career path, and move to New York City. "My family said: 'You're done law school and now you're leaving everything to pursue this passion?' Nannerl's story is about dreams and limits, and the prejudices that society imposes on us that we let get in our way. Audiences are both touched and heartbroken by the story, which, despite its setting centuries ago still has a very modern message. I would love for people to be encouraged by this story, and leave the theater feeling that they can pursue whatever it is they want."
"The Other Mozart" in the Black Box Theater at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center, 10950 S.W. 211 St., Cutler Bay; 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 13-April 15. Cost: $35; $5 tickets for ages 13-22 at www.cultureshockmiami.com; 786-573-5300 or www.smdcac.org.
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