I prefer They centric pronouns. or being referred to as human or person. That’s how I make reference to my own self. I don’t always correct people when they use other pronouns with me, because to me, they’re all correct and they are all incorrect, if that makes sense, and I don’t always want to take on the big conversation that can be required when it happens. Which isn’t to say I don’t or won’t take on the big convo, it can just be exhausting or unsafe at times. Some folks don’t require that big conversation or engage in it with me in a way that is respectful and safe, and those people are whom I’ll inform the most readily. I do hope to expand the awareness of how I identify and do identify as such openly.
2) Where can we find your work?
You can most often find my work on a stage somewhere somehow. Hopefully more so on film/tv in the future as well. I’ve acted in regionally in the Bay Area, Chicago, Vermont, and Montreal and have spent 15 years working with many of NYC’s indie, experimental, and developmental theatre companies. A performance I did in Times Square for visual artist Liz Magic Laser was filmed and showed at the Venice Biennale, as well as other galleries around the world. I’ve also been in a feature film and a couple short films, have worked behind the scenes on a few web series, and have produced a few cabaret events. I’ve written and directed a number of works for the stage, had a residency for a while at They Nuyorican with my collaborator Nidia Medina, and most recently had pieces performed at NY Madness and Theatre Breaking Through Barriers. I have staged the violence for productions Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, regionally, and for various theatre training programs and institutions. I’m hoping to workshop and produce my two full length plays in the next year. They’re called “Private Catholic Mixtape ’89-’01” and “a priori a posteriori.”–both take place in the Bay Area where I’m from, so though I will do development of them here in NYC, I hope to also work on them/present them back home. I’m also researching what will possibly be a trilogy play about the life of photographer/activist Tina Modotti. And I’ve been writing a ten episode TV series called “Atlantic Pacific” for the last couple years.
3) What themes or ideas do you feel your work engages with?
My work tends to veer towards the liminal. Towards the marginalized and the traumatized, the freaks and the geeks. This tends to be the case for most of my acting work, and most definitely in my writing/directing. There is almost always some kind of gender-fuckery being explored in my own writing. I like being subversive not just in terms of content but with structure. Tones and styles can shift dramatically in one piece and my writing tends to be multi-lingual and multi-disciplinary. And it’s incredibly important to me to reflect the diversity of people and communities that have been a part of my life and that I feel represent the kind of world I want to live in and that have helped me become the person I am. My play Private Catholic Mixtape is about growing up alienated and bullied in the Columbine/No Child Left Behind era under the odd and hypocritical strictures of Catholic schooling (at a Bay Area High School so famous for its sports team that it got its own Hollywood movie). My other full length play “a priori a posteriori’ deals with gender/sexual fluidity, the prison that adhering to the binary can be, living with panic disorder and the process of healing from multi-fold trauma.
4) What part, if any, do you think art plays in times of political duress?
A visual artist that I love once said “Art is the only thing that matters.” In the musical Passing Strange by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, there’s a line that goes “Life is a mistake that only art can correct.” I like to tell my students that everything, when it comes down to it, is storytelling. There’s not a thing we learn that isn’t through some form of it. Politics is itself its own kind of it. So to me art matters greatly, and is the most essential thing we have in our arsenal to fight the powers that be,because as you July have said and advocate in your own work: art is the archival of human experience. Therefore, art is essential during an era of political duress because it is recording and reflecting the trauma we are experiencing and allowing us to contextualize and process it before we are able to fully understand it. It gives us a way to hold onto ourselves and who we really are, and not what we’re being told we are and how to be. Art is inherently revolutionary because it appeals to more than just one intelligence, and is a language that connects us all and that proves we are all one, and that there is no “other.” It also inherently proves that we are each other’s teachers, and we must be aware of and accountable for what we are teaching. It gives us a way to communicate and appeal to the higher vibrations of all humans, and like Kali Destroyer, fights to destroy ego. Healing takes time, as does the artistic process, and trauma’s main attack is to eliminate one’s true memories and experiences and replace them with fear, which is always lie. Art allows us to restore those feelings, those memories, and have access to ourselves, our courage, our integrity, and our imaginations. Without imagination we can’t have hope, and those without hope we can too easily be controlled.
5) Can you remember the first piece of art– performance, literary, fine, street–you saw/read that wowed you?
The first piece of art that wowed me was Mary Poppins. I watched it almost daily for many years in my childhood.
6) Tell us a story
Some with influence decided that the aliens were unwelcome. (Crunchy types who smelled of cigarette ash, stale 7up whisky, and sweaty neglected crevices). I found their arrival to be graceful. Warranted. On a cold November evening, we stood in lines to greet them. None of us knowing what to expect. There was a rumor going around that they had only stopped to use the restroom. That Earth was a pit stop on a more important journey. Perhaps they would buy a bag of chips and some soda. Some jerky, maybe. Fill up their tanks and carry on. There were those in line expecting revelation, abduction, seduction and such. Back in their sterile rooms, the crunchy types, faced with an imminent and profound sense of inadequacy, planned variations of a similar war. The dying beast puts up a hideous fight, they say, and boy how. As it turns out, the aliens had always been here. This was their planet before it was ours. And like the bigfoot, we had driven them into hiding. And the reason for their reveal was a mere lack of volition to hide any longer. Their integrity could no further allow for obscurity. We received this information as a telepathic download, moments before the nukes dropped. And we few who survived, draw this story on cave walls. So that we may remember how it all ended, and how it all began.
Nico Grelli is an award winning actor/writer/director, originally from San Francisco, and currently residing in Brooklyn. Nico is also a musician, fight and dance choreographer, and a frequent teaching artist with Epic Theatre Ensemble, The 52nd St Project, and The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. You can find out more at www.nicgrelli.com.