Alexandra Silber: Interview with the performer, teacher and author

Alexandra Silber was born in Los Angeles, California and raised outside of Detroit, Michigan. Her education started at Interlochen Center for the Arts and continued when she went to college at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. Just days after she graduated with a degree in acting, she made her West End debut in London, at the age of 21, as Laura Fairlie in The Women in White.

Alexandra Silber's American theater debut was as the role of Julie Jordan in Carousel, a role that she had also performed in London. Her performance in Los Angeles had received a nomination for an Ovation award.

The role of the Young Wife in Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again was her first performance in New York City; Alexandra Silber won the Drama League Award for her role in this production. Playing opposite Tyne Daly in Master Class, a play by Terrence McNally, Silber made her Broadway debut in 2011. From 2015 to 2016, she performed as the eldest daughter, Tzeitel, in Fiddler on the Roof.

Not only did she performed in musicals and plays, Alexandra Silber made her Carnegie Hall debut singing the role of Nina, in a concert performance of Songs Of Norway. Nominated for her role of Maria in West Side Story, opposite Cheyenne Jackson, Silber also performed at the Grammys in 2014.

After Anatevka, her first book follows Hodel after she gets on the train to Siberia in Fiddler on the Roof. The upcoming memoir, White Hot Grief Parade, will discuss the struggle of losing her father to cancer when she was 18 and comes out July 3, 2018.

Her work as a playwright adapting Greek Tragedies into modern language has been commissioned by Dutch Kills Theater. Antigone by Sophocles premiered at the National Opera Center in New York City. The second play, an adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, was given a full stage performance at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York in June 2015.

Silber has been on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as Vanessa Conway (2011), Law & Order as Sara Bradley (2010), Law & Order SVU as Nadia Grey (2011), Elementary as Chloe Girl (2018), and The Mysteries of Laura as Agitated Mom (2014).

Alexandra Silber spoke to's Stephanie Lottes about her career on stage and screen, teaching and what the future holds for her.

Stephanie Lottes: As a concert performer as well as an actress, is there a song or group of songs that you would like to perform on an album one day?

Alexandra Silber: Okay, I’ve never been asked this question. You know, I would actually really love to try my hand at some [songs] from the Golden Age of musicals, classical male songs. The first one that springs to mind is “This Nearly was Mine" from South Pacific. Because I'm working on Camelot at the moment, I would love to sing "C'est Moi,” which is Lancelot’s first song. So I would really love to try some of the songs that are more traditionally sung by men.

SL: That is really interesting to me. I feel like a lot of performers might not say something like that.

AS: Well, thank you.

SL: Speaking of being a performer, what has been your experience at the stage door and interacting with fans on social media?

AS: For the most part, it's been incredibly rewarding and positive. There is nothing like knowing that your work, that I think for most performers comes at a great cost, but I can only speak for myself. I know that my work is hugely spiritual, hugely deep and very costly for me. To know that it has an effect on anyone, that it moves anyone, that it has meant something to someone, is more reward than I think I ever hoped to get in one lifetime. Especially when ー there’s a very sort of special experience that happens, and it's always unique and wonderful ー when somebody is able to illuminate for you something you didn't even realize was in your own work. When somebody brings a totally different perspective on to what you were creating, and they see themselves in your work, is particularly moving.

SL: I love hearing that! I love hearing those kinds of things from other actors. Is there a role that has been a challenge for you to perform?

AS: Yes, I mean, all roles come with their challenges. I would say, the biggest challenges I've had thus far were really two-fold. And they were also, interestingly, both in the same year.

The first was playing Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me, Kate. I think that challenge was about accessing my anger. I guess I didn't realize that I have a lot of myth about what women are supposed to behave like. And I had to do a lot of work on accessing my anger to create a believable character. It was very worthwhile work, but it was really challenging.

Then I think on the other end of the spectrum, I did a one-woman and a piano, actor-singer piano piece, at the Vineyard a few years ago called Arlington. Which was about 75 minutes long and the subject material was very challenging. It was about a woman waiting for her husband who was deployed somewhere in the Middle East to come home. And she was directly addressing the audience in an almost entirely sung-through piece. Not only was the subject material challenging, of course, soldiers and war, war atrocity, and the history of soldiers, all that ambiguity, but also direct-address is very challenging. Meaning there’s no fourth wall, I was looking directly into the eyes of the audience. As well as, probably using every part and color of my voice available to me in one sitting without a break. It was like running a marathon. And it was really rewarding, because you know I think sometimes we have things like, 'Oh I think I could run a marathon,' but I haven't. You know? You go, 'Oh, if I trained for a year I could do that,' but, I haven't done it yet. So that was that was how I experienced that. I thought I might be able to do something like Arlington but once I was tasked with it, I physically and emotionally realized, I could. And thinking you're capable and knowing you're capable are very different things.

SL: In your book, After Anatevka, we follow Hodel after we see her in Fiddler On The Roof. What was your favorite scene to write in that book?

AS: I think my favorite scenes were probably the scenes between the sisters, actually. That was that was very rewarding for me and sort of a surprise because I was able to do a lot of editing after I played Tzeitel. I was really able to have this dialog between sort of my older and younger self if you will. Then in addition to those, I really fell in love with the original characters in the Siberian work camp that Hodel and Perchick meet when they arrived there. I loved those characters and their relationships. Their individualities have just brought me a lot of joy and pleasure; they felt like actual friends.

SL: The sister’s scenes were definitely some of my favorite to read. I loved all of those scenes the reading the book.

AS: Oh, thank you.

SL: Being a blogger and author, from where does your love of the written word come?

AS: I've always been a really voracious reader ever since I was a kid. Even in the theater, as an actor and as a singer, for me, the language has always been the one thing that really stood out. I've just always been a wordsmith, always been a lover of language. I guess I can't remember a time I didn't love stories and books and words.

SL: It's funny because I'm the exact same way.

AS: Oh, cool!

SL: As a writer who adapts Greek works, is there any work if you haven't adapted yet that you would like to one day?

AS: Yeah! I'm actually starting work on a play by Aeschylus called Seven Against Thebes. Most people know the Oedipus-Rex myth and certainly the play by Sophocles. And Sophocles wrote a trilogy of plays that are known as The Theban Plays. It sort of has to do with Oedipus’ family, his wife Jocasta, his children, and brother-in-law, Creon. Seven Against Thebes focuses on Oedipus' two older children, his sons, who go to civil war against one another. I just think that right now, in our incredibly divisive, American, political climate, it would be very interesting to see that play presented against the political climate today.

SL: I think that’s a very interesting way of looking at it.

AS: Thank you.

SL: After many years of teaching, do you have a favorite age group to teach?

AS: No question at all, it's 18 and 19 years old. There’s something so magical about meeting a young person at the crossroads of their childhood and adulthood. They know enough about who they are, what they're good at, what they love, how they view the world. They're also right on the horizon of going, 'Oh wait a second, I don't actually feel this way. I was told I feel this way by my environment, my parents, my church, my hometown. I feel differently.' Really being present while they have those big 'aha moments' is so life-affirming and exhilarating. I love being a part of that moment in a young person's life.

SL: Yeah, college, I feel, is a real exploration, for musical theater students, especially. Really trying to find themselves.

AS: Well, I mean, I would wager to say it’s any student at all, you know. If you're self-reflective on any level, you're going to be making some major changes between the ages of 17 and 25. The thing that's really specific about anybody studying drama, is that they're going to be asked to look inside themselves, at the world as well, and really relate themselves to the world in a much richer, more self-reflective way than your average academic student. It's not just musical theatre, it would be anybody that's doing self-reflection and growth.

SL: Acting, singing through song, mentoring and master classes are all different things you teach. Do you approach all of these things in the same way, or do you tend to adjust to students needs?

AS: Well, of course, I adapt to students need. If somebody says, 'I really know what I'm doing, I'm a very experienced singer or very experienced actor. I want to achieve this in the hour that we have together,' then that's exactly what we'll do. But, yeah, I tend to approach everything at least from a place of creating a really safe environment, creating a space where people feel they can really be free to make mistakes, make discoveries, and have big victories. That’s where real growth and discovery happens. Sometimes, when a person comes to me for mentoring, it’s really just about wanting to have a neutral person in some position with the sense of 'you're doing the thing that I would like to be doing and you've probably had some of these experiences, what do you think of my circumstances? Here are some of the things I'd like to do. What do you think about that?' I usually try to turn the question back on the student, 'well, let's really define and really discover your priorities, your needs, your values.' Then usually what I try to do is help the student answer the questions themselves, rather than provide the answers for them. I think I know how to ask good questions.

SL: Is there anything else that you want to say that I haven’t asked?

AS: No just thank you for having me!

SL: Thank you so much for chatting with me!

AS: Oh, it's my pleasure.

For more information about Alexandra Silber and her work, check out her website, her blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Featured Image: i-LHM7H5- L. jpg credit: Emma Mead

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