Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re extremely privileged to feature Maria Müller, an emerging actress, playwright, and producer based out of New York City!
Born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, Maria Müller’s passion for the arts began at the young age of only six years old.
Müller’s acclimation towards the fast-paced and rigorous work environment of the theatre and film world originated with her early work in a Romanian theatre company that often traveled to national and international festivals across Bucharest, and, eventually, the entire country.
Müller’s multi-pronged passion for the arts led her to further pursue her aspirations as a Drama student at New York University when she turned eighteen. However, while in New York, Müller’s proclivity for the arts deepened as did her interests within it: “I discovered my passion for writing and producing. Those two disciplines have informed my acting and made me look at the creative process in a different way.”
“Every project I have done so far taught me something in one way or another and I am very grateful for the people I met and the experiences I had along the way.” Maria Müller
With a long history of professional projects, both international and otherwise, under her belt, Müller reflects fondly on working with director, Victor Cioaba, in Smoking, a short film that was entered into the Short Film Corner Competition at Festival de Cannes in 2017. During the film's progression, Muller was able to even act alongisde one of her own inspirations: Maria Drăguș, an actress famous for her work with directors such as Cristian Mungiu and Michael Haneke.
"Another artistically fulfilling experience of mine would be August Nights,” said Müller, “it was a performance piece that included dance, music and projections created by Joseph Brandon Kader.” The cast improvised the entirety of the show, dancing to the music that Kader created, letting their minds and bodies be inspired by the projections. “It was the first time I had that much freedom on stage and it was an amazing experience,” Müller beamed.
Müller looks forward to accruing more firsts in her artistic career, including releasing Where Are You From Again?, a film she wrote and acted in: “I am very excited to share that story with the world. It’s currently in post-production and it should be out soon!”
Müller also co-founded emerging theater company, Et Alia, with three other international women who have already produced two shows: The first being Hasnain Shaikh’sRunning in Place, a drama directed by Isabella Uzcátegui and the second being a production ofOn How To Be A Monster, a play directed by Federica Borlenghi thatMüller wrote and acted in. Et Alia looks forward to a bright future, one that includes another fully realized production of Müller’sOn How To Be A Monstersometime in the near future!
What inspires you and your creative process? People inspire me. My entire creative process is about people and how they make me feel. I am fascinated by life stories and inspired by the way people overcome obstacles, the way they show their love, their resilience, what they are connected to etc.
I like to believe that all my characters are deeply rooted in reality and that, when I act, I am able to create truthful and sincere experiences that are based on real life ones.
My friends/collaborators are a huge inspiration for me. Seeing them perform and create is very empowering. It is such a privilege to know artists. Being close to them allows me to notice how they are different in real life vs. in their creative process. Realizing how much they can change in that process allows me to open myself up and find that transformation within me so that no two characters of mine are the same.
I also feel inspired when I watch films or plays that have a strong and relevant theme and that are well performed. There is an amazing feeling that comes with seeing a good show and feeling like you are on top of the world and you can do anything because you just witnessed an incredible artistic act that had an impact on you. What is the connection between your art and social justice? I feel like all my art is about social justice in one way or another. I am attracted to these types of stories because they matter. I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the question of: “what is my contribution to this world?” There are so many things happening that need to be fixed, so how am I helping by making art? I could (and maybe should?) be cleaning the oceans or building schools or volunteering for different causes. But since I am an artist and not willing to give that up anytime soon, it is important to me that I make a change through what I do.
Social issues are ever-present in my work. Affairs regarding international art and immigration are especially important to me. One of my current projects is intimately connected to these aspects: the film that I wrote and acted in, Where Are You From Again?, follows the story of a Romanian immigrant pursuing her acting aspirations in New York City.
My theater company, founded by international women, brings forward stories from marginalized voices. I am interested in giving and creating opportunities for women who have so much to say and no platform to say it through. People always ask me what my definition of success is and whether I feel like I’m on my way to achieving it. My definition of success is being able to support myself by doing relevant work that has an impact on other people and that doesn’t require me to compromise. What inspired you to pursue acting and drama? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
I started acting when I was very young because I liked the feeling it gave me. Back then, I didn’t understand the power my art has and how privileged I am to do what I like and have people watch me while I do it. As I grew up, though, I began to understand just how much I can do through it. The more I did it, the more I felt inspired to continue. I fell in love not just with the final product, but with the process. I fell in love with going to rehearsals, discovering my characters, talking about the play and being open to different opinions about it etc. I even fell in love with the frustration of not understanding certain aspects of my character and not having all the answers.
I started watching actors and their techniques more in depth and understanding why what they are doing works. I was also lucky to have around me people who supported and believed in me. I couldn’t have continued without them. A few challenges that I encountered had to do with the unpredictability of this career – the fear that came with not always knowing what your next move is going to be. For a person who always has to have things figured out, it is an ongoing struggle to trust that things will work out and projects will arise.
I think part of why I generate my own material is because I have a hard time trusting and I want to make sure I am always working on something. But I need to remind myself to breathe and have faith in my experience, my training and my choices thus far, because they will always keep me on the right track.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists?
The most rewarding part has been helping people and having an impact (even a small one) on their lives. Having them tell me I inspired them or helped them get through a tough time is wonderful. It happened to me most recently after the release of my latest feature Queen Marie of Romania. People I didn’t know saw the film in cinemas and then found me on social media and told me that (since it’s a historical character) they have never thought about Zizi – the woman I played – in that way and that my interpretation was empowering and inspirational. I was over the moon. It is extraordinary to hear that.
Similarly, after the reading of my most recent play, On How To Be A Monster, friends of mine told me that they thought about it long after it was done and that it truly impacted them. How lucky I am to do this for a living!
In terms of advice, I always say this: Surround yourselves with people who inspire you! It’s so so important. And this is an advice that one of my teachers gave me, but that really stuck with me: When people make a comment, ask yourself: “Is this good advice or personal opinion?”
Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging international artists like you?
The main point I have about supporting international artists is to allow us to be able to share our work in spaces that can reach a broader audience. We, as artist,s are so often bound to small, underground, or even guerilla space to present our work, that it seems to end up preaching to the choir, more often than not. Allow us to present on the larger stages, allow us the funding to accurately execute our visions, and most importantly, allow us the platform to say what we need to say free of preconceived notions.