Leading Men

Chattanooga Performers Share About Their Time in the Spotlight

 

It’s no secret that Chattanooga has a thriving performing arts scene – complete with dance, drama, music, and more. Whether you catch a show at the Tivoli Theatre or attend a performance at the UTC Fine Arts Center, our local talent is sure to entertain and inspire. Here, we’ve spoken with four men who are known for taking their talents to center stage. Read on to learn more about the passion, persistence, and practice behind their success in the performing arts.

 

(Top Left) Photo by Angela Zaremba; (Second From Left) Photo by Sheila Cannon

Fábio Mariano – Ballet Dancer

(Above) Photo by Mohammed Al-taher, (Below) Photo Courtesy of Collage Dance

 

CS: How did you get into the performing arts?

FM: I started dancing when I was 14 years old for the activity and quickly fell in love with the art form. My passion for it kept growing, and when it was time for me to start thinking of what I wanted to do as a career, I couldn’t think of anything else but to dance. Although they had their concerns, my parents were very supportive. It wasn’t easy for me because I started dancing “late” compared to others, so I had a lot of catching up to do, but with a LOT of hard work and persistence, I made it!

CS: What is the No. 1 thing you enjoy about performing?

FM: To be able to help people disconnect and merge into a different zone while watching the performance; to inspire, to stir people’s emotions.

 

black and white of Fabio Mariano ballet dancing with a ballerina

 

CS: What groups do you currently perform with?

FM: I am currently an artist with Collage Dance Collective and a ballet teacher at Collage Dance Conservatory. I also often perform and teach as a guest for different companies.

CS: What has been your favorite role or performance, and why?

FM: “Prodigal Son.” This ballet was originally choreographed in 1929 by George Balanchine for the Ballets Russes de Diaghilev, and it has been performed by some of the most amazing dancers in the world over the years. It is a physically and emotionally demanding role. The process of putting it together taught me so much as an artist, and it is definitely one of my favorite roles I’ve performed to date.

CS: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a performer?

FM: Taking care of my body. Because our bodies were not made to naturally do the things we do as dancers, we have to make sure we take very good care of them, and that takes a lot of discipline.

CS: The most rewarding?

FM: Children’s reactions after watching a performance!

CS: What are some common misconceptions people have about the performing arts?

FM: That it’s just a hobby, not a job, or that it’s an easy career. Most people don’t realize how many years of dedication it takes to become a professional ballet dancer.

CS: In your opinion, what makes a good performer?

FM: Someone who can move the audience in some way, combining technique and artistry. Someone who is passionate and believes in what they are doing. If you believe, the audience will believe. If you feel, the audience will feel.

CS: What is the most memorable moment
of your performing career?

FM: I’ve had amazing moments in my career that I am very proud of – I can’t choose only one. Maybe the most memorable moment is yet to come! That thought definitely keeps me striving for more and to be better.

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Josh Holritz – Violinist

 

CS: What groups do you currently perform with?

JH: I am the acting concertmaster for the Chattanooga Symphony and the concertmaster for the Huntsville Symphony in Alabama. I am also an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Covenant College, and Southern Adventist University.

CS: How did you get into the performing arts?

JH: When I was about 5, I saw someone at a performance playing violin, and my mom recalls that I immediately began tugging on her shirt and saying, “I gotta play that!” My parents both played music, though not professionally, so I grew up listening to classical music, and this was sort of a natural transition.

CS: What is the No. 1 thing you enjoy about performing?

JH: I’m sharing time and space with an audience, and within that time and space we’re all going to experience a piece of art, both visually and aurally, and that is really a cool thing. I also enjoy the connection that I feel with the audience and their energy. I often perform in more intimate settings, and sometimes the front row is so close they could practically turn my pages. That audience interaction and being able to share some of the greatest pieces that were ever written for the violin is really exciting for me.

 

Josh Holritz – Violinist black and white photo

 

CS: In your opinion, what makes a good performer?

JH: To be an effective performer, you need to have effective tools. If your technique is on point, you can play anything, and you can communicate any way you want to. Beyond mastering the craft, I think a great performer is someone who is generous and empathetic. Some people get into performing for their own ego, but the great soloists and musicians that I’ve worked with are very generous in sharing something that the audience will never forget and also sharing with other colleagues on stage.

CS: What has been your favorite role or performance, and why?

JH: Usually the concerts that stick out to me are the ones in which I’m performing with close friends or performers who inspire me, or when the energy between the audience and performers is really strong. But last fall, I performed with one of my former teachers and four of my own students, and that was one of the most impactful moments for me. Seeing the impact of a lifetime of teaching and performing and these connections that we’ve formed was very special.

CS: What are some common misconceptions
people have about the performing arts?

JH: The idea that “you play so well because you’re so talented.” While there are certain aspects that make it easier to play – like being physically coordinated and having good body awareness – at some point, every performer has to work really hard.

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Black and white photo of Dennis Parker stage actor performing in front of an audience.

 

Dennis Parker – Stage Actor

Photos by Sheila Cannon

 

CS: How did you get into the performing arts?

DP: Performance art has always been in my DNA, but it wasn’t until 2016, when my kids coaxed me into auditioning for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” at the Signal Mountain Playhouse, that I discovered the possibilities. It’s been an unending love affair ever since.

CS: What groups do you currently perform with?

DP: In the last several years, I’ve been blessed to perform for several organizations including the Signal Mountain Playhouse, Chattanooga Theatre Centre, Oak Street Playhouse, Ensemble Theatre Company, Yellow Dragon Productions, Chattanooga State Community College, and my own fledging theatre company, Mountain Arts Theatre.

CS: What has been your favorite role or performance, and why?

DP: Being Andrew Makepeace Ladd III in “Love Letters” was life-changing and disruptive in ways I never expected theatre to be. It was the first time I found myself relating to the failings of a character, and that forced me to take a hard look at how I was conducting my life.

CS: Describe what your training looks like.

DP: Openness to vulnerability, discipline, repetition, being soft, being loud, loving, suffering, making discoveries, and making mistakes, all while exploring the emotional and physical possibilities of the character I will be inhabiting. Learning my lines to the point of being able to forget them and live in the moment of that character while on the stage. The repetition work can be tedious, but like a runner training for a distance race, you get out of it what you put in.

 

Dennis Parker acting with a woman in a bright yellow dress.

 

CS: What are some common misconceptions
people have about the performing arts?

DP: This is a guess for me, but one common misconception would seem to be that what we do is “pretend.” Whether it’s an actor or a musician, any notion that they are not living what they are bringing to the stage would be a discredit to the authenticity they have worked hard to bring to their audience.

CS: In your opinion, what makes a good performer?

DP: Thoughtful ferocity, where they fully abandon themselves and let the character shine through.

CS: What’s one piece of advice that you have
for someone considering entering the performing arts?

DP: Learn to let go of yourself and any preconceived notions of a character. This allows me a fuller experience and to realize the joy, or the sorrow, that may reside in that character.

CS: Is there anything you’d like to add?

DP: Theatre participation and all of the life lessons it allows should be encouraged in our youth. It doesn’t have to be your life to make for a better life. Also, if you have not gone to the theatre lately or at all, give it a shot. You might be surprised by what you were missing.

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Pierceton Mazell – Ballet Dancer

 

CS: What groups do you currently perform with?

PM: I am a full-time company dancer with the Chattanooga Ballet.

CS: What is the No. 1 thing you enjoy about performing?

PM: The feeling I get on stage is unlike any other. Nothing comes close to the excitement of showcasing art through athleticism.

CS: What has been your favorite role or performance, and why?

PM: I’ve most enjoyed performing alongside the Kyiv City Ballet last October. It was inspiring to witness the Kyiv City artists continuing to produce art during a time when their home country is under attack. It was truly an example of how important the arts are to the human spirit in times of great uncertainty.

CS: Describe what your training looks like.

PM: Monday through Friday I take a company class, which is primarily ballet technique, for an hour and a half, then I rehearse or learn new choreography for about three hours. Although hours are fairly short in the studio, dancing is a lifestyle-dependent career. As a dancer, my body is my only irreplaceable tool, so I must treat it well by eating nutritious meals, staying hydrated, and doing lots of cross training such as lifting weights, deep stretching, and yoga.

CS: What are some common misconceptions
people have about the performing arts?

PM: Growing up as a boy in tights was certainly not the typical experience as a young person. Lots of friends and their families were simply not accustomed to the idea of a boy dancing, especially not making a career out of it. Many would say dance is only for girls, but this is not the case. I would encourage any parent with a son who wants to dance to, at the very least, let them give it a try.

 

Pierceton Mazell – Ballet Dancer

 

CS: In your opinion, what makes a good performer?

PM: A good performer must be honest. Great technique is cool, doing the correct steps is nice, but why are we doing these steps in the first place? I ask the question constantly. I’d much rather observe someone telling an honest story – with human passion and character – than a purely technical showcase of ballet. Of course, technique should come as a priority, but if not expanded upon, can be detrimental to the audience’s perspective. We do this selflessly for the audience, and they will soak up honest emotion over technique.

CS: What’s one piece of advice that you have for
someone considering entering the performing arts?

PM: If you love it and feel the calling, put your foot on the gas and don’t look back. Never forget what got you hooked in the first place, and push to get out of your comfort zone as often as you can.

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