Off-Broadway’s ‘Strings’ explores complex relationships between mothers and daughters

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‘Strings’ is Cristina Sebastian’s debut performance in NYC. Photo by David Noles

‘Strings’ is Cristina Sebastian’s debut performance in NYC. Photo by David Noles

Actress Cristina Sebastian joins other foreign theater artists in creating the off-Broadway play called “Strings,” which will have its NYC premiere from October 4 to 8 at the Access Theatre in Tribeca.

“Strings,” which explores the theme of mother-daughter relations, is written by Anna Rak and Palmyra Mattner, and directed by Kira Kull. The artistic and production talents founded Eastern Bridge Theatre Troupe (EBTT), a collective of international theatre artists who seek to give opportunity to foreign voices in New York City. Their objective is to “create the bridge for foreign artists within and outside the United States, to enable our collective experiences to motivate work that is revealing, significant and provocative.”

“Strings” is an original play about the humorous and touching complexities of mother-daughter relationships. It was a story developed by Anna and Palmyra, two foreigners living in New York who grew up in very different households: Palmyra, a Syrian/ German expat who was born and raised in Bahrain, and Anna a native of Poland.

After a long conversation over plates of pierogis and żywiec beer, Anna and Palmyra were surprised to find they have a similar and unique connection when it comes to lessons they had learned from their mothers and the effects these lessons had on them. In spite of moving across the Atlantic, the inescapable echo of their mothers’ voices seemed to be ever- present. The idea of one being overwhelmed by a mother’s love inspired them to dig deeper to find out why mothers, even their own, can’t help but love “too much.”

In their attempts to justify this influential behavior that stems from the heart, they looked into the pressures put on women to be the ‘perfect mother’, to instinctively feel maternal and the way in which the cycle of knowledge works. Mother informs daughter who informs her daughter and so on. After mapping out their own personal experiences, researching the guidance given to future mothers in books as well as recounting how their own mothers were influenced, they gathered enough material to create the story of “Strings.”

Writers Anna Rak (left) and Palmyra Mattner

Writers Anna Rak (left) and Palmyra Mattner

Cristina, who was born in Manila but spent her early childhood in Hong Kong, is in the cast. “Strings” is her acting debut in New York.

“I’m working closely with people from all over the world. We all come from different backgrounds but we’ve all got stories that we think should be told,” Cristina told The FilAm in an email interview. They call EBTTS a “cocktail of cultures.”

At the age of 13, Cristina appeared in her first play and fell in love with acting.

“I decided then and there I was going to become an actor and move to New York City,” she said. Two years ago, she came to NYC after she was accepted into Circle in the Square Theatre School, the only conservatory in a Broadway theatre. She now lives in Brooklyn.

“Coming to New York and going to drama school was so much more difficult than I thought it was going to be, but it’s easily the best decision I’ve ever made,” she said.

Cristina comes from a family who is involved in music, the arts or theatre. Her grandfather, Basilio Manalo, was a renowned concert violinist and conductor, and was one of the first Filipinos to study at Juilliard. After completing her bachelor’s degree at De La Salle University-Manila, she worked with the Manila-based Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company, and also taught theatre workshops at Tuloy sa Don Bosco, a school and orphanage for former street children.

Director Kira Kull said she was drawn to “Strings” because it is a story about mothers, daughters, and women.

© 2017 The FilAm


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