Tami Stronach Interview: We Chat With ‘The NeverEnding Story’ Actress About Playing The Childlike Empress and Everything That Came After

The NeverEnding Story is undoubtedly one of the classic kids movies from the 80s, an era replete with classic kids movies. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Air Force One, The Perfect Storm) the film tells the story of Bastian, a shy bookworm of a boy who gets literally caught up in a novel about the adventures of Atreyu, a warrior who must save the magical land of Fantasia from The Nothing.

At the age of eleven Tami Stronach played the ancient, yet forever young ruler of Fantasia, The Childlike Empress. We here at Screen Mayhem were thrilled to have a chat with the now fully grown Tami about making a children’s classic, walking away from acting, becoming a dancer and her return to the screen.

Listen to the unabridged audio below, or read on.

 

For the last few years there’s been a great deal of 80s nostalgia in popular culture. Has this affected you?

I’ve noticed it and I’m also a part of it. I think that growing up, you sort of look back at the formative years of your life and those years hold so much weight. It was a time when time moved slower. So, somehow the sort of gravity of it all seemed, I think, in some ways more intense. So, yeah I do think that there’s a lot of 80s nostalgia right now and The NeverEnding Story is definitely kind of getting a second life as a result.

As far as nostalgia goes, it seems that people do have a great deal of affection for The NeverEnding Story. How do you look back at that experience of playing The Childlike Empress?

I look back at it really positively. Although, I have to admit, that for many many years I really didn’t think about it at all. I wanted to even distance myself from it. I came to New York to be a dancer and a choreographer and it really wasn’t a kind of useful part of my resume for that particular performing arts world. I also wanted very much to make my mark as a young adult artist. So, I actually didn’t tell anyone that I was in the film. I never talked about it. Then I had my daughter and that really changed everything for me on many, many levels. I also just became interested in making art that would be something I could share with my daughter. And so, I just became really interested in the kinds of stories that would impact her positively and it all coincided. I got invited to a Comic Con and I thought that Noah would be there, Noah Hathaway (Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story), and I hadn’t seen him in a really long time. And I thought it’d be really fun to see him after thirty years. So, I really went for my own sort of “I’ll have coffee with Noah” purposes and then funnily enough, he didn’t show up to the Comic Con.

Oh no.

But then it was interesting. Because I’d never even… This is so embarrassing. It shows you what a New York dancer bubble I was living in. I’d never heard of a Comic Con. I didn’t even know what they were! So, it was really sort of all new to me and it was actually very moving to kind of meet people there who told me how much the film meant to them. They usually tended to be parents and they had their kids in tow all dressed up in some kind of wonderful costume that they’d worked on. And it was just a really lovely experience and it reminded me how lucky I was to have been in that, and also I was moved by how much the story meant to them and I felt really happy that I was able to be part of something like that.

Absolutely. Have you reunited with Atreyu since?

No, I haven’t. No, no. I think it’s going to take another thirty years. I don’t know. We’ll see.

He’s still out there journeying.

Yeah.

One day he’ll find his way back. You mentioned how this film has stayed alive by parents who loved it showing it to their kids and having it rediscovered that way. Has your daughter seen The NeverEnding Story yet?

Not yet. Although, she’s definitely very, very interested in the story. She recently said that she feels like she’s ready to watch it. My daughter is very sensitive and so I think that definitely there’re films that she runs screaming out of and I didn’t want The NeverEnding Story to be one of those. So, I sort of waited. I know some parents have shown it to their kids as young as four and their kids have loved it. But just knowing my daughter and also knowing that she’s going to be watching me in it I think is going to also make it kind of more intense for her. So, I wanted to wait. I think this will be the year, though. She’s seven. She’ll be turning eight. So we’ll have to find a nice night and make a night of it.

Absolutely. There are parts of the story that are very melancholy and scary. Do you think that’s a good thing to have in a kid’s film?

Yes I do. Although, I think that my personal feeling is every generation swings the pendulum too much to one side and things get really extreme. I think that the 80s in some ways were a time when things were pretty unregulated for children and it’s the generation of latch key kids and there was a lot of exposure to very intense, scary films at very young ages. I saw horror movies as a small child. I’m looking back, I’m like, “Really? What’s going on there?” I think that consequently this generation, my generation, we are… and I include myself in this category… overprotective of our kids. We are helicopter parents. We hover over everything they do and we potentially overprotect them. So, I don’t know. I’m just really interested in striking a balance between those two extremes. I think that again it’s an example of what age you show the film too. I think showing it at two years old would be too young. Showing it at four for my daughter would be too young, but I certainly don’t expect to understand the temperament of every kid. So, I think it’s just about when you introduce it. But what I love about The NeverEnding Story, and introduced at the proper time for your child, is that without the melancholy and without the danger, you don’t really get the payoff of the victory of escaping apathy and escaping the swamps of sadness and of remaking the world afresh. And so, I think for stories to have depth the lows have to be there for the highs to pay off. I actually really love that about The NeverEnding Story.

I think part of that is realising, “Oh, hey. That character is as scared as I am and they’re going through really tough things and oh look, he just lost his best friend to the swamps of sadness,” but he kept going afterwards. He dealt with it. He got over his fear and then he got a happy ending. So, I think in some ways these movies can help kids realise the correct responses to fear.

Well, it’s so interesting. I loved horror films as a kid. I really did and I think it’s because to me they just seemed so absurd. I just thought it was like… this is so silly. It was almost like a rollercoaster ride. The adrenaline from being scared was just so fun. Now, as an adult with a kid in the world and just reading the newspaper and reading all of the horrible things that happen all the time, I can’t really watch horror movies anymore because that’s actually maybe not entirely not possible. So, my taste in horror movies has … I loved Get Out. I thought that was totally brilliant. Obviously there’re some horror movies that manage to both be really entertaining and get the adrenaline up but then also have a kind of craft to them that really pulls one in. Those are the ones that I watch these days.

I think the best ones really do take an anxiety or fear that we all feel and put it up there so that we can all agree, “Oh, thank God. It’s not just me. “

I also think that definitely one of the cathartic things about a film is the audience can all agree on who the bad guy is which doesn’t always happen in life and we need experiences where we can all get together and just for brief moments of time dissolve our differences and be united in an experience and a sense of “We all want that guy to get away!” And remind ourselves that it’s a little bit more fun to work together than against each other.

One of the really fascinating things about The NeverEnding Story is that with the exception of the wolf character who stalks Atreyu at various points, there’s no antagonist as such. The threat is nothingness.  It’s kind of an early anticipator of Inside Out where the big threat was the idea of being forgotten.

Yeah. It’s very sort of existential. I love that, that really there’s no face to the enemy. You can’t point at any one group or person or thing. It’s really just apathy and lack of imagination and just not caring is the enemy. I think that that’s a really profound and wonderful thing to be concerned about. So, I think maybe that’s why the film has the sticking power that it does is that’s a really relatable concern. Especially as we age. I think the world has so many pressures on us and the fear of becoming apathetic and of losing hope and of losing the strength to kind of reimagine new solutions. In some ways as a kid, it’s almost more meaningful as an adult. You’re like, “Okay.” Yeah.

In terms of its longevity, it seems like there’s all sorts of things that have made it last such a long time. The puppet work and the special effects are great. The cinematography is beautiful, the production design is great, but also the very mature and nuanced performances by yourself and your fellow child actors. Do you remember how you prepared for the role or the direction you were given?

I prepared for the role by reading the novel and I’d been doing a lot of community theater and small plays in my hometown in Berkeley, California and I prepared for it the same way I prepared for those. To me, it was just like another one of those things. It had on a bigger scale, but I read the novel and I wrote down a variety of adjectives that I felt if I needed to find the character, I could just call those adjectives up. Then I also gave her an age. I decided that … I think she’s ageless and much older than this, but for me just to have something concrete to hold on to, I made her 300 years old. So, there’s something about her patience and her tempo that’s sort of not like a child. Energetically she’s slow and calm.

So, I had a little notebook and I wrote down a lot of things that I thought about her, but Wolfgang (Peterson) was very good at using his voice to conjure up the scenario and he’d come over and whisper it in your ear and be like, “This is where you are and this is what’s happening. These are going to be the consequences,” and he’d put you in this trance of what’s going to happen. It was very, very effective. So, he was wonderfully … He didn’t treat me like a kid which I really appreciated. The thing I hated most as a kid was when adults went into kid voice with me. I just couldn’t stand that. He never did that. He spoke as if I was a smart, comprehending individual and I just felt so excited that he trusted me to understand the stakes and be able to enter it on that level, so I thought that he did a really nice job. I think partly pulling out the performances he did by not underestimating kids and really treating them as smart capable actors.

That is interesting because you often hear stories about Stanley Kubrick and Danny Lloyd and The Shining and even William Friedkin and Linda Blair.

Me too. Yeah.

You hear about them lying to them and convincing them that they weren’t actually making a horror film. So, it’s very interesting that Wolfgang didn’t try and hide any of the darkness of the film from you as you were making it.

Well, I guess we were all eleven. Isn’t the kid in The Shining like four? How old is he? I can’t remember. I can’t remember how old he is, but there’s such an interesting moment. That moment of being 10, 11 because you really are entering the tween years. It’s this crisis of childhood breaking and moving in to the teen years where you’re no longer a child but you’re not quite an adult. In some ways, I think it’s interesting that the film’s central characters are all that age because the central theme of not losing your hope, not losing your imagination, it’s really not losing the child in you as you transition away from being a child, somehow keeping that portion of you alive. The danger is really around that age. That 11, 12 years of age is right at that crisis moment where you have to kind of make a decision how much of your childhood self you’re going to allow to store inside of you as you move forward in the world.

Absolutely. You have that moment at the beginning of the film where the boy is told by his father, “You’re getting older now and you’re going to have to set aside these things and spend less time in your head,” which I think is told to a lot of introverted kids and the kind of kids who do invest in fantasy and things like that. So, it’s really cool to see that representation and criticizing it and saying, “Well, if everybody did that, these extraordinary worlds would die.”

I think that would be just such a boring, boring world. It’d be terrible. But I actually think there’s something really radical about insisting on keeping imagination alive. I think that so many of the problems that we have, real world problems, the only solution to them is imagination. And so, it’s ironic that this thing that’s viewed as completely unpractical and un-useful is actually in many ways the key to the more profound problems and so I think that’s kind of the irony of it all.

The film seems to be about the importance of storytelling. I think that is a really good message for kids to have because every culture on earth, no matter how isolated they are from each other in terms of how they grow up, every single one of them develops methods of storytelling. That clearly demonstrates how important it is to us as a species.

Definitely. Definitely. No, I think part of my move once I had my daughter was choreographing and making dances for the last 20 years and then I founded a production company called Paper Canoe Company to create family entertainment. Partly because watching my own daughter read stories, see stories, hear music, it dawned on me that storytelling for kids is actually much more important than I ever realised and it really defined for her what is possible. It really created a sense of what’s fair, what’s unfair, how do you practice being brave as a character in a book? Then when you’re on the playground and something happens, you can refer to it and try out being brave in life. Then it’s really a kind of a practice session for all of our emotional muscles getting flexed and stretched and exercised and that we need that practice so that once we’re in the real world, we can respond to things in a better, more positive way. Stories are just foundational to developing young minds and developing a sense of what’s possible. So, I feel like now in some ways, I have a much faster appreciation for The NeverEnding Story and also the work of bringing stories to kids and I’m really interested in that medium.

The Neverending Story was shot in Germany. Apparently during the hottest summer in twenty-five years. I must confess, I saw the film for the first time last week and I was very surprised that you’re basically in the final scenes of the film. Obviously, spiritually you’re very much important to the theme of the film. But how long were you actually out there in Berlin?

It wasn’t Berlin. It was actually Munich at the Bavarian Studios. But I went there at the start of the summer and I was there for about a month. Then I left for a month and then I came back for August. So, it was about two months in total with a break in the middle. The first month, several weeks of that was really dedicated to coming up with the look of the Empress and it was pretty awesome. There was some great 80s hairdos that they did with full on perms and super poofy hair which I think would have been so funny, but they didn’t do that. They went with something a lot more classic and then I lost two teeth and I had to spend a lot of time at the dentist’s office creating kind of dentures.Then I actually went to Israel for the month in between the filming because I have a lot of cousins there. I was told to not tan at all because they needed me to match myself in the first scene. I don’t know. Israel is just basically beach town in the summer. That’s all kids do is they just go to the beach and it’s 150 degrees. It’s really, really hot. So, I had to be in these super long sleeves and hats and just scarves over my face and trying not to get tan. Of course I did get a little bit tan. So it’s fun if you want to see the difference a month makes. I don’t have my dentures in in the second scene and I do have them in the first scene because my teeth grew back in enough. I was told not to smile widely so I just practiced the small little smile. So, I have totally different teeth and also I’m a lot tanner.

That second scene is after you’ve been given your new name so perhaps you’re revitalised. You’re speech is better.

I said that to Wolfgang. I was, “Listen. I’m not sick anymore. The colour has returned to my face. It’s all good.”

It clearly worked. Now, also in 1984, you released Fairy Queen. A sort of pop record featuring two extraordinarily catchy songs. Now, how did that come about?

I sang a few bars of this 99 Red Balloons song that was a big hit in the 80s on a TV show promoting The NeverEnding Story and a record producer in Germany heard me and called us up that afternoon and said he wanted to make a record with me. But we were leaving Germany several days later. It had been three months. It was time to go home. School was starting. So, my mom said absolutely not. We’re leaving in four days and we really have to go at this point. So, he said, “Okay. Well, then let’s make a single. We’ll just do a really small record. Two sides. An A and B side. Two songs and I’ll write the songs tonight and then we’ll record one tomorrow and one the next day and then she can fly out.” So, that’s what we did. It was the quickest project ever. He just whipped them up. It was crazy.

How was it doing it? How did it feel?

Oh my gosh, I loved it. I love singing and that’s one of the things I’ve come back to, after twenty years of dancing and choreographing. I feel like having my own kid was this weird permission to return to a lot of the things that I really enjoyed doing as a kid. So, one of the projects that Paper Canoe Company has done is we’ve just released an album called Beanstalk Jack which is a retelling of that classic tale, but all through music. A lot of the music references people from the 80s because that’s my musical frame of reference. So, the giant sounds like Tom Waits and…

Oh man. That’s scary.

Yeah. It’s really fun. The kids all run away when they hear that song. Then we gave that story a little bit of a twist, again thinking about what kind of stories can be relevant and what is their relevance. Some of the fairy tales that are five thousand years old, I think, do need some kind of adaptation and twist for them to make sense in the modern context. So, we gave our giant a daughter named Harmony as opposed to a wife. Then when Jack goes up the beanstalk, she’s this incredibly lonely girl who lives in a gilded cage and she has all this stolen loot around her but she doesn’t have any friends. Jack comes up there with his shoestring guitar and they fall in love. We made them sixteen. Instead of stealing the giant’s stuff, he steals her heart and she runs away with him and they make a band. It was our excuse to kind of like… There’s a Simon and Garfunkel inspired song with a little blind man and there’s a lot of references to all the music that I grew up with and I got to finally sing again which was really fun.

That sounds really fun and playful.

It was. I feel like Paper Canoe’s mission is to make kids feel like grown ups and to make grown ups feel like kids. I spent my whole childhood hating when people talked to me in the poochy-poo voice and now that I’m an adult, I hate it when people treat me too seriously and don’t allow me to have any time to play. So, I’m doing it all backwards!

I’ve read that it was  your parents who made the decision to steer you away from acting, fearing the pressures that can affect child actors. Was that something you were okay with?

Yeah. I think that the cover has come off of Hollywood a little bit with all of the Weinstein stuff and the Me Too movement and the Time’s Up movements and I think in some ways from afar, it can all look very glamorous and sort of magical, and I think when you’re actually inside of that machine, there can be some really, really destructive components to it. We did get a bunch of scripts after The NeverEnding Story and they were weird. They really weren’t scripts I wanted to do. I read them and I was like, “I don’t want to do this.” Some of them were super violent. One of them had nudity in it. I was like, “I don’t know that we’re going to be able to navigate this world and find the kind of healthiest people to work with whose interest is to just keep my creative spark alive.” Versus finding yourself commodified and in many ways sexualised before you’re ready to.

So, we talked about it a lot and it was important to me to have some agency in my life to kind of grow up in a way that felt like i had some control over when and how I matured and that that wasn’t actually defined for me by other people. So, it was a very considered family decision. Luckily for me, I had so many interests in the arts. I loved dancing, I loved singing, I loved acting. So, it wasn’t very hard. I just redirected my energy into dance which was really fruitful. I feel like I gained so much discipline from dance.Dancing is one of the most disciplined things you can make your kid do. It really keeps them out of trouble. I am such a fan of kids dancing because in order to be good at it, it just requires so much dedication and focus. I think that for me, it ended up being this really really wonderful grounding and stabilising thing that carried me all the way into adulthood. So, now, I’m interested in returning to acting. I think that in many ways it’s insane to try to get back into acting in your 40s just at the moment when Hollywood is telling women that we’re kind of not useful anymore to the game, but I love the quixotic ambition of that personally.

Absolutely.

I think that there’s something very different about entering the game as a formed person who can’t be chewed up as easily because you have your experience to kind of help you steer yourself through the waters. So, it’s been really fun. I’ve been acting in New York in addition to dancing throughout the years. I was in a theatre company for seven years and we were housed at SoHo Reparatory in New York which is a wonderful playhouse here. I helped to create four original productions for that and then those toured around the country. Then with Paper Canoe, we made two plays. One is a sock puppet show for little kids called Aesocks Fables based on Aesop’s Fables. Then we made a sci-fi physical theatre piece called Lights which in many ways I definitely made for my daughter. It was a story I wanted to create as a story for her and I think she sat around the dinner table with us and we chewed over plot-lines and if the story starting going awry, tears would come. She was so invested in it. It was this wonderful experience of making a story and watching her watch something come into being and watching her realise that really it’s just intention that brings things into the world. It starts with stories and then from there everything else grows. So, that was wonderful. I do definitely have ambitions for that story beyond the theatre production. I want to move into the digital realm now and maybe turn that into some kind of podcast series or some kind of graphic novel. So, then I think since I’ve been having these interviews and putting out there that I’ve been interested in acting again, I’ve been getting a bunch of scripts in the mail which has been really interesting. So, I’m looking at various projects and trying to find the right material to kind of get back in the game.

Excellent. Well, I’ll come on to some acting stuff in a bit, but to focus on the dance thing for a minute, after The NeverEnding Story you did pursue a very accomplished career as a dancer and as a choreographer. What is it that sort of excites you personally about dancing? You mentioned the discipline.

Well, I think that that was useful as a kid, but I think that for just philosophically, I always was very irritated by the notion that somehow our mind and our body are split. I think that even as science starts to catch up with the fact that people say something’s psychosomatic because it’s emotionally brought on or something. The whole notion of chopping up a human being into compartments and emotions and something’s in the head and something’s in the body as if there isn’t some kind of connection between those things and that one will influence the other starts to seem thinner and thinner, especially with science advancing, but we still do it in the world. We still create a lot of structures that subtly invite us to reinforce this notion that the mind and body is separate. I think it’s something that I’ve raged against.

Dance is this medium where you really can’t do that. It’s not possible. The interplay  between your intellect and your physical form is central to the success of it. It’s also a place where you don’t need to divide up things that are usually binary. You can have a really rigorous intellectual process where you’re trying to find out the conceits of the piece but then the physical act of dancing can be really sensual. But it can also be really aggressive. It can also be really soft. It’s this kind of place where I feel, particularly as a woman, I could define my own makeup and be both intellectually active, sensual, strong, vulnerable, and all of those binaries and contradictions, and having to choose what kind of woman are you going to be. Are you going to be smart or are you going to be pretty? Are you going to be this or are you going to be that?

In some ways, this art form kind of lives somewhat outside on the margins of things and it’s a very slippery place where you really do get to define those things for yourself in a way that feels authentic and exciting. So, that’s what attracted me to the form and I was able to be the director of my company and to really be in charge of the content I put out in the world and the kinds of artists I spent my time with. It is an incredible privilege and luxury and I’m just super, super grateful for it. Now with a kid and a family, I’m like, “Wow, I can’t believe I got away with that for that long.”

How do you begin to choreograph a dance? Do you start with a thought, a feeling, the music or something more practical?

So, for me, it’s interesting because the process of working with Paper Canoe is I think very different than the process that I was working with as a choreographer. I definitely would say that in working on what kind of stories we want to tell and why we want to tell them, I would say that I start with a thought and I start with an intention that’s much more crystallized. But with dance, I feel like it’s much more kind of trying to get out of the way so that something from the unconscious can slip forward, and allowing whatever is in your body to come out, and then you have to look at it and ask yourself what it is and start to give it shape and meaning. But for me the process of shaping it and giving it form and meaning, if you start that too early you kind of kill the piece.

You need to have patience and allow yourself to be in an ambiguous state for a long time. Then of course, you can’t stay ambiguous forever or it’ll lose its purpose because it is a communicative art form. But I also think there’s something really valuable about the practice of staying in an ambiguous state for an extended period of time. I think we live in a culture that you have to pick a side and choose an answer and then hold to it forever. The same thing you thought when you were four you should think when you’re 40. If new evidence comes out, ignore it. To me that seems so incredibly strange. I feel like to arrive at any kind of considered conclusion one requires a lot of openness and a lot of patience and a lot of confusion and that to keep one’s self in a state of waiting for more information, waiting for answers to come, is a kind of really exciting practice. So, that’s the way I kind of make dances.

The first part would be very intuitive and subconscious and then the second half you really change gears and you throw everything out that isn’t essential to the piece and you become really mean and you take your material and you say “Sorry I love you, but this makes no sense here.” So, it’s this kind of wonderfully strange process of being very kind to yourself and then very cruel. The goal is ultimately to create something that has meaning. Not just for you, but to other people and I think in that process of converting a personal language into a communicative form, you really do want to prioritise communication and reaching outward over some kind of personal indulgent thing. So, that was the process for me.

I was watching one of your dance videos which is also an interview. I decided to read the comments below. The first half dozen, were ‘Moonchild!’ ‘My childhood crush!’ ‘She was amazing in The NeverEnding Story!’ Do you find that it’s difficult  to get past the legacy of The NeverEnding Story or does it help to draw attention to this really beautiful work you’ve been doing?

Well, we live in a lot of different spheres simultaneously. I’m a dance professor in New York at a college here. I teach composition. I have a wonderful community of artist friends, all of whom will be thrilled to discuss the nuances of modern dance with me for many hours. So, I have a community of people who, when I need to, I can reach out to for the more esoteric things that I’m interested in. But I think it’s wonderful that people who might not be interested necessarily in modern dance might see some modern dance and maybe that’ll turn them on to some other choreographers and open up some other windows. So, I don’t know. I think faced with a choice between being pleased that someone’s taken the time to watch the video in that I’ll certainly be pleased.

Recently you’ve gotten involved in a new independent comedy called Ultra Low. Can you tell us about that project?

Yeah. So, that was one of the earlier scripts that came across my desk when I started to put out into the stratosphere that I was jonesing to act a little bit again. It’s a film about how difficult it is to make a film and I found that premise really funny. I enjoyed the notion… that self deprecating notion of, we are so crazed about making our art projects and they’re always so hard to make and the wheels are always falling off the bus and you’re always trying to glue them back on. And so I liked the idea of recognising that. And the other thing that struck me as funny about the film was that everyone is actually themselves in the film. So, the director who’s directing the film is directing the film, but he’s acting in the film but he’s directing directing the film. In the same vain, it was a cameo for me. So, I play me coming in and doing a Q&A in the film. It’s a very, very short cameo. It was a one day thing, but I also do a bajillion Q&As in my life. I’m always on arts panels. As a professor, I do a million Q&As. So I was like, “This is so funny. This is exactly what I do all day.” So, I thought that would be a great thing to kind of get back on camera and have a little fun. It’s a bit cheeky just being myself.

So, what is the future of Tami Stronach? More dancing? More acting? Any chance of both? We haven’t seen a really great dance film since Pina, the Wim Wenders film.

Oh, she’s my absolute idol. There’s nobody better than Pina. I literally still… This year between David Bowie going and Prince and Pina, I don’t know. It’s rough.

Devastating.

It really is rough. I would love to make a dance film. I think that at this point, I don’t really feel like I want to keep performing dance myself which is part of the reason that I’m really attracted to getting back into acting and doing some singing again. I think I want to be a part of an art form that as I perform it I could improve with age. Just to be very honest, you don’t really improve with age past your mid forties as a dancer. So, the wonderful thing is choreography is still available. I did just do a short dance film that we’re editing right now in Prague with a wonderful collaborator there. That’s a project I’m interested in continuing to work on and then growing. So that is a installation project with a composer and an artist who made an installation that when you touch a beam of light, it triggers either a note or a sequence of notes. In effect, as you move through space, the dancer is both the dancer, but also activating the music. So, it sort of changes who the dancer is and who the musician is and collapses them into the same space. It’s a long project, but we did do a week of filming two months ago in Prague and have a residency available in the summer potentially to go back and keep working on it. So, there’s that.

Before we move on, how can people find out? Because that sounds really interesting. How can people find out more about that? Maybe see some stuff?

Yeah. I am editing it. It’s being edited by my collaborators in the Czech Republic right now. I do have a little sample of it that I’m going to throw up on my website of just one little section so people can check it out. That should go up really within a week or two. Then the full thing is going to be edited and posted to my website as soon as my collaborators get it done.

And that website is tamistronach.com?

Tamistronach.com. From tamistronach.com, you can kind of go into the different worlds. It’s a weird portal into my brain and one channel leads to Tami Stronach dance and the other channel leads to Paper Canoe Company which is the family entertainment company. Then there’s another acting tab on there which keeps track on things like a Comic Con appearance or other kinds of things like that. So, that tamistronach.com will take you to all three of those portals.

Excellent.

Yeah. So, there’s some dance and then this month I’m working on a puppet stop animation video for another song from the Beanstalk Jack album. The title track. And so I’m really having a lot of fun parlaying my choreography skills into object manipulation. So, we’re setting up a studio and going to be playing with three different planes of glass so that there can be depth to it and moving little flat objects around to kind of create a stop animation world. There’s something about this kind of medium that lives somewhere between a storybook and film that I find real interesting and I’m certainly not the first person to work in this medium. There’s lots and lots of animation like that, but I love flat pictures moving and threatening to become lifelike and three dimensional.The sort of tension between a storybook and a animated world. There’s something about that tension between those two that I find really interesting. So, I’m curious about how to make that a really fun visual exploration of our title song. So, that’ll be some Beanstalk work that I’ll be doing for Paper Canoe. Then yeah, I have a script that came across my desk that I’m mulling over. I’m going to see if I have time to fit that in. So, there’s probably an acting film coming out but I can’t talk about it yet.

Fair enough.

So, we have Patreon page that we made for people who are interested in the family entertainment thing that I’m doing. As a teacher, I’m really interested in the ways that we can get parents and kids engaged together. So, I know that there’s works of art, but when I see my friends, if there’s a birthday party or something I’m never with the adults. I’m always with the kids and there’s always 15 kids. Somehow I’m doing a puppet show or something for them and a lot of parents are just like, “How do you do that? How do you come up with things to entertain kids with?”

When I watch the way that parents interact with their kids, it makes me a little bit concerned with all of this electronics that we have and all this film stuff that we have that it’s actually pulling parents away from their kids. Kids are watching one set of shows that are kind of dumbed down for kids and then parents are watching something else. I love films and movies and stories and electronics. This is the modern world. We’re not going to ever get away from that. So, the question is how do we transform the way that we engage with those things into something positive? So, the works of art that I make for Paper Canoe company, they all have lesson plans that accompany them.

So, often times schools will ask us for the CD and then I’ll give the kindergarten teacher, first grade teachers three lesson plans. So that basically the work of art that we made ultimately becomes a catalyst to have kids make their own works of art. Part of what I’m really interested in doing is not only making art projects but creating a kind of community and conversation around how works of art can penetrate our lives and become something that bring families together rather than separate them. So, one of the things that I’m doing today after our interview is I’m going to edit a video I made with my friend Kip who’s from this wonderful band TV On The Radio. They’re a great Brooklyn based band that kind of exploded. So, I’ve known him for a long time. I’m doing a craft series where I invite a friend, somebody interesting that often maybe you’ve seen in a different context and putting them in my living room with a bunch of craft activities and two adults playing making a craft together. Then of course parents can do that craft with their kids on a rainy day or if they want to spend a couple of hours engaged with their kids together. It’s fun because this notion of having adults be like kids is taking serious actors or musicians or people that often you see them in a really serious context and kind of pulling the kid out of them which I think is a really fun thing to do. Then Kip and I do a little bit of singing at the end of it because he’s such a wonderful singer.

That sounds like a really valuable thing to be doing.

Yeah. It’s just bringing everything that I’ve been doing for the last 20 years under one umbrella. I think in many ways, your life doesn’t necessarily unfold in any kind of structure that you can ever predict, but one of the things that we do as human beings is we try to make meaning out of it. So, for me, forming Paper Canoe is a kind of way to, again, marry all the different pieces of myself. The part of me that’s a performer and a mother and a teacher and create something out of that that felt authentic to this moment in time.

Absolutely. Well, all of our listeners and readers must check out Paper Canoe Company and keep an eye on tamistronach.com and Tami Stronach in general for the exciting stuff that’s coming up.

Thank you so much, Paul. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

 

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