Clara Francesca is an Australian actor and performance artist living in New York City.
Please start with some background about yourself. Why did you move to NYC?
At 17, I wrote, performed and directed the solo show “Susan Who?” at the Melbourne Arts Centre Fairfax Stage, winning Best Actress for a play festival. I connected with Anne Bogart’s theatre company, SITI, which was running a two-week training program in Melbourne. I enrolled in the training and my world was opened up—the training was better than sex! I took a job at a medical law firm and worked there during the days, shooting professional films on days off and rehearsing shows in the evening and on weekends. I toured a solo bilingual children’s musical around Australia, took a show to Malaysia for an International Arts Festival, and had films win awards. It was magical. Then at 23, I got the invite to come to The Big Apple. Anne Bogart and SITI Company were inviting 19 international artists to partake in their inaugural Conservatory and I was part of the troupe.
Where are you from? How long have you been here?
My dad is the first to boast his “pure (invaded by every neighboring land)” Catanese (Sicilian) roots. My mum and her dad are proud of their Veneto heritage. My maternal Nan is passionate about her exact half/half Irish and “not British” Cornwall past. I guess I fall somewhere in there. Both sides of the family settled in Melbourne, voted the world’s most “livable” city, as I like to brag. And I was SUPER fortunate as a child to live on-and-off in Italy and do schooling in Verona and England. I stayed in Melbourne until I left for New York in September 2013.
How did you get your job in NYC?
I got invited to act with the Conservatory for nine months. After that, I started working events and doing theater and voice-overs. I’ve also been singing in my band, teaching acting, devising theater and performance art, and doing public speaking. I am so grateful to have worked with notable companies such as Classic Harbor Line, Phoenix Theater, GF&Co Theater, The Brick Theater, The Friars Club, and New York Speech Coaching.
I’ve appeared on the TV show We Are New York and in commercials, and am very excited for some upcoming partnerships I have made with agents to propel my career on the big screen and main stage even further.
I recently received a commission to teach social justice via theater to five-year-olds in Coney Island. It is one of the most rewarding, challenging and empowering jobs I’ve ever done. A show I’m very proud of is The MARSBAND. I get to sing with the amazing scientist Carter Emmart and composer Keith Patchel in the Hayden Planetarium. We project live footage of Mars and Keith has us sing around the projections whilst Carter explains the science. It’s unreal.
Where do you live? Why did you choose that area?
Crown Heights in Brooklyn. I think it chose me!
What do you like/dislike about living in NYC?
I love that I work every day as an actor, producer, events manager or a bit of all of them. Being an actor every day is my calling and means a lot to be able to do. I love less the lack of workplace relation laws being as good as in Oz and the healthy food standards being lower.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?
The answer to “So you’re an actor, are you any good?” is: “I’m the best!”. If I said this in Australia, I’m sure I’d be put out to pasture. NYC has a sense of humor about this and I love that. There is a tremendous sense of community and a helping hand for anything professional. I think that is really important, especially in the arts. We are in the business of putting butts on seats, but we are skilled in compassion and empathy. How can we not want to help each other?
What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC, and how did you overcome it?
Connections! It took me a long time to get into the industry in Australia. I don’t have that time here in NYC. I’ve found “networking” is NOT a dirty word in the States and I love that! So I network as much and as positively as I can. I need to get into those big producer rooms and soon.
Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC currently on your radar?
Director Benita de Wit, friend and colleague of mine, is doing some powerful political theater and it’s also great craft. The Hybrid Movement Company is also an Aussie-based trapeze wonderment team kicking goals whose work I adore. Laura Anna Parker is an Aussie friend and journalist reporting on some great issues ranging from social justice to science in The Guardian, New York Times, The Cut et al.
Favorite NYC brunch spot?
The first one that comes to mind is Aussie chain Bluestone Lane on Greenwich Ave but that’s cheating. The second is Café Rue Dix on Bedford Avenue, which has an incredible French-Senegalese brunch. The husband owns it and his wife owns Marche Rue Dix next door selling divine outfits and home goods. Highly recommend both!
Favorite NYC cocktail spot?
Fat Cat for all things awesome and delicious lychee cocktails, and Theatre XIV in Bushwick for the Rouge Royale Cocktail and phenomenal burlesque show. But my cocktail of choice is a perfect Long Island Iced Tea and, as kitsch as that drink is, I still haven’t found the perfect spot for it. I also love attending Soho House with friends and I tend to enjoy Aperol Spritz there in summer on the rooftop.
What are your ‘only in New York’ moments?
THERE ARE SO MANY! A favorite was seeing Patti Smith sing and recite live in a church in Brooklyn. That was beyond special. Also getting to know a family who run a fabric shop in Astoria called Broadway Silk Shop. The shop had a beautiful cat that would often be waiting for me outside the shop front and would walk me into the shop when I came to visit. This particular day, I visited the shop after auditioning for my first commercial job. I thought to myself, “I’m going to follow that cat today”. So I let him guide me in the shop. He took me to a section of the shop that sold unique rings. He nuzzled on one, and I thought, “he wants me to buy it. If I buy this ring, I bet I book that job”. I thanked the cat and went up to buy the ring, and my phone rang. It was my agent and I had booked the job!
What are your top tips for friends visiting NYC?
Check out the “whisper gallery” in Grand Central, enjoy cake at Café Lalo, and remember, Times Square used to be a very intense red light district, perspective people.
For fun, some favourite spots are: Kopi Kopi, Verameat Jewelry, Earth Speak next to Brooklyn Cat Café next to Sahadi’s, Catland, Flower Power, Stick Stone and Bone, 3 Angel Jewelry, Musee Lingerie, Ace Hotel, Delacorte Theater, Classic Harbor Line Yacht Rides, Film Anthology, Japan Society, Dances of Vice, House of Yes, The Plaxall Gallery, Mamoun’s Falafel (it’s incredible!), De Martini Cioccolato in Eataly and other locations, The Cloisters, The Met, Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
Anything else you would like to add?
Let us acknowledge the original landowners of this bustling city land. Let us reflect on how many people were lost during the AIDs epidemic. This land has had a lot happen to it. Let us be kind to it.