I recently had the pleasure of interviewing actor, director, producer, and personal trainer Adyana de la Torre to promote her current project Gymnos: A Geek’s Tragedy. Gymnos is a play currently showing at New York City’s HERE until October 6th, so if you’re on the East Coast make sure to check it out! In this interview Adyana talks about the play, what it’s like to combine her passions of fitness and performing, the process of being a director and an actor in the same project, and she lets her geek side out by talking about her favorite comic book movies.
It was so much fun chatting with Adyana. She has such a passion for what she does and listening to her talk about her work was a total delight. Check out the interview below for all the fun details!
What led you into your passion for fitness and for being a performer?
As far as fitness goes I was a dancer ever since I was a kid and right out of college, aside from teaching dance and drama, I started working at gyms. I was a sales rep then I worked at the juice bar and all of the facets at a gym. I loved working out and one of the nutritionists who worked at the gym said, “You’re really good with people and I know you love working out, so you might as well become a trainer.” So I did! I got my certification, I started teaching classes, and so I’ve been a trainer and a fitness instructor for about ten years now. As far as performing, I went to college for musical theater and I’ve always sort of known that it was in me and that it would be an intregal part of my life. I’ve been directing and producing shows with a theater company up here in New York for almost two years now. I’ve been around it all of my life.
Tell me about your project Gymnos: A Geek’s Tragedy.
It started out about five or six years ago when a client of mine said, “You love theater and you’re really involved in fitness, so it would be great to put those two ideas together.”
I said, “Yeah you’re right!” So, I started putting together ideas, even just ideas for characters and situations and different events at the gym and things like that. I kept it on the backburner since it never felt like the right time. We came to the idea that it should be a play and so we commissioned Nina Mansfield to write the play for us. Way back we didn’t know what direction it was going to take. We always knew that there were situations we wanted to take place at a gym, but we really needed a story. We needed a beginning, middle, and an end. Through improvisations, readings, and workshops, because these were the kinds of tools that she needed, she put something together and then she had the fabulous idea to make it like a contemporary Greek tragedy or rather a comedy from a guy who sees it two different ways, but it’s definitely a comedy. Nina structured it so beautifully. It’s so organized and it has this duo that is a struggling playwright who is clearly out of shape who is visited by his subconscious, a chorus. They’re the thoughts in his head, but they also tie the actions of the play. They take him out of the house the lead him to find his inspiration as well as his muse.
He’s also kind of socially inept and what not and they’re trying to get him to see a little more out of the box. The chorus takes him to the gym and that’s where he meets some of these wholesome and zany characters that will serve as his inspiration for his next play and also in finding his muse which doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman. It’s a delightful play and from beginning to end we’ve incorporated dancing because we thought we had to have dancing, so Carlos Neto a friend of mine from the UK came and choreographed the show and Brett Thomas Miro, who also plays the Hero, scored the music and did an amazing job with this upbeat music. You seriously want to get out of your seat and start dancing. From beginning to end, we’ve got twenty five characters on stage, just to see that many people on stage and they’re all in gold and white costumes like fitness wear, and the stage has Greek columns, like over the top columns. We’ve tried to show this world, but in a very classical setting.
What would you say was your favorite thing about being a part of this?
Oh my gosh, I mean there are so many things. The cool thing is that we got to witness the process of it, from the creation of it, to choosing the music and what kind of music, and the fact that the actors went through a sixty-day work out program that we sort of guided them with. So, we’d do these work outs together where I’d lead them in a class. They worked out together in the gym, they were rather strict with their diet, and they got in shape with the girls knowing they would be in sports bras and booty shorts and the guys would have their shirts off (laughs). That was an exciting part of the process seeing them grow. Some of them had never worked out before or ever had the desire for it, but once they started working out together they started to get excited and started sharing recipes. To see their transformation from two months ago, like not just their bodies but the way they move and their improved stamina and endurance. A lot of these people at first when I would lead a class they wouldn’t be able to physically continue the entire class, but now that’s not the case. It’s huge. The talent was already there, what they brought in and their own sort of personalities and putting that into these stereotypical gym characters (laughs). Last night it was really funny, it was our opening night and it was like a war from beginning to end. I think we were able to definitely capture the comedy of it, but also the wow factor.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of directing Gymnos and also being in the play itself?
Well I purposely from the beginning knew what character I was going to play, what I would naturally fall into, which is the Latina dance instructor. I consider it to be more of an ensemble role, like many of the roles are like that. Everyone is on stage at the same time, like part of the Greek ensemble, and then they all have their moment to shine in a particular role. Like, I’m coming on as my role after intermission, but I did not include myself in the rest (laughs). There was no way for me to be a part of the ensemble as well, so I knew that I would go on there, play my part, and then go off. That really helped me because I really needed to have an eye on everything. Those twenty-five people in the show get excited and enthusiastic and they have a lot of things to throw out there. So one thing I have to do is to keep an eye on them because they get so energetic and it’s well intended, but that’s another thing is to keep everyone focused because there’s a lot to do (laughs)! You work with one person and then you need the others to remain still, so even that process of working in individual sections versus getting twenty-five people to do the same thing on the same part of the music is very different. It’s very time consuming and it requires a lot of patience, but I knew from the beginning that I could just do my part and then go off. Last night I was able to sit in the audience and watch Act I and then go back stage after intermission, so that worked out too.
Oh, that’s clever!
And then of course I have a very ridiculous laugh, so they were asking if I could sit in the audience every night during Act I because if they could hear my laugh which is so ridiculous then they knew that things were going well (laughs).
So the play deals with inspiration and the origins of that inspiration?
Most definitely. Each little obstacle that he has to overcome is another sort of indication of something he could work on or something that could offer inspiration, like another way to look at things. We really try to do that in each segment, like, “What is he taking from this? How is this going to serve him later when he ends up writing the play?” You’ve got to be rooting for this guy from the beginning. So it’s not just the chorus that’s egging him on and encouraging him and trying to get him to break through, but it’s also the idea of the muse. The idea of her winds up being in the image of a real person, an actress that he had in one of his plays. Of course it’s revealed later that the actress has a boyfriend who was one of the trainers that he experienced along the way. It’s sort of the, “Oh no,” moment of the play.
That’s what I was thinking as you said it!
Yeah! Then at one moment you realize that it’s not just necessarily about her, but him finding his muse that may not necessarily just be another counterpart. It’s really cool.
Adding onto that question, where do you get your inspiration?
The inspiration for the role I’m playing was definitely drawn from my mother. She is a Zumba fitness instructor and so I’m kind of channeling her a little bit in this. I had so much fun with it, it’s like the best fifteen minutes on stage ever (laughs). For my ideas I tend to draw from personal experience. For this one in particular I had tons of them because that’s my world, the fitness world. For me that was really easy to say, “Well when this happens in the fitness world,” to sort of feed the playwright ideas. It was a lot for the playwright as far as character development because she’s not really a gym person, so for her she had to rely on us, myself and a few other personal trainers who contributed, or just gym people and fitness people in general, on what is this really about? What really goes on? It was her magic touch to bring in the Greek comedy, attaching that to it. So yeah, a lot of it came from my own experiences at the gym.
What is it like combining for passion for health and fitness with your passion of performing?
I think that up until this year I hadn’t really seen a whole lot in the theater world that really had anything to do with fitness or health or anything. Earlier in the year I felt like maybe we were a little late on this because I had been holding onto this idea for so long, but I hadn’t yet done anything with it. I kept asking myself, “Is it the wrong time? Did I miss the opportunity when I had it several years ago?” To me I feel like we’re still hatching upon this combination and that it’s still relatively new in terms of incorporating that in live theater.
What is your dream role?
I feel like I kind of did that last year and this year, so last year I performed in a play again that was years in the making. The play had already been written, but it was originally intended to be produced through a certain group and that kind of fell through, so it sort of landed back in our laps for our theater company. It was a role that to me I thought, “If I don’t do anything after this I’m OK with that because this is my dream role.” It was a role that allowed me enormous range. I got to play four different characters stemming from one core motherly character. The play was called Ticket 2 Eternity by Matthew Ethan Davis. So we produced that last year as part of the FringeNYC International Theater Festival. It got fabulous reviews and if I had to I would say that was the one, but the role I’m playing now is also fantastic. I feel like I’ve been able to do the two things that I’ve really wanted to do in the past year. Now the goal is to try to get either one of these projects moving forward, either by a longer run or get them in regional theaters.
Are there any projects of yours in the fitness world or in the performance world that we can look forward to?
I definitely have a series of fitness videos that I am a part of that are mostly already out like Blood Type Kit, Insanity Infomercials, 28 Day Total Body Transformation, and I just shot one called Escape Your Shape. Those keep coming around and I do about one or two a year which is awesome. I’ve been teaching at a fitness convention once every year for IFTA and that’s been a fabulous opportunity as well to educate other fitness instructors.
What is your favorite comic book movie and why?
I would probably have to say… oh this is hard…
You can pick more than one, it’s totally okay.
Okay, definitely Iron Man is one, and Superman from when I was a kid, for sure. Then there’s the Bionic Woman if we go way back (laughs).
So if there’s a Bionic Woman movie we should totally root for you to play the main character, right?
Yeah, I have always wanted to play an action hero in film, like I just want to kick some butt.
We need to make The Expendabelles happen, clearly, so you can be in it.
Please do, yes!
Is there anything else you like to geek over?
I consider being a theater nerd kind of geekish. Just the stuff we talk about and the humor surrounding it and just being around that world is super geeky to me. I try to incorporate my sense of humor as much as possible in the play and it’s funny because a lot of the cast members know me as a director and being kind of serious and keeping everyone focused and doing what we have to do. The things that I ask them to do to really pull out the comedy in this. We can come up with these ridiculous ideas and yet our personalities can be so together, and the cast members have gotten to see another side of me which is kind of odd and I’ve tried to incorporate that into the show: My odd sense of humor.
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