Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance's (MST&DA) Director of Teen Theatre, actor/director Joan Marie Cusick, who goes by stage name Joan Marie, not only grew up on Roosevelt Island; her family moved here when she was in preschool, but she has been doing theatre almost as long, thanks to MST&DA where she first studied. Marie is directing the upcoming teen performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a play she once starred in, as lead, Hermia.
Teen Theatre Director, Joan Marie's, headshot
Her directorial debut at MST&DA came in the spring of 2017 with Almost, Maine, a collection of two-person scenes that explore the many ways in which love is lost and found – and utterly befuddled – over the course of one evening in the small town of Almost, Maine.
Not only did Marie direct that play, but she chose it after falling in love with it in college. “When I was searching, I wanted something that wasn’t too mature for them. But I also didn’t want to choose a made-for-kids play, because I wanted them to be able to come in and actually connect.”
Marie's thoughtful choices don't go unnoticed. MST&DA executive director Kristi Towey says,"She is doing tremendous work with the teens. They relate to her on another level since she is not that much older than them. She challenges them and brings out their unique talents in such a special way. We are really fortunate to have her!"
Joan Marie’s parents, Russ and Jacqueline Lucid, are both professional actors and MST&DA regulars. Jacqueline has served as MST&DA executive director and director of adults, children and teen plays. But that’s not why Marie got into acting. She says a childhood babysitter was performing in shows at MST&DA and invited young Marie go see a performance. That was it. Marie was enthralled. She said to herself, “I want to do that. I want to be up there doing what they’re doing.” So she enrolled in theater classes.
She says her parents were somewhat dubious at first, perhaps recognizing from their own personal experience that the profession has its uncertainties and can be discouraging. But Marie was headstrong as well as focused. When her parents saw how much she loved to perform, they could no longer deny that in her case, the apple did not fall far from the tree, and they ultimately fully supported her endeavors.
She went on to study the craft throughout high school, in addition to her classes at MST&DA. Then, she pursued her passion at college at the State University of New York at Fredonia in upstate New York, where she said she immersed herself in their excellent Theater and Performing arts program. She started as a musical theater major and switched to drama halfway through.
She only has good things to say about the theatre program at Fredonia, explaining that it inspired the artist in each student, instead of imposing a specific ideal on them, “It was perfect for me because they’re very focused on creating artists as an individual, instead of creating cookie-cutter perfect Broadway performers. That spoke to me. I think we need to stop trying to make everyone perfect on stage, and start accepting people for who they are, and letting that be what makes them shine. And that’s what I love bringing out of my students.” She says that her experience at Fredonia gave her the confidence in herself that she can now bring to others.
Right after college Marie and some friends started their own theater company but it was not the right fit for her. “It was a great experience, but not really for me. I was doing a lot of the executive stuff, and I really just wanted to be performing more.”
Learning from her experience and endeavoring to stay true to herself, Marie enrolled in classes at The Barrow Group (TBG), a 32-year-old non-profit performing arts organization located in midtown Manhattan whose ensemble-based performance approach encourages simplicity, authenticity, and spontaneity and aims to inspire positive change in the lives of its audience members, artists, and students.
Joan Marie at The Flea Theatre
Fast forward to this past summer when Marie auditioned for the renowned Flea Theater in Tribeca, to be part of the company, and she got in. It’s a non-equity Off-Off Broadway Theater that produces new works and provides a valuable opportunity for actors to be seen by people (casting directors and producers) in 'the business.'
The Flea, among other things, produces late night “Serials” that involve a Writers Room comprised of five writers. They each write a ten-minute play which is directed and acted by members of the company. The audience then votes for the top three plays. The writer that comes out on top goes back to the Writers Room to write the next episode. ‘If you’re a part of one that gets voted on, it gets really exciting, because then the writer starts writing for you because they see how you work on stage.”
Joan Marie, on the right, wearing a brown t-shirt and black pants, in a performance of The Monkey King
Serial performances take place at 11 pm, in the vein of late night comedy. Look here for a schedule of Serial plays and to purchase tickets. Marie continues to perform in MST&DA shows and was in this summer's The Monkey King. Also, stay tuned for upcoming dates for Joan Marie’s serial late night performances at The Flea.
This weekend, catch Marie’s directorial talent in the teen production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Click here for tickets and more information.