Feature Story in Citizen LA

More Than Rabbits In Nicole Disson's Hat
by J.B.Jones

I first met Nicole Disson at the fashion week shows in LA. We ran into each other twice, which isn’t extraordinary, I ran into everybody every night, but the second time was at Varnish off sixth just after the last shows had wrapped. Nicole came up to me like I was an old dear friend, gave me a hug, which unlike most hugs I receive from people in LA, let me know she meant it.

Nicole isn’t the shy type; rather strong and forth right. It’s attractive, attractive in the sense that you want to hang out with her, you want to get to know her; she is so passionate about life in general, that it makes you want to be that passionate as well.

At the time I ran into Nicole at Varnish, she had a show coming up, which she was passionate about me attending, called All Together Now, a multi-media, mutli-chaptered, mutli-showcase of women artists through-out LA. Honestly, because it was in Hollywood, I doubted my arrival at all. I dreaded it for weeks. I’m a long-time, dedicated, down-towner and pretty much any trip involving driving is not on my agenda. It wasn’t obligation that eventually secured my arrival, it was curiosity, curiosity because Nicole not only danced in the show, choreographed a piece in the show and sang in the show, she also produced the show.

Nicole has been studying theater, all aspects of theater: dancing, singing, acting, for years, and she’s far from reaching thirty. Born in Washington DC, Nicole showed interest in performing from the get-go. Both her parents are involved in the entertainment industry and were always supportive, which is a huge benefit when you decide you want to study in Florida under Ann Reinking before graduating high school. Nicole apprenticed under the Fosse protégée for three years before jumping ship to study theater with Pasty Rodenburg in London.

Attending the theater as an audience member, in addition to her regular studies, at least once a week while in London, instilled a burning‘ desire to learn’ every aspect of her craft, or rather crafts in Disson’s case. She returned to Florida with a renewed energy, snagged her BFA in acting from FSU, and spent all her free time in the dance studio. “At the age of seven I knew I wanted to be a dancer, a singer and an actress…I love to share the human story.”

The theater is probably the outlet to share the human experience, to engage with the audience in a search for what Nicole terms ‘a universal truth.’ “It’s always about something greater [than it appears to be.]” It’s the ‘something greater’ that drew Disson to LA. She chased her dream across the country, stopping in San Francisco, among many others across the nation, where she joined the B-Street Theater for a stint performing up and down the coast. It seems she knew she would catch her dream in LA…

“One of the reasons that I specifically moved to LA is that LA can be whatever you want it to be. There was a whole pool of new exciting people to meet and work with here. The theater emphasizes that, it is a community/a family, and you are building something with these people, it’s a collaborative effort. I really thrive off of that.” Although still fairly new to LA, Disson is already a member of the Open Fist Theater and performed in one of their most successful shows to date, Joe’s Garage, which is currently in talks of a nationwide tour.

When I ask her if she has a favorite genre of talent, she wavers between all three, maybe leans a bit more to the actor calling, but they are all about the same thing to her: ‘collaboration with the audience.’ It shows. Her performance dance piece at All Together Now created an energy in the air that was heavy with anticipation and satisfaction. She was questioning the audience; the audience returned responses, you could see it on their faces and feel it in the air. It was a very personal experience, a very honest experience. I asked Disson about the motivation behind it and simply enough she was just telling her own story, “It’s just: This is who I am and this is what I’m bringing to the table now.” If only we were all so brave….and talented. When probed about the producing aspect of her last show, talk moves to her wanting to start her own production company someday, simply: “I just love bringing people together.”

Here’s the thing about Nicole; she's so grounded, and she works hard, a rarity in LA. She realizes she is the only one who can make her dreams reality. “Some people say ‘if its meant to be, its meant to be,’ but I have a difficult time with that, – its just putting it too much in someone else’s hands. I try to just be so self-aware. It’s really important to realign and re-check in with yourself.” I asked her if she has a mantra to which she lives by. “I don’t have a specific mantra. I think it changes. “For the show is was most definitely, ‘The show must go on.’ I think that’s so appropriate on so many levels, not just theatrically, but on a personal level, too. No matter what happens, it is just a matter of the show that is my life – just continuing to live it! “I’m also trying to tell myself lately to trust in myself, trust that it will happen…make the most of every situation and see the positive.”

Staged at Space 15 Twenty, Disson’s All Together Now was a collaborative effort between herself and an endless list of artists, including The Ladies Choir, (of which Disson is a member and refers to the experience as ‘life changing’), who joined together to share the experience and teach the value of creating and cultivating an ‘artistic community.’

Me: What is your definition of an artist?
“Someone who lives to create. I’ve heard some actors refrain from calling themselves artists, I’m not really sure why –”

I interrupted: Do you think you’re an artist?
“Yes. And I’m an actor.”

It seems that a true artist would need to exude joyous unrestraint when working. To get to the point of being a working artist, one would also need creativity, drive and control of medium.

Nicole has captured this essence of being a true artist through all her mediums. So what’s next for the omni-talent? There’s that production company, and an interest in cinematography. She was just cast in the lead role of Isabelle, in the Open Fist’s production of The Illusion, due to hit the stage in September. Also, there is an art show she wants to produce focused around a project she has been working on over the past few years involving mail art: Ornithology a universal collaboration between artists exchanging letters, art, communication. And another she was approached about putting together focused around mail in which stage performance intermingles with love letters. She muses about starting a tap dance troupe, as well, and a few upcoming performances with a band she has recently started singing with.
Whatever Disson pulls out of her hat next, in Hollywood or not, I’m there. You should be, too.

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