The Other Mozart
Created and Written by Sylvia Milo
Directed by Issac Byrne
Presented by The Players Theatre and Little Matchstick Factory
What is life like when you are the sister of one of the world’s greatest musical geniuses? What happens when you have musical talent like your genius brother but are forced to hide it away because of your gender? These are the questions explored in the one-woman show The Other Mozart, which I had the pleasure of seeing this week at The Players Theatre in the West Village. The Other Mozart is the story of Maria Anna (“Nannerl”) Mozart, sister to Wolfgang and herself a child prodigy, like her brother. The Other Mozart seeks to give Nannerl a voice. I greatly appreciated that the script didn’t try to revise history or claim that Nannerl was more talented than her brother. It simply posited that she had just as much to give as he did and simply had to give up her public career because she was a woman. While very little of her own writing is preserved, the script pulls stories from letters written by her parents and her brother, and then uses imagination to fill in the gaps, with great result.
A ninety minute monologue is a daunting task for any actor. It requires an immense amount of focus, charisma, and confidence to hold the audience solely in your hand for that amount of time. Actress Samantha Hoefer (who alternates the role with the playwright) is more than up to the challenge. She commands the stage from the very first moment and truly takes the audience on a journey. She is exceedingly charming as young Nannerl, playing her teacups because her father wouldn’t let her start music lessons until she was old enough to not screw up her technique. She’s devastating when her touring career is taken away and she’s resigned as she watches her brother soar to greatness. It’s important to note, both in the script and Hoefer’s performance, that Nannerl is never a victim. She may be a victim of her time and her gender, but Hoefer infuses Nannerl’s choices with dignity and with agency. It’s incredibly sad that so little of her actual words remain, considering that she outlived her entire immediate family. What a life and what a woman.
The direction by Issac Byrne is incredibly sharp and he never allows the production to become stagnant. In a post-show Q&A, he stressed how important it was to him that the show didn’t feel like 90 minutes of a girl sitting and talking. He succeeds, as Hoefer fills the entire stage creating her space and the times that she DOES sit still become all the more meaningful. The period movement direction by Janice Orlandi is excellent as she guided Hoefer through creating specific and distinct postures for each character. The centerpiece of The Other Mozart is the 18 foot giant skirt (designed by Magdalena Dabrowska and Miodrag Guberinic) that also serves as the set. It’s incredibly clever how the skirt is covered in the letters and how folds of fabric serve as hiding places for various props. It truly creates a sense of magic, as they seem to appear out of thin air right when Nannerl needs them. The audience waits the entire play for Nannerl to stand up in the skirt and the anticipation delivers. It’s a stunning image and one I won’t soon forget.
“History is as much the stories we aren’t told as the stories we are,” the audience was told at the top of the show. I’m so glad I got to hear this story. The Other Mozart continues through January 19th. You can find all your information about attending the show here.