Catching Up with Nicole Hogsett from New York City Children's Theater
¡Corre, Abuelita, Run! debuts on New York City stages this fall.
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Open Studio at Pier 57 played host to emerging set designers during two guest workshops with New York City Children's Theater last month.
Over the span of two days, kids met with Sammy Lopez, the creator of ¡Corre, Abuelita, Run!, to learn about the inspiration behind the play (yes, that's the abelita that inspired it all below).
They took a cue from the world famous NYC Marathon to design cardboard sets representing all five boroughs of New York City, from Lower East Side tenement buildings to favorite landmarks like the Bronx Zoo. Even better, they’ll see their work come to life on the big stage and have their name featured in the official playbill.
Below, CMA caught up with Nicole Hogsett, Director of Marketing and Audience Engagement, to chat about her favorite memories of the workshops, her childhood in Queens, and the Broadway play that sparked her love of theater.
Nicole as a child, after winning a game of Pretty Pretty Princess
What was your favorite part of Open Studio at Pier 57?
During our first workshop at Pier 57, a young artist came up to the table with a really special piece featuring a green floor, a paper towel roll glued vertically and horizontally, and other beautiful flourishes. When we asked her about it, she shared that this was the park next to her Abuela's house. She was one of many young artists who incorporated their grandparents into their artwork.
Chatting with each young artist about their work and seeing them connect with the story that Sammy told them about his Abuelita at the beginning of the workshop – and then using that as their inspiration – was my favorite part.
Did you have any memorable experiences of working with children during the workshop?
Connecting with young artists and helping them to brainstorm was one of the many memorable experiences I had during the workshops.
During our second workshop, one of the young artists arrived late after we had presented what we were working on. After leading them to their table, I explained that we were building set pieces for our upcoming production and that they were being tasked with creating a building that one might see in NYC. We chatted about where they lived, what the buildings around them looked like, and how they might transfer that to the block they were holding. At the end of the session, the young artist shared their building with me and told me it was based on their grandma's apartment building.
Where are you from and what is the arts community like there?
I was born and raised in Hollis, Queens. There were few arts opportunities in my neighborhood, but luckily, being in New York, we were never too far from arts experiences. I also had parents who made sure that my sister and I were exposed to the arts from a very young age.
Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?
My mom's cousin, whom I'm still extremely close to, was an elementary school teacher and an artist. All of my favorite artmaking memories are with him. We made ornaments, magnets, and even built a replica of the Titanic!
Can you describe a formative experience visiting the theater?
One of my all-time favorite memories was seeing my first Broadway show, Beauty and the Beast. It was pouring that day, and our train had gotten into the city late, so my entire family ran through the streets of Manhattan without umbrellas to make it to the theater in time. Then, I watched wide-eyed as the performers took the stage and brought the story I loved to life.
Everything about that day was magical, and it was the moment I fell in love with theater.
What advice would you give to young artists who wish to pursue an art practice?
My advice for a young artist would be to recognize that you can find inspiration from anything!
One of my favorite parts of CMA's Open Studio is that each week has a different theme, like playgrounds, classroom objects, and the environment. It's such a gift to let young artists think about their world creatively, and I hope it inspires the artists CMA works with to never stop doing so!
What is the best show or exhibition that you have seen recently?
I might be biased, but New York City Children's Theater's Spring 2023 production, Fish in a Tree, was such an incredible performance. The show told the story of Ally, a young artist with dyslexia who, with her teacher's support, explores her true potential.
It was such an important story, and it was so creatively told – a perfect combination of theater, visual arts, music, and movement.