An annual gathering of Muhlenberg alums provides a space for performers to try out new material and escape their comfort zone.
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
By Laura Diorio '20
Members of the Fishbowl Collective, a Muhlenberg Alumni Group, performed in an annual summer concert at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, housed in the West Bank Cafe, on Friday, July 19 at 7 p.m. Laura Diorio '20 had the chance to sit down with Dana Iannuzzi '03, founder and producer of the event. Iannuzzi is a New York-based actor and director who works closely as a mentor and volunteer with Muhlenberg’s Career Center, has worked as the internship coordinator for the Larry Singer New York Semester and has produced Sink or Swim for the last five years.
Muhlenberg: How did the annual concert come to be?
Iannuzzi: Now in its fifth year, Sink or Swim began as an idea. Skimming the posts of The Fishbowl Collective Facebook page someone had asked “Didn’t we say we’d like to organize a cabaret of some kind?” that sparked a group of us getting together and organizing the first “Sink or Swim” which was presented at Feinstein’s 54 Below.
Why call it Sink or Swim?
At first the title itself seemed a little negative—Sink or Swim? Are we judging one another to see if one person fails over another? The answer is no; in fact it’s quite the opposite, because as members of The Fishbowl Collective, we all have a shared performance history at Muhlenberg College. For me, Sink or Swim is an opportunity to try. That’s it—just to try.
What does this show mean to you, as its founder?
For those of us still auditioning and performing, it is a way to try new material out for size and see if it works for us, or perhaps to slip into a role that you may not normally play. For those who have stopped performing but miss it as an artistic outlet, it is a chance to put yourself out there again and be vulnerable to your own artistic expression.
Can any alum participate?
Anyone can do it! At least a dozen of this year’s performers had done Sink or Swim with me before. They’re not just theatre or dance majors. One friend a few years back was a French and music major, and she knew I was doing it. She reached out and she performed. Perhaps some of us have gone on to pursue professional careers in the performing arts, but perhaps some of us only performed at Muhlenberg, miss it now and seek to find an outlet to perform again.
What do you hope the performers gained from the experience?
I encourage everyone who walks into a rehearsal for Sink or Swim to leave their own insecurities and judgment at the door and to just try because the room we perform in is full of family, friends, other alumni—but no industry. So get up there and perform, remember why you love it and maybe you’ll sink and it won’t go as planned, but maybe, just maybe you’ll swim.
Well, how did it go? The show was July 19, did everyone swim?
Yes, in ways they didn’t know they could. Everyone loved partaking in the theme of this year’s showcase: performing music by Cy Coleman. You learn new things about yourself as a performer and a person when space you’re working in is supportive and unapologetic.
How does the show get off the ground?
Last year we received some financial support from the alumni affairs office, but everything produced is out of pocket. I pay for the musicians, the venue, the rehearsal spaces. I want to cultivate a space for alums to feel safe and comfortable to perform and share, so funding the project myself is one of many ways to do that.
What are your goals for the future of this concert?
As the show grows, I’d love to have some alumni composers come in and showcase their work in a safe environment. I will provide the space, the singers, the musicians and the audience. All participants need to do is supply their work. It’s a no-brainer for anyone trying to get their piece off the ground.
One of the performers, Marie DiNorcia '16, shared her experience after the exciting and rewarding night: “I don’t know how long it will take, if ever, until I feel like I can assume the identity of a singer, where I can just enjoy it for the experience it gives me instead of worrying about how other people are experiencing what’s really just my existence. But I am so grateful to have some wonderful people in my corner—like Dana Iannuzzi—who shove me (with lots of love) right outside of my comfort zone only so I can keep expanding the borders of it.”