An Interview with Farley Cadena
From the tectonic pressures of rehabilitation and recovery
A theatrical diamond has been born
Hello Farley, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Although I’ve lived in a few other places briefly, I was born in Hollywood and raised in the Los Angeles area of California, and I still live here. For better or for worse, I say… but It’s a great place to be an artist.
When did you first develop a passion for the stage?
I fell in love with theater at nine years old, when I was first cast in an original musical version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was a local children’s theater production, and I had only one line, but I was hooked and never recovered, you might say.
What is the theatre scene like in Los Angeles?
Well, it has changed significantly over my lifetime, as there are only a handful of large professional theater companies these days. I think what Los Angeles has become known for, over the last few decades, is the 99-seat theater scene. There is a lot of innovative and original work being done here. On any given evening, dozens of shows are pushing the boundaries of the art form all over town. However, my true love is musical theater, and I perform more commonly in the large professional houses that have the budget for the sets, costumes, and glitz of the broadway style shows.
Your performance skills are a bit of a (tasty) soup – what are the ingredients?
I am a seasoned musical theater performer which is definitely the soup base. My wacky sense of humor is the unexpected spicy cayenne pepper, perhaps. Plus, a squeeze of lemon is my big bright versatile voice. The new ingredient these days is my vulnerability, a secret spice one might say, that makes my new show different from my past work.
You’ve got three famous actors, dead or alive, coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It makes me laugh just imagining those three together. And Kate Hepburn would be in charge of the menu. She would run that dinner party, I have no doubt, and I would let her!
You’re bringing a play to the United Solo festival, can you tell us about it?
In December of 2017, just before Christmas, I had a stroke which affected my speech, reading, hearing, and comprehension. I felt deeply lost, hopeless, frightened, and helpless during my illness. With STROKE OF LUCK, I have crafted a way to tell the story, going back and forth in time, in monologues and song.
When did you realise you wanted to turn your experiences into a play & why?
After my stroke I wanted so badly to simply return to being my ‘old self’, but my brain just seemed broken. Well, it was. Nonetheless, I dug deep into my rehabilitation and recovery. With the encouragement of my friends, I gave myself the big crazy task of telling the tale of what happened to me and transformed my life… out loud… with music… to an audience! When the idea of STROKE OF LUCK was born it was a ridiculous idea – as I could barely read or write, and speaking was quite difficult! But I’m a performer – what else could I do? Believe it or not, the show premiered in Los Angeles last year, just 10 months after my stroke. The miracle of that is not lost on me.
You describe the play as containing universal truths…
Well, of course, not everyone has had a stroke, but most people have been touched by this illness because of a close family member, co-worker, or friend having had one. Many people die every year from strokes or never fully recover. But even bigger than that is the question of how you deal with any significant illness. The fact is – being severely ill strips your identity away. It is profound and painful. Who you are, or thought you were in this world, is gone. The loss of identity is a big theme in the show. Also, the loss of one’s “voice” is a very vulnerable thing that I think really resonates with people.
How is directer Kirsten Chandler handling your creative baby?
Kirsten is not only a well respected Los Angeles director, but also a dear friend. She is one of many special friends who came to visit me right after the stroke happened. She knew me before, during, and after the stroke, so she had a true understanding of what I had been through. She helped me craft the humor of the show, and most importantly the “stroke moments” I recreate, in the most powerful way possible. I also could not have done this without the wisdom, friendship, and steady hand of my producer, Dion Mial. His input is incalculable.
What is the last thing you do before you step out on stage?
I need some silence really. I need a quiet moment or a little serenity before the madness of putting it all out there on stage for 90 minutes. It takes all of me, every last bit of me, to do this show.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your play in the streets of New York…
I’ll make you laugh, I’ll make you cry, and you might just learn something about life, too. I know for sure that you will never forget it.
Friday, October 11th, 2019
United Solo Theatre Festival
410 West 42nd Street, NYC