All Columns in Alphabetical Order

Monday, November 7, 2016

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Alexandra Cohler, Actress Our Coverage Sponsored by Stribling and Associates

Alexandra Cohler

For over 30 years, Stribling and Associates has represented high-end residential real estate, specializing in the sale and rental of townhouses, condos, co-ops, and lofts throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, and around the globe. Stribling has more than 200 professional brokers who use their respected expertise to provide personalized service to buyers and sellers at all price levels. A separate division, Stribling Private Brokerage, discreetly markets properties over $5 million, and commands a significant market share in this rarified sector of residential real estate. Stribling is the exclusive New York City affiliate of Savills, a leading global real estate advisor with over 200 office in 48 countries. 

Whom You Know Congratulates their new President, Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan:


Actress Alexandra Cohler is a born and bred Manhattanite! She grew up surrounded by theater. At nine, she made her professional Off-Off-Broadway debut in St. George and the Dragon at Chrimstastide at the HB Playwrights Foundation, playing a gnome. A few months later, she was working off-Broadway, playing Herman Goering’s daughter in Romulus Linney’s 2: Goering at Nuremberg. She has also appeared on Sesame Street in a segment narrated by RuPaul. 

Bilingual, she graduated from Pomona College cum laude with a BA in Theater and French. She also studied internationally: clowning and mask-work at the Ecole Internationale Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France and Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England.

In the last few years, she started focusing on film and TV. She shot the lead role of Cordelia in a new independent feature film adaptation of King Lear currently in post-production. She has another film in post-production, Remember Me?, in which she plays the lead – a teenage girl coming to terms with the death of her beloved father. She looks forward to the release of both these films.

She also recently starred as Vanda in Venus in Fur at Easthampton Guild Hall, directed by Tina Andrews, with whom she’s worked several times, including in two of Tina’s original pieces: The Mistress of Monticello (in which Alexandra played Martha Jefferson) and Buckingham where Alexandra polished off her Irish accent and played Lady Sarah Lenox, King George III’s lover.

Currently, Alexandra lives in the Union Square neighborhood of Manhattan. She’s beginning work to play Juliet in an art film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet by the Dark Lady Players, an experimental Shakespeare group with whom she’s been working for the past seven years. With them, she’s played such diverse roles as Hamlet and Iago. She’s excited to finally play a woman!  We are so pleased to present Alexandra Cohler as our latest Mover and Shaker.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Alexandra for Whom You Know, and we like her shoes.

Peachy Deegan: 
Please tell us about your first acting memories.
Alexandra Cohler: 
My first acting memory was playing the Little Mouse Deer in my first grade class play. My best friend’s father designed masks and he made us paper masks to wear. I remember being a little embarrassed and loving that the mask would hide any blushing that might occur. At a certain point, though, I loved being in the spotlight and really wasn’t worried any more about what everyone else though. I loved standing out!

Since you grew up in the field, did your family want you to be in “the family business” or were you discouraged from it and decided to do it anyway?
Growing up in New York, I was constantly surrounded by opportunities to act but neither of my parents are involved in the business. My mom was an actress when she was younger but wasn’t involved in any way by the time I was born. And my dad’s a lawyer! But when, at eight-years-old, I said I wanted to be an actress, my Mom brought me to HB Studios, where she had studied for years, and signed me up for my first class. That said, though, my Dad has always reminded me that I could always go to law school!

Do you think your family has made your career path easier or more challenging for you and why?
My parents were definitely supportive of my career as a child, which I really appreciated. My mom really acted as my first agent and helped me put in place my own work ethic and priorities -- the show always came first, even if I had a cold or was tired. My parents did insist that my schoolwork remain important and they pushed me to go to college rather than a conservatory but, while there were times I didn’t like those rules, I’m incredibly glad now that they did so! It made me really decide that acting was what I wanted more than anything in the world but also helped me become a fully-developed human being -- something that I think is essential for every artist.

What should everyone know about contrasting acting techniques and which do you prefer and why?
Oh, wow. This is one of those million-dollar questions that everyone has an opinion on and no one agrees! For me, there are two main ways of working -- outside-in and inside-out. I was first trained in the inside-out Method, at HB and then later at Stella Adler Conservatory. I then went to England where I studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the work there is much more based on outside-in, using the text and “just saying the words the man wrote!”, as one of my “tutors” used to say. Finally, I studied at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris where we did mostly physical and mask work and almost no words whatsoever! For me, it depends on the project and the role. I am very text-based and will always look at the script, treating something in development with as much reverence as Shakespeare (and questioning Shakespeare as much as a new creation). Then it depends -- if I “get” the character, I need to do less work. Sometimes I work inside-out, figuring out what makes me tick the same way as her. Sometimes it’s a pair of shoes or a corset that help me find a walk or a particular movement and that’s what ultimately leads me in. And sometimes it’s an animal or someone I’ve seen on the subway and I think “That’s her!”

What would surprise everyone about being an actress in Manhattan?
Everyone talks about how competitive and difficult it is to be an actress in Manhattan and it is; no arguments there. But what’s wonderful is how incredibly supportive the community is! People support each other, cheering on our successes because we all get how much we’ve each fought for every one. I’m always amazed by the outpouring of support I get at every success I have and how supportive the community is of each other’s productions, screenings -- everything!

What is the difference between a successful actor and one who is not?
You know, this is a tough one for me. Because so much can change in this business from day-to-day. You can book a series regular role tomorrow and then have it canceled a week later and be back on unemployment. So I think for me success means doing roles and work that makes you happy -- whether that’s commercials, theater, film, TV, whatever. And working consistently.

What do you think of the historic differences in pay between men and women in Hollywood?
First of all, I think they absolutely exist and are alive and well. They are incredibly ingrained and deep-seeded and I applaud all the women I know in Hollywood and those I merely read about who have broken through those barriers. But this is an ongoing problem, not only in this industry, where women’s work has to be viewed as equally important to men’s.

What should the world know about Paris?
Parisians are wonderful! They are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. Like New Yorkers, they’re busy and sometimes people see that as standoffish. But if you make any effort, they’re open and accommodating. It’s also a city that endlessly inspires me; it’s filled with art and culture down every twisty-turny alley.

What should the world know about London?
There are all these wonderful, little hidden streets and alleys that are SO worth exploring. I can spend a week in just one neighborhood and still find new treasures. And there are theaters spread out all over the city as well.

Please tell us about your shoes; we believe Peachy stopped you once because she liked your shoes and that is how we know you.
That’s true! I love shoes that harken back to another time period -- whether that’s lace-up boots or gladiator sandals. One of my favorite companies is Sofft; their shoes are comfortable (great for pounding the NYC pavement) but there’s also something about them that seems timeless. And, of course, vintage stores and little hole-in-the-wall places, here or around the world.

What is the best way for non-Americans in the entertainment industry to secure a great agent?
Aside from visa and legality issues, I don’t think it’s that different from us Americans -- find what makes you stand out, be that a language or look or other skill -- and market it to the best of your abilities!

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My parents. They’ve both achieved success in their fields and instilled in me a feeling that, if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. That’s sometimes a hard lesson to hold onto in an industry where luck seems to be so much more important but it has taught me to never take anything for granted and to always keep striving to perfect a role, even if it’s closing night or the last day of shooting, and to keep working towards the next goal.

What are you proudest of and why?
Hamlet. I’m part of an all-female experimental Shakespeare company, the Dark Lady Players, and I played Hamlet in our production, entitled Hamlet’s Apocalypse. The amount of work that role required (which shouldn’t have surprised me but it still did) was ten times anything else I’ve ever worked on. But it also reconfirmed my love of the work and my belief that I really could do anything I set my mind to, going to parts of my psyche I didn’t know existed. I got to know myself better while working on that role and also really learned how I work -- all the different ways. And, yes, there were times when I was sick and tired and just didn’t know how I would get all those lines learned but I did. And now I can always say to myself when feeling low “Yeah, but you played Hamlet”.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
How long a list do you want? There are many more roles I want to tackle -- Eve Harrington in All About Eve, Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Nina in The Sea Gull. I’m currently workshopping Juliet in Romeo and Juliet with the Dark Lady Players which has always been a dream role for me. And I’d love to do more film and TV and also be on Broadway. And put together a Shakespeare-inspired web series ... 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
In college we gave out Paper Plate Awards and my favorite was the year I won “Best Use of a Parent’s Accent in a Play”. We had done Angels in America and Mother Courage and her Children and my Dad’s Brooklyn accent had snuck into characters in both plays.

What one word best describes you and why?
Audacious. I take life as it comes,

What do you take your sense of identity from?
Being a New Yorker, an artist and a redhead. I think I’ve always felt a sense of otherness -- not quite like the rest of America or the rest of the world and that’s always inspired my work.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And in Paris? And in London?
The Cloisters. I don’t go up there nearly enough but there’s something about being in a building so old that’s still a part of Manhattan. The stones smell like another time. I especially love the herb gardens and always feel like I can take strength and be recharged. In Paris, I love the Ile St-Louis. It’s an island right in the middle of the city and it’s both a part of the city and separate. In London, I love the Portobello Road Market.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? Paris? London?
I love the Greenmarkets in Manhattan, open air food markets. You can feel the changing seasons and there’s something really special about talking to the producers. I can also spend hours at Drama Book Shop, Books of Wonder and Basics. In Paris, I love a store named Bamyan on the Ile-St-Louis. My mom and I have become friends with the owners over the years and we always stop in. They use fabrics from Afghanistan and around the world and their pieces are made in Paris and imported. They have clothes, home goods -- all kinds of treasures. In London, I really like Beyond Retro.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
I’ve always wanted to act opposite Liam Neeson; does that count? I’d also love to work with Woody Allen.

What is your favorite drink?
Balvenie scotch, one ice cube.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
This is a tough one. I went to a cocktail party several years ago that my dad had organized to celebrate art law and I had a long conversation with someone who had no idea who I was, who spent about fifteen minutes telling me (luckily!) how impressive my dad was. I was thrilled to admit that, yes, I did know him when I was finally asked for my opinion!

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? Paris? London?
Manhattan restaurants come and go so quickly, it’s hard to have a favorite anymore! Il Cortile, in Little Italy, is very special to me; my family’s been going there for years and years. I also love Craft and Strip House. In Paris, I have two -- Le bistrot d’Henri, an old-school French bistro, and Le galopin, where they make inventive seven-course meals and are endlessly accommodating to any food preferences, allergies, etc. I love Honey & co. in London.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? Paris? London?
I love The Godfather. I wrote my college thesis on Proust and am still utterly enamored of his A la recherche du temps perdu. I recently read a wonderful novel that took place in London, Tipping the Velvet.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
So, a year ago, I definitely would have answered this question differently. But right now, I love where and who I am. Although I wouldn’t mind seeing what life is like as Olivia Wilde for a day.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? Paris? London?
A theater. Or a bookstore. In any city.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? Paris? London?
I’m so unathletic! I guess swimming at the YMCA. In Paris and London, I just walk a lot. Although I remember going dancing at a lot of clubs when I was studying in London and that was quite a work-out!

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? Paris? London?
These are all great walking cities but each one’s different and I think that’s what’s special and unique in all of them. I love discovering unknown neighborhoods, stores, restaurants, enclaves … everything! I also really like the free outdoor movies that have popped up everywhere in Manhattan and discovering little galleries in Paris. Also getting a drink on top of the Musee Branly, with a fabulous view of the Eiffel Tower.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
My maternal grandmother. She was a redhead like me and we were very close but she died when I was seven. I would love to meet her again as an adult. She had a fabulously unique sense of style and really embraced her sense of otherness. I’m constantly inspired by her.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? Paris? London?
I love the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters. In Paris, there’s a woman, Catherine Braslavsky, who performs medieval music with original instruments in old churches. It’s absolutely transportive and incredible. I love all the sculptures and gardens in London.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I tutor. I work with kids, as a mentor and a teacher, giving them someone to talk to and working with them on what’s holding them back in their studies. I also try to inspire them to be true to their passions, whatever they may be.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? Paris? London?
I think the MTA is both under and overrated. It runs all the time, which is fantastic, but the system sure can use a rehaul! I also think Manhattan neighborhoods off the beaten track are underrated. Parisian people are definitely underrated. Like New Yorkers, they’re busy but if you get under their skin they’re amazing. And London cabbies are certainly underrated! For me, big tourist attractions are never my cup of tea, so I guess those are overrated in all three cities. There’s so much more to see and do!

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite​ 
column and what do you like about it?
I really like the Better Living and Feeling and Looking Your Best columns. I’ve found some great recommendations and I always know how well everything is vetted!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I’m passionate and open about everything I do, including this city. If you have any questions, just ask!

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

Back to TOP