After many years in Los Angeles, Josie DiVincenzo returned to Buffalo in 2010 to star as Lady Macbeth in the celebrated all-female production of “The Scottish Play,” directed by Eileen Dugan. On the West Coast, she earned an MFA in Drama from USC, and worked extensively in theater, film, and television, including roles on such popular shows as Friends, NYPD Blue, CSI:NY, Daredevil, Desperate Housewives, Weeds, and 24. Since her repatriation to Western New York, she has worked regularly in such theaters as Jewish Repertory Theatre of WNY, The Kavinoky Theatre, Buffalo Laboratory Theatre, and Rochester’s Downstairs Cabaret Theatre.
Active, as well, in Buffalo’s film community, DiVincenzo won the Best Actress Award at the 2015 Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project Festival. As a teacher, she has taught at NYU’s Stonestreet Studios, is a private acting coach in Buffalo, and an adjunct senior lecturer of acting for Niagara University’s theater department.
She is currently appearing at Jewish Repertory Theatre (JRT) as Rivkeh, the mother of the title character in My Name is Asher Lev, and in the two radically contrasting roles of Anna the worldly and stylish gallery owner, and Rachel, a nude model. This demonstration of acting range is typical of DiVincenzo, who won an Artie for her 2014 performance in DAI; Enough!, also at JRT, in which she vividly played numerous characters seated at a café at the moment in which a suicide bomber attacks.
It is fascinating and kind of wonderful to watch this actress exit the stage as Rivkeh, a woman who wears the anxiety of the world on her plain and weathered face, and return just moments later as stylish, privileged, and arrestingly beautiful Anna. DiVincenzo makes the metamorphosis appear effortless, especially when, moments later, the actress once again disappears into Rivkeh.
My Name is Asher Lev is the story of a Hassidic Jewish boy who wants to become an artist, against the wishes of his father. DiVincenzo’s character does her best to bridge the painful divide between father and son. Adam Yellen plays Asher. Tom Zindle plays the father and all of the other male roles.
The doubling of roles in the world around the Asher character arguably allows a space for audience members unconsciously to insert the authority figures from their own lives into the story. Who among us cannot complete the sentence, “I remember when my parents disapproved of my decision to…”? The entire audience leaves the theater remarkably moved, having somehow identified with the journey of this Hassidic family.
As known for her agreeable personality and for being a dream to work with as she is for her good looks and palpable talent, DiVincenzo seems to be making her way through all of Buffalo’s theaters, from role to role to role. In the winter of 2016, she’ll appear in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Irish Classical Theatre Company.
Here, Josie submits to The Public Questionnaire:
What word would your friends use to describe you? Passionate.
What quality in your current character is most unlike your own personality? Rivkeh and I are remarkably a lot alike, but she takes a bit more of a back seat in high stakes arguments, where I would most likely continue in the ‘conversation.’ (Regarding the other two characters: Anna the gallery owner has better shoes than I, and Rachel the nude model…well, I’m not that bold.)
What quality in your current character is most like your own personality? Mediator! If Rodney King didn’t say it first, I swear I would’ve been remembered for “Can’t we all just get along?” In the end I’d rather people talk things out and come to an understanding. (Re: the other two characters, Anna and I love art and artists, and Rachel and I love…robes.)
When and where were you the happiest? I attend a yearly five-day Shakespeare Retreat in Vermont, where actors from around the states gather for workshops, performances, study, cooking—it’s a remarkable group of witty and super smart collaborators/ friends in the hills of Billington doing what we love most in the world. Nothing like it; I feel in my full power there.
What is your idea of hell on earth? Having no one in my life who really gets me.
What is your greatest fear? Being locked in a small space! Getting an MRI is its own short play festival.
Which talent do you most wish you had? That of a prima ballerina. Dance expresses the deepest parts of me; I would have pursued it if I had a better body image so many years ago.
What superpower do you most wish you had? Teleportation, to be able to beam myself and others anywhere. I miss LA and NYC and when I’m there I miss here; there are so many of my friends I’d love to introduce to each other.
What would you change about your appearance? Longer, leaner legs, please.
What trait do you most despise in others? Mean-spiritedness. Grow up.
What trait do you most despise in yourself? Being too hard on myself, which leads to doubting others. It’s my life’s work.
What do you most value in your friends? A compassionate ear. Good friends really listen. Also, when they bring wine.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment? Overcoming a debilitating eating disorder in my 20s – early 30s. Lots of self awareness and lessons paid forward to young women now.
What is your guilty pleasure? Documentaries, YouTube vids—sometimes too late into the night. Currently, on ballet companies and ballet dancers. I’m obsessed with Sergei Polunin who is featured in the video “Take Me to Church.”
What character from fiction do you identify with most? Maria from West Side Story. Again, fear meets misunderstanding, meets the need to bring people together. Thank goodness for me no one’s died over it, however.
What person from history do you identify with most? Margaret Brown, the Unsinkable Molly, that is. I’d love to be that fearless in the face of opposition and death, to do the right thing, turn the boat around and save others.
What do you consider to be the most overrated virtue? Obedience. I’m big on loyalty and respect, but you have to keep a wisdom about things, depending on the situation.
On what occasion do you lie? To spare an altercation, I’ll say something isn’t bothering me when it is. Many times it’s my responsibility to reconcile it within myself anyway.
What was the subject of your last Google search? “Standard sizes of area rugs.”
If you come back in another life, what person or thing would you like to be? A big ol’ 150-plus-year-old oak tree. I’d love to watch the world change from one street in a big city.
What is your most prized possession? As a Buddhist, I chant daily in front of a mandala in an alter area. It reminds me to tap into the most resourceful part of me. I would very much not want to be without that.
What role, in which you will never be cast, is actually perfect for you? Eponine, in Les Mis. I’m starting to see a pattern here.
What is your motto? “To thine own self be true,” piggy-backed with Manny Fried’s “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”