Don’t measure your worth based on your productivity. The writing of mine I’m the proudest of took me the longest to write! The eagerness to share and produce can be quality’s toughest enemy.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Federica Borlenghi.

Federica is a Multidisciplinary Italian Artist from Milan based in Brooklyn. She is mostly known for her writing and her sensorial New York productions. She has been working professionally as a Director for the stage and the screen, as a Writer, Creative Producer, Props and Costume Designer, as a Stylist, a Casting Director and a Photographer. Her work surrounds precarious intimacies, the bilingual and international experience in New York and contemporary womanhood.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Grazie for having me! I was born and raised in Milan, Italy. I’ve been exposed to the arts since a very young age through music school and the visual arts — my mom at the time was a sculptress and painter and my dad a music enthusiast. Even though I grew up in a city, I had the luck of spending a great portion of my childhood in nature. In the Alps, sailing the Aegean Sea or biking through Italian countrysides… while devouring books and writing stories that populated the landscapes and small towns I explored. I attended a high school of visual arts, where I developed a passion for photography, design and cinema. I then ended up pursuing an education in the dramatic arts in NYC, to become a better communicator and collaborator. I have been working full time in New York since then, practicing various disciplines and expanding my artistry and army of collaborators by the year.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I cared to learn how to apply all of my multidisciplinary interests, and the performing arts always felt the right art form for me to do so. At the very beginning of my career, I felt a lot of pressure to decide one discipline to focus on, even if Directing has always been my ultimate calling. I decided to keep practicing all of my interests — as the NYC Performing Arts Scene allowed me to do so — and it ended up being a blessing, for the amount of new collaborators I got to make, the fantastic projects I got to be a part of and given how much it strengthen my skills as a Director. All of these interests provided me with a deep understanding of what each moving department of a company entails, and enriched various skillsets for each role I take on. Being a writer helps me providing appropriate dramaturgy support to writers I work with as a director, as well as my experience in prop design, which allows me to creatively problem solve un-stageable set directions. My background in acting makes me a sharper casting director, having spent 15 years in music school in my youth makes me a stronger communicator with composers and sound designers!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My family. They’ve always cheered me on along every step of the way. Their support has always been the strongest fuel. I wouldn’t be where I am at without it.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In the summer of 2020, I was hospitalized due to a life-threatening accident, which resulted in a traumatic brain injury. It was a very challenging, tedious and rocky recovery process. At the very early stages of it, I could barely function independently. I couldn’t speak and walk properly, brain fog and vertigo were wildly debilitating and I was constantly in excruciating pain. It happened here in the US, and my family was unable to come due to the COVID-19 traveling restrictions. My partner took care of me every step of the way, sided by his wonderful family. I was showered by love and support by every angle, by them and my community, which showed up in an overwhelmingly moving way. At the time, I didn’t have health insurance, and my partner set up a crowdfunding page for me. Act the time, I was the Founding Artistic Director at HERE WE GO Site-Specific Theater Company, and I was — and still am — a member of Dirty Laundry Theater and Rinsing Sun Performance Company. They all grouped to produce a virtual cabaret in my honor, to raise funds in support of my recovery/medical bills. I remember thinking — wow, look at me, always fearing of not being enough and not doing enough… and being shown such love and support was such a wake up call. It made me realize how I never take time to celebrate where I am at and my current achievements. Maybe I was enough. What I was doing was enough. What I had was enough. It was very humbling!

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A common obstacle in the very beginning, is focusing all attention on future goals. Ambition is certainly a necessary fuel for all creatives, but keeping both feet on the ground and eyes on our immediate surrounds is also key. As I just mentioned, after the accident I realized how much energy and time I spent focusing on where I wasn’t at yet, on who I wanted to collaborate and how to achieve that. I would’ve never gotten to where I am at without focusing on starting with the artists I already had in my circle. Cultivating those collaborations and uniting in the now is the way of paving the way. That’s what I did when I got commissioned by the Italytime Cultural Center to pitch a project to develop for their 2022 MainStage. I thought of the stories my peers and I wanted to tell and see on our stages. So I turned to my most trusted collaborators as well as the most intriguing artists I’ve met but didn’t get a chance to work with yet. I proposed to to write a community-based experimental piece based on conversations of international bilingual women based in NYC. So I met bi-weekly with 6 women for a couple months, and listen to their stories. Then, I fictionalized them, and alongside my indispensable dramaturg Covi Loveridge Brannan, the extraordinaire choreographer Julia d’Angelo, the talented — and so very essential to my artistry — movement director Clara Wiest, composer Judette Elliston and lighting design wizard Adrian Yuen, we put up an eclectic, intimate, powerful show: Reminiscence, featuring dance, live music, dialogue and song. After three sold out shows and a fabulous response, I am now working on expanding the story, we the hope to include new voices and experiences to it. I would’ve never been able to do any of it without them. Start from people you know and trust!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I recently released a music video shot, directed and edited by me! “Cable Knit” by Colette March. I am very proud of how it turned out! I am currently costume designing Double Bind, a dance piece by Saraika Movement Collective alongside my Associate, once again, Clara Wiest. Clara has been an absolute gift of a collaborator over the years. Their multidisciplinary skills and work ethic marry mine wonderfully! She’s in the short list of artists I immediately reach out to when I’m building a team for a project. What else? Uh! A brand new play of mine, Until Dark, is a finalist for Et Alia Theater’s Development Lab and I am designing the set, props and costumes for BIG GREEN THEATER, a green educational project for the Bushwick Starr… and I can only use recycled materials! Quite challenging… and fun. A very busy and exciting beginning of the year!

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

It doesn’t matter how long is taking you to get somewhere. Your heart might be racing to get somewhere on the horizon, but after seeing it and taking it in, eyes on the ground. You have to see and celebrate where you’re at! Always. Comparing yourself and your path to others as little as possible makes it certainly easier! Groundness is key.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Don’t measure your worth based on your productivity. The writing of mine I’m the proudest of took me the longest to write! The eagerness to share and produce can be quality’s toughest enemy.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

1. Networking, absorbing and talking about art with other artists is a vital aspect of making art.

2. A finished rough draft/a fleshed out proposal is a way smaller thorn than a blank page/an ever delayed project.

3. Rest! Cut out down time for yourself weekly. Our hyperactive and overstimulated minds need it. Our artistry needs it!

4. Stay inspired. Stay voracious. Go see shows, absorb content from different mediums.

5. You will always be your worst critic. Read that again. Twice!

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

When performing for the stage, you need to make sure your performance is delivered to an entire room, front to back row. It requires a different vocal skillset, a sort of dramatization of the delivery, muscle memory for blocking and all backstage/on stage tracks. It also requires endurance and consistency, due to the nature of having to perform for multiple performances. Acting for film requires a way more intimate, contained delivery. The only space to act larger than life in front of the camera would be for a Sitcom or while doing Motion-Capture. Otherwise, it requires more internal/introspective/implosive approach.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

We need to practice and implement more emotional safety practices in the Performing Arts Industry. We need to take deep care of performers and all staff members involved in any Production. Let’s bring crisis counselors to the room! If I could do it all, I’d definitively reform the 6-days a week US theater schedule, and rehearsals’ length too! We need resources, access and a more sustainable, healthy approach to it all.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I have been trying to do something new every single week, for over a year now. I wish I made a weekly list to keep track of it all. Whether life is monotonous or intense, it keeps me very inspired, whether it’s watching a new movie, riding my bike from work on a different route, eating something different from my comfort/favorite restaurants, I’ve been enjoying asking myself this question.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’d love to sit down with Jovanotti, an Italian songwriter. His music has been the soundtrack of my life, scoring very significant moments of it with the most accurate/appropriate/needed albums and tours. His lyrics and his artistry have always spoken to me and touched me deeply. I’d love to pick his brain and witness his creativity and generosity of spirit in person one-on-one.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

You can track all of my work on my website, at!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you for having me, until next time!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.