To wake her each morning, Nisa Ari's father would blast music through their Colorado Springs house — "everything from crazy Turkish music to jazz to Beethoven," she remembers.
Then later, he'd nag her to see the film, Cabaret. "I thought it was just some crazy movie my father wanted me to watch."
It actually was another way Nasit Ari hoped to ignite a love of the arts in his daughter, and to help reveal whether she might have the musical talent he didn't. Turns out, he was on to something: At 24, Nisa's now an associate director at the New York-based Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, as well as a musical theater and jazz performer.
This weekend, she'll bring her dad's efforts full circle via Songs My Father Likes, a solo show at the Manitou Art Theatre. In an hour filled with eclectic music and humorous anecdotes from her youth, Nisa explains how she grew to appreciate her father's tastes through singing some of the music that was important to him.
"Each song I'm performing is connected to a specific moment in my life. These are pieces that reveal more about my father than I originally knew, my relationship with my father," she says. "A big trend I've noticed is that our parents know us better than we think. There's a lot of music he introduced me to that I didn't appreciate and now I understand."
Songs My Father Likes, featuring piano accompaniment by Sandra Rohr of the Colorado Springs Conservatory, is a fundraiser for the production of Nisa's play, Chewed Bread, which will premiere at the MAT this summer. (Nisa also put on The Christmas Mouse at the MAT last December.) The play is a further exploration of family relationships, but it's more than that, too. By illustrating the characters' differing beliefs in placebos, Chewed Bread questions whether reality shapes our beliefs, or if beliefs shape our reality.
"We used to call my father the Placebo Man," Nisa says. "He used to administer all of these different placebos. Chewed bread was used to heal an ailment."
Both performances promise to be meaningful, since they'll happen in her hometown: "A lot of people know me and know my father really well."