Friday, May 31, 2019

Brigham Mosley on his show Critical, Darling!

Brigham Mosley presents Critical, Darling!

We did an interview with Brigham Mosley a while back about his show Mo[u]rnin'. After.

Here we catch up with the prolific performance artist and chat a bit about his background and his new show Critical, Darling! which will play as part of the 2019 Dallas Solo Fest.

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Q: You took a workshop with Tim Miller when you were a student at Southern Methodist University. How did that workshop and Miller’s approach inform your own work?

A: Tim is one of the great mentors of my life.  He changed the way I think about performance and about theatre in general.  One of the many brilliant things about Tim and his work with students is that he comes at performance-creating from a thousand different directions - dancing, speaking, writing, drawing, etc - he's all about keeping your creative self on its toes and pushing to find moments when that uncensored, multi-layered, pure Truth can come out of the creator.  Tim seeks out those complicated, murky, resonant moments of identity-formation as foundations for exploration/scripts/shows.  I've followed a similar path in my own performance-making - I'm always trying to disrupt my process and go deeper into a truth that is more complicated and more honest (and maybe less polished or noble).  It's important to me that my shows - and my performances - aren't "The Shiniest Side of Brigham" but something braver, something more flawed, something more human.

Q: You lived in New York for a while after college and got involved with the downtown queer theatre scene. Any experiences that have stuck with you and influenced your present work?

A: Yes!  PERFECTION IS FOR ASSHOLES!!!  Also perfection is not super interesting!  Being a part of that downtown scene taught me the magic of risking.  Seeing a performer choose to leave the Rehearsed in order to pursue what was happening in the moment (whether that be interacting with a heckling audience member or living in a bombed joke) - and often failing in that pursuit!  And the failure is the delight!  That cabaret sensibility felt really cozy to me and much closer to the theatre that gets me jazzed and that I am interested in making.  I push myself to risk failure in my work.  Perfection can never be the goal; the goal is the bravery to risk.

Q: Tell us a little about your newest work, Critical, Darling!

A: Critical, Darling! is a big ole gnarly piece!  It's about safety and fear and "How-do-we-be-happy?".  It's also full of original songs and me in a lovely yarned-out drag number!  Critical, Darling! is a dismantling of the world around us and how we interact with each other, all-the-while attempting to regress back to the last time I/we felt safe.  It's funny and pop culture filled (because that will ALWAYS be my gig!) but sorting through the fear/anxiety/fatigue I think every American (and maybe Earthling?!) is feeling.

Q: What inspired the piece?

A: Fear!  Lolz.  Yeah, I think fear.  I'm so afraid of how afraid I am - and how afraid everyone else seems to be.  We're all so scared and desperate and angry - and for so many good reasons, right?  But it's exhausting to constantly be in this state.  And what's the alternative?  To turn into a child again?  Become apathetic?  That's not a way to live either.  So where is the space between?  I want my life to mean more than my anger.  I am a campy, pop-culture-obsessed, busted drag queen.  How does my anger and my apathy get reflected through that lens?  How can I remain critical without losing my darling?

Q: What are you hoping the audiences will walk away feeling/thinking?

A: I hope they feel seen.  I hope they feel safe.  I hope they think about being quiet and being still and what makes them happy. 

Q: What is next for Brigham Mosley? Other projects? A tour of Critical, Darling! maybe?

A: I'd love to take Critical, Darling! on the road!  Right now though I've got a couple projects with my constant-collaborator, the brilliant Janielle Kastner.  For the past two years we've been working on a play about journalism, based on 100+ hours we've spent shadowing and interviewing folks at The Dallas Morning News.  We'll also keep on with our ongoing Movies That Should Be Musicals series where we turn cult-fave movies into the musicals they so desperately deserve to be!  We'll re-assemble the MTSBM crew for another musical this fall!

Q: Links?

A: For the latest haps...

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Q-and-A with Sacha Elie

Sacha Elie
Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a brief Q-and-A with solo performer Sacha Elie.

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Sacha Elie is a California-based actress. She turned to solo performance while attending UCLA. She will presenting her show Who You Calling a Bitch?!? at the 2019 Dallas Solo Fest.

Q: Please give us a brief bio, what got you started in theatre/performance?

A: I’m a Haitian American Actress with a masters degree in acting from UCLA. I’ve been acting for over a decade, I entered Pace University as an English major but switched last minute two weeks before classes started and begged the chair to let me audition as a theater major.Luckily he took pity on me and let me audition and fours year later I graduated from Pace University with a B.F.A. in Theater and Performing Arts. Before I started Pace University my mother had recently passed away from cancer.  The biggest lesson I took away from her death was to do what you love with your life, that nothing in life is guaranteed, our time here is very finite, so it's up to us to be happy. Now the decision to do what you love has not been the easiest decision for me but I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to grow as an artist and performer. Every since I’ve switched my major, I’ve been performing ever since!

Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: I recently graduated with my M.F.A. from UCLA in Acting. I choose my program because at the time it was the only one of its kind, offering producing, writing and an acting concentration. I wrote, Who You Calling A Bitch?!? while I was working and researching my thesis solo show. “Who You Calling A Bitch?!?” came about out of necessity. I choose to drop out of my thesis show my final year in grad school. I was cast in a role that was very stereotypical and misrepresentative. So I made the radical and very unpopular decision to drop out of my thesis show. I opted to write and produce a solo show instead. One that I felt would not only stretch me but also showcase my talents properly in my final year. I ended up writing two solo shows simultaneously. While researching my thesis show, Biscuits,  I stumbled upon an interview with Diahnn Carol, it was her first interview and first day on set for the iconic hit, 80’s, tv show Dynasty. In that interview, she spoke about changing the perception of black women on television. She was so proud and excited to play the “The first black bitch!” steering away from the, “good doers” and the one dimensional “cookie cutter” roles. I was very curious about this because the term and association of “Black Bitch” has evolved over the past 30 plus years. I knew it was something I wanted to explore and so I started writing and researching where we are now as a community and society with the term, “Bitch”, and how it’s affected my experiences as an African American actress now.

Q: Could you tell us about some of your particular kind of solo work?

A: My particular kind of solo work is very unique I think. I’m unconventional as an artist, I never feel like I’ve ever fit into a box that the “industry” can put me in? For example I’m Haitian American, and they are more roles for Haitian Actors, but now I have to fight the mold of what the “industry” believes a Haitian women might look like. Which is why I 100% believe it's important for people of color to have control of OUR narratives. To fully tell our stories from our P.O.V’s and our Truth! So that is what my solo show is. Its from my P.O.V. from my truth, for so long I was worried that people wouldn’t understand it, or it would be too controversial with some of the topics I address, but part of being an artist is telling your story, standing behind that and believing in that!

Sacha Elie

Q: Could you tell us about Who You Calling a Bitch?!?

A: My show is truly an interactive show, each time I perform it, I try to find new and innovative ways to include that. I think I deal with some deeply personal and painful truths about society, culture, appropriation, and finding identity and self worth in an industry that is constantly telling you to be “Uniquely like Everybody Else”. I think my show does it with a comedic punch that at times feels so uncomfortable that after the laughter you are left with deep questions to ponder. Overall this show is for anyone that feels or has felt like an “other” an “outsider”. It’s a piece of me, it's a very vulnerable place to be in when I do this show, so I hope that most importantly people can relate and connect from their own experiences.

Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A: Hmmm,do you want the real answer! Everytime I do this solo show I automatically think, wait what did I do? It's really a terrifying place to be in. As I mentioned before its a very vulnerable show. It really is a piece of me, my experiences as a black woman, a black actress in an industry I very much feel like an outsider.

But on show time on the day of it feels like I’m walking on air when I see that people connect with the story. Its then I’m reminded about the power of storytelling. It offers us incite into each other, it's how we understand ourselves and one another. So, I guess when the lights dim after the final word is said and done I get to speak with the audience and see how much we all are truly connected.

Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: That’s a great question! It varies all the time because the challenges are always so different each time. But right now, for me, I think my community.

I have a very small community. But it’s the people around me that motivate me that are often my eyes when I feel a bit blind or lost. As a solo artists you can get wrapped up in the logistics, getting an audience, making the connections, re-writes, etc and as artists period you are faced with so many NO’s. I’ve probably had 100,000 No’s. In fact I just got a No, yesterday, and I won't lie, No’s hurt, they STINK! But I had three great conversations with friends who are also artists and they encouraged me to keep going, to flip the negatives, to find the joy, there’s always a silver lining.

So for me, it's my community, you need a community, you can’t do anything alone. Especially in this business!

Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project?

A: My approach: I think varies from time to time.

I create and improv during rehearsals, but generally I start off with a script. When I’m up on my feet, I get a better sense of how things work. I think as writers we are constantly rewriting. I’m doing that now for the show as it heads to Dallas!

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire you?

A: Well I love Michela Coel, the British Actress from the Chewing Gum series on Netflix. I love her style, humor and writing. After I watched the Netflix show I obsessively googled everything about her and discovered that she has a similar origin story in the sense that she opted out of her thesis show in Grad School and wrote a solo show, Chewing Gum, which then turned into television show! If you haven't seen it on Netflix, you should, It's brilliant!

Q: Do you have a favorite performance, festival or venue you'd like to tell us about?

A: Probably when I first premiered my show at the Hollywood Fringe. The circumstances were CRAZY leading up to the opening. I had to literally re-write the entire show in a span of 6 days and rehearse an entirely new show for its PREMIER. It was the most stressful and exhilarating experience EVER. I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t know if the audience would accept it because it's such a different type of solo show. I kinda have the same feeling as I take the show to Dallas in June. New area, I have no idea what to expect. So it's a whole new experience all over again! Except I don’t have to rewrite a new script! Phew!

Q: How do you bridge the gap between the creative and the business side of solo theatre?

A: It is a challenge to balance the artistic and producing side of solo theater. For me, the formula is: I just jump right in and handle what’s at task. With each performance I learn something new. But mainly the key component for me as been Organization, setting aside nonnegotiable times for rehearsal. Setting aside nonnegotiable times to wear the producer and marketing, hats. Lits, Lits, and Lits, regarding both aspects are what keep me going!

Q: Any advice for aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?

A: Yes! If you’ve always wanted to do it know that is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of grit, courage, and hard work, but it is very rewarding because you get to tell your story! How awesome is that! So, if you feel that urge, that desire in your heart, just go out there and do it! All you have to do is take the first step. Write a title, or a topic of interest, or one line as the first step! That’s it! Just take it one step at a time.

Q: What do you see for the future of solo performance and for you personally as an artist?

A: That's a great question because theater varies from state to state, region to region! In Los Angeles, it is hard to get people to see theater, as opposed to London you see great theater for 5 pounds and it's something people do after work! Pub and show! So it depends, but I think there is a way to get people involved on a digital level somehow to keep it fresh and innovative. As artists we are also innovativers we create! I think sometimes we get caught up in the tradition and think, this is how its been done so this how we should do it, but we need to use our imaginations to explore, to go beyond tradition. I think its up to us to take things to the next level.That’s the question I’m constantly asking myself with each production. How can I take my story to the next level, how can I offer a new experience for the audience?

Q: Shout outs or links?
Yes please! Follow me on the social:
Please have a look at the promo and reviews from ABC Networks,  critics and audiences in LA.

Reviews Latest Review
Facebook: WhoYouCallingAB
Instagram: WhoYouCallingAB

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Q-And-A with Justin Lemieux

Justin Lemieux  [credit - Jordan Fraker]

Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a brief Q-and-A with solo performer Justin Lemieux.

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North Texas based actor and solo performer Justin Lemieux won "Best Emerging Actor" for his show Warm Soda at United Solo in 2017. He is at work on his newest work Girl Dad, which he is set to premiere at the 2019 Dallas Solo Fest. Here we get to know a bit more about Justin and his experience with solo performance.

Q: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in theatre/performance?

A: I grew up in Arizona, but came to Texas for undergrad at the University of Dallas and settled here for good in 2008. I've been performing in plays since junior high. I got cast in a play at school unexpectedly and then just kept doing it.

Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: In high school, I did a lot of speech and debate, which is basically solo performance, I just didn't realize it yet. Many years later in grad school, I took a solo performance class and it really appealed to me because all of the old muscle memory of speech and debate came back to me. It felt like a really comfortable place where I could explore the thoughts I was having in a way that was both challenging and rewarding.

Q: Could you tell us about some of your particular kind of solo work?

A: My work is very straightforward and autobiographical. I perform in the same style as Spalding Gray and Mike Daisey (though certainly not at their level), where I simply sit at a table and talk to the audience. I tend to think that there is not much interesting about me or my background, so I don't have a single big event to talk about. Instead, I try to find a question from my memory or a problem that's bothering me that I don't have the answer for and try to figure out why I don't know. 

Q: Could you tell us about some of your current show Girl Dad?

A: Girl Dad is my exploration of understanding my existence in the female-dominated world of my family when I came from the opposite of that. I can't presume to know what it is like to be female, so I'm trying to figure out how I've interacted with women in my life and how, if at all, having daughters has changed that.

Justin Lemieux in his show Warm Soda

Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A: I enjoy having the creative freedom to explore the ideas and stories that I find meaningful. 

Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: I am filled with an endless amount of questions that I have no answers for. It's interesting to me to have the opportunity to ask those questions with an audience. I also hope that the questions are ones that the audience will see themselves in so that it feels more like a collective journey. Especially in memory pieces I think there is something everyone can take away from the story. Everyone brings their own memories into the room.

Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project? Do you create a lot on stage, improvising? Draft after draft of scripts? Tape or video record? Hold readings? Go to a mountain top?

A: I journal and try to explore seemingly insignificant memories and after a while, I see which of those stories prompt me to keep exploring. Eventually, I try to figure out if there is a question I'm trying to answer. 

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire you?

A: Obviously, Spalding Gray and Mike Daisey, stylistically. But truly, anyone who does autobiographical work. Even if the form is different, I love to see how stories can be told in different ways. 

Justin in Girl Dad

Q: Do you have a favorite performance, festival or venue you'd like to tell us about?

A: I am participating in the Dallas Solo Fest in June. It's a really cool coincidence that the Dallas Solo Fest is being held at Theatre Three's Theatre Too. Theatre Three has been a really generous partner to the Dallas theater community in opening up their studio space to new work and local performers. In 2017, they gave me the space to workshop my first solo play, Warm Soda, before we took it to the United Solo Fest in New York. That performance was instrumental in giving me the feeling of having it on its feet and in front of a large crowd. That allowed me to make adjustments before the festival. I'm glad to be back in this space again with a new play. 

Q: How do you bridge the gap between the creative and the business side of solo theatre?

A: I really try to just focus on the creative side. This probably does not do me any good. But I try to focus on the work and hopefully, make it as good as possible and let the business side follow. My wife, Katy, acts as my producer and handles most of the business side of things. This is our third time doing this and we have it down to a pretty good system, I think.

Q: Any advice for some aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?

A: Start doing it and don't worry if it's good. Doing it at all will help define what you want to say and how effectively you are saying it.

Q: What do you see yourself as a solo performer in the future?

A: I hope to continue to create new monologues and find new opportunities for the ones I've already created.

Q: Shout outs or links?

(My website just recently got a snazzy update, so, please, check it out)

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Q-and-A with Carmel Clavin

Carmel Clavin [credit - Spectacle & Mirth]

Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a brief Q-and-A with solo performer Carmel Clavin.

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Carmel and I have been chatting online for a year or two, sharing information about various fringe festivals and similar events. Including the Shenandoah Fringe, which Carmel ran in Staunton, VA for several years.

She's spent this year traveling to various festivals and variety shows across the country (with a few international stops).

She will be at the Dallas Solo Fest in June and it will be my first chance to see her cabaret-inspired work in person. I already know it will be very fun and unique.

Q: Please give us a brief bit of background?

A: A Creative Producer from the mid-Atlantic region, I have made my home in Richmond, Virginia. As the Grand PooBah Extraordinaire of Spectacle & Mirth, I've produced such absurdity as The Teacup Cabaret, the internationally award winning show The Marvelous Mechanical Music Maiden, and The Shenandoah Fringe Festival. An overly complicated Venn Diagram of adjacent identities, I tour the world, tell stories, and play wearable musical inventions. This vaudevillian loves to sing too loud, stand very still, and wear grand hats. Find me on Patreon and be an accomplice to the GlamourHobo life.

I’ve been performing in one way or another for as long as I can remember. Small household theatricals to international tours. I am a ham compelled to do this.

Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?
A: I was brought here through the valley of necessity. I crave ensemble work, but its an elusive and fragile beast. I know I’ll have to work and travel on my own, so I develop work and invent devices that allow me to do that thoughtfully.

Q: Could you tell us about some of your particular kind of of solo work?

A: Its intimate and personal and silly and about 40% improvised.

Q: Could you tell us about some of your current show?

A: Sure. Here's the blurb:
A storytelling cabaret. Discover this woman, once flesh and blood like you, who tangled with the Wizard of the Electric Age and lost her voice to a body of brass. This is her story of loss, love, triumph, and catastrophic whimsy. Will your spark wake her?
The Marvelous Mechanical Musical Maiden emits her music right from her person by way of a wearable looping device integrated into her clothing. She's got no strings to hold her down as she spins a scene spanning over 100 years, several love affairs, wars, and one fateful run in with a resourceful megalomaniac known as Thomas Edison.

This show was developed in collaboration with another bad bitch lady coder and musician.

Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A: The opportunity to sharpen and refine and flex it as each performance occurs. And the conversation I’ve started having with the audience at the end of the shows.

Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: I am compelled more than inspired. I struggle with motivation all the time as we all do, but I attend other arts events and shows as much as I can to keep my Heart Well full.

Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project?

A: I chew on things for a long long time in the back of my head, and then one day I get my teeth sunk into a meaty piece of it so deep that I have to focus on it for a while - almost obsessively - and then it drafts out. I talk about the project heaps and heaps to friends and collaborators. But I don’t draft much. Perhaps because I’ve been orbiting the work for so long.

And then when I’m doing it there is ton’s of improv and flexible space in its skeleton. That’s on purpose in order to read the room and respond in real time.

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire you?

A: I’ve been listening to tons of music by Andrew Bird, a singular songwriter and experimental instrumentalist. Eartha Kitt, goddess of cabaret that she was. Her take on how cabaret died in America when it stopped being about the audience/performer dialogue and became only driven by ego is a major tenant of how I work. Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown project and its mutliple iterations. And countless circus, clown, and cabaret performers I’ve had the pleasure of working with and witnessing in the act. They fill my Heart Well.

Q: Do you have a favorite performance, festival or venue you'd like to tell us about?

A: I’m digging really hard on Australia right now. We are gonna be so happy together! Their festival seasons are opposite to ours so i get to do both!

I also would shout out to The Americana Burlesque & Sideshow Festival in Asheville, NC. I consider it my home festival and I’ve learned so much from its stages, patrons, and mission of empowering inclusion and sass.

Q: How do you bridge the gap between the creative and the business side of solo theatre?

A: Tenuously. I’ve had to learn to focus more on both sides of this coin in order to be more proficient. Also- delegating and asking for help. Its totally a Thing.

Q: Any advice for some aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?

A: You are not as lonely as you look.

Q: What do you see for the future of solo performance and for you personally as an artist?

A: I can’t speak to solo performance as a monolith, but I’ve got dastardly schemes for more Fringe Festivals, house shows, and bodegas to see the #MechMaiden.

Q: Shout outs or links?

#GlamourHobo   #MechMaiden


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