In Episode 7, I interview actor, director, playwright, and University of Tulsa Women’s Studies professor, Lisa Wilson. Lisa is a recipient of the prestigious Jingle Feldman Individual Artist Award for her original one-woman show, “Only Four People Know About This.” Birthing the Crone is the second in a series she has titled, “The Crone Chronicles”. We talk about her show, how women’s voices need to be heard, and the effect of aging and loss on the artistic process.
Listen to Episode 6 – Diversity on Stage with Weston Vrooman
Diversity on Stage
SallyPAL this week is a fantastic conversation with recent drama school grad and rising star, Weston Vrooman. I had a chance to explore the topic of diversity with Wes (one of my favorite people) and found we shared a lot of the same ideals for the theater. When the topic of “diversity” comes up it usually veers toward race. While this is a critical part of the conversation, it really is just a part of something larger and more exciting. We know we have a long way to go when it comes to diversifying the field of performing arts and play production in particular. Play producers and directors do a fairly good job providing age diversity. There is less diversity of race and sex, gender is still complicated for some of us, and body type and physical barriers are the biggest elephants in the room. When we attend a play, we are likely to see beautiful people on stage. For musical theatre, there are arguments made about the physical demands drawing a particular (fit) body type. And actors are turned down time and again for not “looking the role”. When the role is “everyperson” what does it even mean to look the role? Beyond the argument for doing away with exclusionary practices in casting, we should all be looking at how much further we will go when we adopt true diversity for the art seen on stage. Decades of excluding some of the most talented performers has left us with a rather bland array of professional actors. When we begin to encourage new voices, embrace the “other”, and highlight the need for the contributions of the artists who are often relegated to the sidelines, we can begin an age of artistic expression and expansion that will impact society in ways we cannot even fathom. Do you know an artist? Are you an artist? That voice must count. We can all support the new wave of diversity and allow the arts to once again be at the forefront of social change. Listen to Episode 6 – Diversity on Stage with Weston Vrooman
Listen to Episode 6 – Diversity on Stage with Weston Vrooman
My son used to say, “Brushing your teeth is hard,” in the whiniest possible voice. And he might be right. Anything you don’t want to do is hard. Starting a theatre company is arguably one of the hardest things a group of people can do (never try it alone). But if everybody’s having a good time, the hard work is not a bad thing. In fact, the sense of ownership that comes with investing your whole self in the process gives the endeavor legs. When a group works together toward a common goal, the feeling of camaraderie, purpose, and fun are part of the deal. That’s what Bob Odle knows from working with Tulsa’s American Theatre Company for over 40 years. He shares it with his students, audiences, and fellow thespians. Enjoy Bob’s interview as well as two new segments and an Easter Egg on SallyPAL this week! Listen to Episode 5 – ATC History with Bob Odle
After so many years of writing, acting, singing, directing, teaching, and producing I’ve collected a lot of useful stuff. I decided I needed to put together a bit of the information for you all that would address the very basic things a producer of local original work needs to know. It will probably take me a few more weeks but I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for my little e-book. I want to give one to everybody who wants a copy. But I want something in return. (Durnit! I knew there was no such thing as a free guide-to-producing-original-work-on-the-local-stage… Also, NO FREE LUNCH!) I will be asking you to trade your email for the free guide. DON’T WORRY! People who know me will tell you I will respect your email. I will not use it for anything but SallyPAL! And if you don’t want to trade an email for this supercool guide… just get a friend to sign up for one and share! Look for the guide in late July.
Listen to Episode 4 – Producing a New Play with Emile Adams
Taking on a big project has pitfalls. When the big project is an original play you wrote, the pitfalls include emotional exposure, frustration, and maybe even some embarrassment. But anybody who’s given birth to a work of art knows there are big payoffs. Emile Adams is a study in therapeutic writing. Emile claims to get some emotional benefit from her writing. She also happens to have been recognized many times over for her humor, pathos, insight, and dynamism as an actor, director, and playwright. When an individual takes on the task of producing an original work, they must be prepared to grow. The desire to produce a letter-perfect production may give way, as it often has for Emile, to a higher ideal; artistic growth. From her early Tulsa City-County Library play to her most recent Summerstage production, Emile pushes past obstacles including bipolar disorder. The willingness to grapple with a common truth is one of the most important things an artist brings to the process of staging an original work. Emile brings this with her every time, even if she is doing it kicking and screaming in an attempt to bring the creation fully alive. Listen to Episode 4 – Producing a New Play with Emile Adams
Listen to Episode 4 – Producing a New Play with Emile Adams
Shakespearean Moments As the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) comes under fire and the conversation for saving the arts in schools pops up on social media yet again, I want to introduce you to Daniel Bowers. Daniel is a well-rounded kid with a hunger for performing. He sings in choir, he acts on the stage. It would not surprise me to see him take up tap dancing. Despite being a 6’4” 15-year-old football player, Daniel speaks as eloquently on acting as any acting coach. He credits his stage experience with building confidence, making friends, learning how to solve problems under pressure, and developing an appetite for working with a diverse group of people creating a big collaborative work from the ground up. These all seem like the things we would want kids to learn to succeed in life, never mind having a career as an actor. I met Daniel when he entered 6th grade at the school where I taught theater arts. He seemed to be a quiet kid but there was a lot going on in that busy brain. In addition to being an avid reader, Daniel is interested in history, languages, and making people laugh with the cast of characters living in his head. He auditioned for Alice in Wonderland. After landing a small role, he set about creating a character that stole the show. Without mugging, or ad libbing, Daniel did something adult actors occasionally miss. He took what was on the page along with a small bit of directing, and he created a memorable moment within the context of a story. I have directed Daniel in two other plays and it has always been a joy. The last show, Juliet Rescue, was a new piece written by my son, Will Inman (episode 2) and me. Daniel played “Young Will Shakespeare”. He eagerly took on the role and, while speaking in the Bard’s style, he created several hilarious moments that added warmth to the play. When I retired from teaching a year ago, I told him to come visit me in Virginia and I would take him to the Folger Library in Washington DC. It is the foremost Shakespearean library in the world. Daniel and his mom took me up on my offer and we spent quite some time learning about the collection at the Folger. I can imagine Daniel on stage there one day. But for now, I am thrilled to have seen him savor another kind of Shakespearean moment. There are lots of kids who benefit from performance experience. They are girls and boys, shy and outspoken, theatre nerds and athletes, straight-A students and strugglers, and everyone in between. They are a generation of leaders and innovators. And we want them all to have Daniel’s confidence. I hope you will enjoy Episode 3 of SallyPAL with Daniel Bowers.
The Final Collaborator
No matter how you define it, performing arts are collaborative. “But Sally, what if I have a one-man show I wrote, directed, and produced?” Unless you are performing for the shadows in your basement, even your one-man show will include at least one or two other collaborators. Your audience could be described as ‘the final collaborator’. Unlike stories told in the movies, on tv, or via the internet, a live performance assumes a live audience. Referring to a ‘dead’ audience simply means the audience isn’t noticeably responding to the performance. A live or lively audience is laughing, clapping, gasping, leaning forward, or otherwise exhibiting signs of participating in the moment. When audience members are emotionally engaged for the duration of a performance, they collaborate with performers in subtle ways. The academic term for this is suspension of disbelief. The illusion becomes real so long as the audience allows. A performer, director, or designer who ignores the value an audience brings to a live performance is in real danger of producing a lackluster show. Whether or not your audience members know it, they provide the final collaborative effort of an ever evolving medium. Listen to Episode 2 – Team Building
Listen to Episode 2 – Team Building
Will Inman In 2013, Will Inman’s one-act play, Bad Days, was selected for a staged reading at the Kennedy Center as part of the VSA student playwright competition. Will’s plays have received a variety of writing awards and productions including the Rogers State University Original Recipe retrospective, and the Writopia Labs Comedy Playwriting Festival selected by David Letterman’s writing staff, both in 2014. In 2015 His play, Lesbian Exhibit, was featured as part of his hometown’s Fringe Festival. Lesbian Exhibit also received a staged reading in February at Rogers State University and a portion of that play was performed at Torrent Theatre in New York City in the Fall of 2016. Will starts his senior year in the University of Houston playwriting program in the fall of 2017. Listen to Episode 2 – Team Building
Darian Silvers Darian Silvers is a native Houstonian who comes to directing through his work as a dancer/choreographer. He has performed on stage as an actor/dancer in the Houston area for the last 16 years. He recently directed a staged reading of the new opera, North Pond, at MATCH-Midtown Arts & Theater Center in Houston. Darian will direct Legally Blond and Little Shop of Horrors in the Adirondacks during the summer of 2017. Listen to Episode 2 – Team Building
Storytelling is the primary role of the artist. Stories don’t have to be factual to be true. But to understand the truth of a story, you’ve got to be present to it. That time you spent in a theatre, literally crying at the death of a character, or when you were deep in a novel that made you cringe with a character’s social ineptitude, or the anger you felt while playing a video game when some ruthless villain destroyed your avatar’s home; these are all examples of being present to the truth of a story. Teachers call it suspension of disbelief. It’s the moment when the artist engages with the audience. Like the “final frontier” the exchange between artist and audience is the final collaboration. An audience member accepts that the artist’s work is truth wrapped in illusion. The stage is not grandma’s kitchen, the actors are not related to one another, the dancers are not drowning in yards of fabric, and the fabric is not a river. ALL performance is metaphor. Despite the deception, artists have a responsibility to tell stories honestly. You, as the author, composer, or choreographer, create the world of the story, or interpret an existing world. The world you create has rules. Your characters must abide by these rules. Without them the stakes are often too low to experience any meaningful truth. When characters bump up against the rules of your world, audiences suspend their disbelief. In other words, audience members become present to the moment of conflict. This can’t happen if your characters skirt the rules. Even when you bend your rules, it can yank a person right out of the moment. So remember to stick to the rules, but not necessarily the facts.