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
CarmelClavin.com

@SpectacleAndMirth


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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Q-and-A with Jaye Lee Vocque

Jaye Lee Vocque [credit - Ultrasuede Productions]

Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a brief Q-and-A with solo performer Jaye Lee Vocque.
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Jaye has performed his shows at several festivals in California and is now working to expand his range. 

When I first saw his show Based On Actual Events (at the Nugget Fringe in Grass Valley, CA) it felt like he somehow managed to have a fun and heartfelt personal chat with everyone in the audience. 

Outside of performing, Jaye works hard to help his fellow artists. He's the artist liaison for Nugget Fringe, volunteers at the San Francisco Fringe, and creates work for a theater ensemble in his hometown of Stockton. 


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

A: I have been searching for ways to tell stories since I was caught by my mother re-enacting the film 9 to 5 with my She-Ra, Cheetara, and Barroness action figures.

For most of my life I told stories as an actor in such roles as Geoffrey in The Lion in Winter, Norman Bulansky in The Boys Next Door, Mr. Van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, General Genghis Kahn Schmitz in Seussical: The Musical, Lenny in Rumors, Eddie in The Rocky Horror Show, Jonathan Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace, and my “dream role” of Jerry in The Zoo Story. I even had the chance to live out a lifelong goal of being a Muppet by being the puppeteer for Little Shop of Horrors(I know I pretty much listed my resume here, but I want to get this across... I love performing)

At some point I discovered the backstage area and fell in love with lights, sound, set, costume, and prop design. Working professionally in that field for 20 years, I did everything from community theatre to being a “Rock N Roll Roadie” to Pyrotechnics at Universal Studios Orlando. Along the way I earned award nominations for Best Costume Design (A Charlie Brown Holiday Celebration) and Lighting Design (Picasso at the Lapin Agile).

So, even beyond the performing and technical work, I always felt comfortable with a pen in my hand. I wrote poetry (and even won the Allen Ginsberg Award for New Poet), short stories (now published in three collections), and plays.

My biggest joy, though, has probably been directing. I have enjoyed, aprticularly, directing a wide range of shows. I have tackled The Star Spangled Girl, P.S. Your Cat is Dead, Much Ado About Nothing, 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress, Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar & Grille, The Odd Couple, Tribute, and Deathtrap.

When my mother (and self proclaimed “biggest fan”) passed away I promised her I would write down my own personal story and tell it on stage. In 2016 I was honored to win “Best Of the San Francisco International Fringe Festival” for Based on Actual Events. I followed that up with another “Best Of” Award for the Nugget Fringe Festival 2017, as well as a “People's Choice” Award at the same Festival.

My experience has culminated in forming a theatre companywith my partner, Karene, called Ultrasuede. It has been a true joy.

Q: What prompted you to enter the world of solo performance?

A: My very first fringe festival was San Francisco 2007. I saw Jimmy Hogg perform a solo show and it inspired me. I saw what  a solo show could be. It also helped solidify the idea of being crazy enough to attempt a solo show.


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

A: To put it simply, I'm a storyteller. My story just happens to be MY story, it's autobiographical. So I look at the big picture and see both the humor and the heartbreak in what made that picture happen.


Q: Could you tell us about some of your current show Based On Actual Events?

A: I promised my mother, who was my favorite storyteller, on her deathbed, I would go out and tell my story and this is it. I hope that my tale inspires others to share their own stories. And I am in fact encouraging it through the use of the hashtag #EverybodyHasAStory in order to keep the Story alive.

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

A: The audience members who come up to me after the show to share their own stories. Recently at a festival, I had a man come up to me, tears in his eyes, and he shared a story from his childhood that he was reminded of by listening to my story. And that's the power in this kind oif work, in telling a story. Your words can make connections.

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

A: This is just the first of many stories I'm going to share. So, to have the reaction from audiences and critics that I have had really inspires me that others want to hear the rest of the story.

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: Yes. All of the above. There are drafts and drafts of scripts. Then in the rehearsal process there is another layer of editing and some of that is done through improvisation all culminating into that moment when I get to shout out on the mountain top "Thank Calliope I'm done" only to then realize that now I need to have an audience see it and I'm far from done.

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

A: Easily my mom. She taught me what a good story is and encouraged me to share mine. Then there's my hero, Jim Henson who wanted to find any way he could to tell a good story. And lastly, every other performer I meet and every theatre festival I am lucky enough to attend through the simple action of sharing their own stories.


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

A: The San Francisco International Fringe Festival will always hold a special place in my heart because it changed the course of direction of my art. 

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

A: I'm lucky enough to have my partner, Karene, on the business side who also understands the creative side. We approach everything with a fifty fifty split. What she does for me on the business and marketing side while I am doing the creative stuff, will soon flip when she takes her solo endeavor on the road.

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

A: Tell your story out loud. Stories are meant to be heard whether it's in front of a preview audience or just a few friends. Just know you have something to say and say it.

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

A: That's difficult. On one hand; with the digital streaming future we could easily have an environment where a solo performer can be recognized (either though a show based on their solo performance OR through a solo special) as the artist they are and reach a larger audience helping bring attention to the genre of solo performances. However, on the other hand, I truly love live theatre and the fleeting moment shared between audience and performer.

As for me? I will keep finding festivals that I am honored enough to perform at to share THIS and many other stories to come.

Q: Shout outs or links?

FB/Twitter - Ultrasuede Productions
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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Q-and-A with Mel Moseley

Melanie Moseley [credit: M Moseley]

Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a brief Q-and-A with solo performer Melanie Moseley.
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Melanie Moseley is a Portland-based musician and storyteller. I met her when she performed at the 'Come Inside: Sex-Positive Theater Festival', and I was immediately impressed with how she made a very unique topic relatable for everyone. 

She's really jumped into festival touring. She will next be appearing athe the 2019 Dallas Solo Fest. You'll likely be seeing her name all over North America over the next few years.


Q: Give us a bit of background. Where are you from and how did you you get started in theatre/performance? What brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: I currently live in Portland, OR. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be a clown. I wanted to go to clown college. As it turned out, I got my BA in theatre at the University of Oregon and then started touring nationally with an improv comedy group - which, I guess, is pretty similar to being a clown. About 10 years later I went back to college to get my graduate degree in theatre thinking that I might just teach. Instead, I discovered devised theatre and solo performance and that changed my trajectory in terms of my creative life. I performed my first devised solo show, How to Swallow and Still Keep Your Girlish Figure, as part of my masters program. That show focused on body image for women. My current show, Sexology: The Musical!, focuses to alternative relationships.

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

A: I'm a theatre artist, improviser, and musician. I combine all of those skills in my solo pieces. I want to connect with the audience so that we are having a conversation in the hour that we share. Some of it may be funny, poignant, or uncomfortable. I love the fact that we are all together sharing a space for a short time. I love that exchange. It's rough, it's playful, it's not polished, every show is different on some level, and that is inspiring to me. 

Q: Your current show Sexology: The Musical! Could you tell us about it?

A: My show Sexology: The Musical! is what it sounds like. It is a one-woman musical about, well, sexuality. Specifically, my personal journey from monogamy to solo-polyamory.

When I was young, I thought a person was supposed to find his or her one true love and then ride off into the sunset. Before I even knew the term monogamy, that idea was burned into my brain. I didn't know there was any other option. In the suburban, hetero-normative world I grew up in during the 70s and 80s, it was all about "getting your man." Yet, all of my fantasies as a teen were about women.

I discovered there is actually a huge world of possible relationship structures. Men, women, dyads, triads, and more. In fact, a person can create his or her own structure and do it ethically and transparently! So off I went exploring. And that exploration became the basis for my show. 


And I set it to music.


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

A: Meeting people and hearing about their experiences as they relate to the story I am sharing is my favorite thing. I love it when the work I do sparks conversations - with me or others. In my mind, performance is a space where we can share time and maybe even change minds. I'm inspired by the audience members that come up to me after shows and talk about their experiences. Making connections is my motivation.

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 yourself? Bring in collaborators? Hold multiple readings? Lock yourself in a hotel room?

A: It varies. This show was a three year project. That said, several of the songs are songs in the show are ones I wrote 40 years ago. I do improvise some of it. As I developed the show, I took pieces and tried them out on stage at various storytelling events to see what worked and then I honed my work from there. I invited friends (other artists, directors, folks I think are awesome) to watch and give me feedback. 

I took some of what they gave me in terms of feedback and continued the creation process. For this one, I have to give big props to Tony Sonera (Badass Theatre), Eleanor O'Brien (Dance Naked Theatre), Leah Carey (Good Girls Talk About Sex), Sydoney Blackmore (Theatre Artist), Charity Benham (partner, lover, singer, psychologist), and Cliff Rees (partner, lover, supporter). It takes a village to make this work.

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

A: Tim Minchin, Bo Burnham, and Mike Birbiglia - and I'm bummed that there's not a woman in that mix. It's because they are combining either music or improv into the solo shows they do. Women that do/did solo performance that I love include Lily Tomlin, Rachel Rosenthal, and Whoopi Goldberg (they didn't tend to do music the way I do...and still the way they rocked their work is inspiring).



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

A: I don't do that well. I mostly have to ask my partner Cliff about the business side. And I am still learning. I can rock the art side....mostly. If I'm honest, I can't bridge that gap. I need someone else to help me bridge that gap. I wish I was that amazing, but I'm not... yet.

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

A: Solo performance isn't ever done on your own. Find your tribe. Get your community together. And tell your story. Make the audience part of your performance, so you don't feel alone up there.  Also, know that your story isn't original and that is okay. You're the one willing to tell it.

Q: What do you see in the future for you as an solo performancer?

A: My plan is to use solo performance as one of many venues to help connect people and change perspectives around how we view each other. I want my art to be a jumping off place. 

Q: Shout outs or links?


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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Q-and-A with Jeremy Julian Greco

Jeremy Julian Greco [credit: Louis-Pepin]

Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a quick Q-and-A with solo performer Jeremy Julian Greco.

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Jeremy is a San Francisco-based performer who had toured his award-winning show around California. I first saw it at the Nugget Fringe Festival in Grass Valley, CA. I was impressed with how clearly he could paint a picture of his family, while making his experiences universal for the crowd.

Thus coming June, he will be presenting his most current show Keeping Up With the Jorgensons at the 2019 Dallas Solo Fest. I managed to catch up with Jeremy via email and what follows is our interview. 

Q: First, let's get a little background. Where you are from and how did you get started in theatre/performance?

A: I’m from Santa Cruz, CA. I’m an only child, and I spent a lot of time making up stories and singing in front of the mirror to Elvis songs. 

My step-father was a blues musician, so I spent a lot of time going to blues festivals and even the occasional bar from a young age and watching him perform.
When I was eight years old my parents took me to see Rebel With Our A Cause. at the Sash Mill Theater in Santa Cruz, a small second run movie theater with a tin roof. The theater was full, everyone was wet, the rain echoed off the tin roof of the theater and seeing James Dean up on the screen – his truth, his pain – I was captivated and decided right then and there I wanted to be an actor.

Unfortunately, I am a really shy person, so the prospect of getting on stage scared the hell out of me. 

In 6th grade, I did a play were I was Mister Rogers and I got a lot of laughs.  In 7th grade I was in The Hobbit, I had a small role as Bilbo Baggins grocery delivery boy.  I had four lines and a lot of laughs.  I didn’t return to theater until my Jr. year in high school and haven’t looked back since and I’m still getting laughs.

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

A: Solo Performance work was something I have always wanted to do.  I took a class at San Francisco State with playwright, Brighde Mullins, called the art of solo performance.  Which was great. I was exposed to a lot of solo performers.

However, it wasn’t until some years later my friend, John Held Jr. came to see a short play I did.  He’s a San Francisco based artist and one of the world’s experts and collectors of Mail Art.  After my play, we were sitting at a bar and he said, “You know what, you should write a play a solo show about me.”  His mother just passed away, so I think he wanted to get a lot off of his chest.  So, we met once a week for a number of months and he told me about his life while I taped him.

It was out of this that my first Solo Show, With Held, was created.

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

A: It’s all about the story and the rhythm of the language. I do not believe in props, I usually just have a chair.  The language has to have a particular flow or the entire story doesn’t work.  The script has to have a musicality to it.  From the language come the characters.   From the characters comes the show.

Q: Could you tell us about some of your current show Keeping Up with the Jorgensons?

A: My current show, Keeping Up with the Jorgensons, is based on a road trip with my weekend father to Southern California to an unknown relatives wedding.  It is my goal, my want, my need to get to Disneyland - the one glowing aspect from this trip from hell.  I’m forced to tickle my father’s feet…repeatedly, and sleep in my grandmother’s bed.  I play eight different characters, the play is based in 1982 and is a tour de force of dysfunction.

I’ve performed it at a number of venues and festivals. It won a best of award at the 2017 SF Fringe Festival, and I had a run at the Marsh Theater last year.

The show is funny, uncomfortable and touching.  The most wonderful aspect of the show is the number of people who have come up to me afterwards to share stories about their own childhoods.  It’s interesting to know what overlaps from childhood to childhood.

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

A: Stepping on stage alone.  I never know what a particular performance or audience will bring.  I love theater because each night is new.  I continue to discover new things as an actor.  When you are on stage anything can happen, but when you’re on stage alone there’s no one to save you.  It’s scary, it can be nerve racking.  It’s fun.

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

A: I work well under deadlines.  It is also something I feel I have to do.  I do not feel good as a person if I’m not creating.  I feel when I create I become a better person.

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: Each show is different.  With With Held, John and I met each week.  I’d tape him, then I’d transcribe the interviews.  From there, I’d have to shape, edit, and make a story.
With Keeping Up with the Jorgensons, I just wrote it flat out in about four weeks. 
I then rewrite the script in a long poetic form.  This helps with memorization and breaking things into beats and moments.

I’m consistent in the way I prepare through my memorization process. I’m dyslexic, so the memorization process can be difficult.  However, this is where a lot of rewrites occur.   Basically, I do a three-mile walk around my neighborhood with my script in hand, talking to myself like a crazy person. 

I take chunks of the script and try and memorize it, saying it to myself over and over again.  If I can’t memorize it, or if the rhythm doesn’t sound right, I’ll cut it and reshape it. 

Then I’ll meet with my director, I’ll work on twenty minutes of the script and perform it at a Monday Night Marsh, or Tell it on Tuesday.  When I feel things are working well, I’ll take the next chunk and perform that.

It takes me about two or three years from original script to performing the piece as a whole.

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

A: Christina Augello, the founder and artistic director of the Exit Theatre.  She has, with a great staff, put on the San Francisco Fringe Festival for over 28 years. It’s amazing the amount of local artists that have come out of this festival. It’s amazing that her theater has lasted in San Francisco for all these years. She’s an amazing person. Not only that, she’s a solo performer, as well, and is currently on tour.  I’ve done five SF Fringe Festivals, so far, and I would not be who I am artistically without this festival.

Stephanie Weisman, founder of the Marsh Theater. Another amazing person.  She has provided a venue for solo performers in the Bay Area since 1989.  They provide classes for Solo Performers as well.  It was at the Marsh Theater with a class with David Ford that I first developed With Held.  If I didn’t have access to this venue, I most likely would never have delved into solo theater.

John Held Jr.  John lives and breathes art.  If it wasn’t for John and his willingness to see projects through, I would not have been a solo performer.
Mark Kenward, my director, is a big influence. It is so important to have a good director who believes in you.  He’s an awesome solo performer himself.

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

A: Obviously, I am a fan of the SF Fringe Festival and the Marsh Theater.  I just did the Whitefire Theater’s solo fest.  That was a very fun festival. 

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

A: I just do it. Part of the work in putting on a show is getting people to see the show.  It’s like memorizing lines.  It’s something I don’t necessarily like to do, but it’s something I have to do.  However, there are very creative aspects to marketing a show and you just have to find joy in that.

Jeremy Julian Greco performing Keeping Up With the Jorgensons

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

A: Don’t be an asshole.  I know this sound crass, but so is being a jerk.  Yes, it’s a lot of work putting on a solo show, but it’s important to remember you’re just one aspect of the entire team – even in Solo Performance. Especially if you part of a festival.  You have people running lights, running the theater, you have a director, you might have a photographer, you might have a graphic designer, and you might have a publicist.  If you’re in a festival, there’s a team of people who are probably working for no pay.  Be respectful.  If you’re luck enough to get a run and go on to other festivals, be sure to be thankful, you never know what happens in life, this may be your only opportunity.  Enjoy the ride.

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

A: I see more and more people doing it.  Putting on an ensemble show is so expensive, especially if you tour.  Solo performance is the most economical way to go.  Personally, I have a running list of shows I want to create.  Importantly, the show and the performer both have to be honest and offer a hint of danger.

Q: Shout outs or links?