|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?
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