In Episode 29 of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast I talk with world class vocal coach Rena Cook whose new book, Empower Your Voice: Women In Business, Politics And Life comes out in February. I’m your podcast host, Sally Adams. Every week I talk to people about creating original work for a live audience.
Hi Friend, Welcome to Episode 28 of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast. Today, the featured conversation is about how to prepare for your moment with playwright, storyteller, and visual artist, Vanessa Adams-Harris. I’m your podcast host, Sally Adams. Every week I talk to people about creating original work for a live audience.
Thanks so much for the comments you’ve been leaving. I still could use a few more reviews on iTunes when you’ve got a minute. Thanks to Beck, George, and Pat for your reviews. You can also send an email to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations coming every Monday evening. Thanks for sharing the podcast and the blog.
Check out sallypal.com/join for the free 20-page resource. It’s a glossary of personnel you’ll need for your show. I’m working on an additional performing arts resource. Please let me know if you have any ideas. If there are things you think should be in the Creator’s Notebook, email me your ideas: Sally@SallyPAL.com.
In this Episode you’ll hear my guest, Vanessa Adams-Harris, share about her artistic process. Vanessa is a gifted actor/storyteller and has created or co-created several one-woman works including Who Will Sing for Lena by J. Liddell https://youtu.be/avvEEOBLCUc, Big Mama Speaks – A 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Survivor by Hannibal Johnson, Vanessa’s original portrayal of Oklahoma legend Ada Lois Sipuel-Fisher, and her original work about Rosa Parks titled A Simple Act of Courage.
Vanessa inspired me because she commits to her audiences. She encourages artists to “prepare for your moment”. This morning I watched a video of Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globe speech in which she highlighted Rosa Park’s commitment to prepare for the moment. Vanessa’s words carry so much weight because she has taken her message of humanity all over the world. I believe we are witnessing the birth of a cultural renaissance. Artists like Vanessa are at the forefront of this exciting time. Vanessa is prepared and from what I can tell, it’s gonna be beautiful.
I hope you’ll listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
Concise Advice from the Interview is a short version of tips from my guest, Renaissance woman Vanessa Adams-Harris. Here are 5 important bits of advice:
5 When you are in the audience, allow yourself to go along with the storyteller in the moment.
4 Remember that children hear and see us interact with each other as humans.
3 If one form of artistic expression doesn’t work for you, try something else.
2 Be prepared for your moment.
1 Be authentic.
Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes. You can be part of the momentum that’s building. Also, sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join.
Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, and thank you for listening. I want you to pursue your dream to have your work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but SallyPAL is here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us. I’m Sally, and my podcast is called is SallyPAL (the P-A-L in PAL stands for Performing Arts Lab).
If you download and listen on your drive to work, or fall asleep to my cheery chitter chatter like my sister does, let me know you’re out there. I want to help you create original shows for a live audience. All the performances you seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination. Now, Prepare for YOUR moment!
Hi Friend, Welcome to the pre-Episode 28 (fake episode) of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast. Today George and I are celebrating Christmas with my son and his boyfriend and three amazing dogs. Two of our three dogs must return home when my daughter and her partner get back from Tulsa. The pups, Charlie, Theo, and Buster, can occasionally be heard snoring in the background on this episode. It’s Christmas. We haven’t had a snow day yet but we expect some later this week.
George and I wanted to share some thoughts on creativity and the holidays. We also gave some shout outs to friends and family. I mentioned several people gracious enough to allow me to interview them including a recent episode with Frank Gallagher of Lager & Tea. We are so grateful for the support and love in our lives. It’s what keeps me creating. In fact, at the end of this episode I shared a winter song I wrote for my sister. But any of you out there who are teachers will enjoy, “It’s A Snow Day After All”.
Leave comments. Give a review. Or send an email to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations coming every Monday evening. Thanks for sharing the podcast and the blog. Check out sallypal.com/join. Right now there’s a free 20-page theatre resource. It’s a glossary of live performance support you’ll need for your show.
I hope you all know how much I appreciate the support you’ve given the blog and the podcast these last few months. It’s such a joy to know so many of you want to create original work for the stage. If you get a snow day this season, I hope you’ll use it to work on a creative project. Not only does creating something make you feel good. It also gives others around you to be creative as well. I’ll leave you with the words from Marianne Williamson’s book, “A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles”.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
In Episode 27 you’ll hear my great niece Scarlette Adams after her performance last week in Baltimore, Maryland’s White Marsh Ballet Academy’s The Nutcracker.
It’s holiday time. You’re likely in the middle of Chanukah, still gathering stocking stuffers, shopping for the kwanzaa feast, or setting up your Festivus pole. Kids can play a big part in the celebration. After moving to the East Coast, I am getting to know my relatives better. I am fortunate to live closer to some of my youngest relatives now. I took the opportunity to talk with my great niece. I got her ideas on creativity, making art for the stage, choreography, how to get along with your fellow artists, and artistic endeavor as play.
Although Scarlette is not a professional performing artist, I think she has a lot to offer grown-ups. She still understands that making art is really fun. When we lose sight of that, we let the passion leak out. It’s like my old air mattress. Despite the slow leak, I kept using it for guests thinking it would somehow fix itself.
To expand the metaphor, let’s say the mattress is your performance and your guest who is forced to sleep on the mattress is the audience. When you keep that mattress inflated with the passion and play that you felt in childhood, your audience’s experience can be excellent. But when that passion starts to slowly leak out of the performance, your audience can expect a night of uncomfortable awareness. And your performance becomes presentational. When we take the opportunity to listen to what kids say about their own creative experiences, it can awaken us to that inner child who wants to play and have fun. We stop taking ourselves so seriously. It’s okay, and even preferable to take art seriously the way kids take playtime seriously. But taking yourself seriously is not the same thing.
I hope you’ll listen until the end of the SallyPAL interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and today’s special treat, Words of Wisdom from my Dad.
Concise Advice from the Interview
7 No matter what anybody says about you, just keep on doing what you should be doing.
6 Don’t let those haters bother you.
5 When you witness bullying, do not be a bystander.
4 Be yourself.
3 When you create choreography, pause the music. You can work on your move and start over again. Each time, go a little bit further. That way, you can create a whole entire dance.
2 Think of something that you like and always smile.
1 Anyone can do something creative.
Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes. Sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join. And for the person who asked, there’s a CD Baby Link in the sidebar to my CD that has the song Stop for a Minute that you hear during the podcast.
Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, & thank you for listening. I want you to pursue your dream to have original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but I’m here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us. I’m Sally and this is SallyPAL (the P-A-L in PAL stands for “Performing Arts Lab”).
If you’re downloading and listening on your drive to work, or falling asleep to my breathtaking blarney like my sister does, let me know you’re out there. I want to help you create original shows for a live audience.
All the performances you’ve seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination… Now… Think of something you like and smile!
Hi Friend, Welcome to my blog with show notes for Episode 26 of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast. Every week I talk to people about making original work for a live audience. This week on the podcast, you’ll hear an uplifting conversation about getting your artistic 2nd wind. Lager & Tea is the poetry+music pair from Tulsa Oklahoma that features my friend Frank Gallagher and his daughter Mercy Teague.
Many people listening in Tulsa might know Frank as a regular theatre director for Heller Theatre and Clark Youth Theatre among others. He’s changed direction as he and his daughter, award-winning published poet, Mercy Teague, have joined forces to create new works for live audiences. I’ve included YouTube links in the show notes. These early performances give a peek inside the fantastic family collaboration that people in Tulsa are talking about. The poetry alone is worth your time. And Frank’s guitar counterpart is beautifully realized. The best part for me is that Frank is so eloquent about the artistic 2nd wind he’s having through making performance art with his accomplished progeny.
If you like what Frank and Mercy are putting out there on YouTube, subscribe to their channel. It doesn’t cost you a dime and it lets artists like Lager & Tea know what they’re doing is reaching people. When your work goes up, we’ll post a link so you can share with the SallyPAL community. Be inspired and be willing to inspire others to start fresh or get an artistic 2nd wind.
CONCISE ADVICE FROM THE INTERVIEW
10 Don’t be afraid to try something new.
9 Try something you always wanted to do that you never did.
8 Don’t sit and watch TV in your retirement.
7 Pick up the instrument you played in High School.
6 You are made to be a creator.
5 Art is not as satisfying unless you can give it your best (not someone else’s best).
4 Doing something new at 65 is exciting.
3 Your art is a gift you can give to others.
2 Seek out opportunities to share your original work.
1 Find something to do!
Listen until the end for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George. This week, George’s wisdom is a quote attributed to everyone from Gabi Peralez to Paulo Coelho to John Lennon to Ed Sheeran. Suffice it to say, the quote is almost certainly folk wisdom that bears repeating. “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
Leave comments. Give a review. Or send an email to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations coming every Monday evening. Thanks for sharing the podcast and the blog. (If you haven’t had a chance to share, the share buttons are over there ⇐ to the left of the post. There’s also a free 20-page theatre resource. You get this amazing, funny, original, really useful, and well-organized resource by sharing your first name and email. That’s it! Nothing to it. Name, email, and no sharing. I never share emails because I find it so completely annoying when other people share my email. The free glossary of live performance support is something you will want. You can punch holes in it and slip it inside your creator’s notebook binder. The rest of your production team will be so jealous.
Sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join. And now there’s an iTunes link in the sidebar⇒ to my CD that has the song Stop for a Minute. You hear pieces of the song during the podcast. Now you can listen to the whole thing. The album is available for download on CDBaby.
Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, & thank you for listening. I want you to pursue your dream to have original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but I’m here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us. I’m Sally and this is SallyPAL (the P-A-L in PAL stands for: Performing Arts Lab).
If you’re downloading the podcast and listening on your drive to work, or falling asleep to my hoop-dee-doo like my sister does, let me know you’re out there. I want to help you create original shows for a live audience. All the performances you’ve seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination… Now… Find something to do!
Hi Friend! While you are waiting on my Monday post (Episode 26 is an interview with my talented friend, Frank Gallagher) I have a holiday song for you:
I wrote Modern Holiday a few years ago and shared it with friends and family. Now, that includes you!
It’s snowing in the Northern Neck today. And I am wearing my comfy pajama pants. It feels like Christmas in our little cottage and I love it!
My song, Modern Holiday, has that friendly laid back vibe I cherish. It pairs nicely with online shopping while listening to carols on the Internet. We microwave popcorn and watch Netflix movies projected on the wall in the front room while snow flakes softly land on the lawn. The only thing missing is a fireplace. But since it’s a modern holiday, we can put a fireplace scene on the laptop screen and turn the space heater on low near our tootsies.
I hope you all have a season filled with love and laughter. Connect with a friend or deliver a plate of cookies to a neighbor who might be feeling the holiday blues. If that’s you, reach out to friends, family, online support, a community you feel drawn to… we weren’t meant to spend all our time alone.
On the other hand, if you are blissfully savoring that cup of cinnamon tea while enjoying your own company, I hope you’ll listen to A Modern Holiday. And know that your personal holiday traditions are just as precious (probably more so) than the movie versions. You don’t need decorations or tight schedules to enjoy this time of year. You just need whatever makes you feel at peace.
After talking with my daughter about her and her partner’s wonderful experience at their first Shabbat last night, I know that the season isn’t just for Christians. It’s a glorious modern holiday season for everyone who seeks community, peace, and joy.
Episode 25 of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast features Teresa Fellion whose new show, rose walk green ice, at Danspace Project, 131 E. 10th Street, NY, premieres this week! December 7-9, 2017 at 8pm. Tickets are $22 in advance ($25 at the door)
Just commit and get the tickets now. They’re available at danspaceproject.org, or by calling TheaterMania/OvationTix at (866) 811-4111.
Teresa’s new work, rose walk green ice, is the culmination of work begun with Home and Agawam that explores self-awareness within communal bonds. During the show, audience members will find they each become more aware and appreciative of their complete self and the people around them.
Performances with Teresa’s very well reviewed, highly physical company of dancers include immersive humor and emotion, and live musicians. Teresa’s resume is too long to include here. But she’s taught for The Ross School, The Ailey school, and many others, and choreographed for dozens of organizations and events around the world. Teresa and her company are on the leading edge of performing arts creation and I think you’re going to enjoy hearing what she says on the podcast about the creative process.
Concise Advice from the Interview
5 No one style of dance is inherently better than another
4 Bring collaborators into the process as soon as you can
3 Listen to yourself and don’t over define your style
2 Give your audience a shared experience
1 Be brave
Sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join. And for the person who asked, there’s an iTunes link in the sidebar to my CD with the song, Stop for a Minute, that you hear during the podcast.
Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, & thank you for listening. I want you to pursue your dream to have original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but I’m here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us.
Connect with Teresa Fellion Dance at bodystoriesfellion.org
Every Monday evening I talk to people about making original work for a live audience. Episode 24 features professional stage manager, Liza Vest. Liza is a long time friend with Broadway experience and a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama. She’s also a former Tulsa Holland Hall student.
Liza had so much good stuff to share that I ended up with 10 pieces of great advice. She’s humble, she’s fun, and she’s at the top of her field. One piece of advice stands out for being excellent, yet often forgotten: Make good contacts and stay in touch with people in your field. This is true whether you’re a stage manager or a restaurant manager.
People in performing arts are like people in any other profession. To succeed, they need to make connections. Liza has done a great job staying in touch. Despite the fact that I did not have a job to offer, Liza has always been one to reach out, return calls, and keep tabs. In the performing arts, you never know when someone from your past will be able to answer a question, make an introduction, or just have a glass of wine.
Luckily for Tulsa, Oklahoma where I lived and taught for many years, students have options when it comes to performing arts training. I mention Clark Youth Theatre during the podcast, as well as Holland Hall School. But we also have Spotlight Children’s Theatre and Edison Eagle Theatre with Amber Harrington. That’s where all three of my kids got amazing performance opportunities. This might be a good place to tell you, I am a huge fan of performing arts education. Theatre skills include acting, stage management, lighting, house management, sound technology, set building and carpentry, event planning, and a host of other skills that translate to the world at large. As a kid, I had opportunities in church, school, and the communities where I grew up to learn about theatre from different angles. My family has always supported my passion just as I encourage you to support the young people you know who are hungry to learn. It’s about so much more than getting a job backstage.
Speaking of theatre jobs, you can still get your 20-page FREE theatre resource. It’s a glossary of live performance support you’ll need for your show. It’s useful, entertaining, and you have my permission to copy pages and trade with your friends. If you’re a drama teacher, this is a great resource to get students thinking about all the areas where a person might contribute to a show’s success.
Concise Advice from the Interview: a short version of tips from my guest, stage manager Liza Vest. The advice is geared for Stage Managers but it’s actually great advice for life:
10 – To make theatre work, you must be part of a community.
9 – Once a show starts, it’s a fast-moving train and the stage manager’s job is to keep that train on track and not stop.
8 – Find ways to practice calling cues before calling an actual live performance.
7 – Remain present and keep going no matter what happens. You must be focused and in the moment.
6 – If you are a stage management student, most stage managers on Broadway will allow you to watch them call their show.
5 – To find out how to contact a stage manager, get a copy of the Theatrical Index to look up shows and stage managers. Be professional and polite when you ask.
4 – Stage managers must be adaptive because theatre is a generative art form and new ideas constantly change the needs of the work.
3 – Get as much experience as you can – but you do not need a master’s degree to stage manage.
2 – Ask people who are doing what you want to do for their advice, or simply ask how they got there.
1 – Talk to people and maintain your contacts.
Next Monday I’ll post my conversation with the founder of New York’s BodyStories -Teresa Fellion Dance: Teresa Fellion. I’m super excited! Check out this blog for articles and podcast episodes. And sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join.
Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, and thank you for listening. I want you to pursue your dream to have original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but I’ll be here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us. I want to help you create original shows for a live audience… All the performances you’ve seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination… Now go support a kid who wants to perform!
My name is Sally Adams. Every Monday evening I talk to people about making original work for a live audience. We talk about lots of other things as well. For instance, director Julie Tattershall and I talk about creative flow, emotional vulnerability, and theatre as therapy.
Leave comments. Give me a review. Or send an email to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep the flow going every Monday evening. Thanks so much for sharing the podcast and the blog.
Don’t forget about the FREEBIES on sallypal.com/join. You can still get your 20-page FREE theatre resource. It’s a glossary of live performance support you need for show flow. It’s useful, entertaining, and you can copy the pages and trade with your friends!
Today’s episode features play director, performer, and playwright Julie Tattershall. Julie is a forever friend with a long resume.
Julie Tattershall was the 2012 Mary Kay Place Legacy Award recipient through the Tulsa Awards for Theatre Excellence. Tulsans call it TATE. Over the years, Julie has won two TATE awards and two Oklahoma Community Theatre Association awards as a director.
Julie worked with theater companies in Chicago before settling down in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In Tulsa she became the Artistic Director of Clark and Heller Theatres logging nearly 30 years of non-stop directing flow. In addition to directing over 100 productions, Julie founded the long-running Laughing Matter improvisation group. With her husband, Tony Batchelder, she co-founded the Tulsa Area Community Theatre Alliance. Julie has toured nationally with “Where the Red Fern Grows”. She also participated in the Oklahoma Artist in Residence program. Julie still works as an artist in the schools performing original works that resonate with a message of acceptance and healing. She has a Masters degree in Psychology and uses that knowledge to create live-performance flow. Julie visited me and George in our new home on the Potomac river in Virginia.
Concise Advice from the Interview (a short version of tips from theatre guru, Julie Tattershall.)
7 – Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable on stage.
6 – Decide where the character holds stress and build that into the character.
5 – Take advantage of seeing things from another point of view.
4 – Open yourself up to the flow to be in the now.
3 – Approach any play script as if you are approaching a brand new play.
2 – Create a safe environment for rehearsal.
1 – And Julie Tattershall’s number one piece of advice? Don’t feel like you have to know it all, and don’t pretend to.
Next week, download my conversation with former Broadway stage manager, Liza Vest.
Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes. And sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join.
Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, and thank you for listening. I want you to pursue your dream to have original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but I’m here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us.
If you like SallyPAL, a new show goes out every Monday evening! Download and listen on your drive to work, or fall asleep to my alien transmissions like my sister does. And let me know you’re out there. I want to help you create original shows for a live audience.
All the performances you’ve seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination… Now it’s your turn!
Episode 22 of
Performing Arts Lab
Spoken Word Artist
I’m your host, Sally Adams, and every Monday evening, I talk to people about making original work for the stage. Subscribe to SallyPAL on iTunes, Google Play, Podbean and many other podcast platforms. Leave comments, give me a review, or send an email to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations coming every Monday evening. Thanks so much to those of you who continue to share. Thanks to Connie, Steve, Jeremy, Pat, Emile, George, Vicki, and all of you who are taking the time to spread the word.
Don’t forget about the FREEBIES on sallypal.com/join. You can still get your 20-page free original theatre resource. It’s a glossary of live performance support you’ll need for your original work. It’s useful, entertaining, and there are places to scribble your show’s notes on the pages.
Today’s episode features an amazing young artist, David KoloKolo. David is a senior in the accounting program at George Washington University in Washington DC. He’s like many serious-minded young men about to embark on a career in the corporate world. But just under the surface is a passionate, thoughtful, poetic soul. David received recognition as a spoken word artist through the Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) program in Tulsa, Oklahoma. David is a musician who draws energy and inspiration from his Christian faith. He grew up listening to Bill Gaither Gospel and Hill Song Gospel as well as rock and hip-hop. Although his poetry is not always filled with religious images, his walk as a believer is all-encompassing. David’s non-judgmental approach to his art and his life is nothing short of inspiring. I want to share a poem he wrote and performed that really moved me. Here’s a link to David KoloKolo’s spoken word piece, Anthology of Apologies.
I’m including Concise Advice from the Interview. This is a short version of tips from this week’s SallyPAL podcast guest. Here are David KoloKolo’s 5 great bits of advice:
5 As you grow as an artist, pay attention to your technique.
4 Art is communal even if you create in solitude.
3 Sharing digitally is a legitimate way to create a communal experience.
2 Share your whole self with your community.
And the number 1 piece of advice from spoken word artist David KoloKolo?
Worship can bind together all the areas of your life including your art.
Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, and really and truly, thank you for listening. I want you to pursue your dream to have your original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but I’ll be here with advice, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us. If you like SallyPAL, a new podcast goes out every Monday evening!
Remember: All the performances you’ve seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination…
Now it’s your turn!
Episode 21 lands on the Interwebs the day before Halloween 2017. No tricks, but I do have a treat for you. Check out this really great interview with the incredibly versatile and talented music guru Jeremy Stevens.
I’m Sally Adams, host of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab podcast (SallyPAL). Every Monday evening I talk to people about making original works of music, theatre, and dance for the stage.
If you’re not a SallyPAL subscriber, find a platform (iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Podbean, etc.) and subscribe! SallyPAL will be featured on Podbean during Thanksgiving week.
Leave comments and give me a review! iTunes reviews are especially helpful. You can even send an email to me at Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations about music and other performing arts coming every Monday evening.
On sallypal.com/join you can get a FREE 20-page theatre resource. It’s a glossary of jobs you might need people to do for your show. It’s useful and entertaining. You can even do your pop quizzes right off the pages. I’ll keep building on it every month while you build your show.
Episode 21 of SallyPAL features Tulsa pianist, choral conductor, teacher, and actor Jeremy Stevens. During the podcast, Jeremy shares the Rachel’s Challenge list.
Named for Rachel Joy Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, the list of actions called, “Rachel’s Challenge” is based on her personal writings. The program that grew from the list works with schools to reduce harassment, bullying, and violence.
Concise Advice from the Interview is a short version of tips from my guest. Today I have 5 great bits of advice from musician, Jeremy Stevens:
5 Keep going even when things get tough.
4 A creative journey never fully stops.
3 Don’t hesitate to refine your path through questioning.
2 It’s okay for the musician to pause because the music continues.
And the number 1 piece of advice from choral conductor Jeremy Stevens? Find your passion and pursue it!
Next week you’ll hear an interview with spoken word artist and GWU student, David Kolo.
Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes. Sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert.
Thank you for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, and joining. And especially, thank you for listening. I encourage you to pursue your dream. You can have your original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary. So SallyPAL will be here with advice, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us. If you like SallyPAL, a new podcast goes out every Monday evening.
Remember: All the performances you’ve seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination. Now it’s your turn! I want to help you create original shows for a live audience… Let’s do it together!
Episode 20 of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast (SallyPAL) posts during LOVE YOUR BODY week!
The National Dance Education Organization and the National Honor Society for Dance Arts celebrate 2017’s Love Your Body Week October 22-28. You don’t have to be a dance student to love your body. So, whatever else you do, love your body today!
Every Monday evening I talk to people about making original work for the stage. Episode 20 features dancer, choreographer, and teacher, Kerrie King from Northern High School in Greensboro North Carolina.
Kerrie is a firecracker of an artist. She has more enthusiasm than a kid on the way to Disneyworld. She is encouraging, creative, and full of amazing ideas. Kerrie has been the dance teacher at Northern High School in Greensboro, North Carolina for several years. Her students have far exceeded anyone’s expectations for a public-school dance program.
Kerrie pushes her students to do more than simply dance. She drives them to create. Every student in her ever-growing program (there are nearly 100 students) stretches to develop original movement. Student dancers create thoughtful and innovative choreography. This interactive style of teaching is important. Kids get to use their bodies in positive ways. The Love Your Body Week event is part of a push toward inclusion in performing arts.
Kids who worry about miniscule weight gains and barely visible perfection in the world of dance may not maintain that enthusiasm for long. We’ve all seen little kids dancing their hearts out on YouTube or Facebook. Some of our own tiny family members dance for the joy of it. It’s great to see teachers encouraging a return to that joyful self-expression. Young people who love to dance will gain technique as they progress because they are inspired. It’s one reason Kerrie’s dance program is bursting at the seams. Let’s all work to love our own bodies as an example for the young people we love.
If you’re not a Performing Arts Lab subscriber, find a platform and subscribe to SallyPAL! I’m on a bunch of podcast platforms including Podbean where SallyPAL will be a featured show during Thanksgiving week! Leave comments, give me a review or send an email to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations coming every Monday evening.
If you want to get in on newly created FREEBIES go to sallypal.com/join and sign up to get FREE downloadable (and fun) performing arts postcards, workbook inserts with useful links, and the starter pages for your Creator’s Notebook. Right now, you can get a 20-page free theatre resource. It’s a glossary of jobs you might need people to do for your show. It’s useful, entertaining, and you can do your pop quizzes right out of the pages. I’ll build on it every month to help you build your show.
Concise Advice from the Interview, a short version of tips from my guest, Kerrie King. Here are 10 great bits of advice:
10 – You don’t have to fit into a mold to be a dancer. It’s okay to be who you are.
9 – Your body differences are your creative strengths. Work with them.
8 – Everything in your dance piece must have purpose.
7 – Take positive strides to make your world a better place.
6 – To offer a new perspective, reach beyond the edge of the stage.
5 – Be true to yourself.
4 – Get lots of feedback.
3 – You don’t always have to take every piece of advice you are offered.
2 – Educate your audience and help them understand your work.
1 – Love Your Body
Next week SallyPAL the podcast will feature an interview with pianist, conductor, teacher, and actor Jeremy Stevens. We talk about expressing stories through music. Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes, and to sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert.
Thank you so much for sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, and especially, thank you for listening. I encourage you to pursue your dream to have your original work on the stage in front of a live audience. It’s scary, but I’ll be here with advice, encouragement, and a growing community of people like us.
If you like SallyPAL, a new podcast goes out every Monday evening. Thanks again for listening, I’m Sally and this is the SallyPAL blog. The P-A-L in PAL stands for Performing Arts Lab.
Remember: All the performances you’ve seen on stage once lived only in someone’s imagination… Now it’s your turn! I want to help you learn to create original shows for a live audience… Let’s do it together!
Episode 19 features artist and art teacher, Jan Butler. Jan is a former collaborator and my forever friend. Jan’s background is in 2D, and 3D art, as well as puppeteering. She works with students in stop motion animation, graphic novels, pottery, mask making AND she teaches kids all about monarch butterfly migration and supports the butterfly population in Northeastern Oklahoma. On top of all that, Jan is a member of the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus and a consummate gardener.
Be sure to listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
If you haven’t signed up for the SallyPAL freebies like theatre comics, super helpful links and articles, and the awesome cool sections of your Creator’s Notebook, you can sign up on SallyPAL.com/join to get your 20-page free theatre resource. It’s useful, entertaining, and you can do your pop quizzes right out of these pages. We’ll keep building on it every month.
Concise Advice from the Interview:
Here are 10 bits of advice from visual artist Jan Butler for all artists.
10 Layer your learning to build on what you already know
9 Think bigger than the moment you’re doing your art
8 Focus on the story you want to tell
7 Feed and nurture your inner artist
6 For children to feel they can express something in different ways is really important
5 Getting to experience something through different senses before it becomes academic really makes learning stick
4 The opportunity to work at something and fail without being judged for it is really important
3 As a teacher, you can be creative and free to be an artist for you instead of for people who purchase your work
2 Be open and search for new experience for both you and your students to keep it fresh
1 Whatever you do, do it for yourself
In today’s episode, I’ll go over Part One of your Creator’s Notebook. If you want to pause the show while you go download the pdf at SallyPAL.com/join, I can wait… (waiting music). Is everybody ready? Okay. While you wait on your printer, I’ll tell you that there will be no Concise Advice from the Interview today, but we do have Words of Wisdom from George.
Recently I found myself thinking more and more about the team that makes a live stage show possible. Your show could include clowning and aerial acrobatics like Cirque de Soleil, or it might be a poetry reading, or a tap dance recital. What all performing arts have in common is collaboration. Even if you’re a busker playing for the quarters people toss in your guitar case, you’re still collaborating with your audience. For most shows, there’s a Production Team. (This team is forced to meet in secret in order to remain mysterious and powerful). The team includes the Director, the Stage manager, and the Technical Director, but depending on the type of show it might include a variety of other team players.
I created a 20 page insert to a larger resource called the Creator’s Notebook. The Creator’s Notebook is based on a notebook most play directors make themselves called a director’s notebook. I’ll dig up some of my old director’s notebooks and take some pictures so you can get a look at my attempts to stay organized.
If you send a picture to email@example.com of your well-used director or creator’s notebook, I will try to post it on SallyPAL.com. AND I’ll send you a link to a free collection of funny images I made with some public domain theatre art. You’ll find examples of the images in the 20-page pdf you can get for free when you join the SallyPAL Creative Team! Just go to sallypal.com/join.
Episode 17 of the SallyPAL podcast features Steve Barker, beer and booze professional, and a terrific actor who originated the role of Drover in the musical, Hank the Cowdog by David Blakely (based on the books by John R. Erickson) and produced by Tulsa Repertory Musicals.
Steve is currently performing in a new play by Bruce Dean Willis titled Time for Chocolate. The play opens October 6, 2017 and you can purchase your tickets to this exciting original work at www.hellertheatreco.com. The play has metaphysical debates, fight scenes, historical riddles, bawdy rhymes, and of course, mushroom laced hallucinogenic chocolate (no beer and booze) and it all takes place among the Aztecs. Heller Theatre is working in conjunction with Tulsa Latino Theater.
Steve and I didn’t just talk about beer and booze. I did, however, ask him to name what beer and booze went with what playwright. We
Steve and I also talked about Heller Theatre Company in Tulsa. After 30 years on the scene, Heller Theatre announced this year that is is committing to producing all original work. The group has also hired a resident playwright. That’s where Hank the Cowdog creator David Blakely steps in. This is a thrilling leap of faith for Heller. As Steve and I discussed, producing new work is exciting, but it’s a tough sell. Many theatre goers would prefer to see something they know about or that has a recognizable title. For new works, this doesn’t always happen.
I encourage you to go see all kinds of live performances. But I especially want to encourage the support of new work. New work doesn’t mean it’s set in the modern world, either. The new show this month at Heller by Bruce Dean Willis takes place in ancient Mexico among the Aztecs. There are new works by dance companies, choirs, symphonies, local bands, and, yes, theatre companies. The cool thing about seeing a world premier is that you are the first audience to be part of that work. The final collaborator of a new work is still a collaborator. You influence the work just by being there. I encourage everyone reading SallyPAL.com the blog and listening to SallyPAL the podcast to go see something new. Be the first. If you like it, tell everyone to go see it. You are not simply seeing a show, you are supporting the creation of new work.
Be sure to listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
There is an opinion held by many that a degree in theatre is not useful. If you ended up with a business degree instead, local theatre offers a training ground. For people hungry for the experience offered through college programs, there are good reasons to get a theatre degree.
Just like science and engineering programs, a College of Drama offers access to resources not generally available to working artists. Local theatres may not have the funding many universities do. A college theatre student is expected to learn about more than stage acting. Students learn to use industrial sewing machines. They have access to practice rooms with pianos, and performance spaces with ready audiences. Students hang lights from catwalks, work with mixers and light boards, use power tools, and build and paint big sets. They get to work with vocal and acting coaches, and well-known directors. They study dance and stage combat. And some even have circus performance training. If you think that’s a waste of time, you may be reading the wrong blog.
Performing artists are modern storytellers and storytellers are the keepers of culture. Without them, our cultures crumble and disappear. In communities all over the world, local theatres offer a place where storytellers can get a solid start.
Episode 16 features the coolest guy on the planet, my husband, George Nelson. George and I talk about getting performing arts experience in local theatre. We mention Hank the Cowdog, Heller Theatre, and community theatre in general. The links in this blog allow you to dive a little deeper.
Be sure to listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George. If you’re not yet a Performing Arts Lab subscriber, find a platform and subscribe to SallyPAL! You’ll find me on Acast, Blubrry, GooglePlay, iTunes, Overcast, PlayerFM, Pocketcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, and, of course, my host platform, Podbean, where the podcast will be a featured show the week of November 27!
With your help, SallyPAL is in the top performing arts podcasts on Player FM this week! Thanks to everyone sharing the blog and the podcast. If you sign up for the mailing list, you’ll get a free insert for your Creator’s Notebook. It’s a list of people you’ll need to help you produce your show along with some great links to more in-depth information.
Actor-Director-Playwright Michael Wright and I explore risky venues. We chat about finding your creative voice. We also talk about taking a chance with your writing and staging your original work.
Michael and I discuss how to draw an audience into your world.
University of Tulsa professor Michael Wright is a theatre director, actor, teacher, and playwright. His theatrical work plays with form, audience interaction, and uncommon theatre venues. Michael authored Playwriting in Process, Playwriting Master Class, and Sensory Writing for Stage and Screen. He received awards for his work as a teacher of playwriting from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the Kennedy Center.
During the podcast, you’ll hear us talk about the Tulsa Artists’ Coalition Gallery. We also mention Playwright David Blakely. David currently serves as the Playwright in Residence for Tulsa’s Heller Theatre. I’ll feature David in a later episode.
Michael and I reminisced about Sam Shepherd and his play True West (which he saw at Steppenwolf). Michael also mentioned the WomenWorks program for female playwrights in graduate school. I didn’t include links to that program as you must be selected for it. If you are a woman in grad school, talk to your playwriting professor. Mention the University of Tulsa playwriting competition for graduate women playwrights, WomenWorks.
Be sure to listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview. Stay until the end for Words of Wisdom from George. I sometimes even include my bloopers.
SallyPAL can now be found on Acast, Blubrry, GooglePlay, and iTunes. I’m also on Overcast, PlayerFM, Pocketcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, and, of course, my host platform, Podbean. Check out Podbean the week of November 27 when Podbean features the SallyPAL podcast!
If you sign up for the mailing list, you’ll get a free insert for your creator’s notebook. It’s a list of people you’ll need to help you produce your show along with some great links to more in-depth information.
Why I started SallyPAL: Comedy improv is one way to strut your originality on stage. That’s what I did for many years. My group struggled to find places to perform. As a result, we performed in some pretty weird locations including someone’s house, a Shakespeare festival, and a drag show runway. But we learned how to produce original work for the stage by trying new things. We also made a lot of mistakes. This got me thinking about all the other people with amazing ideas but little support or know-how. Our voices can and should be heard. And that’s why I started SallyPAL. If you want to learn more about why I started Sally’s Performing Arts Lab, check out this page and sign up for a free Production Notebook insert.
In episode 14, I interview my friend and fellow improv-er, Angie Mitchell. Angie mothers a six-year-old daughter while she teaches school and rehearses a couple of times a week. She also teaches improv and performs two or three times a month. You can hear Angie’s multiple characters online on Stories of The Century. The Spontaniacs! podcast takes an improvisational old-timey sounding radio serial and sets it in the fictional and impossibly tall Century Building. Angie created dozens of characters for the podcast and live shows, and has performed with The Spontaniacs! for nearly 10 years.
If you’re in the Tulsa area you can see The Spontaniacs! live at the pH House at 306 Phoenix. An evening with The Spontaniacs! contains a hilarious mix of long and short form comedy all made up on the spot. While it almost seems scripted, shows are completely improvised in the moment. For show dates check out Spontaniacsimprov.com.
Be sure to listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
Episode 13 features an interview with Sheila Black. Sheila is a published poet and writing professor. She’s been teaching creative writing for over 20 years. While teaching, Sheila continues to practice her craft. This allows her to nurture new writers, and kick butt when necessary.
Teaching from the Heart
In fact, Sheila spends most of her time writing. She also spends time with her students in college classrooms and writing workshops. Sheila’s curriculum encourages students to write authentically and discover their voice. She also encourages her students to perform their own work. The feedback from a live audience promotes more authentic writing.
Writing from the Heart
If you’re in the Tulsa area, sign up for Sheila Black’s writing intensive: Writing from the Heart. This 5-week creative writing workshop encourages authentic expression. The workshop meets from 6-7:30pm every Thursday evening and starts September 21. To find out more, contact Sheila at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After my conversation with Sheila, you’ll hear Concise Advice from the Interview. And if you wait until the end, you’ll hear Words of Wisdom from George. Stick around after the show for the flubs. They’re authentic. Now go create something brilliant!
Let Go and Let Godot
I am a writer, and most of my writing is written for performance. This is a type of writing that can be pretty scary. When I think about a room full of people listening to my words, it can get in the way of authentic expression. As a result, I might try writing to please an imaginary future audience.
It helps to let go of my fear if I start small. Maybe I can start by reading aloud to myself. I can probably find a supportive friend who is willing to listen to a few pages. After that, I might even have a reading of the work with friends at my house. When I’ve gotten over pleasing other people, finally, I can get down to authentic writing. That is, writing from my heart and not from my ego or my brain. Save the editing for later. For now, sit down and write!
In Episode 12, I enlist my husband George (the coolest guy on the planet) to ask questions about stage direction. I cover how to approach work when you are a beginning director, how to collaborate without giving away your job to enthusiastic performers and staff, and how a director can make an impact on an audience.
What’s the most important advice for a successful collaboration? Communicate with your stage direction team. They can keep you on point while they lighten the load.
What’s the best way for a beginning director to approach stage direction?
Start small and keep it simple. We used to say, “Keep It Simple, Stupid” or K.I.S.S. Now we say, “Keep It Simple, Simon.” It’s nicer.
What’s the most important thing for a director to remember?
The Story, The Story, The Story. Everything we do must serve the story. That truly is all there is. We are, after all, story tellers.
What does it mean to create a safe space in terms of stage direction. And how would you do that?
It’s about maintaining a rehearsal environment where actors feel free to collaborate. It doesn’t serve anyone if your team is afraid to express their ideas in what is, essentially, a creative space.
What do the most successful directors do that we can emulate?Collaborate while maintaining the vision. For the director, the vision is what holds the whole together; set, lighting, costumes, performances, script. Without vision, these are a jumble of pieces that don’t necessarily go together.
What is the unseen work in stage direction?
A good director will spend a lot of time with the script. They will also talk to designers and other staff before performers are selected. Do your stage direction homework. Solid front end work saves time and creates confidence in your performers.
How can directors make an impact on an audience?
Have a clear visual notion of the story you are telling. Design cohesion in stage direction means paying attention to details and honoring the work of collaborators. Everyone’s contribution counts as long as everyone is building the same world.
Episode 11 is an interview with Florida choreographer and dance teacher, Nicole Perry.
Nicole holds degrees in Dance and Music and is currently pursuing a PhD in Spirituality and the Arts. Nicole has choreographed for Miami Children’s Theatre, Center City Opera Theater, and was the resident choreographer with Hedgerow Theatre in Philadelphia for 2 seasons before becoming a full-time dance teacher in Florida. Learn more about Nicole at her website: http://nicoleperry.org, where you can also learn about audition coaching when you add “/audition-coaching” to nicoleperry.org.
Be sure to listen until the end for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
Writing Good TV Comedy
There’s a wonderful stage play by Neil Simon titled, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Simon loosely based the play on his years writing for Your Show of Shows starring Sid Caesar. The play takes place during television’ youth in the mid 1950’s. Real-life writers, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, and Carl Reiner inspired some of the characters in the play. Many, including Woody Allen, went on to have superstar writing careers. Unlike most shows of the era, Your Show of Shows hired a woman, Lucille Kallen, to be part of the writing staff. Caesar later hired Selma Diamond for Your Show of Shows as well as a later program, The Caesar Hour. A pair of women in a the male dominated field writing good TV comedy, Kallen and Diamond were rare for their time.
Very Funny Women
Although my SallyPAL guest in Episode 10 works with a lot of very funny women, she admits times haven’t changed as much as many women writers would prefer. The Middle‘s creators, Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline, have fairly thick resumes for writing good TV comedy. But there are still a majority of mainstream shows dominated by men. Due to a huge number of new TV outlets like HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Crackle, and many others, there’s been a surge in the number of women writers. Outlets are hungry for new material and women comedy writers are ready. The new landscape could also make room for other types of diversity.
According to an article in the British news outlet, The Guardian, Project Diamond may force production companies to increase diversity on and off camera. Production companies plan to conceal their prejudicial hiring practices by burying statistics. Industry insiders have threatened to fight back so that British television more accurately reflects the population. “TV writers and producers have threatened to boycott plans to measure diversity on television after broadcasters refused to reveal which shows had the worst record for employing people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.”
It’s surprising in 2017 to see so much pushback for writing good TV comedy. Women writers have proved their worth time and again. Statistically, we know diversity on the small screen draws new viewers rather than repels them. And, as my husband likes to point out, it’s just easier to tell characters apart if they don’t all look alike.
Women Are Funny When They’re Pregnant, Right?
As for Neil Simon’s very funny play, no real diversity is called for. In a cast featuring eight writers, only one is a woman. And she spends Act II wearing a pregnant belly. Women are funny when they’re pregnant, right? What may have escaped notice is that funny women are funny with and without the belly. What Neil Simon reveals about the golden age of writing good TV comedy is it was mostly written by white men. Imagine how much shinier that golden age would have been with all the outliers included. It might even have impacted the way we view our shared history. Instead of a homogenized version of TV America, we could be remembering a more realistic, diverse, and funnier version.
Now when the mainstream refuses to improve TV diversity, we have places to go. If we stop using TV as background noise and more carefully choose the stories we invite into our homes, maybe we can encourage the TV gods to make more shows like The Middle. As we push past our addiction to TV pablum, we can demand more funny women on and off screen.
I interviewed the hilarious Jana Hunter for Episode 10 of SallyPAL. She’s made her own mark writing good TV comedy for nearly 30 years. With her husband and writing partner, Mitch Hunter, Jana has written and produced The Drew Carey Show, According to Jim, Roommates, Gary Unmarried, and Notes From the Underbelly. For the last nine years, Jana and Mitch have been executive producers for The Middle on ABC.
Jana and I talk about making it as a TV comedy writer. We explore what she loves about The Middle as the show winds to a close. Jana also gives some great writerly advice. Be sure to listen until the end for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George. And, as always, share the podcast!
Diversity is something performing arts can address in creative ways. There are examples of diversity stories on Broadway from the tragic transgender rock opera, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, and the complex family story, “FunHome”, to the racially diverse, “Hamilton”, and the Deaf West Theatre company’s production of “Spring Awakenings”. Diversity has come to mean racial diversity. There’s no doubt we need more people of color on stage. But maybe that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Playwriting for physical difference is one way to chip away at the diversity problem.
Actors in Wheelchairs
One thing we don’t see on stage is actors who use wheelchairs off stage. This year was the Broadway debut of a wheelchair bound performer. Ali Stoker won her role with a killer audition. Her physical difference didn’t deter producers from casting her. And yet there are very few areas of diversity so overlooked. There are characters with physical differences; “Wicked”, “The Glass Menagerie”, “Children of a Lesser God”. Yet, as “New York Times” critic Neil Genzlinger notes, “it remains a rare occurrence, and as a result Broadway remains unrepresentative of the full range of humanity.” The problem with Ali Stoker’s debut is not that she is singing, dancing, and ASL signing lyrics from a wheelchair. The problem is that it happened just this year. After over 150 years of Broadway performances, producers finally decided it was time for wheelchair bound actors to play wheelchair bound characters.
While many call Stoker’s wheelchair debut “inspirational”, all the artist with a disability really wants is an equal opportunity. As audience members, we must support shows that feature a wide range of physical difference. Diversity on stage is both reflective and cutting edge. Over 20% of Americans has a disability. So why are we uncomfortable with disability on stage? Diversity is our strength. If hiding our differences makes us weak, it seems like embracing our physical differences makes us strong.
Nicole Zimmerer is a playwright, and actor. In addition, she’s an advocate for casting people with physical differences. Nicole has been writing and producing plays most of her life. She recently graduated from the University of Houston Playwriting and Dramaturgy program and will study playwriting as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon in the fall. Nicole and I talk about her beginnings, the Kennedy Center performance of her one act play, “Falling with Grace”, and her recent full-length play, “Thicker Than Honey”. Finally, we discuss her fight to represent artists in wheelchairs through playwriting. As a result of living with Cerebral Palsy, Nicole understands how it feels to speak up for her rights. Finally, she’s being heard.
Extras on SallyPAL
Be sure to listen until the end for Concise Advice from the Interview. I have 5 great bits of advice from the beautiful, funny, fiery, and talented, Nicole Z. Don’t miss Words of Wisdom from George.
Arts Educators Empower the Next Generation
Arts educators bear a special responsibility. They must provide feedback that opens young artists to take creative risks. At the same time they teach technical aspects that are hard to master. For teachers, lifting up while calming down can be challenging but rewarding. When students reach college they have some ideas of their own. They also have some performance habits, both good and bad.
Pitfalls for an Arts Educator
To be an arts educator in a college setting you must be relevant. That means practicing your art while teaching classes. This is always a good idea. But it comes with pitfalls. For a performing artist it means your students will see your work. That can be scary. Students are often supportive. But they can also be very judgemental. If you are not confident in your work, you could lose status as an arts educator. Lisa Stefanic is a working artist and an arts educator. When Lisa is in the classroom, she brings her vast knowledge of what actually works (and doesn’t work) on the stage. When students see her work outside the classroom, it’s clear she knows what she is talking about.
Arts Educator Lisa Stefanic
Today’s episode of SallyPAL is an interview with actor, director, arts educator, and acting coach, Lisa Stefanic. If you’re a fan of Weird Al Yankovich, you may remember her as Phyllis, the Wheel of Fish contestant in his feature length movie, “UHF”. Lisa has performed in or directed more shows than could fit on a resume. She has starred in several original shows. She also teams up with her husband, Vern Stefanic, to help students create new works. We talk about teaching, developing new talent, making old shows new again, and a variety rehearsal techniques.
But Wait… There’s More!
Be sure to listen until the end for Concise Advice from the Interview and Words of Wisdom from George.
Birthing the Crone
You will often hear women (and men) bemoaning the lack of meaty roles for women in film, TV, and on stage. I agree, yet I do so with a caveat: Meaty roles for women written by women are different from the meaty women’s roles written by men. This is not to suggest in any way that men are unable to write for women. My son is a damned good playwright who writes women’s roles with great sensitivity and insight. Yet, much as an elevator stop in the sub basement, performing your own work written from your unique perspective reveals new mysteries.
A Writer Observes
Writing a play about someone else’s life experience seems like a tough job. It’s especially hard when writing for more than one character. Consequently, the writer’s own experience gets spread like peanut butter over every character. This character speaks from your high school point of view. And this character says things you wanted to say to your grandmother but didn’t get the chance. And this character speaks from the feelings wrapped around a moment of deep embarrassment, or grief, or shock. The payoff comes because we improve our skills of observation. Lisa Wilson embodies this skill.
Birthing the Crone
I interview actor, director, playwright, and University of Tulsa Women’s Studies professor, Lisa Wilson. Lisa acts as playwright, performer, director, and producer of her own work. As a result, she shares her observations with a live audience. It sets her work apart from the performances of actors depicting lives written by other playwrights. Because Lisa so richly embodies the character based on her own life, you forget you’re watching a play.
Lisa Wilson – Old Crone with a New Voice
Furthermore, 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 play in a series titled, “The Crone Chronicles”. Lisa based the series on her experiences of aging and loss with some hilarious and vulnerable insights. Finally, we talk about women’s voices and the effect of life’s changes on the artistic process.
Diversity on Stage
SallyPAL this week features a fantastic conversation about diversity on stage with rising star, Weston Vrooman. I explored the topic of diversity with Wes (one of my favorite people). We share a lot of the same ideals for the theater. Wes and I both recognize the need to broaden casting choices with more Open Casting.
What is Diversity?
When the topic of “diversity” comes up it probably veers toward race. While a critical piece of the conversation, it provides only a part of something bigger and more exciting. We have a long way to go when it comes to diversifying the performing arts. This applies to play production in particular. Producers and directors do a fairly good job with age difference. They offer less diversity of race and sex. Gender seems somewhat complicated for many of us. Body type and physical barriers present the biggest elephants in the room.
Body Diversity in Theatre
When we attend a play, we usually see beautiful people on stage. In musical theatre, arguments get made that physical demands draw a particular (fit) body type. And theatre companies turn down actors time and again for not “looking the role”. What does it even mean to look the role of an “everyperson”?
Exclusion and Diversity
Beyond the argument for doing away with exclusionary practices in casting, we must look at adopting true otherness on stage. That is the easiest way to move forward in the art. Decades of excluding some of the most talented performers have left us with a rather bland array of professional actors. We must begin to encourage new voices, and embrace the “other”. When we highlight the need for the artists who have been relegated to the sidelines, we can begin an age of artistic expression and expansion that will impact society in ways we cannot fathom.
Do you know an artist? Are you an artist? That voice must count. We can all support the new wave of differentness and allow the arts to once again be at the forefront of social change. Enjoy this conversation with Weston Vrooman while you think about how to incorporate diversity into your production.
Listen to Episode 5 – ATC History with Bob Odle
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
Listen to Episode 5 – ATC History with Bob Odle
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
Listen to Episode 3 – Student Performers with Daniel Bowers
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.
Listen to Episode 3 – Student Performers with Daniel Bowers
Listen to Episode 3 – Student Performers with Daniel Bowers https://sallypal.podbean.com/mf/web/sgeydf/Ep_3_Student_Performers_with_Daniel_Bowers.mp3
Listen to Episode 2 – Team Building
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
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 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
Listen to Episode 1 of SallyPAL the Podcast
Blog Post – What’s in Your Way?
I had an enlightening conversation today with my friend Sheila about how I have been avoiding putting my podcast out into the world. I already had the first episode fully produced. But I have been second guessing myself daily until I finally went back and listened with people whose opinions I trust. That’s all it took. They didn’t even have to say anything. Just the act of listening to the podcast with my husband and daughter gave me fresh ears to hear what was missing. That is not to say Episode 1 is the most fabulous podcast ever made. I assure you, it is not. It is, however, the start of something I anticipate will improve as I learn and grow with your suggestions. It’s like that with original work, isn’t it? When you first write an idea into a document, or try dance steps alone in your kitchen, or sing some song phrase into your phone, you are not quite ready to share it. Or you struggle to make your partner or your mom (or your kid) understand what you’re creating. A few key strokes, dance steps, or musical notes later you might be ready to share. When you share, if you want your work to grow, you must start by finding someone who a) validates you as an artist, b) understands the value of constructive criticism, and c) is given the go-ahead (by you) to give an honest reaction. Most of the time you don’t even need to hear what they think, it will become clear what needs to be done as soon as you reveal this early draft. But your audience of one or two may still want to talk about what they noticed. When you allow people to express opinions about a work of art you are never suggesting that every idea expressed will be incorporated into your work. That would be silly. Allowing another person to share an opinion about something precious to you is the beginning of collaboration. To be able to hear what other people think about the work, your ego must step out of the way. Take what you can use, disregard the rest and thank all your critics for their opinions. Thank them with genuine gratitude. I promise, this gets easier to do after some practice. Don’t be confused about comments made about your art. A person commenting on your work is not critiquing your character. Listen for the contribution to the art. Sometimes, the most ridiculous ideas can lead to sublime finished work.
Listen to Episode 1 of SallyPAL the Podcast