An Actress Prepares: Tiffany Hobbs Talks About Opening Night

In this episode of “An Actress Prepares”, Tiffany Denise Hobbs talks about what happens for an actor on opening night of a show. Tiffany’s series offers mentorship for early career theatre artists as well as valuable insight for anyone wanting to know more about what it means to be a working actor. Click HERE to view last week’s episode on auditioning.

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AN ACTRESS PREPARES: OPENING NIGHT

by Tiffany Denise Hobbs

Hey Statera! In this episode, I share my opening night preparations with you. I'll briefly touch on the days leading up to the big day, and then share with you the details of how I specifically prepare for my opening night performance (as well as every other performance).


Tiffany Hobbs was born and raised in Augusta, GA. Tiffany began dancing at the age of three. In the years following, she discovered a love for theater and music that augmented her passion to be a performing artist. She has trained for over two decades at prestigious liberal and performing arts institutions (UGA, SMU, Yale) and loves every minute of imitating life onstage, on set or in a rehearsal room. A former member of the Brierley Resident Acting Company at the Dallas Theater Center and featured actress at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, some of her favorite roles include Juanita in James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie, Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Tonya in August Wilson's King Hedley II.

Tiffany appeared as Shenzi in the National Tour of The Lion King for two years (2015-2017). On TV, she can be found co-starring in Donald Glover's FX hit, "Atlanta"; Netflix's "Ozark" and "The Haunting of Hill House"; the OWN Network's "Love Is ___"; CBS's "MacGyver," "Bull" and "Code Black"; and in SyFy's "Happy." In 2018, Tiffany joined the Broadway musical, Waitress, spear-headed by Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson and Diane Paulus.

More at www.tiffanydenisehobbs.com

Tony-Winner Joanna Gleason Joins Statera's 4th National Conference

Statera Keynote Speaker, Joanna Gleason

Statera Keynote Speaker, Joanna Gleason

Exciting news today! (And no, it is not an April Fool’s Joke.) StateraArts is thrilled to announce that Joanna Gleason will be delivering one of the keynote address at Statera's 4th National Conference on gender equity in the theatre. The conference, which is to take place at City College of New York in NYC, is scheduled for October 26-27, 2019.

Joanna Gleason is revered by Broadway audiences for her unforgettable portrayal of The Baker’s Wife in the original company of Into the Woods. Other Broadway credits include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Nick and Nora, Day in the Death of Joe Egg, and Sons of The Prophet among others. Her extensive film and TV work includes Boogie Nights, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Wedding Planner, The West Wing, ER, The Good Wife, and a host of other projects. Joanna has been teaching in high schools and colleges around the country for thirty years, and has directed Off-Broadway as well as for television.

Interested in attending? Early bird registration is now open through April 30th. General registration begins on May 1st. This is an incredible opportunity to meet with theatre professionals from all over the country for two days of networking, socializing, deep-dive learning, renewal, experience-sharing, and more! The Statera National Conference is all about intersectional gender balance and our goal is to take positive action to bring women* into full and equal participation in the American Theatre. 

Learn more about StateraConIV at www.stateraarts.org/conference.


*Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who identify as non-binary. 

Happy Support Women Artists Now Day!

Support Women Artists Now. 
Simple idea. Big Impact.


SWAN Day, now in its 12th year, is an annual international celebration of women’s creativity and gender parity activism. Last year, StateraArts was chosen to lead SWAN Day 2019. And this year we are thrilled to announce that there are over 200 SWAN events on the 2019 calendar

Can't catch a SWAN Day event in your area? Then join StateraArts for a Virtual SWAN Day Party on Facebook today! It's happening all day long - SWAN Day interviews, photos from SWAN events all over the globe, live feeds from events, video trailers from SWAN Day projects, and more! Join us HERE and invite your friends.
 

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Follow SWAN Day on social media:
 

SWAN Day Instagram

StateraArts Instagram

SWAN Day Facebook

StateraArts Facebook


Today, we celebrate women artists all over the world. 
JOIN US!

An Actress Prepares: Tiffany Hobbs Talks About Auditioning

In this episode of “An Actress Prepares”, Tiffany Denise Hobbs talks about preparing for a successful audition. Tiffany’s series offers mentorship for early career theatre artists as well as valuable insight for anyone wanting to know more about what it means to be a working actor. Click HERE to view last week’s episode.

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AN ACTRESS PREPARES: SELF-PRODUCING

by Tiffany Denise Hobbs

Hey Statera! In this week’s episode, I talk about some tasks you’ll need to accomplish before audition day. If you’ve ever desired an easy check-list for audition prep, this one’s for you. This little acronym I’ve concocted is surely a recipe for SUCCESS.


Tiffany Hobbs was born and raised in Augusta, GA. Tiffany began dancing at the age of three. In the years following, she discovered a love for theater and music that augmented her passion to be a performing artist. She has trained for over two decades at prestigious liberal and performing arts institutions (UGA, SMU, Yale) and loves every minute of imitating life onstage, on set or in a rehearsal room. A former member of the Brierley Resident Acting Company at the Dallas Theater Center and featured actress at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, some of her favorite roles include Juanita in James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie, Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Tonya in August Wilson's King Hedley II.

Tiffany appeared as Shenzi in the National Tour of The Lion King for two years (2015-2017). On TV, she can be found co-starring in Donald Glover's FX hit, "Atlanta"; Netflix's "Ozark" and "The Haunting of Hill House"; the OWN Network's "Love Is ___"; CBS's "MacGyver," "Bull" and "Code Black"; and in SyFy's "Happy." In 2018, Tiffany joined the Broadway musical, Waitress, spear-headed by Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson and Diane Paulus.

More at www.tiffanydenisehobbs.com

SWAN Day Pensacola: Artist Profiles

International Support Women Artists Now Day has seen enormous growth during its 12-year history and this year is no different. StateraArts is thrilled to welcome SWAN Day Pensacola to the family as they launch their inaugural art festival organized by Christine Kellogg, Victoria Grace O'Dell, and PenArts Inc.

From the organizers: “SWAN Day is about women supporting women, about artists supporting artists, about showcasing brilliant local talent, and uplifting others in our community. Artists often forget to celebrate themselves and to open our hearts and minds and share what we feel passionate about with each other.”

Join SWAN Day Pensacola in celebrating Women’s History Month on March 30th from 1:00pm - 11:00pm at Live! Juice Bar on Garden Street in Pensacola. Admission is only $10 for the whole day and can be purchased at the door.

SWAN DAY PENSACOLA SCHEDULE | MARCH 30th

1:15 PM - 1:45 PM: Morokeen - Local Singer & Musician

1:45 PM - 2:00 PM: Dominique & Maria Baroco - Mother/Daughter Duo, piano & poetry

2:00 PM - 2:30 PM: PenArts Inc - The Women of PenArts will perform songs from 3 shows

2:30 PM - 3:15 PM: Improvable Cause - The Women of Pensacola's Top Improv Troupe

3:15 PM - 3:30 PM: Shelby Tudor - University of West Florida Student Singer/Songwriter

3:45 PM - 4:15 PM: Arrant Knavery Inc - Scenes from Lysistrata - See full play at FemFest 4/27

4:20 PM - 4:35 PM: Dani Barrie - Poetry readings

4:45 PM - 5:15 PM: Visual Artists of SWAN Day Q&A

5:20 PM - 5:50 PM: Emily Bishop - Salsa/Bachata demo and class for the public. Come kick of SWAN Day AFTER DARK with some MOOOOOVES!

6:00 PM - 6:30 PM: Victoria Grace - Scenes from Antigone

6:30 PM - 6:45 PM: Lena Sakalla & Gracie Wallace - Scene from Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler.

7:00 PM - 7:30 PM: Tris Weeks - Touring local Pensacola singer/songwriter

7:30 PM - 9:30 PM: Kayla May & Kerry Sandell - COLLECTED STORIES by Donald Marguiles

9:45 PM - 11:00 PM: Mixer with the Artists of SWAN Day - mingle, enjoy the art exhibit, and have a glass of wine!

10:15 PM: Raffle Drawing - Opportunity to win a SWAN Day goodie bag! Includes SWAN Day T-Shrit, StateraArts Bag, & memorabilia!


MEET SOME OF THE 2019 SWAN DAY PENSACOLA ARTISTS

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Kerry Sandell (left) and Kayla May (right) will perform Collected Stories by Donald Margulies this Saturday at SWAN Day Pensacola 2019. The performance starts at 7:45pm.

Kayla May (LISA) is a native to the Gulf Coast and holds a BA in Theatre Performance from the University of West Florida. She has performed professionally along the Gulf Coast and in New England. Favorite productions include Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Secret Garden, On the Verge, A Christmas Carol, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Annie Get Your Gun, The 39 Steps, Guys and Dolls, and WebCamelot: The Series. Kayla serves on the Board of Directors for Arrant Knavery, Inc, is a member of EdTA (Educational Theatre Association) and an Equity Membership Candidate.


Kerry Sandell (RUTH) has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance and a Master’s degree in Communication. She is delighted to be participating in the SWAN Festival in a role that explores female relationships, mentoring, and boundaries. Some of Kerry’s past credits include the titular role in Medea, Kate in Dancing at Lughnasa, Meg in Crimes of the Heart and Mary in On The Verge, in which she shared the stage with Kayla May.


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Karin Gudmundson is a self-taught contemporary abstract painter whose work will be on display at SWAN Day Pensacola. She creates mixed media acrylic and oil pieces. The paintings emerge through layers and layers of content using vivid color, words and bold strokes of paint with more detailed figures and images arising towards the finish. She mixes neo-expressionism and expressionistic art combining the two styles with a modern twist. Karin says, "My goal is to lure you into a place that produces happy feelings yet conveys political, social and cultural significance."

You can find Karin’s work on Facebook or at www.gudmundsonart.com.


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Lena Sakalla and Gracie Wallace will perform a scene from Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler at SWAN Day Pensacola.

Sakalla and Wallace are both Junior Musical Theatre majors at the University of West Florida. Passionate about sharing art with meaningful messages, they think this story is one that needs to be told. Given today’s society, Lena and Gracie want women to feel empowered and speak their truth unapologetically. Hope you are as moved by this piece as they are.

They’ll take the stage at 6:30pm.


Ember Looten is a mixed media artist whose work will be on display at SWAN Day Pensacola.

Legally blind. Fine art. Mixed media. Ember Looten is a professional artist with a developed methodology for visually articulating detail. Her limited sight spectrum is fueled by imaginative arrays of spectacular color and curious movement. Non-profit charities, commission seekers, and devout followers cherish her ability to accomplish the utmost emotional projects demanding personal meaning. Additionally, Ember produces playful and whimsical art to create visually pleasing focal points.

Learn more about Ember’s work at www.artistemberlooten.wixsite.com.

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Dani Barrie is a poet, singer, musician, and actor. Originally from Green Cove Springs FL, Dani is a BFA Musical Theatre major at the University of West Florida. She has appeared in several shows at UWF Department of Theatre including: The Skin of Our Teeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Evita. She has worked with PenArts, Inc. in Woodie Guthrie’s An American Song and See What I Wanna See.

Here’s a taste of Dani’s work:

“and when we are close enough that our eyes meet / I wonder / why such an attractive force has chosen to focus upon a lump cobalt and Nickel / rough around the edges / dull and saddening / but you / you are the sunset painted by God's own hand / you coax the sunshine to peek through the rumbling storm clouds overhead”

Dani takes the stage at 4:20pm.


Valerie Aune is a contemporary painter who embraces many styles and subjects. Her work will be on display at SWAN Day Pensacola.

"Color rules my mind, my heart and my paintings. My compositions are decided by what colors I want to juxtapose. I apply paint to canvas in the old masters tradition of layering paint, directly contrasting contemporary design. The place I most love to be is at my easel in my studio. Images clutter my head and I paint because I have to."
- Valerie Aune

You can find Valerie’s work on Facebook.

All of the visual artists of SWAN Day Pensacola will be part of a Q&A Panel starting at 4:45pm.

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For more information and tickets to SWAN Day Pensacola please visit them on Facebook. For more information about PenArts Inc., please visit them at www.penarts.org.

An Interview with Storyteller Lenelle Moïse

As part of our ongoing efforts to increase visibility of women* artists, StateraArts is coordinating International Support Women Artists Now/SWAN Day 2019, and the SWAN Day Calendar is jam packed with incredible events.  One such event is Haiti Glass: A Concert Reading by poet, performer, playwright Lenelle Moïse.  In a synthesis of original musical compositions and poems from her book, Haiti Glass, Lenelle moves deftly between memories of growing up as a Haitian immigrant in the suburbs of Boston to intellectual, playful explorations of pop culture enigmas.  Haiti Glass lays bare a world of resistance and survival, beauty, and queer grace.  Statera Ambassador, Sabrina Cofield, reached out to Lenelle to find out what inspires this powerhouse of an artist, the importance of feminism and body image, and how she uses her storytelling to open hearts, including her own. 

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Sabrina Cofield: How did you discover poetry/writing?  
Lenelle Moïse: I started writing and drawing in spiral notebooks at age five. I grew up in a tough neighborhood and I wasn’t allowed to play outside. I wrote to entertain myself. I also have a vivid memory of finding my mother’s handheld mini-cassette tape recorder. I spent hours in my room, voicing all the parts of a made up radio show. I played the male and female hosts, the special guests, the musical acts. I even included commercial breaks.

SC: What is your writing process? Do you schedule time to write or do you stop what you’re doing or wake up in the middle of the night when inspired?
LM: Poetry does yank me out of sleep sometimes! Or, out of nowhere, a line stops me in my tracks. I carry a journal everywhere, ready to record observations, epiphanies, or the unexpected things I overhear. I don’t need a specific space or time of day to work but I feel happiest when I write every day. I love those moments of urgent flow but editing is more important. 

SC: You write both poetry and plays.  Do they manifest in different ways or serve a different creative outlet for you? 
LM: I’m a storyteller. My stories come in many forms—verse, dialogue, prose, collages, movement, music. I want to communicate with all the tools in my toolbox. Sometimes I start with what I think is a poem and then—in the middle of memorizing the text—a melody appears. This happened with the title poem of my book, Haiti Glass. On the page, it’s a short, sharp poem—thirty-four words in twelve lines. But when I started rehearsing it, the poem became a two-minute song! On paper, the line “pronouncing the distance” is six syllables. When I sing it, the word “distance” extends for twelve seconds. That way the audience can feel how far I really mean! I think a lot about how to translate my line breaks in performance. Sometimes that means a dramatic pause, or holding a note, or repeating a word, or transforming into another character. Generally, poetry is how I organize and convey my own point of view. Whereas, playwriting, is an exercise in empathy. Sometimes I create characters I disagree with—people who make choices I might not make. I want to understand those choices.

SC: Your writing is so bold, covering some very provocative topics, why do you feel that’s so important to explore?
LM:
I’m always a little surprised when my work is called “provocative.” Is it because I write about black girls, poor folks, and queer desire? For me, these topics are central and universal. We all have race, class, and yearning. I write about the people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, the moments that haunt me, the world I refuse to unsee. This is how I keep my heart open. I want my readers and audience members to feel open-hearted, too.

SC: Do you consider yourself a feminist?  If so, what does that mean to you?
LM: I consider myself a feminist because I question authority, insist on freedom, strive for equality, and imagine peace. I also really care about bodies. Do we feel safe in our bodies? Do we feel seen? Are people denying or disrespecting us because of the labels they tag onto our bodies? Are we healthy? Have we eaten? Do we have shelter? Do we feel included? Satisfied? Celebrated? Free? These are my feminist concerns. 

SC: You’re also a composer and have released several CDs, is there anything you can’t do! Talk to me about your music.
LM: Thanks for listening! Music is a very visceral and organic process for me. I use a loop machine to layer sounds—rolling trills, mouth-made clicks, high-pitched squeaks, melody, harmony, and breath. I think of my hands, feet, and voice as instruments. I want to sound like earth, fire, flowers, and guts.

SC: You’re performing a concert reading on April 5th in West Palm Beach, Florida what can audiences expect?
LM: Yes! I’m thrilled to bring my work to the Norton Museum of Art. My event is part of their Art After Dark series on Friday, April 5th. It’s free. I’ll offer a set of original poetry and all-vocal music. Audiences can expect to sigh, laugh, lean in, and nod along to mouth-made beats. I’m also leading two workshops at the Norton: “All Together: Self-Expression and Social Change” on April 6th, and “Embody Language: Voice and Movement for Poets” on April 7th. https://www.norton.org/search?q=lenelle+moise

SC: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about being an artist or writer?
LM: Keep going.

Haiti Glass - A Concert Reading is on April 5th at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Learn more on the SWAN Day Calendar.  


Lenelle Moïse has been called “a Renaissance woman in the arts,” “an electrifying performer,” and “a powerhouse.” She is a poet, a playwright, and a songwriter. She is an immigrant and a feminist. Moïse wrote the book Haiti Glass, a winner of the 2015 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for excellence in literature. The Lambda Literary Review hailed it “poetry to be savored, then devoured, then shared.” Moïse was the 2017 Lucille Geier Lakes Writer-in-Residence at Smith College as well as a 2017 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow in Dramatic Writing. Her Ruby Prize-winning play Merit, was featured on the 2016 Kilroys List. She wrote, composed, and co-starred in the Off-Broadway drama Expatriate. She was a Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow and a Poet Laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts. She has performed across the USA and Canada—at theatres, colleges, high schools, bookstores, arts festivals, cafes, a barbershop in Texas, a sports stadium in New Orleans, Central Park in New York, and at the United Nations. For more information, please visit lenellemoise.com

SWAN Day Connecticut: Artist Profiles

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Now in its 12th year, SWAN Day Connecticut brings trailblazing women artists together for a multi-genre music and arts festival. This one-of-a-kind event attracts people from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. SWAN Day CT founder and organizer, Jennifer Hill, says, “This is really about women’s empowerment in the arts. We are giving them promotion, we are sending them to radio stations, we’ll play their music on air. It’s really a big effort to push everyone who’s involved for that year to help them gain recognition for their art work and their music.”

Hill, who attended Statera’s National Conference as part of the SWAN Day Convening in 2018, is a staple in the Connecticut music scene. Her work as The Murderous Chanteuse is a vehicle for self discovery and Hill hopes that SWAN Day CT inspires other women artists to be themselves and take space.

Besides the musical acts, SWAN Day CT features burlesque artists, live body painting, fashion collections, and arts vendors. At the end of the event, participants are invited for an onstage dance party led by DJ Breakadawn. Kiersten Sieser, front-woman of the psychedelic folk-rock band Tiny Ocean, says, “SWAN Day is more than just an event—I feel like it’s a philosophy,”

SWAN Day CT is happening on March 30th at Trinity on Main in New Britain. Doors open at 5pm. For more information and tickets, please visit www.swandayct.com.


MEET SOME OF THE 2019 SWAN DAY CT ARTISTS

Scarlett (Photo by Mandi Martini)

Scarlett (Photo by Mandi Martini)

Introducing Swan Scarlett of Sarajuana.

Scarlett 17 years old and this is her third time playing the Swan Day CT Music/Arts Fest.

Sunny days, break ups and life choices. Sarajuana brings nostalgic vibes and relatable poetry to whoever needs it. Her songs are all uniquely put together for you as the listener to understand the raw emotions conveyed  - resulting in a better understanding of what it’s like growing up as a young adult in today’s society.

Listen here:
www.soundcloud.com/sarajuanahoney


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HannaH’s Field brings love, spirit, and organic fresh flavor to the people with their "modern hippie Rasta folk". In a time where connections are made with clicks and tweets, their songs encourage people to lead with their hearts and love their brothers. Nominated best female vocalist in the Hartford Advocate for many years, this powerful songstress, HannaH, has shared the stage with such great acts as the Average White Band, the Brothers Johnson, Gov’t Mule (members of the Allman Brothers Band), Derek Trucks, Donna Jean (from the Grateful Dead), the Samples, Percy Hill, Spiritual Rez and Sound Tribe Sector Nine. They have performed at such venues as Toad’s Place, The North West Organic Brewers Festival, Pearl Street Nightclub, Woodstock Reunion at Yasgurs Farm, Unifier,  the Bite of Oregon, and Ziontific Music Festival. 

Listen here: www.hannahsfield.com


Jennifer Hill (Photo by Mandi Martini and Dress by Kristin Costa

Jennifer Hill (Photo by Mandi Martini and Dress by Kristin Costa

Murderous Chanteuse (Jennifer Hill) mends broken hearts with glitter glue, rage, and a dance beat. She gives a compelling musical voice to the urge for justice and healing that fuels her activism as organizer of SWAN Day CT.

“Killing songs since the day she was born” is the motto of Murderous Chanteuse. She is not a femme fatale but a femme vitale, distilling hope and energy out of the darkness. Hill’s  point of view includes her own experience as a domestic abuse survivor, as well as with PTSD from earlier traumas, so what she’s sharing through music is heady, honest, and intimate. Turning struggle into something beautiful is the impetus behind SWAN Day CT.

Listen here:  www.murderouschanteuse.com


That Virginia (Photo by Mandi Martini)

That Virginia (Photo by Mandi Martini)

That Virginia is a reminder of what it means to be fearless - an invitation to follow your bliss. The songs are a discussion on the urgency of experiencing life, with a hint of infectious empowerment.

Virginia offers thought provoking lyrics and peculiar melodies, while delivering a rich performance that hits softly in the audience's emotional gut, bringing tears, joy, happiness, and sorrow, quite often in one punch. Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she brings the tropical warmth of her roots to her genre-bending performance, while singing about the truth of emotions, humanity, and other oddities.

Listen here: www.thatvirginia.com


Kierstin Sieser   (Photo by Mandi Martini)

Kierstin Sieser (Photo by Mandi Martini)

Kierstin Sieser is the lead singer-songwriter of the band Tiny Ocean, which has a dreamy, noir Americana sound. Sieser is joined by Jeremy Coster on guitar, Keith Newman on bass and Jon Morse on drums.

Their debut album “Sometimes You’re Right” was chosen by the Hartford Courant as one of the top 20 albums by Connecticut artists in 2018 by the Hartford Courant. The New Haven Independent says the songs “feel lived in, pared down to their essence, no words wasted. Every song has a line to bring you up short...like a hook in the skin.”

Listen here: www.tinyoceanband.com


DJ Breakadawn (Photo by Mandi Martini)

DJ Breakadawn (Photo by Mandi Martini)

DJ Breakadawn (Dawn Melesko) has been heating up the turntables at Swan Day CT Music and Arts fest for the past 5 years!! A staple in the dance music community since the early 2000’s, Breaka Dawn has been representing the female DJs with style and grace in New England and beyond. She has held several club residencies in Connecticut, and has DJ’d at a variety of night clubs, art shows and festivals around the country. Her captivating sounds span from infectious dance grooves to body rocking breaks with hip hop influences.

Listen here: www.soundcloud.com/breakadawn


Nicole Ma Guerrero (Photo by Katrina Kelly)

Nicole Ma Guerrero (Photo by Katrina Kelly)

Nicole Ma Guerrero is the artist behind the SWAN Day CT poster. Known as Nixie Pixie, Nicole has been drawing since she could hold a paintbrush. Nicole says, “My sister Claudine was the one who taught me how to draw the shapes and curves of a woman and I never stopped drawing women ever since. I love drawing the flow of the hair and the shape of the eyes and the lips and putting life and color into what I do. I, of course, also draw men but I find women more challenging and fun to play around with in terms of color and design. My art is a huge representation of who I am as a person and it will definitely be growing and improving as I do.”

Learn more about Nicole’s artwork on Instagram.


Mandi Martini (Photo by Luke Haugwout)

Mandi Martini (Photo by Luke Haugwout)

Mandi Martini is the official photographer for SWAN Day CT. When she is not out making Swans look  gorgeous she is shooting bands, celebs, the Air Force Academy (she does their graduation photos), and all kinds of events from the mundane to the insane - doing it all while driving her bad ass car and wearing cheetah print.

Learn more here: www.facebook.com/mandimartiniphotog


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Kaylee Doll is a body paint specialist, and she will be painting live at Swan Day CT. She specializes in a wide range of themes; anywhere from fantasy to horror. She has brought to life many body paints for special events, competitions, and photo-shoots. Kaylee is sought after for music video special effects makeup. She runs her own business, Kaylee Doll's Extreme Makeup, and also manages the makeup department at one of New England’s largest haunted attractions, The Haunted Graveyard. Kaylee travels across the U.S. for various artistic opportunities.

Learn more here: www.facebook.com/Kayleesextrememakeup

An Actress Prepares: Tiffany Hobbs Talks About Self-Producing

In this episode of “An Actress Prepares”, Tiffany Denise Hobbs talks about self-producing. Tiffany’s series offers mentorship for early career theatre artists as well as valuable insight for anyone wanting to know more about what it means to be a working actor. Click HERE to view last week’s episode.

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AN ACTRESS PREPARES: SELF-PRODUCING

by Tiffany Denise Hobbs

Hey, Statera! I began my journey in producing my own work a few years ago and it has made a significant difference in my artistic well-being and success. Today I’ll talk about why it is always a good time to self-produce. Be sure to also check out the clip at the end, where I share one of my favorite projects to self-produce.


Tiffany Hobbs was born and raised in Augusta, GA. Tiffany began dancing at the age of three. In the years following, she discovered a love for theater and music that augmented her passion to be a performing artist. She has trained for over two decades at prestigious liberal and performing arts institutions (UGA, SMU, Yale) and loves every minute of imitating life onstage, on set or in a rehearsal room. A former member of the Brierley Resident Acting Company at the Dallas Theater Center and featured actress at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, some of her favorite roles include Juanita in James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie, Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Tonya in August Wilson's King Hedley II.

Tiffany appeared as Shenzi in the National Tour of The Lion King for two years (2015-2017). On TV, she can be found co-starring in Donald Glover's FX hit, "Atlanta"; Netflix's "Ozark" and "The Haunting of Hill House"; the OWN Network's "Love Is ___"; CBS's "MacGyver," "Bull" and "Code Black"; and in SyFy's "Happy." In 2018, Tiffany joined the Broadway musical, Waitress, spear-headed by Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson and Diane Paulus.

More at www.tiffanydenisehobbs.com

An Interview with Playwright Morgan Gould

International Support Women Artists Now/SWAN Day is fast approaching and the SWAN Day Calendar is filling up with some incredible events. One of these is I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART by Morgan Gould, currently playing at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in Chicago, IL. This week, Statera Ambassador Vanessa DeSilvio caught up with Morgan to learn more about her writing process, her mentors, creative experimentation, and the origins of I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART.

Morgan Gould

Morgan Gould

VANESSA DESILVIO: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you discover your talent for playwriting?

MORGAN GOULD: I'm originally from Cape Cod, MA (year round...not like the fun vacation version). I actually didn't start writing plays til like 2012, and I didn't write like SERIOUS full-length plays til I wrote this one in 2015. So in a weird way, this is sort of the first play I ever wrote. I can at least say it's the first time I wrote a play I ever thought might be produced by an actual theater, and not by me. But I've done theater all my life and went to school for directing. I've been doing that for like 15 years. I started writing plays because I ran out of fun things I was excited to direct. So I started writing my own things to work on with my actors. For me the entire point of theater is working with other people, especially actors, whom I adore. Honestly, if you don't like actors, I'm not sure I want to know you? 


VD: Do you find that playwriting and directing go hand in hand? Or do you try to keep the disciplines separate?

MG: To me they go hand in hand. When I'm writing a play, I'm imagining its execution. The script is only a blue print, always. If I wanted to have it all be done after it was written, I would have been a novelist. Theater depends on the actual SEEING of it. A script is not a finished thing, ever. Being a director makes me a stronger writer for the theater, and being a playwright makes me a stronger director. 


VD: How did you begin writing I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART? How long did it take you to complete?

MG: It was actually my thesis for my MFA at Brooklyn College. I'd been writing all this cheeky farces and Mac Wellman (who is the KING of cheeky) gave me a dare to write "a real play." He said, "Hm, what would a really sincere play look like. What if you wrote a real play? There has to be a couch in it, though, for it to be real." (Told you. Very cheeky). I laughed and accepted the challenge. Then I got busy directing and doing other projects. I opened a huge off-Broadway show, and when it was done, I realized my thesis was due in 38 hours.  I hadn't written a word of it. So I sat down and was like, "AHHH WHAT ARE REAL PLAYS ABOUT"  - and I thought, okay, they're about characters in conflict, right? So I was like, who are the characters of my life. And OBVIOUSLY I was like, "Me." And then I thought of my two best friends, both gay men, and I thought, "what would break us apart?" So I sat down to write, but then my roommate came home and was like "Wanna watch the premiere of American Horror Story?" DESPERATE to procrastinate, I  said yes. One of the first shots of season 4 (Hotel) is Lady Gaga and Matt Boomer walking down a long hallway in high vampiric drag to the song "I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart" - which I had never heard. I was obsessed. And I looked at them and I watched them savagely eat all the normal people in the park (that happens) and I thought, "That's what I want to do with my best friend...look fucking fabulous and eat the entire world alive while this song plays." So when the episode ended I had 37 hours to write it. I sat down, with that song on repeat, and I wrote 93 pages. They just shot out of me. And the first 70 pages are basically pretty close to that first draft.


VD: Wow. That is incredible. Now, has that continued to work for you as a writer - writing by the seat of your pants in very little time? Or do you typically write over a longer period of time?

Teressa LaGamba as Sam (right) and Robert Quintanilla as Leo (left) in Morgan Gould’s I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.

Teressa LaGamba as Sam (right) and Robert Quintanilla as Leo (left) in Morgan Gould’s I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.

MG: Yes! I am always flying by the seat of my pants, always. I've never taken more than about a week for a first draft. I tend to push those out quickly. Then the hard part begins. 


VD: How is this play deeply personal to you?

MG: It's a love letter to my gay best friends. It's a love letter to my younger self. The events are completely imagined, but the relationship is very real to me. It's my Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, honestly, haha. There is truly nothing that is more authentic to me than this relationship.

VD: What was the most challenging thing about writing this play?

MG: Writing the play was easy. Rewriting has been very hard. The impulse came so quickly. But crafting that is always the harder thing for me. I also think that this is really my only play that's had multiple productions over years. So now, when I return to it, it's like returning to a younger version of myself. It would be like getting in a time machine and going to therapy from 5 years ago. It's hard to channel and remember the feelings of isolation and sadness, but also love, that I had for this play and these characters when I was writing it. I also find this one of my most painful plays, so revisiting is always so bittersweet. I love Sam and Leo and I hope they're okay, I really do.  


VD: This play had a run at DC's Studio Theatre. How was that experience for you? How did audiences respond?

MG: It was a dream. I loved every second and I am so lucky to have worked with Nicole Spiezio, Tommy Heleringer, Anna O'Donoghue and the rest of the designers and crew and staff at Studio. Audiences in DC are similar to NY audiences, but even more diverse, so it was really fun. They got a ton of people who really got to see themselves reflected on stage for the first time. It was a big turning point for me as an artist and in my career. I'm so grateful for that experience.  


VD: Mentorship is at the core of StateraArts’ mission. Can you tell us about your mentors and how they have guided you through your journey as an artist?

MG: Well, I've mentioned Mac Wellman... but I remember that first class day where I shared it at Brooklyn, it was actually Erin Courtney who was teaching seminar and she is the BEST. She is such a wonderful and supportive playwright herself, and I'm such a huge fan. She's taught me to be unafraid of the weird AND of the sincere AND of the scary. I'm currently at Juilliard, and both Marsha Norman and David Lindsay-Abaire are such wonderful mentors. They're SO different in their approaches, but I like both perspectives on my work. My first directing teacher Elizabeth Margid. She is with me in the back of my head every single day in rehearsal when I'm directing, more than anyone. Emily Morse at New Dramatists is such a force, and truly loves playwrights. Whenever we chat, I feel so hopeful about the future of the field. She's a theater angel to so many playwrights, I'm lucky to benefit from her care and generosity. I think some of my greatest mentors are peer playwrights who lift me up every day by making me laugh at the ridiculous of our business, and whose work blows my mind and makes me see theater in a new way - there are so many I couldn't even name them all. 


VD: What are you currently writing?

MG: This email. But also. I'm currently working on a half hour comedy pilot sort of like fat sex in the city and I literally just wrote 5 pages of a new play due March 20th and I have no idea what it's about.

Teressa LaGamba as Sam (right) and Robert Quintanilla as Leo (left) in Morgan Gould’s I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.

Teressa LaGamba as Sam (right) and Robert Quintanilla as Leo (left) in Morgan Gould’s I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.

VD: What do you hope audiences in Chicago will gain from seeing this play?

MG: I didn't actually write it for all audiences, for better or worse. I wrote it for the fats and the gays, and I hope people who aren't fat or gay also relate, but they might not and that's ok. I think it's a positive thing, for people to have to watch things that aren't about them. I've had to do that my whole life. I've had to watch plays about straight white men. Or "women" plays that do not speak to my experience as a fat woman. Or plays about mostly rich people. And I've liked plays in all of those categories. I think it's interesting when old white (men, mostly) don't like the play, or don't get it, or get annoyed they don't understand the references. Or call it trite or light (to me, it's a deep tragedy, not a fluffy comedy). That tells me they need more training in seeing things that are not their own experience. Many of us have had that training our whole lives. They're just learning that the world doesn't revolve around them. So I try to have patience, even though it can be frustrating they aren't better and trying to see things beyond their own lens. Honestly, in my view, play is utter sincere realistic tragedy. To them it's a blur of millennial references. They seem to watch Shakespeare plays and Mamet plays just fine. Maybe the more they are exposed to language and feeling and circumstance that isn't their own, the more they'll begin to see humanity that isn't their own. I'm crossing my fat-millennial fingers.


VD: What words of advice do you have for other aspiring playwrights out there?

MG: You never know what the thing is that will be the thing. When I sat down to write this, I thought it was just an experiment. It turned out to be something that has cracked me open as a writer and in my career. It's opened a lot of doors. And I could never have done that if I sat down to do that. Just keep writing. Keep going. People will always, always CONSTANTLY and FOREVER tell you to stop. If you have something to say, and you can't not say it, then keep going. It will be very exhausting and hard. But you are lucky, because it is better than lots of other jobs, even though it does not pay very well. If you have a trust fund, honestly, why AREN'T you a writer? I mean, why not, really? 

I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART runs at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in Chicago through March 23rd. Learn more on the SWAN Day Calendar. There are five performances left and you can get you tickets HERE.


Morgan Gould is a writer/ director who is a Resident Playwright at New Dramatists and Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellow at Juilliard. Morgan's play I WANNA FUCKING TEAR YOU APART, is a Beatrice Terry/ Drama League Award Winner, and had its world premiere at Studio Theatre in Washington, DC in February 2017 (with Morgan directing). It was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, and DC Metro Arts said that Morgan's work "shows every bit as much promise as Edward Albee’s early work, arguably more." Morgan is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, a MacDowell Colony Fellow, and an alumnus of the Dramatists Guild Fund Playwriting Fellowship, The Women's Project Lab, the Civilians R+D Group, Target Margin Lab, Lincoln Center Director's Lab, SDC Observership Program, the BAX AIR Residency, Playwrights Horizons Directing Residency and New Georges Writer/ Director Lab. She has previously held staff positions at Playscripts, Inc., Lark Play Development Center, Cape Cod Theatre Project, and was the Associate Artistic Director of Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, where she co-created UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW (BAC/PS 122) and worked alongside Young Jean on the premieres of LEAR (Soho Rep) and WE'RE GONNA DIE (Joe's Pub/ LCT3) and tours of PULLMAN WA and THE SHIPMENT. Morgan is also the Artistic Director of Morgan Gould & Friends – her theater company with 9 actors, 3 designers, and a filmmaker (www.morgangouldandfriends.com). 

As a director, Morgan is a frequent collaborator with playwright Leah Nanako Winkler, and has directed Winkler’s plays KENTUCKY in a 2016 co-production with Radio Drama Network, Ensemble Studio Theater and P73, TWO MILE HOLLOW at the 2018 Women’s Project Pipeline Festival, and GOD SAID THIS at the 2018 Humana Festival and at Primary Stages in NYC in 2019. Morgan also recently directed the Bay Area Premiere of STRAIGHT WHITE MEN by Young Jean Lee at Marin Theatre Company. Morgan holds a B.A. in Directing from Fordham College at Lincoln Center, and a M.F.A. in Playwriting from Brooklyn College. She is currently working on her new plays ALL THE STUPID BITCHES, THREE FAT SISTERS, and NICOLE CLARK IS HAVING A BABY and developing a half hour original series with Amazon Studios and Will Graham/Field Trip Productions.

Nataki Garrett Takes the Helm as Artistic Director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Nataki Garrett. (Photo by Bill Geenen)

Nataki Garrett. (Photo by Bill Geenen)

by Sarah Greenman

Today, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) announced Nataki Garrett as their sixth artistic director. Garrett, who is directing How to Catch Creation in the current season, will succeed Bill Rauch in August 2019.

Just five months ago, Nataki Garrett delivered an urgent call to action at Statera’s National Conference, “We women have a responsibility to use our leadership opportunities to evolve this industry and to evolve the theater into what it was created for. One that is inclusive, tolerant, and equal. One where equity, diversity, and inclusion are not buzzwords we toss around to prove our level of wokeness but a commitment to our highest level of engagement to save our field, our communities, and the world.”

Founded in 1935, OSF is among the oldest and largest professional non-profit theatres in the nation. Operating on a budget exceeding $44 million, OSF presents more than 780 performances annually with attendance of approximately 400,000. Garrett takes the helm at a crucial moment in the theatre’s history. This year alone, OSF experienced a $2 million loss due to wild fires and is also contending with extensive staff turnover. Now, more than ever, the national arts community must lean in and support Garrett’s transition.

Garrett said it best during her keynote address at StateraCon, “There is no doubt that this rising force of Women will need our support and guidance to succeed in these tumultuous times. It’s not enough to say on social media that you are happy for them. WE, in this room must pledge active support for them. They will need it if they are going to shelter our beloved field through this crazy time.”

Nataki Garrett speaking at Statera’s National Conference in Milwaukee. (Photo by Malloree Delayne Hill.)

Nataki Garrett speaking at Statera’s National Conference in Milwaukee. (Photo by Malloree Delayne Hill.)

StateraArts is dedicated to bringing women* into full and equal participation in the arts. And we pledge the full weight of our resources and collective energy in support of Nataki Garret at OSF. We celebrate the rising tide of new leadership in the American Theatre and will continue to work every day to ensure their success. Among them are Hana Sharif at St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Stephanie Ybarra at Baltimore Center Stage, Maria Manuela Goyanes at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Robert Barry Flemming at the Humana Festival, Pam McKinnon at American Conservatory Theatre, Johanna Pfaelzer at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Marissa Wolf at Portland Center Stage, and Weyni Mengesha at Soulpepper in Toronto.

In a statement released by OSF, Garrett said, “I am absolutely thrilled to be named incoming artistic director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival and it is an honor and privilege to inherit such a wonderfully rich and dynamic legacy of artistic excellence in partnership with a dedicated board, staff, company and local community. I am equally excited and inspired by OSF’s dedication to expanding our worldview and look forward to maintaining our commitment to the revolutionary spirit of Shakespeare and classical text, while continuing to explore and expand opportunities for new voices and narratives through new play development.” 

Today, StateraArts celebrates this incredible moment in American Theatre history, but we are also deeply aware that it did not come easy. Statera’s Executive Director and co-founder Melinda Pfundstein says, “Doors did not merely swing open. This is a result of breaking down outdated habits and systems, changing minds and hearts, crashing through broken entryways and prohibitive glass ceilings, and forging new pathways. We are celebrating today and getting back to work.”

Want to know more about Nataki Garrett? Read her April 2018 interview with StateraArts and the transcript of her keynote address at Statera’s 2018 National Conference in Milwaukee.


*A NOTE ON INCLUSION AT STATERA

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who identify as non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all. 

Statera Member Spotlight: Chrissy Collins

StateraArts Membership is growing fast! Since our official launch on January 1st, over 80 artist-activists have joined the StateraArts community! Our members come from all over the USA and all genres of art-making. They are educators, arts leaders, activists, content-creators, professional artists, early career, mid-career, patrons, and community organizers. The Statera Member Spotlight is just one way StateraArts uplifts and amplifies the voices of our members. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Stage Manager and Yoga Instructor, Chrissy Collins.

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STATERAARTS: What is your occupation or calling in the arts?
CHRISSY COLLINS:
Stage Manager and Teacher

SA: What moved you to become a member of StateraArts? 
CC:
I really wanted to get more involved in the arts community and to widen my circle of colleagues. When I found out about Statera, the mission just clicked with my own!

SA: Any other organizations you are affiliated with?
CC:
Actors' Equity Association, Yoga Alliance

SA: What do you love most about your artistic community?
CC:
The tremendous support, strength, and love that I feel from my theater family is something I truly can't live without.  Honestly, they are some of the most dedicated, hard-working individuals out there who consistently go above and beyond for their students, their work, and their colleagues.  

SA: Tell us about some of your favorite projects.
C:
Definitely a three way tie Ragtime, Les Mis, and 39 Steps.  I've been so very lucky to work on many, many amazing and challenging projects that have helped me grow as an artist.  

SA: Any upcoming projects you'd like to share with us?  
CC:
I recently returned to my artistic home, PCPA Pacific Conservatory Theatre, after a five year hiatus. I'm so very happy and grateful to be part of that community again and support their upcoming productions. We just opened a production of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe and it's been thrilling to have so many strong, fierce women on stage!

SA: Mentorship is at the core of the StateraArts mission. Tell us about one of your mentors. How did they shape you or provide pathways for opportunity? 
CC:
Patricia Troxel has been one of my dear friends and mentors for years now and will always be even though she's no longer with us.  Her infectious smile, laugh, and positive energy made us all believe anything was possible.   Patricia was a true example of unconditional love, friendship, and passion, and I carry her lessons with me still today.

Statera Mentorship: Central Coast  regional coordinators during a recent meeting. Chrissy Collins (standing top-left) with (left to right) Z Jennifer Zornow, Kitty Balay, Karin Hendricks, Amani Dorn, and Emily Trask.

Statera Mentorship: Central Coast regional coordinators during a recent meeting. Chrissy Collins (standing top-left) with (left to right) Z Jennifer Zornow, Kitty Balay, Karin Hendricks, Amani Dorn, and Emily Trask.


ABOUT CHRISTINE COLLINS

Christine Collins is a proud California native from the Bay Area who holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Stage Management has been her artistic calling since early on and she enjoys sharing her love of theater and stage management with the next generation. She has stage managed over 60 productions with PCPA's Pacific Conservatory Theatre and is so grateful to be in residence there, where she considers it her true artistic home. She was recently on a five year hiatus before returning to PCPA, during which she became a certified yoga instructor and yoga studio manager. Chrissy is the proud pet parent of Katie and Dancer, and a friend to all!

Spoken Soul Festival 2019 Features Phenomenal Artist Line-Up

Spoken Soul Festival, the flagship event for SWAN Day Miami, boasts a powerhouse line up of women artists this year. Now in its twelfth year, Deborah Magdalena has built an ambitious three-day spoken word festival in celebration of women artists in Florida. The theme this year is #WordIsBond. Magdalena says, “#WordIsBond explores how in the digital age words have no boundaries and comments on how, because of this, words are more powerful than ever before in our history.”


DAY ONE | MARCH 22
Spoken Soul Festival kicks off on March 22 from 10 am - 1 pm,  with a SWAN Community Program. The SWAN team, made up of SSF alumni and organizers, is hosting a cash prize Youth Poetry Slam competition with VIP judges, in conjunction with and held at the Miami Dade Public Library Main Branch. There will also be a mystery poetry scavenger hunt with prizes sponsored by ICA, MOCA, and YoungArts. This free event is open to the public and features SSF alum 13-year-old DJ Slaya spinning classic hip-hop.

DAY TWO | MARCH 23
On March 23, join SWAN Day Miami for the Spoken Soul Festival 2019 main event! The open admission showcase will experience the rich cultural diaspora that they have come to expect from the SSF’s signature event: women dancers, poets, visual artists, vocalists, and a female DJ, all representing different cultures and unique voices. 

DAY THREE | MARCH 24
Join the Miami community for the Annual Vanessa Baez Memorial Women’s Brunch starting at 11am. Thie brunch provides a moment to remember the short life of Vanessa Baez, a mother, daughter, and sister who demonstrated extraordinary courage while battling sarcoidosis. Each year this brunch fosters a growing sisterhood of creative and inspiring women in Miami joined together while “Celebrating Everyday Women With Extraordinary Courage.” 

Spoken Soul Festival 2019 Featured Artists from left to right: Munirah Rimer, Ronavia Williams, Angie Lopez, Habian, Perla Gonzalez, Esther Rose McCant, Jarbath Art, Cheri Vice, Alana Da Costa, and Reshma Anwar. Not pictured: Beláxis Buil, Jacquea Mae, Dynasty Steppers, Sharonda ECCentrich Richardson, and Alejandra Romero aka DJ Musicat. (Photo by Moment 77)

Spoken Soul Festival 2019 Featured Artists from left to right: Munirah Rimer, Ronavia Williams, Angie Lopez, Habian, Perla Gonzalez, Esther Rose McCant, Jarbath Art, Cheri Vice, Alana Da Costa, and Reshma Anwar. Not pictured: Beláxis Buil, Jacquea Mae, Dynasty Steppers, Sharonda ECCentrich Richardson, and Alejandra Romero aka DJ Musicat. (Photo by Moment 77)

ARTIST PROFILES FROM SPOKEN SOUL FESTIVAL 2019:

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Perla Gonzalez, a Miami-based poet, was born in Cuba as the daughter of a singer and guitarist. She will be performing at Spoken Soul Festival with her grand daughter Angie Lopez. When asked about her intention for performing at Spoken Soul Festival 2019, she says she wants to inspire young women. She says, "There is no age to love, to laugh, to create, to write or to be an artist! Just do it!” Read more about Gonzalez’ journey on the Spoken Soul Festival website.

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Sharonda ECCentrich Richardson was born and raised in Pompano Beach Fl. Where she founded and hosted Cuisines & Poetry, in Pompano Beach, FL. She proudly hosts shows from poetry, to fashion shoes, workshops more throughout the Broward County. As a poet, she has graced the stages of over 45 venues from Florida to California and is currently the 14th ranked female poet in the world according to her placement during the Women of the World Poetry Slam. More about her work on the Spoken Soul website.

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Munirah Rimer is a Batik artists and educator. Her business, Teratai Malaysia was born out of Rimer’s desire to share her Malaysian culture and explore the world of batik. Rimer teaches batik painting to students in her home studio as well as various venues (art studios, retirement communities, offices, private homes) primarily in South Florida – including Miami, Broward, and Palm Beach. Learn more about her work on the Spoken Soul website.

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Alana DaCosta is an interdisciplinary artist who uses various mediums as a creative community builder, artist activist, singer/songwriter, musician, and poet. Alana’s eclectic music blends neo-soul with jazz, reggae, hip hop and a drop of funk. She says, “My music and expressive art initiatives will inspire the minds, hearts and souls of people across the world, and will ignite change, social responsibility, awareness, and our purpose to live life freely, without regrets and without bounds.” More about DaCosta’s work on the Spoken Soul website.

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Ronavia Williams is a poet and a mother. Her work is focused on the art of becoming whole. Through her spoken word poetry she encourages her audience to believe that they have the power and ability to rediscover themselves in a new light. This year at Spoken Soul Festival, she’ll be sharing her work “Come Forth: An Untold Story”. Learn more about Ronavia Williams on the Spoken Soul website.

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Reshma Anwar was born and raised in Leipzig, Germany. She graduated from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons.) in Dance and a minor in Music Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology in Music. At UArts she worked with various choreographers including Kim Bears-Bailey, Roni Koresh, Iquail Shaheed, Douglas Becker and Sidra Bell. During the Summer, she volunteered to teach dance in Jamaica and Haiti. More about her work on the Spoken Soul website.

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Cheri Vice is a visual artist and muralist who recently created a 210 x 5-foot mural for Briar Bay Park in Miami. Aided by local teacher, Jovany Corzo, and several local middle and high school students, Vice’s tireless work to beautify the park has had a deep impact in the community. A local, whose house neighbors the park said, “The mural really brings the area to life. It’s just so beautiful!” To read more about Vice’s Briar Bay Park mural, visit the Spoken Soul website.

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Jacquea Mae is a singer, actress & creative artist. She is known for her powerful, soulful & from the gut performances. Jacquea has also starred as Alberta ‘Pearl’ Johnson with actress Julie Beroes in Black Pearl Sings, under the direction of New Horizons Theater in 2013 and once again, as Bessie Smith in Queens Of The Blues last year. In 2016 Jacquea Mae released her first EP, ‘The Makings Of Me’. She also teaches young artists with 1Hood Media. More about her work on the Spoken Soul website.

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Angie Lopez is an 18-year old spoken word artist. Her writing deals with themes of heritage, identity, gender, and social issues affecting minority and youth voices. She believes spoken word more than any other medium serves as a bridge connecting people both to their own voices and to the narratives of others due to the medium’s intrinsic vulnerability. Learn more about Lopez’ work on the Spoken Soul website.

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Haibian is a poet and author. Performing since the age of 18, Haibian’s interest has always been in the captivation of her listener’s attention with topics that are for the everyday person. She also focuses on staying true to her LGBT community. Learn more about Haibian’s work on the Spoken Soul website.

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Beláxis Buil is a performance artist. Her creative practice integrates looming topics needing urgent discussion in human rights advocacy, women and gender issues, identity politics, and the crisis of human conditioning, weaving poetic and absurd arrangements of sculpture, installation, video, photography and choreography into provocatively bold and challenging environments where the public and objects become a part of the narrative. More about her work on the Spoken Soul website.

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Esther McCant is a poet from Miami, Florida. Her family emigrated from Port-au-Prince, Haiti over 30 years ago. When she is not creating, “journaling”, or snapping pictures from her life, she lives her life’s dream of helping families thrive as a doula and certified lactation counselor. She says, “Doing birth work is an art because I am helping mothers have their babies in a way that is visually beautiful and emotionally empowering.” Learn more about her journey on the Spoken Soul website.

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Katiana “Jarbath Art” Smith is painter based in Palm Beach County. Using bold colors, Smith paints the African Diaspora, more specifically, people of Haitian descent. Her artwork focuses on facial expressions and the stories that people tell through their eyes, poise, and features. Smiths desire to paint people of color stems from her upbringing but now serves as a political statement, a reminder that the African Diaspora has a place in the American story. Learn more about Jarbath Art on the Spoken Soul website.

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Alejandra Romero AKA DJ MUSICAT was born in Venezuela and lives in Miami. Her DJ style is a result of blending old school with new school, with large and varied influences from 70’s, 80’s and 90’s dance music and Latin beats, bringing decades of joy to her crowd. She says, “Music inspired me to work in the entertainment industry for more than 25 years. MUSICAT is a tribute to my loves: Music, My Cats, My Country and ALL those who have dared to pursue their dreams.” More about her work on the Spoken Soul website.

VISIT spokensoulfestival.com for more information!

An Actress Prepares: Tiffany Hobbs Talks About Meditation

It's Wednesday, which means its time for another installment of “An Actress Prepares” with Tiffany Denise Hobbs. Tiffany’s series offers mentorship for early career theatre artists as well as valuable insight for anyone wanting to know more about what it means to be a working actor. Click HERE to view last week’s episode.

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AN ACTRESS PREPARES: MEDITATION

by Tiffany Denise Hobbs

Hey Statera! In this episode, I talk about one of my most favorite - and helpful - practices of all: meditation. So let’s get to it!


Tiffany Hobbs was born and raised in Augusta, GA. Tiffany began dancing at the age of three. In the years following, she discovered a love for theater and music that augmented her passion to be a performing artist. She has trained for over two decades at prestigious liberal and performing arts institutions (UGA, SMU, Yale) and loves every minute of imitating life onstage, on set or in a rehearsal room. A former member of the Brierley Resident Acting Company at the Dallas Theater Center and featured actress at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, some of her favorite roles include Juanita in James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie, Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Tonya in August Wilson's King Hedley II.

Tiffany appeared as Shenzi in the National Tour of The Lion King for two years (2015-2017). On TV, she can be found co-starring in Donald Glover's FX hit, "Atlanta"; Netflix's "Ozark" and "The Haunting of Hill House"; the OWN Network's "Love Is ___"; CBS's "MacGyver," "Bull" and "Code Black"; and in SyFy's "Happy." In 2018, Tiffany joined the Broadway musical, Waitress, spear-headed by Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson and Diane Paulus.

More at www.tiffanydenisehobbs.com

SWAN Day Milwaukee 2019: Artist Profiles

Now in its 4th year, SWAN Day Milwaukee is celebrating the power and diversity of women’s creativity with “Water: Reflection, Ritual & Resource”, an art exhibit at the Urban Ecology Center. SWAN Day MKE exhibitions explore themes of women’s artistic & spiritual connections to nature, and how these roots nourish one’s work, activism, and daily living.

Over one-hundred women-identified artists of all ages, disciplines and levels of artistic experience residing in Milwaukee and surrounding areas have been invited to participate in an informal, non-juried celebration and exhibition. SWAN Day MKE participants reflect on the topic of water and create a piece that expresses their thoughts, relationship, experience, or practice related to water and  how it connects us to place, people, ritual, and ancestry.

Jamie Bilgo Bruchman, the lead organizer of SWAN Day MKE says, “The response to this year’s theme has been outstanding, and we are delighted once again to welcome dozens of new artists from a diverse range of artistic backgrounds, ages, cultures, and mediums.”  Women from all over the greater Milwaukee area are coming together for what promises to be an amazing celebration.

The exhibition runs from March 23rd to June 1st. There is also an opening reception on Saturday, March 23rd from noon to 3pm. For more information, connect with SWAN Day MKE on Facebook.

Selection of Artist Profiles from SWAN Day MKE 2019:

Rozalia Hernandez-Singh, known as Aya, started drawing from a young age. Her work includes indoor and outdoor murals in the Milwaukee area and she has worked as a professional caricaturist for over 20 years in the Wisconsin and Illinois area. She is also illustrator for the book, "I am a girl of color," with author Deanna Singh. Learn more at www.artsbyaya.com.

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Brianna Joy Seipel is an artist and designer whose work celebrates stories of dynamic women and the landscapes that inspire us. You can find her on Instagram.

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Nova Czarnecki is a Milwaukee-based figurative oil painter and muralist. Learn more at www.novaczarnecki.com.

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Rosy Petri is a quilter, print-maker, chef, artist, and owner of Paradise Home. She is also the recent recipient of the Pfister Artist in Residence. You can find Rosy on Etsy, Instagram, and at www.thisisparadisehome.com.

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Whitney Salgado is an artist and illustrator. A graduate from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Whitney is a 27 year-old digital artist studying and living in Wisconsin. She enjoys exploring color and is inspired by nature, dreams, and surrealism. While she prefers working digitally, she is also practiced in traditional media and picks up acrylics from time to time. Find her work at www.whitneysalgado.com.

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Tara Monnink is a papermaker, printmaker, and photographer. She is also a RedLine Milwaukee Artist in Residence. You can find Tara on Instagram.

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Liala Amin’s artwork is an interpretation of spiritual experiences and an exploration of religious symbols. Her ultimate goal is to share the importance of the arts, keep art education accessible, and create welcoming spaces where all are free to express themselves. Liala also serves as the Community Outreach Coordinator for SWAN Day MKE 2019. Find Liala on Instagram and at Creative Mornings Milwaukee.

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Stacy Lee Ollmann is a Milwaukee artist working primarily in mixed media sculpture and alcohol ink. She lives and works a short walk from the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. You can learn more about her work at www.stacyleeollmann.com.

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Megan Johnson is a mixed media artist living in West Bend, WI. By layering vintage paper ephemera with paint, various drawing media and found objects she tells evocative stories which speak to universal experiences as well as personal memories. You can find Megan’s work on Instagram and at www.meganwoodardjohnson.com.

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Happy International Women's Day from StateraArts

Happy International Women's Day! Statera takes our name from the Latin word for Balance, so we are super excited about this year's theme: Better For Balance! A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world? Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality. And that is what StateraArts is all about!

The 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign runs all year long. It doesn't end on International Women’s Day. There are lots of way to get involved and take action:

Become a Statera Member:
www.stateraarts.org/membership

Join a Statera Mentorship chapter:
www.stateraarts.org/mentroship

Attend Statera’s International Conference in NYC:
www.stateraarts.org/confernce

Make use of the FREE Statera Directory for women artists:
www.stateraarts.org/resources

Support Statera's mission with a donation:
www.stateraarts.org/donate

As part of our ongoing efforts to increase the visibility of women artists, StateraArts puts the spotlight on women artists every March and April through Support Women Artists Now Day. SWAN Day is an annual international celebration of women’s creativity and gender parity activism. Join us!

Visit the SWAN Calendar:
www.stateraarts.org/swan-calendar

Add your event to the SWAN Calendar:
www.stateraarts.org/add-swan-event


A Note on Inclusion at StateraArts

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who identify as non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all. 

Erin Prather Stafford Launches “Girls That Create”

Erin Prather Stafford

Erin Prather Stafford

by Sarah Greenman

“The media is in a state of great disruption, but despite all of the change, one thing remains the same: the role of women is significantly smaller than that of men in every part of news, entertainment and digital media.” -Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center.

As the mother to two young girls and holder of a Master’s degree in Gender and International Development, Erin Prather Stafford is acutely aware that fixing gender imbalances in the media is key to changing gender disparity everywhere. That’s why she has just launched Girls That Create.

Several years ago, Erin joined the production team for WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. The documentary explores the enduring legacy of Wonder Woman and how powerful women are often portrayed in mainstream media. It also encourages girls to be creators of the media they want to see.

Erin says, “Fast forward to 2019. The need to nourish and inspire girl creators is just as necessary now as it was then. Although women currently comprise half of the U.S. population, mass media continues to show them in much smaller numbers. This underrepresentation is also true for women who are behind the scenes, creating.”

Consider The Numbers

  • A 2019 report found 69 percent of news wire bylines (AP and Reuters) are snagged by men; 31 percent by women. (Women’s Media Center)

  • In 2018, women comprised just four percent of directors working on the top 100 films, eight percent on the top 250 films, and 15 percent on the top 500 films. (Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film)

  • A recent study of 820,000 exhibitions across the public and commercial sectors, only one third were by women artists. (The Art Newspaper)

  • Another 2019 study on the music industry revealed female songwriters and producers are vastly outnumbered. Across seven years, 12.3 percent of songwriters of the songs were female. More than half (57 percent) of the 633 songs examined did not credit one woman as a songwriter. (USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative)

Erin, a freelance writer and producer, became interested in the media’s portrayal of women while earning her communication degree at St. Edward’s University. This inspired pursuit of her MA from the University of Warwick. She also currently serves on the board for the Women Texas Film Festival.

Girls That Create will have posts and resources for developing creative thinking, boosting confidence, growing skill sets and constructing beneficial environments. The site will also offer practical tips and product reviews.

Erin says that March is the perfect month to launch her new platform. “Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day, SWAN Day - what’s not to love? My goal is for caregivers and girls to find Girls That Create empowering and for the site to help spark future female creators.”

 
 

Visit Girls That Create online at www.girlsthatcreate.com and also on Facebook.

An Actress Prepares: Tiffany Hobbs Talks About the Law of Averages

It's Wednesday, which means its time for another installment of “An Actress Prepares” with Tiffany Denise Hobbs. Tiffany’s series offers mentorship for early career theatre artists as well as valuable insight for anyone wanting to know more about what it means to be a working actor. Click HERE to view last week’s episode.

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An Actress Prepares: The Law of Averages

by Tiffany Denise Hobbs

Hey Statera! We are in the thick of pilot season and this year. I have been fortunate to have had a couple of auditions for series regulars in upcoming television pilots. For the first of my pilot auditions, I even got a callback and found myself at ABC Casting in New York City for the very first time in my life (mark my word- it won’t be the last).

So today I want to talk about a concept that has helped enhanced my outlook on auditions: The Law of Averages. I haven’t a clue what, if anything, will come from my recent auditions, but I don’t believe any of it has been in vain. I also know that there will be more to come.


Tiffany Hobbs was born and raised in Augusta, GA. Tiffany began dancing at the age of three. In the years following, she discovered a love for theater and music that augmented her passion to be a performing artist. She has trained for over two decades at prestigious liberal and performing arts institutions (UGA, SMU, Yale) and loves every minute of imitating life onstage, on set or in a rehearsal room. A former member of the Brierley Resident Acting Company at the Dallas Theater Center and featured actress at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, some of her favorite roles include Juanita in James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie, Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Tonya in August Wilson's King Hedley II.

Tiffany appeared as Shenzi in the National Tour of The Lion King for two years (2015-2017). On TV, she can be found co-starring in Donald Glover's FX hit, "Atlanta"; Netflix's "Ozark" and "The Haunting of Hill House"; the OWN Network's "Love Is ___"; CBS's "MacGyver," "Bull" and "Code Black"; and in SyFy's "Happy." In 2018, Tiffany joined the Broadway musical, Waitress, spear-headed by Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson and Diane Paulus.

More at www.tiffanydenisehobbs.com

Uplift & Amplify: February #SWANSunday Artists

SWAN Day means Support Women Artists Now Day. It is an annual international celebration of women’s creativity and gender parity activism. It happens on the last Saturday in March. But we don’t have to wait. We can support women* artists every week!

StateraArts launched a social media campaign in January designed to AMPLIFY the voices and work of women artists as part of SWAN Day. The goal is to flood social media every Sunday with images, quotes, and work from women artists. Below are just a few of the incredible artists YOU amplified during the month of February. Who will you amplify this Sunday?

Find out more about SWAN Day HERE.

Christie Vela - Director and Actor

Christie Vela - Director and Actor

ARTIST: Christie Vela

AMPLIFIED BY: Vanessa DiSilvio

Vanessa says, “This fierce actor and director in Dallas Fort Worth is an inspiration. As a fellow Latina artist, she caught my eye 10 years ago when I first moved to Dallas and I thought to myself, I have to work with this woman.”

Alysia Reiner - Producer and Actor

Alysia Reiner - Producer and Actor

ARTIST: Alysia Reiner

AMPLIFIED BY: Avis Boone

Avis writes, “Guess who's hosting the Women in the Arts & Media 2019 Collaboration Awards Gala on March 30th? Alysia Reiner! Her film EGG (@eggthefilm) will receive the Acclaimed Collaboration Award.”

Neema Bagamuhunda - Dancer and Puppeteer

Neema Bagamuhunda - Dancer and Puppeteer

ARTIST: Neema Bagamuhunda

AMPLIFIED BY: Nyakwar Dowllar

Neema Bagamuhunda is a dancer, choreographer, puppeteer, and story teller from Nairobi, Kenya. Nyakway writes, “Neema is an all around superb artist. Today I celebrate you!”

Julianna Bloodgood - Performer and Educator

Julianna Bloodgood - Performer and Educator

ARTIST: Julianna Bloodgood

AMPLIFIED BY: Sarah Greenman

Sarah writes, “Today for #SWANSunday I want to amplify the work of Julianna Bloodgood - mover, space-maker, story-teller, educator. Julianna's work is fierce and potent beyond imagining.”

Heather Day - Visual Artist

Heather Day - Visual Artist

ARTIST: Heather Day

AMPLIFIED BY: Evangeline Stott

Evangeline writes, “I want to share a special experience I had yesterday. I got to see the work of Heather Day in person. Heather is easily in my top three art heroes. Her exploration of color, genius layering, and delicious textures all make for such playful and captivating work, but what I really admire about her is her sense of self (with who she is as a maker and also with her presence on Instagram). She gives of herself so generously and I appreciate the way she shares her process, her musings, and her beautiful life. Check out her incredible show at Joshua Liner Gallery!!”

Kimberly Faith Hickman - Artistic Director

Kimberly Faith Hickman - Artistic Director

ARTIST: Kimberly Faith Hickman

AMPLIFIED BY: Jackie Vanderbeck

Hickman is an Artistic Director, Director, and Choreographer. Jackie writes, “For #SWANSunday, I want to amplify Kimberly Faith Hickman, founder of the Omaha Community Playhouse Henry Fonda Theatre Academy, a theatre education program teaching life skills through stage skills for youth and adults; as well as creating the Omaha Community Playhouse Directing Fellowship, a professional training program for early and mid-career stage directors.”

Join Statera in Celebration of International SWAN Day

SWAN = Support Women Artists Now

March is Statera's favorite month of the year! Why? Not only is it Women's History Month, but we also celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th and International SWAN Day on March 30th!

As part of our ongoing efforts to increase the visibility of women artists, StateraArts puts the spotlight on women artists every March and April through Support Women Artists Now Day. SWAN Day is an annual international celebration of women’s creativity and gender parity activism. International SWAN Day events are already underway and you're invited to join us!  It’s fun and easy to get involved. Watch the video below!


#SWANSunday

StateraArts launched a campaign in January 2019 designed to AMPLIFY the voices and work of women artists as part of SWAN Day. The goal is to flood social media every Sunday with images, quotes, and work from women artists.

Want to get involved in this powerful social action? It’s easy! UPLIFT and AMPLIFY a woman artist using the hashtag #SWANSunday. Post about them and their work. Pick a new artist every Sunday!

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A Note on Inclusion at StateraArts

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who identify as non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all. 

Self-Injurious Behavior: an Interview with Playwright Jessica Cavanagh

International Support Women Artists Now/SWAN Day is fast approaching and the SWAN Day Calendar is filling up with some incredible events. One of these is Self-Injurious Behavior by Dallas-based actress and playwright Jessica Cavanagh. “Self-Injurious Behavior”, which had a hit workshop run at Theatre Three's Theatre Too! in 2018, will move to New York for a showcase at Urban Stages in April. The New York run, April 21-May 5, will feature the Dallas cast, and will again be directed by Marianne Galloway. Statera’s Operations Assistant, Evangeline Stott, reached out to Jessica to have a conversation about this powerful show and Jessica’s journey through motherhood, loss, and the process of writing an autobiographical play with the perfect ratio of truth to laughter.

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Evangeline Stott: Tell me about your process while writing this piece. How long was the writing period?

Jessica Cavanagh: I take a four and a half hour drive to visit my son, Elijah, at his school one weekend per month, which I've been doing ever since we admitted him in the summer of 2012 when he was 12 years old. Driving away from him at the end of those visits has always been hard, but that first year, it was excruciating. I would drive, weep, pull over, get myself together, drive, weep, repeat. Then, one day, during the trip back to Dallas, I started thinking of a play about a divorced woman who recently admitted her autistic son to a group home and was now half-heartedly attempting to date (which was my current situation). On a whim, I recorded myself talking about some pretty intense feelings about my kid and birth and parenthood and imagined it as a really inappropriate over-share moment on a first date. That date doesn't actually happen in the play anymore, but the monologue is still there, almost verbatim. Looking back, it kind of provided the anchor for the piece from the beginning. What followed was a bunch of short bursts of inspiration spread out over nearly three years before a full draft came together, mainly because I couldn't spend more than a day or two focused on telling this story without sinking into a pretty gross pit. It was still so raw. Within a couple years, I'd lost my mom in a car accident, divorced my husband of fourteen years, and admitted my child into a group home because he couldn't stop hurting himself. I was just incredibly not okay. The first informal reading of the first full draft didn't occur until September of 2015.

ES: With this being such a vulnerable and personal story for you, did you share what you were writing with anyone along the way?

JC: After about the first year of random voice notes and writing, I asked a few close friends whom I knew I could trust and whose work I respected to look at the monologue and one early major scene (the toughest in the play, which is based on what I remembered as the worst day I'd ever had with my son). The responses I got really surprised me! People were stunned. Folks who had known me for a decade asked me if this was really true - if what I was writing had really been our lives. I think they were mortified and maybe even hurt to know that their friend had been struggling, and that due to my need to escape my life when I left my house and went to rehearsals or performances, I rarely shared the depths of what we were dealing with at home. And to this day, that's been the most consistent question from everyone who reads or sees the play; people I know, and people I don't: "Is this real?" That question is what made me realize this is bigger than me; this is a story that desperately needs to be told for the sake of every caregiver who sits at home with their loved one and fights despair. So, now I had a mission. And I've always done well with a mission!

Photo by Jeffrey Schmidt

Photo by Jeffrey Schmidt

 ES: Can you tell us a little bit about the title, "Self Injurious Behavior"?

 JC: The phrase "self-injurious behavior" is how doctors and therapists often refer to self-harm, so I heard it a lot over the years in dealing with Elijah. He would bang his head on the hardest, sharpest objects he could find, punch himself in the head with his fists, and bite his arms until he broke the skin, among other pretty horrific things. As I wrote the play the issue of guilt and the idea of punishing one's self for feeling as if you've failed your child and yourself is one that was immediately prevalent in the story and, in fact, became THE story. The connection between my son's self-harm and my emotional self-harm became really clear. We were both beating ourselves to death.

ES: What were your biggest challenges in the first stages of writing and developing "Self Injurious Behavior"?

JC: I think the biggest challenge was sitting down to do it. I had all these ideas swirling and I had a great NEED to get it all down on paper, but forcing myself to really sit with it and what that meant was just very hard. It never seemed like a good day for that, you know? When is it convenient to revisit the most painful moments of your life? Never, ever. Once I got started, though, I was fine. Until I wasn't, at which point I'd stop. It was always just that first move that killed.

 

ES: How did audiences respond to the production at Theatre Three? Have you had the opportunity to dialogue with any audience members with stories similar to yours?

JC: The responses from those audiences were really humbling. People would wait to talk afterwards and some just wanted to look into my eyes and say, "This is my life. Thank you for this," and I'd often end up crying and hugging a stranger - now friend - in the lobby. Even more common, though, were the people who said they had a nephew, grandchild, friend, etc., on the spectrum and they had no idea that this might be what their friends or family were dealing with (or they had a friend who was severely depressed) and they were so thankful to have their eyes opened. It became really clear to me early on in the run that while I had hoped the story would honor and be sort of a love offering to caregivers and anyone struggling with depression, the great thing is it was actually drawing back the curtain on their lives and promoting empathy in others. I felt like I got to actually watch empathy for these issues be born in some people, which was just...it doesn't really get any better than that, you know? Folks would come up afterwards and literally say, "Wow. I've been an asshole. Thank you. And thank you for making me laugh while I figured it out." (I actually think I turned a bunch of people on to Renaissance Faires, too, which gives me no end of nerd-joy!)

Photo by Jordan Fraker

Photo by Jordan Fraker

ES: One of my favorite production images I've seen is that of you sitting among the toys and blankets with your son’s Peter Pan-like shadow over you. Can you tell us a little bit about Peter Pan, and the significance of him in this story?

JC: My kiddo is obsessed with all things Disney. He had a Peter Pan Halloween costume that he loved, and when he was 11-12, he looked a lot like a cross between Christopher Robin and Peter Pan. I still get mom heart-pangs whenever I see either of those characters anywhere (yeah, he's 19, leave me alone!)  It took me some time to settle on how closely I wanted the character of Benjamin to resemble Elijah in the play, but at the end of the day, I decided to keep things simple and tell the truth as much as possible, so I've given Benjamin an obsession with Peter Pan. And, as it turns out, there's just something really lovely and poignant about the parallels between a kid like Benjamin and the boy who never grows up. It felt really right for the play.

ES: Can you talk a bit about what its like to be a single mother and work in the theatre? Especially being a single mother of a child with special needs? What resources did you have or not have?

JC: Well, I was very lucky when my son was younger because my mom lived nearby, so, between her and a couple of sitters who were like family and knew Elijah and his routine and wouldn't flip out if he had a meltdown, I was able to cobble together a childcare team while I rehearsed. I was actually still married at that point, but my husband was in a band and traveled the majority of the time so it was almost always just Elijah and me. And I'll be honest, those years were mostly hell, and to this day, I have such admiration for the single moms I know in theatre who make it happen. Being with your kid all the time is hard. Being with your kid all the time when your kid is screaming and banging his head and never sleeps for longer than two hours at a time is actually dangerous. So, at the end of the day, theatre was my refuge and I did whatever I needed to do and bribed whatever sitter I needed to bribe in order to get where I needed to go. I think I subconsciously knew that it was the only thing keeping me (and subsequently, Elijah) alive, so I fought for it like it was life or death. But, of course, a boatload of guilt accompanied me every time I left the house, because, motherhood.

ES: What has it been like to play yourself on stage? How do you feel about doing so again this spring?

JC: It’s been different than I expected, thankfully! Super weird in some ways, for sure - mostly to do with the nauseating pre-show jitters every night which have nothing to do with being nervous about the acting and everything to do with knowing the audience is aware (if they read their playbill!) that this is my story and I really said and did many of these things. The fear of judgement was acute, especially when we first opened (I ran to the bathroom a whole lot, y'all.) But, thankfully, I've found that once I'm in character out on stage, it's really just like playing any other role. And Summer isn't one hundred percent me. Some pretty major details from my life were changed for the play (I have one wonderful sister, and I gave Summer two, for example, because I just liked the dynamic of three). So, that really helps separate Summer from myself a bit and gives me the freedom to approach her the same way I would anything else.

Photo by Jordan Fraker with Jennifer Kuenzer.

Photo by Jordan Fraker with Jennifer Kuenzer.

ES: What are you most looking forward to with this New York production of “Self Injurious Behavior"?

JC: It’s so big...this thought of bringing a thing to the NY market. Right now, I keep thinking about the first laugh. The first time I hear a NY audience laugh at something I wrote, I really might just happily drop dead. And I can't wait to look into the faces of my production team and cast mates (now family) on opening night and be excited dorks together! I feel so lucky to get to share this experience with such dear friends, some of whom have been with the play through years of development, such as Marianne Galloway, our director. The blood, sweat, and tears of so many people have been poured into creating this thing, so getting to bring it to NY together is truly a dream come true.

ES: How has being Elijah’s mom shaped you into who you are now? What insights have you made because of your role as his mother?

JC: Elijah has shaped me so completely that it's almost impossible to pinpoint how. I was twenty-four when he was born, so I was still growing up, myself. He shaped who I was becoming in a very real way. I don't like to think about who I was before he existed, not because I hate myself but because I think he made me infinitely better and I prefer that person. Watching him grow up and struggle against a cruel and terrifying world has made me appreciate goodness and kindness when I find it to a degree that I never did before, which in turn effects my personal relationships. It’s funny how when you learn to value kindness and unselfish love above all things, the toxic relationships in your life tend to stick out like a sore thumb and make your path pretty freakin' clear.

ES: Mentorship is at the core of StateraArts' mission. Can you tell us about your mentors and how they have guided you and your work?

JC: I feel like I've had seasonal mentors - people who cross my path at a certain point to guide me through a certain thing, be it spiritual or artistic. Lately I've felt the nudge to find a seasoned, female-identifying playwright and be her spongey sidekick, just soaking up all her wisdom. I had some wonderful guides as I put Self-Injurious Behavior together and I'm so incredibly grateful to them! The thing is, they're all men, and I'm feeling a strong urge to connect with other women right now, particularly in the professional realm. So, HEY, if Paula Vogel just happens to be reading this and feels like having a weird rando obsessively trail her (and almost definitely ask far too many questions about Indecent), I'm your girl, Paula! 

ES: And lastly, is there anything else you'd like the StateraArts community to know about you and your work? 

JC: I’ve rambled way too long already!! I'd rather take the opportunity to say how much I appreciate StateraArts and your mission, and your willingness to talk with a new girl about her thing. Y'all rock. Thanks for all you do!

Interested in attending a performance of “Self-Injurious Behavior” in NYC? You’ll find it on the 2019 SWAN Day Calendar HERE.


About Jessica

Jessica Cavanagh is a Dallas-based theatre artist, voice talent, and writer whose work in the DFW area spans the past fifteen years. As an actor, she’s been recognized numerous times by the DFW Critics Forum as well as the Column Awards, including last season’s Critics Forum Award for her semi-autobiographical role in her play, Self-Injurious Behavior (Theatre Three). Selected regional acting work includes: Outside Mullingar, August: Osage County, Doubt, and The Glass Menagerie (all at WaterTower Theatre), Heisenberg (Theatre Three), Mr. Burns: a post-electric play (Stage West), ‘Night, Mother (Echo Theatre), and Port Twilight (Undermain). As a staff writer with Funimation Entertainment, she’s adapted hundreds of episodes of Japanese anime for an English-speaking audience and has also worked extensively as an actor in their English broadcast dubs, so you can hear her giddily voicing roles on Cartoon Network in shows such as Attack on Titan, One Piece, and My Hero Academia, and many others.