Having stated my intention to do a better job of blogging, this year is paying me back by giving me LOTS to talk about.
Shortly after my last post, I was able to help out my friends at GreyDuck Productions on a fun shoot for their Z-Fest entry, "Hostess". The entire film is a one shot, and was a great opportunity to hang out with a bunch of creatives, have a good time and watch this talented crew execute their carefully laid out plan. The clip below was shot on film and a nice way for the filmmakers to showcase their extras - Super8 shenanigans.
Next up, we had our final day on set for "Last Call". To prep I studied some of our earlier raw footage, and I get more and more excited to share this film with the world. Post-production is underway, stay tuned!
Now for something a bit more serious - I attended a panel discussion, "Policy and Practice: A Training and Conversation about Harassment" organized by the Minnesota Theater Alliance. After the #notinourhouse movement led to Chicago's creation of an agreed upon set of standards, followed by the #metoo movement and the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, it was only a matter of time before the Twin Cities theater community stood up and faced its own demons. After attending this panel, I have to say, we have a long way to go, but this is at least a start. Please add your voice to this vital conversation - until we get loud things will not change and things need to change.
As you may be aware, a large winter sportsball event took place in Minneapolis this year, The Super Bowl, you may have heard of it. Minneapolis weather was more or less behaved and people seemed to have a lovely time visiting while those who live here had our lives tossed into temporary turmoil. On an upside, my boss, myself and my staff were all invited to a rather fun party, the Superb Owl, by the party hosts MKTG. Clever name, everyone attended and had a lovely time.
In some very unexpected and sad news, my dear friend Randall Gray passed away. Randy and I worked together for a number of years in the box office of the Fitzgerald Theater. Trust me, nothing bonds you faster than surviving A Prairie Home Companion rush line from inside the box office. He was a genius, self taught (as his father will quickly point out), and a loyal friend who wanted people to be equal parts informed and happy. I am still processing his passing, as are his parents, his long time girlfriend Suzy, and his myriad friends. I don't expect it will be fully real to me for a long time.
From the moment I heard of Randy's passing, the song "I Shall Be Free" by Kid Beyond was in my head, it speaks to me of Randy and how he carried himself in this world. So I recorded it and, on one of the coldest days of this winter, shot a video in his memory.
Later in February I had the distinct pleasure of appearing in "What Fuels Development", a Los Angeles Poverty Department (the other LAPD) production presented by Pangea World Theater and directed by John Malpede. The members of the LAPD theater company are people who currently live, or have previously lived, in Skid Row, Los Angeles. To say this opportunity to work with them was uncommon, would be an understatement. "What Fuels Development" takes a look at gentrification through the lens of a housing project in Skid Row that was forced to make so many concessions to gentrification that the Skid Row community had to come together and get the licensing revoked - no easy feat. An optimistic tale for those of us who believe the community should decide what is built within it, not financiers and business people who won't live there. Optimistic, but as we learned, only temporary. Money talks, so those without any must raise their voices loudly and consistently enough to drown out the sound. This project taught me so much, about what it is to be homeless, what it is to have a community, what it is to be a professional, and what it means to be an actorvist - a title of which I hope to be worthy. On the one hand I feel like I could talk about this experience forever, and on the other I don't believe I could ever do it justice. I will say that the next time I am in LA, I have a much larger family to visit.
The Monday after "What Fuels Development" closed I finally began a journey I've been longing to take since I was a child, I started my first Conversational ASL class. I'm five classes in, I can ask basic questions, talk about food, colors and family. I know how to sign "slower", and want to believe I will be less afraid to be bad at it in favor of what I can now call "practice". It frustrates me and makes me angry that there are people who are excluded from everyday society because everyday people won't learn how to communicate with them. I'm one of those people, in so many ways, and I hope this is just a first step towards becoming a better one.
Next up, the short film "Little Men" written and directed by Ayesha Adu. It is an incredible script, centered around two boys, best friends, as they encounter a situation that will test their friendship and the very core of their beings - all before they've even had a chance to fully know what that means. I play the crack addicted mother of one of the boys, a challenge and an honor and I'm still working to live up to it. Filming is wrapped, and as they go into post-production this award winning and grant winning script could use some additional funding, there are two sites you can donate on: GoFundMe and Indiegogo, please consider supporting this amazing project.
Which brings us to UPCOMING projects, things to look forward to. First up, "Prescription Murder" with Ghoulish Delights, the script for the play that became the first episode of Columbo and it is just as much fun as it sounds. Performing May 4-5, 10-13 at the Phoenix Theater Minneapolis. And "Dan Helsing: Demon Warrior" a feature comedy-horror film by Green Shelf Films that will shoot later this summer. Very funny script, the sequel to Dan Helsing: Exterminator, and after running a make-up test, and discovering I look an awful lot like a Scooby Do villain, I have to say we are in really good hands. There will be an Indiegogo campaign soon, another excellent opportunity to support local, independent film. We are not just The Bold North, we are not just a fly-over state. We are home to artists and creatives and support starts at home.
Last, but absolutely not least, a celebration of friends getting it done. Babatunde Oyewo has been slaying it! He's a fighter in Black Panther (I mean, need I go on?), a super in Rigoletto for MN Opera and has recently had his first successful print gig. And I thought I was busy. Speaking of slaying it, Krystel Seier has not only seen a film she co-produced and acted in, Rebar, released on Amazon (and make the Top 20 Films to Stream list its first week), but she has also filmed a scene for the film Lone Star Deception, as part of the Second Unit. Barbara Kingsley is, admittedly, more of an acquaintance but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share that she showed up on one of my favorite shows. She has a rather brilliant cameo in Season Two of Jessica Jones as the snarktastic wig shop owner. Doing Minnesota proud! And finally, Carson Lee, a transplant to New York, makes a loud, if brief, appearance on the most recent episode of Blacklist. I am surrounded by supremely talented, giving and loving friends and acquaintances who also happen to be GETTING IT DONE! Go team!!