Welcome to Episode 42 of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast. I’m podcast host, Sally Adams. And every week I talk about creating original work for a live audience. I interview guests from all over who are doing just that! Send an email anytime to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations coming every week.
Check out sallypal.com/join for a free Creator’s Notebook. It's a great resource for people producing original work. Also, you can be a Sally PAL just by joining. There are lots of other good reasons to join. SallyPAL has free theatre cartoons and inside scoop on fresh productions. And I want your help building a creator community I've named "The Clearing".
Today, my awesome guest is Professor and Playwright, Jenny Kokai. Her book, “Swim Pretty”, explores mermaid culture. She looks at feminism through shows like the Weeki Wachee Mermaids in Spring Hill, Florida. We talk about that and a whole lot more in Episode 42.
Jenny Kokai is a theatre professor at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. For anyone paying attention to pop culture, mermaids are a thing. They're moving past the traditional pretty white female. You'll see them in TV, movies, and comicons. Interpretations include transgender, disabled, and racially diverse mermaids. The reinvention of culture isn’t limited to aquatic life. According to my guest, there are ways in which theatre of all kinds is making an impact on the way people view 'difference'.
Jenny Kokai and her eleven-year-old son, Oliver, recently co-wrote a play called "Zombie Thoughts". It explores a child’s anxiety disorder through gaming. Jenny and Ollie recently received National Endowment for the Arts funding enabling the show to tour.
In addition, Kokai explores ways her students can take ownership of their learning. I know you’ll enjoy hearing this interview with well-regarded scholar, professor, and playwright; Jenny Kokai. Be sure and listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
Concise Advice from the Interview is where I share bits of advice from my podcast guest. On Episode 42, that's professor, author, and playwright, Jenny Kokai:
11 Develop rapport before you go into rehearsing an ensemble show.
10 Create a space where people are respectful of each other’s boundaries.
9 Create a space where people feel free to share their ideas and opinions.
8 It’s always better when a whole team works well together.
7 We do a disservice when we cut people with disabilities out of the creative process because of commercial pressure.
6 A lot more playwrights with disabilities need to be writing from their perspective.
5 When developing a new play, do not get attached to portions of the script.
4 When auditioning for a sexy role, be the sexiest person in the room regardless of your size or disability.
3 Find trustworthy collaborators who have a similar vision… and make stuff!
2 If you have something to say, you should say it!
1 Your voice matters!
Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes. You, too, can be a Sally PAL. And you can sign up for a Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join. Thank you for following, sharing, subscribing, reviewing, and joining. Most of all, thank you for listening.
You can download and listen to SallyPAL on your drive to work. Or if you're falling asleep to my nattering narratives like my sister does, let me know you’re out there. Storytelling through performance is the most important thing we do as a culture.
Finally, I encourage you to share your stories because you’re the only one with your particular point of view. And SallyPAL is here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of storytellers. I want you to tell your stories. All the stories ever expressed once lived only in someone’s imagination. Now, If you have something to say, you should say it!
Hi Friend! I've been on a short vacation. While you're waiting for next Monday's show, I hope you'll check out to "Twins Talk Theatre" where I was interviewed by theatre tech twins, Cynthia Hennon Marino (NYC) and Stacy Hennon Stone (LONG BEACH, CA). We had a great convo about producing new work, collaboration, and cheerleading for the arts!
I'll be back with regular episodes on Monday. You can look forward to my interviews with "Swim Pretty" author Jenny Kokai on June 25. She writes about mermaid culture and pretty white women who smile like pageant winners while making difficult athletic performances under water look like fun. We also talk about writing for people with disabilities, teaching with "Topsy Turvy Day" and finding your place in the world of storytelling.
On Monday, July 2, you'll hear the founder of the Parsnip Ship podcast, Iyvon Edebiri, whose brave idea to post live performances of new plays in a New York theatre is taking off in a big way. She talks about accidentally featuring plays with LGBTQ themes and her quest to honor a variety of writing styles and diverse voices. Her goal to promote playwrights of color is coming alive in the upcoming season of Parsip Ship.
July 9 you'll hear poet and social activist Deborah Hunter on what drives her art. Deborah's work with the homeless has led to several moving original live performances. Her work garnered a Jingle Feldman award and led to an Oklahoma Poet Laureate nomination. Deborah is a well regarded spoken word performance artist whose poetry has been included in several literary journals and anthologies. She's also a powerful advocate for the mentally ill.
On July 16 you get to hear choreographer, filmmaker, dancer, and director Charly Wenzel. Charly works with Teresa Fellion's Body Stories in New York. Her work combining dance and virtual reality filming is groundbreaking. She has a lot to say about telling stories using dance and the human form. Her interest in high and low tech fusion gives her work a sense of urgency that must be experienced to be appreciated.
Thanks for your enthusiasm for the upcoming episodes. I look forward to sharing all this and more over the coming weeks. Thanks for being my PAL in this storytelling adventure!
Hi Friend, I decided to take an episode of SallyPAL, the podcast I created, to share some thoughts about creating original work for a live audience and why it’s important. I’m your SallyPAL podcast host, Sally Adams. Every week I talk about creating original work for a live audience. Send an email anytime to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations coming.
Check out sallypal.com/join for a cool free theatre resource. You can be a Sally pal just by joining. There are other good reasons to join like theatre cartoons, inside scoop on fresh productions, and being part of a larger creator community.
I read a great article this morning that was a transcription of a speech by Playwright A. Rey Pamatmat. I include a link to the speech in my blog and show notes. In it Pamatmat describes his experience as an excluded person based on a number of things. He is part Asian, homosexual, and an artist. During his speech to a Humana Festival audience he says, “the things other people believed were limiting me—my ethnicity, my queerness, my open lack of shame about both—were actually the things that liberated me and made my artistic life possible.” That phrase alone speaks to why I started making my podcast.
As a long time arts teacher in K-12 schools, I found the kids who gravitated toward my classes had something to say. I believe everyone has something to say, but there are those (and this is strictly anecdotal) who have things they need to say. Furthermore, when it comes to people who are excluded from various parts of society, these kids have things to say that the rest of us need to hear. It’s why I continue my own drumbeat to create fresh work that sees the light of day. Because, as A. Rey Pamatmat says quite eloquently, teachers can, “subject… students to bigoted systems, possibly for the first time in their lives or… teach them about bigoted systems and how to handle them. The former shows them (and their peers witnessing their treatment) how to perpetuate bigotry when they’re leaders in the field themselves, while the latter gives them and their peers strategies for navigating and maybe even eliminating these challenges.”
This profound message comes in a time when many of us who regularly and thoughtlessly experience privilege see the conversations for equality on social media and wring our hands. We don’t know how to respond. And I’m not just talking about responding to LGBTQIA or issues of racial inequality. It’s not even a conversation about women versus men; or, the uphill battle people with disabilities face every day whether you use a wheelchair and can’t sit close enough to the stage to see the actors or you have an invisible disability that forces you to sit quietly while mental illness is misrepresented on stage. And we rarely even consider the frustration fat people feel when they can find few representatives in the theatre who aren’t punchlines.
The message for all of us working in performing arts is this: We have an opportunity to lead. We can lead each other in respectful conversations about our differences and what we each have to contribute to human culture. We can lead our audiences to a deeper understanding of humanity and oneness. We can lead our students and young artists to develop tools to handle and combat bigotry and perhaps even to eliminate it. And we should all be leading each other toward an understanding that each of us deserves dignity, respect and love.
For those of us who already enjoy access to audiences and opportunity, we have a responsibility to do some homework. Research ideas. Talk to people who struggle with your characters’ obstacles. Create work that celebrates difference. See shows about otherness and be open to conversations for equality.
This is probably where I should chastise my fellow artists who experience privilege and don’t participate in the battle to eliminate intolerance. But I am not a fan of the double negative. Fighting a “not” as in, “I hate the haters” is not nearly as powerful as living in the daily possibility for fairness. Mother Theresa once said, “I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.”
I am not suggesting that we all stop speaking out against prejudice. What I am suggesting is that we, as artists, begin to see our role as leaders. We should never gloss over the shameful behavior we see. But within that moment when you, as an artist, flip on the light and expose malice, injustice, hatred, and their subtler cousins you can make a difference. Lead your audience through the difficulties humans face through your storytelling ability. Create empathy in your audience members for the characters on stage.
I really encourage you to either read or watch Pamatmat’s speech because he is saying things we need to hear with the fluency of an artist. But more than needing to hear these things, we need to seek out these messages for the artistic growth they inspire. And finally, we need these messages for the social revolution they encourage that will ultimately bring peace and make us all better people.
Think of the exclusion of people who are different this way: Let’s say you’ve got this bank account and people pay you with direct deposit. You get paid mostly in American dollars. But every once in a while someone pays you with money from another country, Canadian dollars, Euros, or even Yen. Even though your bank accepts all of these denominations, you decide you don’t want to be paid that way so you tell all of these customers to pay American or forget it. We have lost a great number of important ideas because we don’t want to accept different denominations of currency. We are poorer for it.
There are a couple of things I often say on this podcast. One is that the audience is your last collaborator, the other is that stories create culture. If we, as artists, are not happy with the current state of the culture in which we live, then, by God, we have the most powerful tools ever created to change it. We tell stories. Stories create culture. Culture makes us who we are.
Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes. You, too, can be a SallyPAL. Sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join. Next week come back to the podcast to hear my interview with Jenny Kokai, author of Swim Pretty: Aquatic Spectacles and the Performance of Race, Gender, and Nature.
Thank you for following, sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, & thank you for listening. If you’re downloading and listening on your drive to work, or falling asleep to my whining and opining like my sister does, let me know you’re out there.
Storytelling through plays, dance performances, opera, concerts and other types of expression is the most important thing we do as a culture. That’s why I encourage you to share your stories because you’re the only one with your particular point of view. And SallyPAL is here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of storytellers. I want to help you tell your stories… All the stories ever expressed once lived only in someone’s imagination. Now, go create, collaborate and elevate the culture!
Hi Friend, welcome to the blog and show notes for Episode 41 of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast. On Episode 41, my awesome guest is Stage Manager Cynthia Hennon Marino.
Her work with the ground-breaking immersive-devised opera, The Wreck, is just one of the things we discuss.
I’m your SallyPAL podcast host, Sally Adams. And every week I talk to people about creating original work for a live audience. Send an email anytime to Sally@sallypal.com. Because your ideas keep great conversations coming every week.
Check out sallypal.com/join for a cool free theatre resource called the Creator’s Notebook. You can also be a Sally ‘pal’ just by joining. There are other good reasons to join. Members get theatre cartoons, inside scoop on fresh productions, and entry into a larger creator community.
Stage Manager Cynthia Hennon Marino hit the ground running after getting an MFA in Stage Management from the College-Conservatory of Music. She went to New York and got hired almost immediately. She became a production assistant on the Broadway production of Equus starring Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe in 2008.
Cindy's journey started when she and her identical twin, Stacy Hennon Stone, did props for the musical Anything Goes their freshmen year of high school. The two now host a podcast called Twins Talk Theatre. The show is a series of great convos about working backstage.
Sister Stacy is a professional technical director in Long Beach, California. But neither twin planned on becoming a theatre professional. Cindy started by pursuing a degree in math. Stacy started in the business school. But theatre has powerful magnetic pull.
Each Hennon sister graduated from a different college with a theatre degree. Cindy’s sister headed to Southern California. Cindy followed when she found work with Palos Verdes Performing Arts.
Cindy and I talk about Long Beach Opera, the opera, Nixon in China, the LA opera, Hopscotch, and Portland Opera. She currently stage manages the opera, Faust, with the Oregon company. This latest venture features 3-D projections based on the work of sculptor John Frame.
The projections and projection mapping are a collaboration among designers Frame, Vita Tzykun, David Adam Moore, and Duane Schuler. It’s received a lot of attention from a previous reveal with Lyric opera in Chicago. Opera Wire called this production “a visual feast for the ages.”
But Portland’s production isn’t the most progressive thing Cindy’s done this year. In March, she and a small contingent with Opera Omaha embarked on a rare journey. The work they created is unique.
The Wreck is an immersive devised opera created in only 10 days. The Wreck borrows music and other bits from Slavik mythology and mermaid folklore. It features the writings of Anne Sexton, Alice Walker, and Adrienne Rich. It also floats on the music of Donizetti, Schubert, and Von Bingen. Ukrainian composer Mariana Sadovska adds new music creating an eclectic, otherwordly piece set in Omaha… sort of.
I know you’re going to enjoy what Cynthia has to say about stage managing and opera. There’s plenty of fresh ideas in the world of live opera performance. I can’t wait to see what she does next. Be sure and listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
Concise Advice from the Interview
7) Stage manage a show as opposed to a genre of theatre
6) Help the designers make a safe working environment for the performers
5) Focus on the show and focus on the people and everything else will fall into place
4) Go see opera!
3) Use physical cues to show you are open to a conversation
2) Experiment and have fun!
1) Think outside of the box
Thank you for following, sharing, subscribing, reviewing and joining. And thank you for listening. Download the SallyPAL podcast and listen on your drive to work. Or fall asleep to my recitatives like my sister does. Just be sure to let me know you’re out there.
Storytelling through plays, dances, opera, and other types of performances is the most important thing we do as a culture. That’s why I encourage you to share your stories. You’re the only one with your particular point of view. And SallyPAL is here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of storytellers.
I want to help you tell your stories. All the stories ever expressed once lived only in someone’s imagination. Now… Think outside the box!
Darian Silvers is a multi-talented young man on a mission to change performing arts. He has been accepted to a summer Julliard program for young adults who plan to use art and collaborative skills to contribute to their home communities. The problem is funding. We can work together to fulfill Darian's goal to bring theatre arts to rural communities. Please join me in funding Darian Silvers' goal! https://www.gofundme.com/get-darian-to-juliard
Here’s Darian’s message:
Hello lovely supporters, thank you so much for visiting my page.
I was one of 50 applicants across the nation to be accepted into the Artist as Citizen Conference at Julliard this June. All I need is a little financial help for the conference and the plane ticket! If you know me, you know I'm a local director, artist, and fashion designer working in Houston.
The AAC Conference teaches lessons on artistry, entrepreneurship, and activism. I've often considered myself a multi-faceted artist who hasn't quite found his niche, but this conference gives me the opportunity to marry my love of telling stories with my passion for helping people who need it . Any amount is a huge help!
Creative Blocks are nothing new to writers. Creators struggle from time to time with the problem of how to start or finish a work of storytelling.
In my interview with Emile Adams, we talk about all the things having to do with writer's block and refueling the creative tank. Here are some resources we discussed that I want to highlight: The middle school club Emile mentioned was called Writer’s Block. It was an after-school creative writing group started by Mrs. Suzy Griffin and students at Edison Middle School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There were also shout-outs to Tim Long and Jerome Johnson from LoJoWERKz, Stephen Schwartz who wrote the musical version of Wicked, poet Sheila Black, Emile’s brother, playwright Will Inman, and their culturally savvy uncles in New York.
The “finishing the hat” reference Emile made comes from the lyric of a song from Stephen Sondheim’s musical, Sunday in the Park with George. It is also the title of a book by Sondheim about writing lyrics for the stage. For practicing writing stories in general, Emile and Beckett are both fan fiction writers. They also are familiar with Twitch and “Let’s Plays” which are mentioned during the podcast.
We talked about Emile’s dark family comedy, I Wish You Actually Liked Me (and other familial impossibilities). There were mentions of several resources including NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writer’s Month. We talked about art video games as well as some of her favorite games from the last 20 years up including Chop Suey, Brave, A Story About my Uncle, Bird Story, Undertale, Pharoah, and What Is A Belly Button? Finally, Emile encouraged everyone to travel. For her cross-country trip, Emile used AtlasObscura.com which led her to the fascinating Weeki Wachee Mermaids show in northern Florida.
If you listen to the podcast be sure and listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
Also, in case you are interested, here’s Emile’s Adams Mai Tai recipe from the podcast:
2 oz dark rum
2 oz pineapple juice
1 oz orange liqueur
2 oz ginger ale
Splash of juice from the maraschino cherry jar
Garnish with a chunk of pineapple and a maraschino cherry
Concise Advice from the Interview is where I share bits of advice from my guests. Here are 12 bits from playwright and author, Emile Adams:
12)Always have something to work on that excites you
11) Give yourself “mulling time”
10) A good idea won’t leave you
9) Have someone in your life with whom you can share your ideas
Fan Fiction and journaling can be good ways to get ideas out of your head
7) Wait a month before your first pass at editing your work
6) Treat your unfinished work as an exercise rather than a failure
5) Enjoy someone else’s creativity to fill your creative tank
4) Re-experience your own creativity. Distance will help you see it in a new light
3) Travel somewhere weird, do weird stuff
2) Don’t work on one thing for months and months and months
1) Feed your creative bits
Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes. You can be a “Sally PAL” by signing up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join. Thank you for following, sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, & thank you for listening.
If you are downloading and listening on your drive to work, or falling asleep to my Internet musings like my sister does, let me know you’re out there. I want you to share your stories. Storytelling through plays, dances, music, and other types of performances is the most important thing we do as a culture. That’s why I encourage you to share your stories because you’re the only one with your particular point of view. SallyPAL is here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of storytellers. All the stories ever expressed once lived only in someone’s imagination. Now… Go feed your creative bits!
Bowling for Inspiration with Sally & Emile
Rest assured, SallyPALs, Episode 40 is coming! My daughter, author Emile Adams, and I discuss creative blocks and fueling the creative tank. It's a fun and informative episode. If you're having trouble getting started on a project, have stopped after a strong start, or suffer with Creator's Exhaustion, we've got a podcast episode that will get you back on track. I'm still editing so, bear with me!
No SallyPAL podcast this week. Hope you can hold out a few more days for Episode 40!
Hi Friend, Welcome to Episode 39 of Sally’s Performing Arts Lab Podcast. Today you’ll hear my long-awaited talk with the multi-talented founders of LoJoWerkz, Tim Long and Jerome Johnson. I’m Sally Adams, your SallyPAL podcast host.
Every week I talk to people like the LojoWERKz team about creating original work for a live audience. We talk about practical matters such as finding a great stage manager, scheduling for a show, and booking the right venue. My guests and I also explore social issues such as "open writing" and inclusion, women's voices, and celebrating "otherness". Check out the show notes on the blog to get links to the things we talk about and see photos of my guests. Send an email anytime to Sally@sallypal.com. Your ideas keep great conversations coming every week.
Check out sallypal.com/join for a cool free theatre resource. It’s never too late to sign up and have access to the Creator’s Notebook. I’m interested in knowing what creators need as a performing arts resource. If there are things you want included in the Creator’s Notebook, let me know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I read them all. Be sure and listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
LoJoWERKz Graphic Arts Version of Jerome and Tim at Work
LoJoWERKz Tim Long and Jerome Johnson met in 1991 at Okmulgee High School in Oklahoma when Tim was a young substitute teacher doing music and art on the side and Jerome was a high school kid into street dancing. Today the pair form the foundation of LoJoWERKz productions. The innovative stage and screen entertainment company blends hip-hop culture with traditional genres and has garnered some very high level attention. Tim’s companion art label, TuTchT IMAGING, creates graphic art featuring models of color.
Before collaborating on their first full book musical, A Song of Greenwood, in the late 1990s, the two LojoWERKz founders collaborated on projects for the church they both attended. Higher Dimensions Church in Tulsa, led by Carlton Pearson, encouraged the pair’s creative expression and led to a working partnership.
The Cast of "Roofless" from the 2016 Table Reading
LoJoWERKz' current project, Roofless, started as a dance concert directed by the inimitable Tyrone Wilkerson for American Theatre Company in Tulsa. They worked the Roofless script into a full-blown musical and were awarded a place in 2004 into the ASCAP Foundation/Disney Musical Theatre Workshop. When they were accepted, Michael Kerker, Director of Musical Theatre for ASCAP, told them Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz was really impressed by their work.
Tim and Jerome have been mentored by Kerker and Schwartz since 2004. In 2005 they won the Harold Arlen Musical Theatre Award. Since that time the show has been called “groundbreaking”, “genius”, and “the future of the musical” by people who know what they’re talking about.
Tim has a background in film. He’s a 1988 graduate of the famously innovative CalArts. And he and Jerome have been working on a new approach Roofless. They gave SallyPAL an exclusive reveal of what’s next for this amazing show and it’s going to expand the musical form on many levels.
Tim and Jerome already have some experience creating a blend of new and old they both love. In the short film HotFoot, Jerome choreographs famous hip-hop dance artist Lil Buck in a silent movie that also features Jerome’s eight-year-old son Sage.
I’ve followed Lojowerkz for a few years and it’s really great to see this pair experiencing the success they deserve. They're just good people and there’s more ahead for both of these extraordinarily talented friends. They talk about a lot of exciting new things happening in the worlds of musical theatre, film, and hip-hop, including Lin Manuel Miranda’s works, In the Heights and Hamilton, and the work of artists like Lil Buck. You’ll hear Jerome’s son, Sage, in the background. Also, his wife, Tyff, makes a brief appearance.
If you listen to the podcast, be sure and listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview, and Words of Wisdom from George.
Concise Advice from the Interview:
9) Being an outsider can be an advantage. Use it.
8) Keep moving forward and surround yourself with smart people, you’ll eventually get where you need to go.
7) Listen to critique for the grain of truth but take advice from people who know what they’re doing.
6) Don’t try to reshape what you have to fit the marketplace, but do get in the system to get to the caliber of advice you need.
5) Submit your work once it’s performance ready.
4) Get into legitimate circles to hone your voice and your craft.
3) A great idea won’t leave you.
2) Know your voice.
1) Keep putting your foot on the gas and go.
Check out the blog, SallyPAL.com, for articles and podcast episodes. You, too, can be a SallyPAL. Sign up for a FREE Creator’s Notebook insert at SallyPAL.com/join. Thank you for following, sharing, subscribing, reviewing, joining, & thank you for listening. Thanks to Hannah for emailing me, it was awesome to hear from you!
If you’re downloading and listening on your drive to work, or falling asleep to my doobadooba fubar like my sister does, let me know you’re out there. You need to share your stories. Storytelling through plays, dances, music, and other types of performances is the most important thing we do as a culture. I encourage you to share your stories because you’re the only one with your particular point of view. And SallyPAL is here with resources, encouragement, and a growing community of storytellers. All the stories ever expressed once lived only in someone’s imagination. Now, keep putting your foot on the gas and go!