I’m delighted to bring the MSIM traveling presentation to the Manchester Vet Center on October 8th at 2 pm! A team of veterans will read the dramatic roles and we’ll have a talkback with clinicians from the VA’s TBI clinic. Thanks to Colleen Moriarty and Mearlene Filkins for bringing me and assembling the team. Admission is free but seating is limited, so RSVP by September 30 to Selena.email@example.com!
What a fantastic spring for ACT ONE and MSIM! In March, we gave a great presentation at the Red River Theatres in Concord, NH. In April I traveled to Greenfield, MA to lead the student veterans of Greenfield Community College in their own reading from Make Sure It’s Me. Then, in early May, I received a call from Ron Snow of the Brain Injury Association of NH, inviting Stephanie Nugent and I to their annual conference the following week. Why? To be presented with the Ellen Hayes Award!
BIANH’s Ellen Hayes Award is granted each year to the individual or organization who has done the most to advocate for and improve the lives of the brain injured and their families. We were chosen for our work on ACT ONE’s MAKE SURE IT’S ME/nh event series, which consisted of eight traveling presentations and fifteen fully produced performances based on Kate Wenner’s play about Traumatic Brain Injury in the military. Through MAKE SURE IT’S ME/nh, we reached over 800 audience members across New Hampshire and into Massachusetts, including civilians, veterans of several generations, military family members, and health care providers. Our presentations included the creation of the TBI Fact Sheets, created in collaboration with veterans service providers and sponsored by the American Red Cross and BIANH.
At the award presentation, BIANH president Laura Flashman shared extensive and glowing observations of our work: “The difference in making a good production into a great production is the knowledge of the subject matter. Leslie embedded herself in as many TBI-related commissions, collaboratives, and events as humanly possible. While admittedly a greenhorn in the beginning, she dedicated herself to learning as much as possible about this invisible wound. She spent countless hours visiting day centers, neuropsychologists, and speaking directly to veterans. Leslie’s smile is infectious, her passion is obvious, and her motives are full of sincerity and caring.
“While most of us saw Leslie in the forefront, her partner Stephanie was quite often behind the scenes. After seeing the final production in Portsmouth, it was obvious that Stephanie’s theatrical production talents are immense. When you put two amazing people together on a project like Make Sure It’s Me, the results change lives.
“Thank you ACT ONE for your tireless efforts on Make Sure It’s Me, and for helping to break down the barriers caused by Traumatic Brain Injury in New Hampshire.”
We are deeply thankful to BIANH for this recognition, and for their support throughout the implementation of this successful performance outreach series. We look forward to continuing to serve our state in the seasons to come, in various ways. So stay tuned!
Hey, all! The snow is not yet gone and I’m hitting the road already, sharing ACT ONE’s traveling presentation based on Kate Wenner’s MAKE SURE IT’S ME. This Wednesday, March 19th, we’ll be at the Red River Theatres in Concord, NH. Click here for an article from yesterday’s Concord Monitor about how we’re raising awareness about Traumatic Brain Injury affecting combat veterans and their families. My Executive Director Steph Nugent and I will be joined for this presentation by retired Navy Corpsman Nick Tolentino, former Marine Angela Molihan, and actor and MSIM supporter Paul Yarborough. Register to attend by writing to Ron “at” BIANH.org. Huge thanks to the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire for sponsoring this event!
Then, on April 10th, I’ll be leading members of the student veterans group of Greenfield Community College in another version of the presentation I shaped just for them. I was invited to GCC because Joshua Carnes is a student there–he’s the multi-talented photographer and Army veteran behind the images ACT ONE uses for our posters and TBI Fact Sheets. (His original photos accompany this post.) I’ll be joined there by MSIM playwright Kate Wenner and several of the veterans service providers I’ve met during this journey. . . and I’ll be sure to report back! For info on the GCC event, call 413-775-1868. I’m delighted and humbled to have the chance to bring so many people together around this powerful issue, using such a powerful script. So, if you are going to be in Concord or Greenfield, give us a look!
Phew, where did the end of 2013 go? Like many folks, I spent the holiday season rushing about between blizzards, visiting with family while dodging second and third helpings of dessert. Also, there’s the issue of a new, boisterous voice in the house:
But, in addition to such chaotic fun, I do have a few exciting theatre accomplishments and upcoming events to report.
My trip to the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord, MA reunited me with my former student Brian Boruta, who is now doing a marvelous job directing the Performing Arts department of this impressive organization. I performed CLEAN ROOM in the new “Downstage” space, and I also gave a three-hour workshop on Clowning to high schoolers. The workshop was a blast–what an intelligent and courageous group of young performers they were! I warmed them up with a few minutes of Brighina and Stupino, who laid out some basic concepts and got them talking and laughing. Then I just set the exercises in motion and watched the kids unfold. I love this work. . . you see brand new characters with physical mannerisms, postures, walks, and burbling sound tracks emerge in just minutes and then grow and refine themselves over the course of an hour or two as they interact with other creatures. It’s extremely empowering for actors of any age to discover that they don’t always need to be picked by a director to play a role written by a playwright in order to make theatre. All you need is your own self, no matter what physical shape you are in or how fluently you speak. And it allows us to let go of the pressure to look pretty or confident or sexy as we explore the more truthful realms of goofy and even grotesque. Love it! The kids seemed to really enjoy it, too, and they were courteous to me and each other. Kudos to Emerson Umbrella for inspiring such professional, joyful creativity in these young people.
So, that revived my love of workshop teaching and I hope 2014 will bring more of that! Stay tuned.
I rounded out 2013’s CLEAN ROOM work with a surprise invitation from Bill Humphreys to be interviewed by him for airing on Portsmouth Public Media TV, the local cable station for Portsmouth, NH. I brought my masks along and we had a fun and finely detailed conversation about acting, mask technique, and the process of devising CLEAN ROOM. That segment will air sometime soon, so again–stay tuned!
Lastly, MAKE SURE IT’S ME marches on in March, up to Concord, NH! The Brain Injury Association of NH is bringing ACT ONE’s traveling team to do a beefed-up version of our library presentation at the Red River Theatre on Wednesay, March 19th from 5-7 pm. The event will include a pre-show reception and talkback. Admission is free, but please register by visiting: http://www.bianh.org/awareness1.html
I have another MSIM opportunity in the works, and Steph Nugent and I have been hard at work crafting Festival 2014. So I look forward to sharing more news with you soon. Be well and stay cozy!
Wow, August just blew by as ACT ONE rolled out the first four weeks of Festival 2013! As Associate Director, I’ve had only administrative duties behind the scenes so far, helping my “boss” Steph Nugent to promote the shows and serving as cheerleader while she produced On Golden Pond and directed Last Train to Nibroc. I did some curtain speeches, too, which gave me the chance to meet some more of ACT ONE’s loyal audience members. Both of these shows received stellar reviews and I could not be more proud of the casts and crews! More shows are coming down the pike, of course, in this ten-week festival of theatre and concerts. You can read all about it at www.actonenh.org.
As for my own work, well, it’s rehearsal time for Clean Room again! You might remember that last year’s run garnered me the 2012 Spotlight Awards for Best Original Script and Best Actress. So, by all means, come and see this AWARD-WINNING show! I’m doing two runs this fall: I’ll be at the Festival at WEST on September 29, October 5, October 11 and October 12. For reservations, call (603) 300-2986, or visit www.actonenh.org to purchase tickets.
Then, I’ll be bringing the show to the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord, MA, November 14-16. I’ll give three performances and a clown workshop for teens down there. Click here for details and tickets!
As a last note for now: MAKE SURE IT’S ME composer Jason Crigler is bringing his sister Marjorie to Festival to present their show Defying the Odds. You may know that Jason is a brain injury survivor, and DTO tells the remarkable story about how the Crigler clan helped Jason find his way back to his life and his music. I’m deeply inspired by this family. They aren’t just kind, generous, and brave, they are also incredibly cool, in the “groovy” sense of the word. Their lives are full of color and texture and art and love, and so is their show. So, if all that sounds good to you, join us at WEST for Defying the Odds in September and October. Again, visit www.actonenh.org for all those dates and details. SEE YOU AT WEST, MY FRIENDS!
Well, it’s finally here, the moment when I can say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED after the successful conclusion of MAKE SURE IT’S ME/nh–part 1!
ACT ONE’s 2012-2013 season included TWENTY-TWO events inspired by and based on Kate Wenner’s play about Traumatic Brain Injury in the military:
- a meet-the-playwright teaser event last October at WEST
- a full reading of the script at Portsmouth Public Library last November
- FIVE library presentations in March and April
- FIFTEEN performances of the world premiere production at WEST in June!
Angela Molihan as SSG Annie Nichols and Christian Maurice as HM Jackson Cantrell
We hosted 590 audience members for the WEST production, and more than 200 for our teaser and library events–that’s a total of 800 people who participated in MSIM/nh!
Our audiences included military veterans of the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, and even WWII. Post-9/11 veterans were offered free tickets and all others were offered discounts. Many took us up on our offers–over 12% of our audience claimed veterans’ tickets. But even more told us they had served but wanted to pay full price to support our mission of serving military families coping with blast-related TBI. So the actual number of veterans who came to watch, to learn, and to share their stories and opinions with us was closer to 15%. We were delighted and humbled to host so many who had served, as well as their family members.
Kim Holliday as Sandy Ames
We also met audience members living with brain injury, or working in the health care or teaching fields where they advocated for the injured. We spoke with numerous concerned civilians who said we made the news reports they had been hearing for years suddenly come alive with meaning for them. I personally received so many hugs, so many hand shakes, and so many confidences from brave, struggling people of all backgrounds that it was difficult to take it all in. But we knew from the very first MSIM/nh event that we were doing important work and it was affecting people in positive ways.
Alissa Cordeiro as Angel Rodriguez
Well, our community is not letting us off the hook now. ACT ONE has been asked by our audience members, and the NH National Guard, and the NH Commission on PTSD & TBI, and the Military-Civilian TBI Collaborative, and numerous other organizations with whom we’ve come to partner with in the past year and a half, to please continue this work in some fashion in the year to come. And so we are putting plans in place to do just that, by expanding and refining our traveling presentation to reach the far corners of our state (and maybe beyond?). Playwright Kate Wenner is collaborating with us on all aspects of this effort, and I will keep you posted on our development process and event schedule.
To read more about all things MSIM/nh, and to see more great pictures, visit the MSIM/nh page. Thanks again to all of you for joining me and ACT ONE in what has been an extraordinary theatrical outreach initiative. Stay tuned. . . and in the meantime. . .
Come see some great theatre at WEST during ACT ONE’s Festival 2013!
ACT ONE’s June production of Kate Wenner’s Make Sure It’s Me was a huge success! I’m still writing thank yous, while madly drawing up plans for future MSIM events in New Hampshire in the coming year. I promise you more details soon, but for now, here is a glimpse of how it all played out . . . thank you all, Leslie
Angela Molihan & Sally Nutt in ACT ONE’s Make Sure It’s Me. Photo: Shay WIllard
Join us at the West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth this weekend for the final performances of ACT ONE’s world premiere production of Kate Wenner’s Make Sure It’s Me! Four out of five performances are packed to the rafters, but we have a few seats left for Sunday night, June 23, at 7:30! See you there for this powerful story of five brain injured Iraq War veterans and the doctor working to help them heal.
ACT ONE’s final weekend of performances of Kate Wenner’s Make Sure It’s Me approaches! There are just a few tickets left for June 21 at 8, June 22 at 8, and June 23 at 2 and 7:30. Call (603) 300-2986 to reserve your seat. Here’s what audiences have been saying:
“Amazing experience. Amazing cast. Amazing direction. Amazing choice.”
“I really loved the play. The actors’ portrayals were all “dead-on” whether they were playing soldiers, family members or caregivers. I thought it was such an emotionally accurate depiction of life after brain injury.”
“What a home run the performance it is . . . truly brilliant.”
“I was overwhelmed by the power, passion and content of this play……extremely well written…….with superb cast members. This play has captured so much of what we are learning and experiencing here in New Hampshire. We will be benefiting from MSIM for a long time after the performances are over. ”
Come to the West End Studio Theatre during our closing weekend to see what all the fuss is about! And thanks again to all our supporters throughout this long journey.
Still writing thank you notes to the kind, committed panelists who attended MAKE SURE IT’S ME last weekend. We hosted the NH National Guard’s Adjutant General, the former TAG, Jon “Chief” Worrall, LTC Steph Riley, our dear photog Josh Carnes, folks from the Manchester VA, Krempels Center, UNH Student Veterans Services, The Deployment Cycle Support Care Coordination Program, plus neighbors, loved ones, theatre colleagues and veterans of several eras. Five intense performances later, I send love and admiration to my cast and crew, and I look forward to seeing you again at our final weekend of performances, June 21-23. If you have yet to reserve your ticket, call 603-300-2986! Much thanks, and I’ll see you soon at WEST!