Brig and Stu hit TV and the web!

Hey, snow-enduring creatures of all kinds! There’s an interview with me discussing CLEAN ROOM and mask performance which airs on Portsmouth Public Media TV this week, and which is also available to view online. I had a marvelous time being interviewed by Bill Humphreys back in December as part of a series on the 2012 Spotlight on the Arts winners, and I think it came out pretty well! I spend a portion of the interview as each of my characters, so if you’ve been missing Brighina and Stupino (or you’ve never seen them before), this is your chance to visit with them.

If you live in Portsmouth, you can tune in to channel 98 tonight (Thursday the 13th) at 9 pm, or tomorrow (the 14th) at 11 am, or Saturday the 15th at 11 am.

Or you can watch the 26-minute interview any time you like at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCqq08t30dE

One other note–the interview includes a lengthy clip from the gorgeously filmed and edited trailer for CLEAN ROOM, created by Shay Willard. To see the full trailer, go to: http://vimeo.com/53951003

Big thanks to Bill and the crew at PPMtv for their support of my work!

 

 

CLEAN ROOM rocks WEST again!

My Spotlight Award-winning solo show, Clean Room, opened yesterday afternoon at WEST and I just want to say, PHEW! It’s always nerve-wracking to perform, and it’s particularly strange to remount a successful show, because you ask yourself: will it work this time? Will they like it as much as they did before? Have I still “got it,” whatever that elusive “it” may be?

Well, I guess I still have the required amount of the Elusive It, because yesterday’s performance went extremely well and was received with open arms by old friends and new audience members alike! Thanks so much to everyone who attended. . . and if you didn’t, you still have three more chances in Portsmouth. Clean Room will be at WEST on October 5, 11, and 12 at 8 pm. You can check out my Clean Room page for more information on the show and you can call (603) 300-2986 for reservations. (Or purchase online at www.actonenh.org.)

SEE YOU AT WEST!!!

 

 

CLEAN ROOM wins Spotlight Awards!

I’m thrilled to say that I’ve won two 2012 Seacoast Spotlight on the Arts awards for last fall’s run of Clean Room at WEST! I’m grateful for the recognition by the Portsmouth arts community, and also for the support of all my loved ones and colleagues who have made Clean Room a success through several patient years of development. But the awards were one bright, personal note in a week dominated by stress and concern on a wider scale.

Last Thursday night, I was presenting with the MAKE SURE IT’S ME/nh team at the Nashua Public Library. It had been a peculiar week: I learned about the Boston marathon violence while on the phone with NHPR’s Virginia Prescott–how bizarre to hear such news delivered right into my ear by a journalist I admire and usually listen to on my car radio! The scene in Boston mirrored all too closely the experiences of our characters in Make Sure It’s Me who have suffered blast-induced traumatic brain injury. So, as I prepared for Nashua on Thursday, I worried about framing our presentation in light of the current situation in Boston.

The presentation wasn’t easy that night, but we seemed to provide information and inspiration to some people who needed help. We distributed a lot of our TBI Fact Sheets, so that must be a good sign that something resonated with our audience.

But, as the library team debriefed about the presentation before splitting up for the night, something else was distracting me. My dear friend and MSIM cast member Pam Battin-Sacks was attending the Spotlight Awards show on my behalf that same night, just in case I won anything. I had written her an acceptance speech that explained why I was absent–giving a brief moment of attention to the MSIM project.

So, on the drive back from Nashua, I asked my cast member and car-pooler Conan Marchi to dig out my phone and check my text messages. Pam’s texts popped up: First, “You won Best Original Script!” Conan whooped, I shrieked, and much was the pandemonium as we (slowly and carefully) rolled through Newfields! Then, as we entered Newmarket: “You won Best Actress!

All I can say is, if you have to get great news, do it with a two-time Iraq War vet around. They know how to fist-pump and holler!

So, we rolled triumphantly into my driveway, where my geriatric hound was let loose for a happy bound around the backyard. Sadly, my husband Paul was in an airport in California waiting for a red-eye flight home, so he missed this whooping and bounding frenzy and had to celebrate with me telephonically a little while later.

Such is the life of a passionate but somewhat reclusive theatre artist and country mouse. I’m likely to grab any work-related excuse to avoid the social stress of schmoozing. I had been THRILLED that the awards show was on an MSIM night–I had a righteous reason to keep the scrutiny off me and to place the focus on military families. So there I was, after Conan took off. My dog resumed his place on his bed, and I waited a moment before I picked up the phone to call Paul. It was so, so quiet. In Portsmouth, I knew, the awards show was still wrapping up. In Cambridge and Watertown, I was to learn the next morning, a series of fatal shootings and a police chase were unfolding. The library presentation had been hard work and the faces of several of the attendees stayed with me. They hadn’t spoken, so I couldn’t know–did they suffer brain injury? Were they grieving someone injured, or dead? What had attracted them to the presentation? Why did they sit so silently, staring? When we spoke about TBI, what did they hear?

I called Paul and shared my wins. I called Pam and got all the details about the awards show and her role in it as my proxy. The funniest part, to me: I had been asked to provide a headshot for the Best Actress category. I had provided my standard headshot, but also a picture of me in mask as Stupino. The producers chose Stupino. And so, as Pam came up to collect my award, those in the audience who hadn’t seen Clean Room and don’t know me personally might have asked themselves,

“Who was that masked woman?”

Luckily, they will have the chance to find out in October. My Executive Director Stephanie Nugent has invited me to bring Clean Room back to WEST for Festival 2013. I’m honored and I look forward to sharing Brighina and Stupino with new audiences, as well as old friends. If you’ve never caught my act and would like to know what the fuss is about, check out the Clean Room trailer, created by Shay Willard.

Thanks again for your support, everyone. Stay safe. Protect your head. An award-winning actress told you so.

prison playwrights’ voices raised in NYC!

On Monday night, I was honored to attend the Voices Inside/Out staged readings at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in NYC. Voices Inside/Out is a playwriting program for prisoners at the Northpoint Training Center in Kentucky. Only in its second year, the program sends a professional playwright to Northpoint for one week in July to give master classes and editorial feedback to the prison playwrights. Monday’s readings were the result of scripts generated in 2011 under the tutelage of residency playwright Mac Rogers. I was invited because I was one of ten finalists for the 2012 residency! Although I wasn’t the chosen candidate (the winner was Holly Hepp-Galván), I was thrilled to be included in this special night–to meet the organizers (Lanie Zipoy, Montserrat Mendez, and Synge Maher); to hear the new plays read; and, as it turned out, to breathe the same air as actor extraordinaire Michael Shannon, who shambled onstage for the final reading with no warning or fanfare, pretty much causing my heart to explode. The plays were consistently well-constructed and presented nuanced characters. Overall, this was a strong collection of new writing, beautifully presented, that reflects well on Mac Rogers and the whole Voices Inside/Out team.

I applied to the Voices Inside/Out Northpoint Residency program because I’m interested in playwriting as an expressive outlet for people in extreme circumstances. For the last year, I’ve served as a volunteer mentor for the PEN American Center’s Prison Writing Program. I work with a prisoner in Texas who has spent 22 years inside and has never seen a live performance. His ear for character is extraordinary. He has chosen to write plays after trying both fiction and poetry because he’s inspired by the liveness of the stage space (which exists in his mind only, as he has no stage). He has extremely limited access to a typewriter, so all the letters and scripts I get from him are handwritten; creating multiple copies of scripts is incredibly laborious. But he not only writes, he also submits his work to theatres across the county, and even had a one-act play performed in a festival at Theatre Three in New Jersey several years ago.

All of this is inspiring, of course. It’s also extremely sobering because, in all of this gathering and exchange of energy–the prisoner is going nowhere. None of the playwrights whose writerly voices rang out in the Recital Hall on Monday night were present for the readings. My prison mentee spent the evenings when his show was performed in New Jersey in the same cell or rec area or dining hall in Texas where he spends all his days. I don’t find this situation innately injust–the justice system is badly flawed, for certain, and we need to work towards reforming it. But I am not suggesting that writing a play in itself should be a get-out-of-jail-free card.

What these playwriting programs do suggest to me, however, is that more *listening* must happen if we are to change the justice system. Fiction, poetry, and nonfiction writing can be solitary pursuits. A prisoner can study and practice the craft of writing, and even disseminate their work, on their own (which is not to say it’s easy). Sometimes these lone voices reach us outside and that’s remarkable and worth celebrating. But playwriting–the crafting of a work for theatrical presentation–is an inherently collaborative affair. And a play doesn’t really exist at all (as sad as I am to say it) until it’s been animated by actors and heard by an audience, no matter how small. Playwrights don’t know their own work until they’ve seen and heard them infused with life by collaborators.

So, what does it mean to encourage prison playwrights? It means to partner with them in collaborative work. I means to bring theatre to them, as often as possible. It means to build an audience outside for their words and their vision. It means to create a feedback loop of learning between those inside and outside. And It requires active, creative, compassionate listening.

This is a great place for me to stop–time for me to practice listening. Thanks for your own attention, and thanks to PEN America and to Voices Inside/Out for giving me so much to think about.