Dead-Lines Workshop Returns in June!

I’m delighted to once again be leading the Dead-Lines Creative Obituary & Ode Writing Workshop for the Pre-Dead Social Club! The PDSC was founded by artist and end-of-life doula Laura Cleminson, and hosts a variety of events to help us have more open conversations around the tender issues of death and dying. Last fall, I had the privilege of developing the Dead-Lines workshop with Laura and we had a blast, so we’re bringing it to Exeter, NH on June 6th & 13th, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.  Our hosts will be the Art Up Front Street gallery. Space is limited, so reserve your spot ASAP HERE!

We’re also loving our new studio in Durham, so stay tuned for more news of doings there. Cheers!

BLUE: An Obituary

Happy September, all!

I’ve had the great fortune this summer to begin a new collaboration with Laura Cleminson, founder of the Pre-Dead Social Club, a Seacoast, NH-based organization whose mission is “to make having compassionate conversations about death and dying a bit easier, less burdensome and more tenderhearted before it’s too late.” It’s a fascinating group, and I suggest you check out the site to see all the events in store. But, for the next two weeks, I’ll be on deck leading the PDSC’s DEAD-LINES, a Creative Obituary-Writing Workshop!

I’m sure I’ll have more to share with you about this whole experience, but in the meantime, one preparation I’ve made to lead this workshop is to write an obituary myself . . . for my first clown character. I was casting about for a subject to write about that felt pertinent and emotional but not too vulnerable, and I also happened to be reviewing digital footage of my year in clown school. I realized, Blue is dead, and I mourn her. So I marshaled my skills to tell her story, truthfully, but with a bit of humor. Enjoy! And I’ll report back to you on the workshops after their done.

BLUE: An Obituary

The feisty, mercurial clown character known as Blue was declared officially dead on April 27th, 2023, after a decades-long decline spent mostly out of the spotlight. 

Blue was born fully-grown in the spring of 1995 in Blue Lake, CA, at the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre. The exact date is unknown, as her birth was multi-phasic and included several abandoned makeup designs. In her heyday, Blue was known for her daring-to-the-point-of-reckless acrobatics, which often surprised audiences distracted by her curvaceous frame. Blue sported a vertically striped baby-doll dress worn over flowered bloomers and a gleaming teal unitard that screeched “80s fitness craze” at the top of its thrift-store lungs. Yes, tights from thrift stores are somewhat sketchy, but Blue was unafraid of where that thing had been. She was unafraid of so much in the early days. 

Blue’s brother Max was her partner in art, with their career-making performance arriving in the summer of ‘95, just months after their joint birth. In “Maximum Blue,” the pair danced jitterbug and viciously laid hands upon one another: Blue clawed Max in the privates, and he responded by bashing her face into the wall once, twice, then one more time. As for so many siblings, this violence hinted at disturbing erotic undercurrents, to the delight of Blue Lake audiences. 

After that giddy summer, Blue found herself the proud owner of both lumbar and cervical injuries that only worsened in the coming years. When acrobatics became too difficult, she allowed herself to be mostly subsumed into the mask character, Brighina. Brighina’s use of speech allowed Blue to perform less extremely physical performances, although she still danced. Indeed, Brighina’s greatest work, Clean Room, which expanded on the themes of love and violence within the family unit, was greatly served by Blue’s mischievous facial expressions and poignant gestures of the wrist. But it was hard for Blue to see her contributions go unacknowledged as Brighina’s star rose, and she fell into a depression that never really lifted.

Throughout the aughts, Blue periodically attempted comebacks, pushing herself through grueling training sessions which resulted in additional injuries and debilitating pain. Hobbled, she attempted to practice acceptance and content herself with watching from the wings or the audience as other artists ran, jumped and flew. But, in the back of her mind, Blue repeatedly thought, “Once I’m better, I’ll be back up there.” This delusion persisted until April 2023, when rheumatologist Daniel Kunz pronounced her death sentence: “You cannot do those things anymore. Ever.” Within the span of an hour, Blue had died, in a flood of tears in the overheated car, still parked in the lot behind the hospital.

There is archival footage of Blue at the literal peak of her powers, standing tall on the shoulders of her brother, Max. She reaches out her arms, elbows hyper-extending as she strains to grasp an enormous rainbow-colored lollipop suspended from the ceiling. When Blue finally plucks it into her hands, her astonished grin is so wide that her teeth resemble fangs ringing the black cavern of her mouth. With shining eyes, and with syrupy stage blood staining her lips, arms and hands, Blue’s joy swirls together all the pleasure and all the pain of the moment, until they are indistinguishable. You can see her eyes dart to the audience and hear the laughter rise and rise. And then, as she leaps to the ground, you hear the applause. 

That’s me as Blue with my partner, Chris Whalen, as Maximum Damage.

A fond goodbye to the Cedar Street studio!

After a glorious final month of classes, we’ve closed the door to the Cedar Street studio.

Many thanks to our students, theatre collaborators & audience members for your support over the past four years!

Stay tuned for news of workshops and events later in the year,
as Lemon Punch Theatre Lab continues to make space for play.

Here are some of the many memories we’ve made over the past four years . . .

Carol Raiche sported her hoodie for Escaped Alone rehearsal,
and James Grillo surprised me by showing up to perform in ourStory/Creature/Scene showcase in his LPTL tee!

I confess that one reason for starting my own business was to rock some merch! Who doesn’t want a snug sweatshirt with a cool logo? And who doesn’t want their life’s motto on a t-shirt?

But back to the beginning . . .
Way back in 2019, leading warmups for Scene Study class!

Brad Ritchie and James Grillo getting intense in a scene from True West.

When the pandemic hit, we all scrambled onto Zoom and learned new skills!

I had to learn quickly how to produce Zoom classes and performances, turning my home office into a command station. But it was hugely gratifying work, and, together with colleagues existing and new, Lemon Punch produced three Lemon Live Festivals, one evening of lengthier staged readings, and a brand new one act that I created with Pam Battin-Sacks and Steve Sacks,
I’ll Be Right There

And I give a huge shout-out to theatre KAPOW‘s Matt & Carey Cahoon for inspiring me and sharing tips for creating the best virtual theatre experiences!

Peter Leonard-Solis was a Lemon Live actor who really worked the Zoom frame, and who happily continued to play with us in the studio after re-opening!

One of my new online colleagues, playwright and actor Matt Cogswell, worked with me throughout the Lemon Live festivals and into a series of Physical Comedy classes. He even joined us for Improv last month!

I was delighted to “reunite” with him in the real world once the studio reopened and we could go back to the theatres. Other colleagues from this time period whom I continue to cherish include the women of the Blue Cow writers’ group in Providence.

Here’s a picture of Mary Sapp & Orlik Guzman in a chilling scene with the guillotine. Photo by Tim Gurczak.

I also had the joy of using the Lab to rehearse two New Works shorts and two main stage shows for The Firehouse Center for the Arts. in 2022, I directed Lauren Gunderson’s THE REVOLUTIONISTS.

Branwyn Ritchie as Charlotte Corday. Photo: Tim Gurczak

Mikayla Bishop as Marie Antoinette. Photo: Tim Gurczak

Last fall, we installed smart lights and reorganized the space to create a performance venue for Story/Creature/Scene.

***This is a good time to acknowledge that “we” often means “my husband Paul,” who often had the brightest ideas and always went up the ladder for me when I needed him! Thanks, Paul! 

I taught myself QLab, so I could run sound cues from my computer. Meanwhile, I ran lights through my iPad. What a world!

This crash course was helpful later when I designed my own sound for Trifles & Escaped Alone. It’s amazing what you can do with the aid of YouTube tutorials!

Deborah Baker co-devised a solo piece with me, Holding Sway. It was a lovely process of brainstorming, co-writing, and choreography. 

Carol and James kicked theatrical butt in a short play I wrote for them, You Are Here. They were hilarious, eerie, and extremely playful!

Peter brought his clown out of Zoom and into the Lab in Ophelio Wakes Up.

Photo by Justin Lahue, scenic design by Justin Lahue, lighting by Ben Bagley.

Last but far from least, it was a great joy to rehearse Trifles & Escaped Alone in the Lemon Punch studio, a setting enhanced by two exquisitely written texts performed by two dynamic casts. John, Steve, Dan, Rebecca, Pam, Sally, Barbara, Carol & Becky, it was an enormous privilege to work with you and watch you perform–every single time!

Huge thanks to Pamela Battin-Sacks & Steve Sacks, 
who co-produced this show with The Firehouse. Great work, my friends!

Like Boris, I have more mischief planned in the coming months!

Thanks once again to all those students and colleagues who brought your artistry to the Lab, and to our audiences and supporters.
Best wishes in your work and play.
See you again soon!

Welcoming 2022 at Lemon Punch Theatre Lab!

Phew! What a year, yes? I’ve wound up classes and coaching at Lemon Punch Theatre Lab for 2021 with tremendous gratitude to the students, audience members and friends who cheered us on as we kept the lights on in the studio, while hopping back on Zoom when COVID exposures threatened. Like many performance and training venues, we are adopting a hybrid schedule as we approach 2022. I are staying hopeful, but remaining careful as I lead the Lab into the new year!

First off, I’m delighted to announce that I’m directing Lauren Gunderson’s THE REVOLUTIONISTS for The Firehouse Center for the Arts! That show opens on March 11th, and I’ll be hosting many of the (COVID-protocol following) rehearsals in the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab studio. This is what the space is for–to create art!!! I haven’t held rehearsals there since January 2020, so this makes me extremely happy.

Next, I’m expanding my Thursday pay-as-you-go offerings in January and February by alternating my successful and filled-to-capacity “Not-So-Cold Readings” with “Between the Lines” classes, which will focus on all the physicality that fills our scenes in and around the text. All in-person class participants must be fully vaccinated and agree to follow the Lab’s “COVID-safer” policies, which include staying home if you are symptomatic and being ready to pivot to Zoom if the situation requires it. This fall, we moved to Zoom for two classes following a possible exposure, and we also happily used Zoom one stormy night when we thought it was unsafe to drive! It’s great to have a new tool to help navigate the winter season.

Last update: I’m rolling out a Zoom-only Scene Study class in January for some folks who wanted to stay tucked in at home. And before we know it, spring will come, and hopefully we can all breathe easier as we continue to make and enjoy theatre. Best wishes to all!

Lemon Punch Theatre Lab has reopened!

On June 1, Lemon Punch Theatre Lab reopened our studio space at 14 Cedar Street in Amesbury for fully-vaccinated students! This month, we are doing one-on-one coaching, and we plan to bring group classes back in-person in August, after a much-needed break! We are also continuing to teach acting and playwriting via Zoom. Stay tuned for news of future in-person and Zoom offerings!

Here’s how our sunny, air-conditioned space looks this week:

And here is our sanitation station–we also have our own handicapped accessible bathroom inside the space!

We hope you’ll join us soon for in-person theatre making! Be well and stay safe!

busy busy busy!

We’re shaking’ booties at the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab studio!

I feel neglectful of this blog because I’ve been so busy developing, promoting, and teaching classes at my new studio! Please know that all is well, and if you’d like to see what’s happening over there–and even join my newsletter’s mailing list–you can visit my studio’s website HERE!

Lemon Punch Theatre Lab is LIVE!!!

I am absolutely delighted to announce the opening of my new teaching and theatre making endeavor, Lemon Punch Theatre Lab LLC! Located at the artists’ mill building at 14 Cedar Street in Amesbury, MA, the Lab features lots of light and space and . . . its own rest room! Woo hoo for Studio 207A! I also have a marvelous landlord and many great artist neighbors there. Stay tuned for more Lemon Punch Theatre Lab news. For now, visit my new website to learn all about my class and workshop offerings for Fall 2019! And enjoy a couple pictures of the space, complete with special guest to demonstrate the scale of it!

clowning around Dartmouth

I had a delightful visit with Dr. Laura Edmondson’s Theatre History class in late February to demonstrate mask work and how the tools of commedia dell’arte can serve us as theatre makers today.  I was joined in the masks by a couple of Laura’s fearless students, Holden and Ellie. Enjoy!

 

 

masked again, at last!

Leslie Pasternack demonstrates mask technique with her character Stupino.

In August I was honored to give a workshop to theatre KAPOW, a superb company of NH theatre artists who bring both classic and new plays to life, and also generate original material through communal devising.  Each summer they have a retreat in which they bring in specialists to explore particular performance techniques, and this year I was asked to lead a workshop in mask.  Company founders Matt and Carey Cahoon, along with company member and Board President Peter Josephson and others donned hats, scarves and half-masks of my own construction to improvise solo and duo turns in the beautiful converted barn that serves as their retreat studio. We had a marvelous two hours together creating new characters and exploring the technical challenges and surprising freedoms that come when you work in mask.

tKAPOW has worked in mask in the past and plans to incorporate masks in several ways throughout this year’s season.  Check out their 2017-18 lineup here.  And scroll down for pictures of the tKAPOW players (plus Peter’s dog, Henry) in mask:

Peter Josephson and Matt Cahoon

Rachael Longo and Henry the Dog

Carey Cahoon

Matt Cahoon

Cranky Peter!

Amy Agostino

 

 

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors in 2016!

Happy New Year, everyone! 2015 was a time of sadness for my family, as we lost my mother Elaine in June after her long struggle with lung cancer. I am glad to say that I am picking up the threads of various projects I had put aside while I was caring for her and I hope to report on big doings in the coming year.

To start off, I will mention that Mindfulness Through Clown, which I announced in December, was postponed due to holiday madness. But I am actively developing this workshop with my colleague Nancy Garnhart of Yoga in ME and will let you know when it is ready to roll out.

In the meantime, my prison playwright mentee Keith has had a ten-minute play accepted to the Santa Cruz Actors’ Theatre’s 8 Tens Festival, which opened last weekend! I will be heading there next week to see Keith’s play myself, but the director has already sent me some pictures. Here are some production photos of Rock, Paper, Scissors, written by Keith Sanders, directed by Evan Hunt, produced by Wilma Chandler, and photographed by Jana Marcus:

rock1 rock2 rock3