Category Archives: Performance

Life of Art interview: Heather Meyer

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? 

I am a playwright and actor and improvisor. I also work with The National Theatre for Children as a production associate creating educational comedy shows that tour around the country.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

Heather. Chicken. Cat. Comedy gold.

I work best when I have a lot of things happening. You know that saying that goes something like “if you want something done, give it to a busy person”? Well, that is how I have recently realized I work best. So I fill my time up pretty well and then give myself short deadlines to produce work. I also find that improv is like working out, it keeps a lot of gears and muscles in shape for both the actor part of me and the writer part.

 

Where do you find inspiration?

Eavesdropping on strangers.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

Usually, I just push the cat off of my laptop.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

Doing other things. Like entering a cake into the MN state fair (I did not win a ribbon) or learning hula-hoop tricks. I also have a blog that I self-indulge all over the place on www.cultureofdoingthings.blogspot.com

What does success look like to you?

I like when people remember my name after I meet them.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

Usually it’s concise and a little funny.

**

Thanks much, Heather! In case you’re not a Minnesotan, her MN Fringe show – Your Responsibility for Sex Failure – was a total hit this summer. Congrats!

Life of Art interview: Angeline LeLeux-Bajzek

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now?

My name is Angeline and I live in Tulsa, which is the place I grew up in and left as soon as I could. 20 years later, I’m back, to be closer to family. The roof stays over my head, at the moment, solely because I am married to my husband (who has a job, after nearly a year without one, hooray!) and we haven’t completely decimated our savings account. I am a piano and Alexander Technique teacher who has a few students and hopes to have more very very soon.

 What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I’m a pianist and Irish fiddler, a photographer, and a blogger. The music is an essential piece

Smart girls try lots of creative things.

of who I am because it’s been part of my life since I was three. I understand that there are some people who approach their music as a beloved muse that brings them happiness and sunshine, but for me it’s more like an irritating, everpresent relative that you can’t stand half the time but love to pieces anyway. I’ve recently gotten back into photography because I like noticing the little details and patterns of the world and working with light and shadow to make them more interesting, and I blog because I am seriously worried about our food system. I’ve learned that, without discipline, nothing happens, and that I can do several things reasonably well but not one thing astoundingly well. And, that I’m okay with this. Most of the time.

 Where do you find inspiration?

This is going to sound sappy, and I am really not a fan of sap, but it’s true: My husband William (http://william.bajzek.com/) is better than I am at everything. He’s an intuitive musician with a great ear who loves to practice, he understands the mechanics of photography and the rules of artistic composition, and he writes clearly and precisely. I’ve become better at everything I do since I met him, partly by osmosis and partly because I’m just trying to keep up, but also because he’s happy to discuss any and all topics of interest, talk through points of musical interpretation, read what I write, and point me to online photo tutorials. Besides that, I go to concerts and take lessons and classes and…just try to pay attention to what’s going on around me. I rarely get inspired to practice music, though – I have to force myself to sit down and do it, and it’s been pretty spotty lately.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

Mostly, sheer force of will (see note about practicing, above). Recently, I’ve tried writing longhand in a notebook when I don’t feel like getting anything done – something about seeing all of my lame excuses laid out on paper showcases their stupidity better than anything else.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

Sometimes, I do something else, as opposed to the thing that wasn’t working out right. Other times, I read a lot. Periodically, I curl into a ball and whimper. I’ve also been known to do all three at the same time. One of them usually works.

What does success look like to you?

It changes – I’ve earned (or am about to earn) money for everything creative that I do, but I can’t say I’m supporting myself at the moment, so I don’t feel terribly successful right now. On the other hand, having the ability, the funds, and the time to continue studying and trying things out looks a lot like success, from certain angles…

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

I have a lot of websites; here are some of them –

Piano and Alexander Technique: http://angeline-leleux.com

Irish music: http://castlerockduo.com

Photography portfolio: http://angeline-leleux.com/photos

Blog: http://inherfield.com

**
Thanks a million, Angeline, for your candor and enthusiasm. I know all about that curl up in a ball feeling, and I’m glad a not-me someone was willing to share what that’s like!

Life of Art interview: Elisa Korenne

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? 

I’m a singer-songwriter, storyteller, performer, teaching artist, and writer in rural Minnesota.  My bailiwick includes rock/folk/blues music, a multi-genre variety of original songs and stories about oddballs in history (most recently, my show ‘Oy Vey’ is Jewish for ‘Uff-da’ about Jewish immigrants to the rural Upper Midwest–there were some!), and the memoir I’m writing about moving from New York City to rural west central Minnesota.

Artist with panache rocks hat with veil.

I change my email signature regularly depending on who I feel the most like on any given day.  I collect income from a hodge-podge of performances, song commissions and royalties, grants, teaching opportunities, articles, and the occasional consulting gig (in a former life, I consulted for non-profits).

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I try to devote a few solid hours each morning to creating.  This works most of the time. I’ve learned that creating is a process, an unfolding that cannot be rushed.  I’ve learned that the best work takes a lot of time—usually much longer than I want it to—and that I need to honor the process for my best work to come forth.

Where do you find inspiration?

In those weird moments when what someone says makes a firework explode in my head and I think, “There’s a song in that!”  In spending time with other artists, especially those working in other genres.  In books.  In art galleries.  In theater.  In music.  In local history museums. In storytelling. In oddballs.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

I journal, mull, fret, and freewrite. Then I talk to friends and other artists about it until everyone is bored, especially me. Then I stop trying to fix it and just let it go, and the solution usually comes in a whoosh in some way I would never have actively figured out.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

I do something fun and creative, ideally something that engages me with art or nature:  I visit a museum, take a hike, swim in a lake, go to the theater, listen to different kinds of music.  Oh, and when that doesn’t work I go shopping and indulge in gourmet chocolate hazelnut tortes or the like.  Living in the country, it’s easy to find serenity in the slow pace here, so what I most need is excitement and a concentration of creativity.  That’s when I go visit the city.  Spending a few weeks every year at artist residencies in different places around the country is also reinvigorating.

What does success look like to you?

On my worst days, it looks like my name plastered all over the tabloids.  On my best days, it’s that moment when someone comes up to me after hearing a song of mine, and tells me how it changed them; how they felt understood, heard, and spoken to.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

You’ll want to listen to my songs on repeat.  You’ll be inspired and engaged by my performances.  You’ll be enthralled and amazed by my songs and stories about oddballs.  And you should buy my albums. And my book, when it comes out.

Learn more at www.elisakorenne.com.

Here are some links to her music: Road Trance and Honest Lies

To become a fan of Elisa’s work, follow her on Facebook

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Thanks, Elisa! As many of you know, Elisa was my director for the show I produced at the 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival. Her creative talents are awesome and she gets bonus interview points for using the word bailiwick.

Life of Art interview: Kevin T. Houle

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? 
I’m a husband and father, part-time office administrator, and community theatre director living in St. Paul, MN. I sit at a computer most of the day and put my organizational and administrative skills to work for a company that assists radio stations sell commercial time to regional and national advertisers. My artistic outlet is directing plays for local community theaters.
Is "community theater director" code for rabble rouser? You decide!

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I’ve been involved in theatre in one form or another since I was 14 years old. I’ve worked onstage, backstage, in administration, and production. Over time I completely lost my taste for performing and being in front of an audience, and after trying my hand at all the different aspects of theatrical production, I discovered that I’m at my creative best when I can help actors make discoveries in rehearsal which can lead to evocative, memorable moments in performance. I also learned that directing, like other disciplines, straddles a line between craft and art, and while I can always strive to master my craft, the eye of the beholder is what defines it’s artistic merit.
Where do you find inspiration?
Is “everywhere” too general of an answer? Reading, people, nature, TV, music, elite athletes, my wife’s dedication to her job (she’s an elementary school teacher), my daughter’s smile – they can all provide inspiration and motivation. One that that really gets me energized is reading about  the process other artist’s go through, because we all share the process of creation, but that process is as individual as the art being produced. I’m a firm believer that a quality process will lead to a quality product.
How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?
In community theatre, those barriers often involve limited financial resources, so it usually takes a more involved planning process to come up with creative ways to produce quality theatrical experiences that don’t cost and arm and a leg. That process demands strong and constant communication with your designers and production staff. With actors in rehearsal, it’s a lot of trial and error and I will suggest alternative ways to say a line or play a scene until we find the best way to communicate things clearly.
How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?
I’ve cut back significantly on the number of productions I’m involved with and have become pretty choosey about what kinds of projects I’ll take on. Significant time in between shows and time spent with my family always reenergize and regenerate my creative impulses.
What does success look like to you?
For me success is watching actors make discoveries in rehearsal – figuring out the playwright’s intent and then choosing the most entertaining and interesting way to communicate that to an audience. Helping and guiding actors through that process is what defines success for me as a director. It’s nice if the show is financially successful and/or well-reviewed, but I consider it a success if the actors found the process of putting it together to be a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience.
What do you want people to know about you and your work?
By doing most of my work in community theatre, I’ve been able to work on a broader range of productions than a lot of professional directors. I’ve directed a wide range of dramas, comedies, musicals, and children’s shows. I’ve done full-length plays, one-act plays, and 10-minute plays. I’ve directed plays by Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Noel Coward, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Woody Allen, Horton Foote, George Bernard Shaw, and many, many others. Community theatre has allowed me to share a professional sensibility and process with people who might be theatrical newcomers or veterans. Professional and semi-professional theatre can sometimes be quite insular and self-important, but community theatre allows anyone to be involved in one of the world’s oldest and greatest art forms – whether as a participant or an audience member.
**
Thanks for sharing your perspective, Kevin! I love that community theater is an “everybody in the pool” kind of endeavor. It convinces me even more deeply that anyone can have a satisfying creative life if they’re willing to make the time for it.
You can find Kevin on Twitter — follow @kevinhoule.

Teaching as performance: an essay elsewhere

When I set out to write, produce and perform my original one woman show about the classroom experiences of a Minneapolis French teacher, Pardon My French, for the Minnesota Fringe Festival last summer, I had three goals that would help me know I’d been successful:

  1. Have fun
  2. Have supportive friends in the audience
  3. Avoid puking on my shoes in front of everyone

. . .

Find out what teaching and performance have in common over at the Minnesota Playlist

if a blogger neglects to post, does anyone notice?

Not really. Which is good. I’m in a dormant phase right now, gathering my energy to work on my next big project. But I wanted to give you a quick rundown of my insights from this winter’s creative activities.

  1. I thought doing a remount of my show would be easier than doing it the first time, but it was actually more challenging. I didn’t have all the “yay you doing something scary for the first time” friend and family support – it was just an extra thing I wanted to do. I didn’t know how important that support was to the artist living in my skin: I know how to show up and do the work in many areas of life. And I know that performance takes a lot more out of me emotionally and spiritually than any other work I’ve done before. I love my show, I love performing my show, and I love that audiences (especially other teachers) connect with the content of it.  And it took a lot out of me, which surprised me more than it maybe should have.
  2. Seasonal depression is a bummer. Even with the consistent use of a happy light and taking supplements and getting plenty of exercise and being attentive to scheduling fun activities for myself, I spend the months of November through March at about 50% strength (on a good day.) I ache in the winter, not from the Minnesota cold and snow, but from what feels like my brain going *fut-fut* and *fut-fut-fizzzz* trying to make enough serotonin to keep me feeling normal. Still working out strategies. At least this winter was much more successful than last winter.
  3. I love The Moth. And This American Life. And doing live readings. I have much to learn about storytelling and live readings and comedy and audience and voice. Please direct my way any resources you think I might like or find useful. And! Please send me the courage to start pitching my stories.
  4. I haven’t sent out any of my writing for over two years. As I mentioned in my previous post, working on my show and learning improv has occupied most of my creative time. Right now, I don’t have anything to send out, but that is going to change. I’m not too sure where to start, but I’ll keep you posted.
  5. I’m finally reading again. It has been about 4 years since I’ve been an avid reader. My MFA program burned me out a bit, so I needed a break. Now, I am tired of my old ideas, and I’m stocking the pond with new ones. Please post your book recommendations in the comments, and find me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with what I’m reading.