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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in New York City (81)

Wednesday
Oct152014

Call Answered: Facetime Interview with Stephen Land, Real Men Wear Pink Calendar

Stephen Land ("Mr. April"), founder of "Real Men Wear Pink" Calendar, Photo Credit: Michael Craft of Twisted ImagesStephen Land and Call Me Adam, Photo Credit: Logan Vollmers"Call Me Adam" went live on location to Shadow Boxers in NYC to talk with New York City Nightlife Entertainer Stephen Land about creating the Real Men Wear Pink Calendar as a response to his mother being diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. All proceeds of the calendar go towards those who can not afford Breast Cancer Treatment.

Come join Stephen and all the models for the Real Men Wear Pink Calendar release party on Wednesday, October 22 from 6pm-9pm at Shadow Boxers in NYC (40th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue).

Pick up your calendar at http://www.realmenwearpinkcalendar.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram!

 

 

 

"Call Me Adam" interview with Stephen Land:

Stephen LandMore on Stephen:

Stephen Land is a NYC Nightlife Entertainer and Model. He works professionally in Specialty Retail Management and Political Public Relations. In the Nightlife industry he is known as GoGo Stephen NYC. His work entails Hosting and Promoting parties, Dancing, Singing, and Producing events. Stephen's work can be seen on Instagram @GoGoStephenNYC1.

Tuesday
Oct142014

Call Answered: David A. Gill: Providence the Play

David A. Gill"Call Me Adam" chats with actor and playwright David A. Gill about his new show Providence playing at the Roy Arias Stage IV in NYC (300 West 43rd Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) through October 26. Providence is about a group of misfit travelers who find themselves in the wrong place at the right time. Through their confrontations, secrets are revealed, discoveries made, and destinations altered forever. Providence takes a compassionate yet wildly funny look at love, guilt, betrayal, nonsense, and finding your nature, and teaches us that Salvation isn't a place you can arrive by bus. Click here for tickets!

For more on Providence be sure to visit http://www.providencetheplay.com and follow the show on Facebook!

1. From October 9-26, your show, Providence will be playing at the Roy Arias Stage IV theatre in NYC. What excites you about this upcoming run? The whole theater experience excites me, but most of all the actors do! They have such a great creative energy, and I am so happy to be working with them.

2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I think the sense that we should never take people at face value, that there is almost always an underlying cause to their behavior, a story that’s hidden away, and that is guiding their actions.

Cast of "Providence" Geri-Nikole Love, Nick Adamson, Joel T Bauer, Todd Butera, and Carla Briscoe, Photo Credit: Pepe Pombo Photography3. What has been the best part about watching this cast bring your work to life even more? For me, it’s that they get it, that they are making all the connections I intended, and then some. They truly are a collection of smart, sensitive, instinctive, and unique talents, and they deserve to be seen – they are magical.

4. Out of all the bus stations in the world, why did you choose to set the show in Providence, RI? What is your connection to the city? I summered on Cape Cod every summer of my life till I was in my mid-Twenties, and traveling to and from, it became apparent that Providence is The Hub of that area. Wherever you’re going, you inevitably have to stop in Providence before heading back out towards your destination. The name is also pretty apt.

Nico Allen, Carla Briscoe, and Joel T Bauer in "Providence", Photo Credit: Pepe Pombo Photography5. Since Providence centers around a group of stranded travelers and them ultimately finding salvation, when in your life have you felt stranded and how have you found salvation? When have I not? I think the journey is spotted with periods of feeling stranded, at many different levels of emotional weight, but I think these are the times we learn most about ourselves, and our resilience as human beings. We are adaptive creatures, so when we learn to adapt we grow. So think of being "stranded" as a forced holding pattern for rumination, decision making, and ultimately moving on.

6. What is your favorite part of the creative process in putting a show together? I do love the readings. I do a lot of workshop readings with different sized audiences, where I listen for what works and what doesn't work, and then go back to fine-tuning the piece. It helps to get the voices out of your own head, and into someone else’s voice, to see whether or not the language is true.

Nico Allen, Nick Adamson, and Geri-Nikole Love in "Providence", Photo Credit: Pepe Pombo Photography7. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? It would have to be my father who instilled a love of the written word, as well a passion for the theater and film, in me at a pretty early age (whenever I came home from college, he would have a stack of The New York Times Arts & Leisure sections set aside for me). My favorite films are the old ones from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s where the dialogue is so important – things people said, and the way they said them, were integral. Second, as an actor, I know and understand the stage instinctually – it’s always been the place I’ve felt most at home, so it was the natural evolution for me.

8. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Anyone who knows me could answer this question for you. Angela Lansbury. It’s not a joke – look at her career in film, theater, television! There is a reason she is one of the most highly regarded actresses of hers or any other generation. I could go on and on…I do! See the play!

David A. Gill9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Trust your instincts.

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright? Oh Lord – a lot! They say you should always write from experience, and that is absolutely true, but while doing so, you tend to drudge up past issues and emotions you thought you’d buried away. Then you analyze them to death in order to find something worth sharing, and all that can be a rough ride. What I’ve learned through my writing is to finally deal with these issues, put them in a place of understanding (either comically or dramatically, but hopefully in a unique and interesting way), and eventually find closure.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? To breathe under water. Is that a super power? I’ve always had a fondness for Aquaman.

12. If you could be any original Life Saver flavor, which one would you be? Lime. Love me some lime.

13. How do you want to be remembered? Besides all the fantasy stuff about Tony Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes, I think I would like to be remembered as that playwright who made people laugh out loud, and then cry on a turn; who made people think more profoundly about their own lives, and who really understood the emotional fabric that life is made of. Oh, and a good person.

David A. GillMore on David:

David is the author of California (one act), and has just completed his second full length play, Experimenting with Katz, which is currently being submitted to various play festivals and theater groups. He is also the co-author of two television pilots with Tony Nation, both of which are being represented by Bohemia Group. As an actor he was last seen on the Gray Wig stage at Hofstra University as "Bobby" in Company, and before that as "Will Parker" in Oklahoma!, and has numerous other local and regional productions to his credit. He originated the title role in the Chicago production of Jeffrey (Transient Theater), as well as "Arthur" in Love, Valour, Compassion (Victory Gardens), and can be heard on the original cast recording of Fairy Tales by Eric Lane Barnes.

Friday
Oct032014

Call Answered: Anthony Inneo: All Her Faces: A Portrait of Dusty Springfield

Antony Inneo"Call Me Adam" chats with playwright, actor, and director Anthony Inneo about his new show All Her Faces: A Portrait of Dusty Springfield, an homage to Dusty’s talent and vocal versatility. It is a fast-paced rock concert that presents not only her famous hits but introduces many of her unknown songs. All Her Faces plays at Workshop Theatre Company's Main Stage (312 West 36th Street, 4th Floor, between 8th & 9th Avenue) in NYC from October 14-26. Click here for tickets!

For more on Anthony be sure to visit http://www.anthonyinneo.com!

1. From October 15-26, your show, All Her Faces: A Portrait of Dusty Springfield is being presented at Workshop Theater Company's Main Stage Theater in NYC. What are you looking forward to most about having this show, in it's current form, on it's feet? That it will work exactly as my blood, sweat 'n tears (to coin a phrase) and imagination predicted. The original version (to see if it had "legs") was 50 minutes with 16 songs and a very slim narrative; this version is 90 minutes with 32 songs which has been fleshed out, considerably, and is ready to be moved into a 299 seat Off-Broadway house.

2. What made you want to write a show celebrating Dusty Springfield's voice/music? Why did you want to write this show more as a concert as opposed to a bioptic piece? Short answer: I’m not interested in anyone’s dirty laundry; never was. I make that perfectly clear on the website and in press releases: I wasn’t interested in presenting her life. Anybody could write that today, especially with all the information available to us. I purposely decided to leave the troubled yet gifted singer to the voyeurs of Hollywood and create All Her Faces to celebrate a vocal instrument and its versatility which CANNOT be duplicated. The confidence Dusty exuded on vinyl was a facade that masked severe insecurities and addictions to drugs and bouts with self-mutilation and fear of losing her career if she was exposed as a Lesbian. Personally I think Lesbians should be very proud of Dusty and what she's done and the musical legacy she left all of us. Lesbians and Gays alike - particularly the young ones - should unite and come running to see this show, if only to found out how Dusty, by sheer talent and tenacity, raised the bar for people (like them and all of us) with an extraordinary talent way back in the 60’s and 70’s when it was not in vogue or fashionable.

Dusty Springfield3. Aside from All Her Faces: A Portrait of Dusty Springfield, being more of a concert piece, what made now the right time to present this show, considering the Off-Broadway show Forever Dusty just finished it's run in 2013? TIMING. I’m going to say this a lot, I guess. All Her Faces is not unlike any musical being presented on Broadway or Off. It is scripted and has a "book" with a plot that tells a story. To make that interesting, I placed it within the conceit of a rock concert. The other show was a prime example how the so-called "creatives" can fall into the trap of making all the mistakes a bio musical could make. Since 2005, I made it a point to know my competition; I knew every show and film that was being considered, written or performed about Dusty. So when the other show appeared at the New World Stages (which I saw three times), I had to put All Her Faces on hold and wait until the "dust" settled. Pun intended. Now is the perfect time to resurrect Dusty and show the world what she was really made of. I am constantly saying and will continue to say: All Her Faces is the only way you want to remember Dusty Springfield.

Anthony Inneo4. Since you are the writer and director of All Her Faces, how do you separate yourself from writer/director during the rehearsal process? Do you ever have trouble letting go of something as the writer, but as the director you know should be cut?

No. I’ve never had that problem. I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess. I know exactly what "hat" I’m wearing and when I’m wearing it. I’m constantly aware of what’s best for my babies and will adjust accordingly. Actually I’ve learned to rely totally on the creative process within ME - and it has served me well. I have just finished the final draft of a full-length dramedy that explores that very topic: "Orange Juice and Bagels." Of course, there are always tradeoffs that have to be made, but the project - no matter what it may be - will always (in my hands) come out the winner.

5. What excites you about having this cast help bring this show to life? They're new, they’re young, they’re talented, and by being present and working on the material, they’re helping me see beyond what I may have been thinking.

Dusty Springfield6. What do you relate to most about Dusty Springfield's music? How has it influenced your life? Her choice of material - the songs she chose to sing. Dusty didn’t compose; in fact I think she only penned one or two songs. During my research, I discovered that the songs she’d perform and record actually helped her tell her story - which BTW is how I found the "hook" that the lead singer guitarist, JESSE, uses her hit songs in the show to conjure her back to life.

7. What do you get from writing that you do not get from acting? As Writer - control over what’s being said, literally and figuratively, and being afforded the opportunity to add my personal take on a subject. As Actor - free to apply and express my most intimate FEELINGS through what the writer has written. When you think about it, both processes are the same and very liberating in their own way!

8. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? I wasn’t "inspired," not in the true sense of the word. Well maybe I was in a way. 40 years ago, as an actor I became acutely aware of how I was being treated and rejected for the most inane reasons that one can imagine. This topic, in and of itself, is one of the MAJOR injustices I’ve written about in my screenplay trilogy: Thank You, Thank You, Too, and You’re Welcome. Anyway, I needed to find a way to express the pain I was harboring before I’d go completely bonkers, so I took to writing. I was in therapy at the time and showed some of the stuff to my doctor. The following week I anxiously returned to my session hoping to hear him say I had the makings of a Miller or Albee…instead all he said was, "Don’t stop writing." I knew exactly what he meant, so I continued and developed an absolute love for the craft, learning more about my strengths and weakness and my particular writing "style."

Dusty Springfield9. What's the best advice you've ever received? On what? Life? Writing? Acting? Relationships? What to eat? How to dress? I’ll assume you mean advice on writing. I was doing an awards ceremony show (as an actor) and the writer was well-known in TV & film & theater. So on our lunch break, I asked his forgiveness for interrupting and told him I was seriously thinking about writing and if he had any advice. He slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) lifted his pad in the air with one hand, then (just as SLOWLY) lifted his pencil in the air with the other hand and brought them together as in a very romantic "kiss." Then he said don’t go to any writing classes, just write. Find your own style and maybe then take a class or two on structure. Needless to say, that’s exactly what I did.

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright/actor/director? That no matter what I’m doing in theater, being alive and creative is (as in life) a learning curve. And that as much as I think I’ve learned everything there is to learn - I know NOTHING compared to what lies ahead.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The power to heal.

12. If you could be any original Life Saver Flavor, which one would you be? I was never into Life Savers - except people who did it for a living. My favorite flavor, however, is Cherry. I can fall madly in love with a good homemade Cherry pie.

13. How do you want to be remembered? That I was kind - despite my faults.

Anthony InneoMore on Anthony:

Blessed with the best training, Anthony Inneo was a student of Sandy Meisner, Bob Modica, Uta Hagen, Mira Rostova, Lehman Engle, Terry Schreiber and Philip Burton (Richard’s father) for the classics.

He starred on Broadway as "Zach" in A Chorus Line, as well as London, Hawaii and on tour with Donna McKechnie. Off-Broadway roles range from "Polo" in A Hatful Of Rain, to "Lucky" in the original production of Dames At Sea. Anthony was prominently featured in roles on As The World TurnsAll My Children, Guiding LightOne Life To Live, and Law and Order - SVU. He also starred in a never-be-released independent film, Ingrid.

As Playwright, The Center Ring was successfully produced in LA and is being adapted into a musical and looking for a composer/lyricist. His Evaluating Woody was produced at the Mint Theatre - Jack Nicholson is on his "Bucket List" to play the lead.

Whether he’s producing, directing, performing or writing, Anthony’s bio is…"to be continued."

Friday
Oct032014

Call Answered: Melissa Ritz: Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story United Solo Festival

Melissa Ritz, Photo Credit: Dana Patrick Photography"Call Me Adam" chats with actress, playwright, and former US Air Force Sergeant Melissa Ritz about performing her show Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story in the United Solo Festival from October 4-23 at Theatre Row's Studio Theatre in NYC (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue)! Click here for tickets!

For more on Melissa be sure to visit http://www.melissa-ritz.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. From October 4-23, you are presenting Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story as part of the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row in NYC. What excites you about being part of the United Solo festival? I'm excited to be a part of United Solo b/c the organization celebrates the solo performer for 8 weeks. They provide a beautiful venue to stage your work and they care about supporting a variety of solo acts. I moved to NYC in October 2013, and the first thing I did was search for "solo" show festivals in NYC,' and United Solo was among the first results. Within my first few days in NYC, I attended a number of their performances, so I'm happy to come "full circle" and be on the other side of the stage this time. My opening night is 2 days after my 1 year anniversary of living in NYC, so I'm proud of the goals I've accomplished in that time. I'm thrilled to debut my show with United Solo.

The real Ina Ray Hutton2. How do you feel this festival will foster your show in a way another one might not? I think the United Solo festival is the perfect forum to debut my show in that it has a solid audience base, and their social media network is strong, so the exposure is beneficial. This is my first festival experience, so I don't have any other experience to compare it to. But what I can share with you is that the communication between myself and the United Solo staff is excellent, so I feel like everyone is in sync with getting information together and on the same page. I feel like my show is supported by United Solo and they care about my experience. Although there are 130 participants in this season, I don't feel like my show is "lost in the shuffle." Also, my first show sold out pretty quickly, so they offered me a second show, which also sold out! They then offered me a third show, so I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to perform this show 3 times in 1 festival. I don't know that that's always the case in other festivals.

Melissa Ritz, Photo Credit: Robert John Kley3. What made you want to tell Ina Ray Hutton's story? What do you identify most with about her? I discovered Ina Ray Hutton by accident in 2011 when I was looking for audition song material on YouTube. I was looking for a particular song from the 1930s and Ina's video kept coming up in my search. After watching the video, I watched her other videos and fell in love with her. She was flirty, fearless, conducting an all-girl band, and tap dancing in an evening gown. I remember wondering why I hadn't ever head of her, so I kept researching more about her and her background was so unique, I knew her story had to be told. I felt connected to her through her singing style of early jazz music, her dancing, and her spirit. I liked that she and her all-girl band found success in an era of male-dominated jazz music.

I think I identified with her in a parallel with my military background. It's a male-dominated environment, but there's room for your own voice and for success, and equality. I feel like I found that to be the most identifiable thing with her...but I discovered that later when I did further research about her via newspaper archives. I also feel like I identified with her "bombshell years" when I was a cocktail waitress in a major Las Vegas casino. I felt my life paralleled hers in that we were both objectified and played the role of a "sex symbol." Ina played that game for a few years, as did I in a casino, but we both eventually walked away from that. Ina did it by dropping the all-girl band, dying her hair brown, toning down her flirty conducting style, and exchanging her flashy gowns for a more conservative look. I also dyed my platinum blonde hair to dark, (although it's blonde now for the sake of Ina's story...) and walked away from my lucrative cocktail job, which had me wear a Brazilian thong and bustier as a uniform.

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story? Great question! I've been asking myself this same question lately. I feel like audiences are much more accepting of diversity today, but that wasn't the case with women in music in the 1930's and on. Ina and her band were considered a novelty act...a joke, and nobody was expecting for them to find the success that they had.

I'd like the audience to walk away with an appreciation for what Ina and her "girl musicians" had to overcome. Ina was also a pioneer in many ways--the first woman to record with an "all-male" band, the first woman to have her own TV show, she had a lot of business savvy at a time when it wasn't easy for her. I'd like for people to revisit this era of music and discover not only Ina's music, but the other women jazz bands at that time. They were swingin'!

Melissa Ritz as "Ina Ray Hutton"5. Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story is your first full length play that you wrote. What did it mean to you to get this complete? I'm a very goal-oriented person. I like to set goals and work towards completing them. I rarely don't complete something I set out to do, but when I started this project 3 years ago, I had *no* idea of what I was getting myself into! I've spent NUMEROUS, NUMEROUS nights, weekends, holidays, etc. at home in front of the computer writing and rewriting. I've scoured and spent more money than I'd like to admit on archive websites, ancestry research, and personal interviews, just to piece together Ina's life. Of course, I don't know everything about her life, but I feel confident with the story I've created from true events in Ina's life. It wasn't just getting the facts together either, I had to learn how to tap dance, and get 16 songs together. This entire process has been a beast! It's been my relationship for the past 3 years...I've dated this story, these characters, these songs, dances, scenes, moments and it's been a very intimate process. I feel empowered by bringing these past 3 years to the stage to share my story of Ina's life. Also, my director, Julie Kline, has been tremendous in helping me develop my research into a play that moves, characters who are fleshed out, and has a clear through line.

6. What is your favorite part of the creative process in putting a show together? My favorite part has to be the research, and crafting all that information into a story. What stays? What's edited out? What's going to propel this story and these characters forward? Where's the strength? What are the flaws? Is there danger in what's being written? Is history repeating itself? What can we learn from the information we've collected, and what hasn't been answered? What gaps are in our timeline and where do we need to fill in the blanks? I love answering and thinking through all these thoughts. Collaborating with my director has been a gift in this sense. There's never one way to answer any of these questions, and it's fun to talk about the possibilities.

Melissa Ritz in the U.S. Air Force at Ramstein Air Base, Germany October 20017a. Prior to this show, you were a Seargent in the U.S. Air Force. What made you want to go into the Air Force? I grew up in a military family. My Dad was active duty Army when I was growing up, so I moved every two years...I went to 3 high schools! My senior year of high school was spent in Alabama, (after having lived in Germany for almost 3 years!) and I knew I wasn't going to stay there! I wasn't ready for college at that point and I wasn't about to hang out at home, so I joined the Air Force. Obviously, I was familiar with the lifestyle, but I also knew it would get me out of Alabama, provide me with the opportunity to travel, and give me money for school. It did all those things and more, and it paid for graduate school!

7b. Did you know prior to going into the Air Force, you would travel the world with Tops in Blue, a division of the U.S. Air Force Entertainment? I had no idea what Tops in Blue was. I had never head of it! My job in the military was working in a hospital laboratory. I analyzed body fluids for doctors, and I wasn't very happy. My passion was always in the arts, but that wasn't really the mission of the Air Force. I was the soldier who was singing and tap dancing in the lab and my supervisors didn't know what to do with me! I was always talking about theater and they were talking about missions reports, and deployments. I was definitely a square trying to conform into fitting into a circle. One day a supervisor told me that there was a military entertainment group coming through for the weekend to put on a USO-styled show, and he thought I would like it. I attended the free show and auditioned for it later that year. I sent in a video of myself singing acapella (from Les Mes!) and out of the 500 submissions that year, I was one of 10 female vocalists selected to tour. I was SHOCKED! It really changed my life though and it prepared me for the discipline it takes to be motivated enough to put together a solo show. Looking back, joining the Air Force was the best decision I made for myself. I had excellent training, awesome supervisors, met the greatest friends of my life, worked my ass off, and traveled the world.

7c. Was this the experience that made you want to pursue a degree in Dance and Theatre? I always wanted to pursue theater and dance. I got bit by the acting bug when I did community theatre in high school at the Frankfurt Playhouse in Frankfurt, Germany. The thought of moving to NYC out of high school was too daunting for me at the time, and I felt too shy to pursue it to that degree. Tops in Blue definitely gave me the confidence and discipline it takes to pursue that track in terms of preparing for auditions, presenting yourself professionally, being punctual, honest...all those things. But when the war kicked off in Iraq/Afghanistan after 9-11 and I was working at a hospital in Germany, I knew I had to make a choice to either stay in the Air Force, or get out and pursue the arts, so I left the military and moved to Las Vegas to attend school at UNLV and study dance. I was ready to audition and put myself out there. The dance department shared the hallway with the theatre department, so it re-kindled my love of the theatre and acting. Oddly enough, there was an MFA acting candidate in the program who was also an Air Force Veteran, so we connected in that way and he encouraged me to audition for the program. That MFA program only holds auditions every 3 years and they only take 10 students from auditions in LA, NYC, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. I was the 11th choice! I didn't make the top 10, but the director of the program liked my background and since I had the GI Bill from the military, he offered me a place in the class and I accepted! It was just meant to be!

Melissa Ritz as "Ina Ray Hutton"8. What have you learned about yourself from putting this show together? Oy...what a question! I learned that I need to trust my instincts more! When working with Julie, she'd often ask a lot of open-ended questions, and I often second-guess my response. I felt like I had to be clever or "deep," when almost always, my first instinct was a step in a better direction. Answers don't always need to impress anyone, and I felt like I was playing that game.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Keep your feet clean because you never know when they're going to end up in your mouth!

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Is healing a super power? I'd like to heal people...there's so much hurt and suffering going on.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could have be any original Life Saver flavor, which one would you be? Orange! I can taste it just thinking about it...

12. Favorite skin care product? Coconut oil. I use it on my skin, hair, and it's edible!

13. How do you want to be remembered? I've never thought about this. Um...Melissa took risks!

Melissa Ritz, Photo Credit: Dana Patrick PhotographyMore on Melissa:

As an Army "brat," I grew up all over the U.S. and in Germany. I joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, where I analyzed body fluid in hospital laboratories in Texas, Ohio, Colorado, and Germany. I also worked at the Ataturk International Airport for the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. One of the highlights of my time in the military was the year I spent traveling the globe as a vocalist and dancer with Tops in Blue, a division of Air Force Entertainment. This tour took me to over 20 countries and almost every state in the Union. After earning the rank of Staff Sergeant, I was honorably discharged and moved to Las Vegas, where I worked as a cocktail waitress at the South Point Casino. In the the spring of 2009, I became a certified Bikram Yoga instructor, and taught in Las Vegas for 4 years. I also received my BA in Dance and MFA in Theatre Performance, both from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I relocated to NYC in 2013 to pursue my acting career, focusing on my one-woman show. When I'm not sweatin' it out in the hot room, you can find me at tapping at Steps dance studio.

Wednesday
Sep242014

Call Answered: Karen Finley: Written in Sand

Karen Finley"Call Me Adam" chats with two-time Obie and Bessie Award winner Karen Finley about her latest work Written in Sand

Written in Sand includes some of Karen Finley’s most searing work on the subject of AIDS, written at a time when medical treatment was ineffective and when she was losing her friends to the disease on a continual basis. Some pieces are excerpted from her earlier shows of the era; others are based on writing she did at the time that has never been published or performed. Interspersing the Finley pieces are musical selections originally written or performed by musicians who died of AIDS during this period, performed by jazz artist Paul Nebenzahl. Written in Sand plays at Baruch Performing Arts Center (55 Lexington Avenue, entrance on 25th Street between Lexington & 3rd Avenue) from October 2-23. Click here for tickets! 

Opening night, October 2, is a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Karen Finley performing1. From October 2-23 you will be presenting your new work Written In Sand at Baruch Performing Arts Center based upon pieces and writings on AIDS that you wrote between 1983 and 1994. What excites about presenting this new work? KF Revisiting the texts and memories of loss and youth places the trauma with time in order to process and gain perspective. The performance also memorializes and celebrates the activism for action, recognition and acceptance of those living and suffering with AIDS. The impact of this era, lives lost, all too many was devastating trauma for a generation and in particular those in the gay community. Yet, there has been progress and advances in human rights - and in healthcare. But the piece is about loss and can have a relationship to loss that is too early - and the heartache the loss and missing brings us to a profoundness with the meaning of life though these intimate passages with those you loved - the performance allows for a ritual space in a public forum to bring together the emotions in a human offering through voice music and audience witnessing. But what excites me is the musical accompaniment with the texts - there will be piano, flute, IPAD instruments and bells, drums. The music gives a percussive heart beat to structure the work. Looking forward to performing with my collaborator Paul Nebenzahl who works in jazz and blues.

Karen Finley, Photo Credit: Getty Images2. What made now the right time to present this piece? I was invited by Sur Rodney Sur to participate in the 25 Anniversary of Visual Aids - while doing research of the vast creative responses to the AIDS crisis I compiled all of my texts gathered from various performances, writings - poetry and when I read them together I realized they were its own narrative that had been broken up and scattered. And now with time, the pieces interrupted were put together as a woven testimony of memory and as a homage. When I performed a small section of the work for the 25 Anniversary, the response was tremendous, and I decided to begin the process of performing. Although intense, the 25 years will enable the time to be able to view the crisis in a way that I have been carrying with me for many years.

3. What was it like to go back through these pieces in preparation for this show? What emotions/memories came up for you during this process? The emotions are very deep - heartfelt - yet there is a joy in recalling of the friends that I had such a deep and profound relationships with - so there is also humor and the personality of my friends. Yet this work is a lyrical document of the artist as a historical recorder. And I want to give and perform this work to the community of New York.

Karen Finley as "Jackie Kennedy", Photo Credit: Jennifer Taylor for The Boston Globe4. Do you feel you will be presenting these stories differently now than if you presented some of them earlier in your career? Yes - and No - because I have never performed all of these works together before - I would not have assembled all of the entries. The piece is also about the looking back. The AIDS crisis is still a problem - and being Queer is still a legal issue in Uganda - but this work is situated in a time frame when there were proposals to place those infected with HIV in colonies or camps, the ostracized, the homophobia. This was before gay marriage or domestic partners so victims were shamed - families would not even announce the lives or deaths of their family member. The performance is about a time in our country's shameful history of great cruelty and neglect to those suffering from the illness - first in terms of support of research but secondly in terms of the inhumanity. We can learn from these times and to learn to be more sensitive and prepared to open our hearts. But in human terms in terms of performance - I feel the work transcends time and place and focuses on the emotional voicing of connecting memory and longing.

5. How do feel these writings of yours relate to where things are at with the AIDS crisis today? Do you think progress has been made? Yes progress has been made - but not in certain communities -  If you are white you will have a better chance to have healthcare - and there are places in the world where you do not have access or the expense of medicine such as in Africa. I have many friends who are living healthy productive lives with the disease.

Karen Finley in chocolate, Photo Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders6. What makes Baruch Performing Arts Center the perfect place to present this work? First I am honored to perform at Baruch which is part of our New York State Public University system. And I wanted to work with Chip Duckett at Baruch and his business partner Ron Lasko who is producing events this season for their professionalism, artistry in theater production, and integrity, I first met Chip Duckett performing for an AIDS benefit in the mid eighties.

7. Who or what inspired you to become a performance artist? I have been creating performance or conceptual based work since I was a teen - so I have always been interested in art. I wanted to create work that would disrupt traditional theatrical productions. I also enjoyed night clubs and other spaces to create artistic production to expand the occupation of artistic territory. 

8. What made you go against the grain so to speak to get your work produced? Was there a moment where you were like "I have to do this my way?" I think that is what I have been doing since I have been in my teens - as a feminist artist and a political artist - taking and making space becomes a political act in having a moment to be seen or as a woman to direct myself in a unsocially unacceptable appearances - and to work with that energy makes for tension and adrenaline!

Karen Finley in honey, Photo Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders9. What's the best advice you've ever received? The problem with selling out is that the second time it is easier.

10. What have you learned about yourself from being performance artist? To find the joy in the making of art, to find the joy in being part of the human dimension of sharing a physical aliveness together, to be present with my audience, and to feel the love and emotion flow from my heart into theirs and then back to mine.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would like to be involved in urban planning.

12. If you could be an original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? Coconut - dont know if that is original but I like Coconut. 

13. Favorite skin care product? Honey body creme.

Karen Finley, Photo Credit: Timothy Greenfield-SandersMore on Karen:

Since her first performances in the early 1980's, KAREN FINLEY has become synonymous with performance art. She is the recipient of two Obies, two Bessies, and multiple grants from the NEA and NYSCA. She has toured internationally with pieces including Make Love, George & Martha, The American Chestnut, A Certain Level of Denial and The Return of The Chocolate Smeared Woman. In 1990, Karen became an unwilling symbol for the NEA when she, along with Tim Miller, Holly Hughes & John Fleck, sued the NEA for withdrawing grants on the grounds of indecency. She last appeared at Baruch Performing Arts Center last November in The Jackie Look, in which she played Jackie Kennedy on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.