jenn

Oct 122014
 

October 26 will be Young conservatory staged readings of two Yale Playwrights, one by Richard Greenberg one by Brighde Mullins. November 16th our second open rehearsal of adult professional class this time Classical Realism,,,Arthur Miller…We are in the thick of it. After a Fall start with an event at Joe Smith’s house and our first open rehearsal last weekend we are full speed in the work. There has been alot of passing away in our business this past  week. Jeffrey Holder the great Trinidadian actor who I saw play Oberon at Yale Rep, Marian Seldes who loved Gerry Gutierrez and vice versa, Henry Lowenstein our theatre father in Denver, and most recently the sudden shocking death of Randy Weeks, President of the DCPA . Two actors, a designer and leader, and an extraordinary producer. This time of year I get nostalgic and a bit sad as my own mother’s anniversary of passing comes close again. She died on November 1st 2010. One month before we became a non profit and officially started. With all of the sadness comes gratitude. I live each day not perfectly, not free of worry and stress, mostly over the finances, but full of gratitude. I love my profession and calling and love all the people I have lived and worked with over this already long life in the theatre. I credit Nikos Psacharopoulos with my chosen profession as director in theatre and Gerry Gutierrez next and then Earle Gister. He taught me acting technique and how to teach ultimately.  I met Nikos in 1977 so that would be already 37 years in this beautiful profession.

And where am I today on this rainy October Sunday. At the computer emailing actors in the Ensemble about Monday night’s class meeting, emailing actors to start the Classical Realism class, emailing board members about a fundraiser in December, calling Marcus Giamatti to reconnect and get him to work with me, and Brighde Mullins and Richard Greenberg as well…Finding a way to finance this Studio idea as well as keep the work alive and growing and new actors keep finding us. And two new staff members saving my sanity, Tal Arnold 19 years old and talented and tall and son of a Rabbi, and Nicole Palomba actress stepped up to the plate and fixed the office and became associate director…so when I despair someone keeps picking up the ball….despair is the wrong word, I suppose I get overwhelmed with all the administrative tasks and the work to make the work so to speak and sometimes I am spread too thin. But the if you build it they will come idea keeps manifesting itself. It has really proved TRUE!

My mother in law Maria and I walk to the market about once a week together usually on Sundays when I am not working. We talk and chatter on about family and Colombia and the kids and our own lives. We buy a few things and walk home. Today it was windy and rainy and on the way home I said one of the truest things I had ever said. I told her that now matter what happens in our life the struggles with money, illness, depression, death and life, I am grateful every day I was given a profession I love and I am excited to go to work every single day.And I am always happy in rehearsal and class. Always. So if the FEAR factor can be quieted and silenced one day I truly have absolutely nothing to be worried about. Health of loved ones and my kids of course, but I know what it is to feel my life has a purpose and a meaning. I know people struggling with depression and disconnection and addiction all around me. And at the core of it I see sometimes that solitary confinement in our skins Tennessee Willimas wrote about. And a struggle to find meaning. What is HAppiness? For me it is the joy of work. That I can provide a good and simple life to my kids from that work, that I can then see them find something that makes them feel useful and alive each day. Talent is perhaps some genetic Godgiven thing. But I know my education and work ethic and energy is more important and has truly given me the greatest gift. Meaningful work that connects me to others and helps me figure out who I am at the same time. For me this is Spirit. Connection inside and connection outside. I am still seeking all the time. I still struggle all the time. But I am also aware of progress. This thing is simple sometimes but it is not easy as they say. But all of it is worth it. And all the fishing lines and  and six degrees of separation keep intersecting and something is accumulating and this Visionbox thing is real.

Sep 012014
 

As I have said many times September is my favorite month! Kids back to school and the air changes. Cooler weather and intellectual excitement. We are starting our first class tomorrow night and I am always so excited to meet new actors as well as welcome back previous students and our Ensemble members. Now starting Season 4 officially this feels real.  I am proud of this idea and proud we have done so much work to create an ongoing Ensemble and ongoing studio classes to help find a way to make acting a viable profession in Denver. As well as raise the overall standard of excellence in this art form in our city. We can have excellence without elitism and we say yes to all actors regardless their level, age or background. And we create a common practice. Acting is not just talent and intuition. There is technique and history and training and a practice. And anyone can learn these principles if they have the passion and dedication to this work.

We will start with Contemporary American plays for selfish reasons. I have spent so much time with Chekhov and Shakespeare in the past four years that I have neglected my own study and reading and seeing of new work. I went to Yale Drama School to work with playwrights of my own generation as a director. I know that would be where my career would begin. And I had the ppportunity to work with some amazing writers. Then I joined the Acting Company out of Juilliard and my life took a different turn. Then a fulbright in Bogota doing Chekhov in Spanish and then 18 years at NTC at DCPA training MFA students….lost of acronyms….so training became my life’s work. A few new plays and a lot of projects and productions….then Visionbox.

As so much of my work has been the planning and adminstrating of this idea and of course the FUNDRAISING! I have not had a lot of time to actually do some directing and producing. This year I will change that. The first project I want to definitely direct is the solo shakespeare festival which I have called “ALL THE WORLD” low ego here:) Ensemble members have one person shows of one character from the canon and new actors can join as well. I will do some editing and staging and design for these pieces at a theatre space in our neighborhood preferably. We will start in November after Classical American Realism class. Also Three Sisters Kardashian will continue. It is my favorite idea in a long while.

Finally we are always looking for new artists in our city. Our doors are open and my mantra is “YES”. So come back if you left and come find us if you are new and help us raise Denver to be one of the most exciting theatre towns in the country!!! OK?! REALLY I MEAN IT!

the work begins again tomorrow!

Jenn

Aug 182014
 

I have not written in sometime. We ended our june young conservatory intensives with three sisters kardashian. I loved this project. The idea came to me in the middle of the night as we were working on a Chekhov class and I had watched a lot of e channel. It struck me that the kardashian s had so much in common with the three sisters. A family always in crisis obsessed with love and relationships desperately seeking meaning in their lives in a material world that often felt empty and ridiculous. The addition of the media layer and their confessionals to the camera paralleled chekhovs use of monologues. All in all an idea we will revisit I hope this year .

then Shakespeare. Our final open rehearsal a series of scenes and soliloquy under Rik sargents sculptures in our gallery. Life and death and love and identity. I look forward to revisiting the soloshakespeare project this winter.

and people leaving and new arrivals. A goodbye to Maggie and Mackenzie and David and Taylor. And interns Kelsey and Melanie and Andrew. Amazing people and artists. Our season auditions are this Saturday. I hope we see a lot of new faces. And welcome to Katrina our new associate  artistic director and Nicole our new literary associate and Leslie  our marketing and development volunteer and amazing new board member Joe Smith.

i can’t believe it is already three and a half years since my mom died and we started this project in my kitchen. Performance kitchen is a new phrase I love. The art district in Santafe is growing and I love it here. One day we will need more space but we are ok for now. We will focus this year on new work with our ensemble and any new comers. I want us to use the training to have more impact on our community not only of actors but the general public and I want to see our young conservatory grow.

i am committed to this work and I am committed to Denver. We have a lot to do but we are in a great place to grow now. There will always be openings and I will keep saying yes. To artists with a passion for their study of technique and the desire to  get better. And most of all a desire to make the world we live in a little better.

i will be writing my own response to the question why does theatre matter. To be continued as the work begins again!

Jul 042014
 

I am up early. First day off in a long long time. For theatre people official holidays are performance nights or occasionally an excuse not to work for a moment. We live in a kind of continuous state of work as we never know where the next pay check will come from or if we will get the job in a sea of other talented artists in need. My kids are in Bogota, Colombia and I am here with the dog and cat in the quiet off City Park in Denver. I still feel at times like a transplant from another place and another time. Growing up in New York City and an adult life there and all over the east coast then Bogota I sometimes wake up and wonder what country I am in. What country friends is this? says someone in Shakespeare….Viola…The country I live in is the theatre. I don’t think this means I am disconnected from a real life it is just that what defines it is the life of the theatre and the people of the theatre. Having a family of course alters  this. As a parent my kids’ schools and friends and activities and needs and daily life define my time and concern and are who I am in another way . And my love and joy. But for me ongoing familiarity is in the rehearsal studio. I know Chekhov and Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams as much as I know anything or anyone else.

Today on American Independence Day I do reflect on what I know of my country and my culture. We are such an odd mix of so much. Family defines culture at the beginning and then as you grow and go out into the world you find new families and new community. I have spent some time in Bogota, Colombia and my kids are half Colombian. There are so many values and history and connection I see in that culture. The true love of family, the true love of life lived each day, a search for a  spiritual way of life, a search for opportunity and advancement in education and technology, and a rejection of materialism. things I admire and am grateful my kids see this and experience this each summer and through their Colombian family,,,and of course world cup today Colombia is playing at 2:)….The hard thing is figuring out who we are as individuals and then who we are as a group. Our country celebrates the individual and his freedom but when we try to come together in groups we struggle at times with this. To give up our personal freedoms or personalities for the good of the group is sometimes very hard for Americans. North Americans I should say. Defining community and feeling connected inside the whole is challenging for us. At worst we are spoiled and egotistical. At best we are progressive and generous. Being the leader of a group of actors and artists I am challenged to find this balance. To celebrate each individuals personal growth and talents while finding an identity as a whole for this small new company called Visionbox.

I like people who are energetic and confident and excited to be alive each day. I like talented sensitive artists. I bristle  at ego and uptightedness. I bristle at close mindedness. I reject prejudice and elitism of all kinds. I love and admire the vulnerability and struggle of challenged people. Challenged by race, poverty, injustice and I know theatre has the power to heal and move us forward as people in society. We can change our world with this work. Even if it is just helping one actor get into a school they want to go to. Or one person to have one good day today.

So those are some of my early morning July 4th ramblings…We do Three Sisters Kardashian on Sunday a look at Chekhov through contemporary american hollywood culture and then on to the great master Shakespeare on Monday. The work continues and so does the community building. Come see us, come take class, come laugh and cry and sing with us! And as my mom used to say ” Happy 4th!”

Jenn

May 282014
 

So my first blog not referring to the time and month…..We got some amazing news this week. We are officially approved as our own 501c3 with the IRS! This perhaps would not be that big of a deal to some but after three years of daily work and struggle and commitment we have come into our own independence as a non profit. It is a testament to the fact that hard work and just staying on course with the right intention will pay off. That my favorite Nina quote about faith and having the power to endure in this very challenging business and art form is reconfirmed every day of my life in the theatre.

As I have described many many times this company started in my small apartment off city park. The building “Retreat at the Park” is a fitting description. I had left the DCPA in 2008 after the death of Tony Church, the dean who had brought me to NTC and Denver in 1991. After 18 years in the same company it was a kind of a heart breaking life change I had a very hard time with. Turning 50 on a bus to Perry Mansfield literally in the summer of 2008 I was lost. My mother was terminally ill, I was facing financial difficulty and foreclosure, three kids to take care of, and depression and fear. That summer I did what I know how to do best I taught Chekhov. When I came home Tony Garcia gave me a great project, Bless ME Ultima, and Dan Koetting at UCD gave me teaching work in the theatre and film program. Jeffrey Nickelson invited me to start Visionbox under his company over on East Colfax. As many know Jeffrey passed away suddenly and I was once again with out a theatre home anywhere in sight after a long time at DCPA with no real prospects.

To jump ahead a bit my mother then died on Nov 1, 2010. My family moved to Bogota for a time and in the kitchen of my small apartment Nathan Bock and I with help from Nate Bakke and Dwayne Carrington started this project. Memories of Tony Church and me in his small apartment not far way from this new one in 1991 fill my head right now. Tony and I looking at schedules and discussing time lines and new structure for a new NTC only a few years old. Always Chekhov came first and the 5 Questions of Earle Gister. Then style and of course Shakespeare. And Tony had instituted already Solo Shakespeare projects and the third year rep, a performance of two contrasting plays of all graduating third year students. We structured the three years around project work. Every  6 weeks students would perform a project, A full length piece without costumes, sets or lights.

After 18 years of projects and classes and some production work at NTC and those couple of years in limbo supported by Tony Garcia, Jeff Nickelson, Israel Hicks, Bob Davidson and a couple other friends, Visionbox was formed and I became a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center on Dec 1 2010. L2 Arts and Culture Center on East Colfax ,a block from that apartment I landed in in 1991 with Tony Church, same block literally, gave us a space for a whole year. Offices, rehearsal studio and a 500 seat theatre. Only out of kindness and faith. Then a move to 910 Arts in August of 2012. Now two years there we have arrived at our indenpendence and in a community of artists of all disciplines including painters, sculptors, performing artists, Su Teatro and the new home of the Colorado Ballet. Something great is happening over here and I hope to meet many new artists and we will continue our mission for many years to come.

I have called Visionbox Studio, our official name, the first professional actors’ studio in Denver. Committed to providing the highest level of professional training to Denver student and professional actors.  We have a permanent Ensemble of 18 and a wide array of students ages 12 to about 60….me included…..

I am grateful to all of you who have helped us arrive at this milestone. I am off to the studio to plan and teach and rehearse and dream…..the work begins again

Jenn

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