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

May 232014
 

So here we are at the end of the spring getting ready for summer intensives. This means we have officially completed three years of work. That is  the time of one MFA course only….I am seeing the fruits of our labors. Mackenzie and Maggie got in to the highly acclaimed ACA grad school in DC to work with Gary Logan and Michael Kahn. Dwayne Carrington told me the other day that he was finally not afraid of risk and not intimidated by things like Glen Garry Glen Ross. We struggle as artists to pay the rent and to take care of our families. We struggle with the fear of failure. We struggle with the need for approval at any age. I can also finally say at age 55 almost 56 I am doing the work I love. I am doing the work I was trained to do. I am doing the work I have experienced. And I am doing it in a community that needs it. We are offering highest level training to our community and we are thriving. And I am truly happy.

I saw my daughter graduate summa cum laude.  sonia finished freshman year with honors. Carlo is going to graduate 8th grade at Stanley with love of learning and  great talent and passion for music.

What we do in theatre inspires all art forms and all academic study and compassion and understanding of the human condition. We are all celebrate the accomplishments of our actors and our company as we start season 4! Please stay with us as we evolve! June 1 free show:)

Jenn

Apr 012014
 

So it is really April 1 already…and our work keeps on..We are doing two new projects this month so please come see us at 910 Arts at 9th and Santa Fe in Skylite Station. First is a Tom Waits musical called Alice very loosely based on the story by Lewis Carroll.  Tom Waits collaborated with Robert Wilson on this and some other projects. Robert Wilson is one of the fathers of the avant garde in American Theatre and I saw a lot of his work at Harvard when I was in Drama School. So we are taking the album and score and some of the script and doing an adaptation of this adaptation. We have moved a way from realism for a bit this new year with Greek and Brecht and now with music theatre. Gary Grundei an amazing musician, composer and teacher is working with us and will play for the performance on April 13th. We look at archteypes as an extension of the greek and brecht work. This approach to character is grounded in work I was able to do with Lee Breuer in the 1980s. He was the founder of Mabou Mines in NYC one of the most important avant garde companies in America. He is most known perhaps for his adaptation of Gospel at Colonus the gospel adaptation of Oedipus recently performed at Su Teatro in collaboration with the Source theatre. One of my favorite productions in Denver ever. The approach to material here is about finding contemporary anologues and archetypes for more ancient ones and it is a way to make old myth and legend more accessible and interesting to contemporary audiences. This is done all the time in film and television especially all the mythological and fantastical stories like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter or even the Hobbit etc…old legend and myth is mixed with our own time and place and sensibilities to create a new world that is resonant while being fresh and new. And it is very fun for the actors. We still are always aware of an objective in scene work but the character actions are really explored short hand through the playing of attitude. It is hit or miss at times and there is a looseness and intuitive approach makes this  very freeing and fun for actors and audience.

On april 27 we will have an open rehearsal of work explored and presented by our Young Conservatory. These younger students meet on Saturday mornings and are presenting some of the one acts by Tennessee Williams out of 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. These young students are becoming  the core of our program. I did not start Visionbox with this in mind. I have been surprised and so excited by the openness and honesty and commitment of the kids we have met. From age 11 to 18 they are grasping technique in a way that continues to surprise and instruct  and inspire me all over again. We look at thinking at Visionbox. We are truly creating a process together and this exploration is creating great product in a new way I have not seen in many companies here. We do not just focus on performance or the way it is going to look. Actors and students of all disciplines are exploring a play and understanding the construction of the text, the behavior that comes out of that and the world of the play and playwright. And I am constantly surpised by new incites and the intelligence and depth of our young students in looking at very old texts with fresh attitudes and ideas.

Finally we are gearing up for the summer. This is the best way to join our company. something about the every day immersion and our lives seem less stressed and we come together in an easier yet more intensive way. so please check out the summer program for yourself or your child!

Well happy april fools to all of us. Being foolish is perhaps the most important part of our work. As we look at the struggle and difficulty of life we must remember  to laugh is perhaps one of the most healing aspects of live expression in the theatre. So come take American and British Comedy on April 15!!! Audition class as well and new instructors I hope in June!

the work continues…

Jenn

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