|“I warm up on the subway en route to a gig,” says voiceover artist Debbie Irwin, “and engage with people in the elevator on my way up to the studio – to put a smile on other people’s faces, which makes me feel good, and is a great vibe to bring into the recording session.”|
|A black SUV pulls up to a farm-style complex in upstate New York. Out steps a man in a long black coat, signature long red beard, a red do rag under a worn, comfortable felt hat, and sunglasses. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons walks forward to shake hands with his host, Daryl Hall. After a few words of conversation, the two are jamming inside Hall’s expansive music room.|
|“I personally appreciate extremely dark humor,” says Dublin-based comedy writer and performer Valerie Ní Loinsigh. “I think that it is an Irish trait to be enormously dark in your humor. I don’t appreciate superiority humor or humor at the expense of others quite as much. I like self-deprecation and black comedy.”|
|All creative artists reach a point where they have to let go of their created work. Publish it, display it, sell it, screen it. Let it go. |
For some artists an even deeper sense of abandonment is at play in their creative process.
Several years ago I attended a performance of Euripides’s The Trojan Women, his epic indictment of war written in 415 BCE. Outside the black box theater, located in the arts district of LA, a street art mural publicized the current production. The artist – I don’t know who – created the piece knowing that it would only be there for a month or two, then be painted over for the next show’s ad.
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|Author and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg insists that every writer have a mentor. When a student bemoaned the fact that she had no one to mentor her, Goldberg said, “(Authors) are your mentors… Enter their minds. Don’t let any obstacle keep you away.”|
Here’s a piece I wrote on opensalon.com back in November of 2010 about a writer I consider to be a mentor: Meyer Berger of The New York Times. His writing still shapes my own.
Reporting on a Mass Murder
On the morning of September 6, 1949, a mentally unstable war vet, armed with a Luger pistol, walked up and down his own block in Camden, New Jersey, shooting men, women and children. He killed 13 people and wounded more before he ran out of bullets and police captured him.
Meyer (Mike) Berger, a New York Times reporter, got the story assignment just before 11 a.m. that morning. He jumped on a train to Camden, interviewed 50 people, wrote a 4,000 word story, and submitted it at 9:20 that night, in time for the printing of the first edition the following morning.
|Designer Brianne Gillen (disclosure – Brianne is our daughter) talks about her costuming work. Most recently she costumed a stage performance of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses.|
COSTUME SUPPORTS THE STORY
I wanted to know: whether in recorded media or live performance, how does costume design move the story forward?
Costume designer Brianne Gillen
“Costume design is hugely important for the story,” says Gillen. “Often, what a character is wearing tells the audience a lot about them before they even say a word of dialogue. You can tell a character’s socioeconomic status, sometimes their profession, the time of year, the city they live in – all by what they have on.
|Creating Story continues its focus on web series, with LA-based actor and acting coach Claire Winters sharing comments on developing and acting in a web series. Classically trained, Winters’ many roles include the bipolar disabled daughter of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the HBO mini series Empire Falls, and a wealthy uber-feminist film student in the comedy feature Filmic Achievement.|
Film professor Mildred Lewis has said of web series, “(Viewers) can watch legacy media or take advantage of virtually unlimited, less well-known content.” The question for Claire Winters: in an open environment such as a web series, do actors need to call up a different skill set? “Good acting is good acting,” says Winters. “Each web series has its own tone and genre, so a particular acting style or skill might be needed to best bring the story to life. But if an actor has built a solid on-camera skill set through training or on-the-job experience, she’ll have the necessary jumping off point for any web series.”
|UK-based writer Joanna Penn and I connected through email to talk about her creative writing. Penn describes herself as a writer-entrepreneur. Her body of work includes fiction and nonfiction. “I write thrillers under J.F. Penn and non-fiction under Joanna Penn.” |
Penn’s three-book thriller series centers on psychologist and ARKANE agent Morgan Sierra. “Set against a backdrop of early Christian history, archeology and psychology,” says Penn, “the fast-paced ARKANE thrillers weave together historical artifacts, secret societies, global locations, violence, a kick-ass protagonist and a hint of the supernatural.”
|Tom Magill, co-founder and artistic director of the Educational Shakespeare Company (ESC), uses drama and film to heal the trauma so deeply rooted within criminal justice and metal health settings. Centered in Belfast, Northern Ireland, ESC works to enable those mired in brutal circumstances to understand and transform their lives through the creative process. The plays of Shakespeare, most prominently Macbeth, feature strongly in this healing process. ESC describes itself as an award-winning culture and arts education charity specializing in storytelling through drama and film.|
“The majority of people I work with,” says Tom Magill, “are carrying trauma. Trauma is a wound from the past that is still haunting the present and preventing them from taking meaningful action to enhance their lives.
“Often, as a result of this experience, many traumatized people feel unable to create. First,” Magill says, “we must enable this creative capacity that everyone has. Through experience, I have developed certain skills, as a writer, director and actor, that I can share with people and put at their service, when we are engaged in the creative process of recording their traumatic stories on film.”
Growing Up With Violence
Tom Magill comes to this work with firsthand experience of violence and the prison life.
Magill grew up in the time of “the troubles.” In Northern Ireland, from the 1960s through to the Belfast “Good Friday” Agreement in 1998, the troubles claimed the lives and spirits of many young men, in one fashion or another. It was his own violent behavior that put Magill in a British prison in the early 1970s. Assigned to deliver and retrieve food trays from prisoners’ cells, Magill steeled himself to enter the cell of Frank Stagg, accused republican IRA member and, as such, Magill’s avowed enemy. He was poised to kill Stagg, rather than have him attack first.
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|In Jenny Milchman’s debut mystery novel, Cover of Snow, she uses a first person point of view, with several chapters interspersed of third person point of view to establish further perspective. It’s a relatively rare technique. I asked her how that came to be as she developed her story.|
“The first thing I should probably share is that the words developed your story give me a wistful sort of laugh. Let’s just say that what feels most accurate is the story develops me.”
A Tenacious Author
“Cover of Snow hit twenty-two drafts before it was published. I was not just a seat-of-the-pants writer, I was writing without any pants at all. The good news about that approach is there’s apparently a fair amount of suspense and surprise in my book, and no wonder. I was surprised every day I sat down to write. The bad part is…well, twenty-two drafts.”