Fast Forward Friday with Richard Skipper

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed entertainer-MC-host-Interviewer Richard Skipper. He has conducted more than 700 interviews celebrating people in the arts. This past year, Richard completed an artist in residence at the Laurie Beechman Theater in New York City where he presented a monthly talk-variety show produced by Russ Woolley. His one-man show The Magic of Believing will be ready for booking when pandemic restrictions are lifted. For more information visit www.richardskipper.com.

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.

Since the pandemic hit, I have focused solely on interviewing others. It is really nothing new, but the platform has changed. For years, I’ve done in store interviews for Barnes & Noble, red carpet events, and blogs. One of my goals this year was to launch my own podcast. I live stream on Facebook and YouTube, and then it is syndicated through my podcast, which is syndicated on more than 25 platforms.   

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

Richard Skipper Celebrates, my brand, came about several years ago when I started my blog. When I first began my blog, it was called Richard’s Rants and Raves. A good friend pointed out that I was always raving but seldom, if ever, ranting. He was right and I came up with Richard Skipper Celebrates because I believe every day is worth celebrating. I also want to be the antidote to all of the negativity in the world today.  

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?

To uplift. Building upon what I said before, there is enough negativity in this world. Why build upon it? I don’t know why we became a snarky nation.  

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

My first artistic hero was Miss Florence. She was my first mentor. She instilled in me a reverence for those that have gone before me. She told me that every time I step in front of an audience (either physically or virtually), that I carry the mantle of all that have gone before me, and to this day, I take a moment to pause in gratitude for those that have paved the way for me. My other artistic heroes are Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin, James Lipton, and Graham Norton!   

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

By my very nature, I’m a very optimistic person. Even with what we are going through at the time of this interview, I’m looking forward to what I believe will be an even greater future. I love the creative process. After I do my morning pages and meditation, I’m open to the possibilities of what every day holds. I think of myself as a vessel and am open to the possibilities ahead of me. I try to say YES when I can. I think of each day, especially now, as its own entity. I also only think about what I can accomplish in the next 24 hours.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I am very busy with my interview series. One of my goals going into 2020 was launching my own podcast. They stream live through Facebook and YouTube and then are syndicated on to more than 25 platforms. I’ve also launched a bi-monthly program with Dr. Judi Bloom called  Creativity In The Age of Covid.  

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

Setting an “intention”  and following it through to fruition. When I apply myself wholeheartedly to my goals and they happen! Every time I hit the “end” button at the end of every interview, I know I’m living my vision.  

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Exactly what I’m doing now. I have found my true calling in life. I truly love interviewing others and finding what makes them tick. My focus on others takes the focus off me, which is very gratifying especially nowadays. 

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

The word ‘no’. I’m a ‘yes’ man and unless the yes is going to be met with tension, I try to be open to that. The more I’ve studied the lives of others, I’ve discovered even with the greatest successes, there are those that go through life wanting to obstruct rather than being open to most opportunities.  Imagine a world of YES instead of NO!

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I’m a huge follower of Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.

 Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Projecting negative thoughts about an outcome when they are not warranted.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

That is truly a difficult question. I try to look at art through the eyes of those that create it. I’m always interested in the backstory. What are the circumstances that brought this piece of art to us? 


Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Being thought of as someone who is interested in others and always being present to their needs or helping them to be able to tell their story.  

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be? 

Empathetic.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Believe it or not, my work is my guilty pleasure. I LOVE what I do!  

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

That was 2005, I was 44. I went back and looked at that calendar year. It was a very busy year for me workwise. I would say: enjoy the day to day process. Take the time to smell the roses. I also look at the people who were in my life at that time who are no longer here. Appreciate the people that make the fabric of your life. Show gratitude to all they bring to the table.  

Q: Where would you most like to live? 

Depends on the outcome of this year’s election!  

Q: What is your idea of success?

Being able to do what I desire to do when, where, and how I desire to do it without the permission of others.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

My home life, my career, my pets, my husband, music, sitting in the audience of a great entertainer, being in the spotlight, sharing the spotlight, seeing those that I love succeed.  

Q: Final Thoughts?

Please go out and do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. Go to your Friend’s list on Facebook and call the seventh name on your list and tell them that you love them and what they mean to you! “We are all in this together, but not in the same boat!” -David Friedman 

 

Fast Forward Friday with Morgan Millogo

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed  actor-director-writer-producer Morgan Millogo. Morgan spent five years as part of the Seattle Indie film scene as an actor and director, and was also a burlesque performer and emcee. Her recently released web series Tabs & Clea marks her first project as a writer, actor, director and producer since the passing of her father in 2010.

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it. 

I just released my web series Tabs & Clea about a psychic going through a crisis of faith and her audacious ex-roommate showing up to help uncover the truth of a tragedy that was unforeseen. It’s six short episodes, which can all be found at tabsandclea.com

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project? 

Tabs & Clea is an exploration of spirituality and death. What we get to know, what we don’t get to know, how there are reasons and a plan beyond our understanding. Being a spiritual person who does ancestral work and works with spirit guides, I have learned that even those of us who are in tune and work to help people, don’t get to know everything. Also, we aren’t always meant to save people, which is a harsh lesson for any hero journey and something that I wanted to explore with Tabs. How can you have a gift that is meant to help people, and death can still result? What is it like to have a spiritual gift and go through a crisis of faith? 

I decided to make a web series because I had an acting partner to play Tabs, and I initially was going to play Clea, until I discovered I was pregnant. I knew I could pull off making and completing this series with next to no money. I also have a love for television and decided this would be a fun, doable experience. I’ve made short films and I’ve worked on independent feature films. A web series format was exciting to embark on and there was a great freedom to allow the episodes to be the length that felt organic to each individual one. 

With all of my limitations and resources in mind, I wrote the series to fit what we could do. The majority of the scenes take place in the same location that I had access to, and I used the support of friends and family and local businesses to make the little things happen, such as DIY lighting, meals for the shoot, and art direction. The cast and crew came together based on everyone reading the script and wanting to do it. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who donated their time, energy, resources, talent and skills to tell this story. 

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment? 

There are dual roles happening: an individual role and community role. For myself, I was laid off in April because of COVID and have been spending the months since running my household, doing deep work on myself, and looking for a job. My understanding is that this is my time to transform and evolve into the next chapter of my life. It is time for me to step up and embrace my dreams head on and not to give up. As a storyteller, I have a lot to offer this world, and I need to truly own and trust that. 

For my community role, being a true ally is my current focus. Within the work I do, I fight for diversity and inclusivity, and I tend to take on and support taboo or dark subjects that need to be explored and discussed. I listen to BIPOC about what good allyship looks like, and I work to be that ally. Supporting BIPOC through their projects and building diverse teams are top priorities for me as I move forward. I believe what many white people need to understand is there is room for all of us to share our unique voices. Just because a BIPOC person gets a job or gets funding for their project, doesn’t mean you will not. Oppression and racism are born out of fear, including fear of “the other” getting what you have or what you want, and then you don’t get to have it. This fear is not based in truth and can even be unconscious. It’s time to make it conscious and step up to release it. Now is the time for white people in the industry to do the hard work and not simply continue to hire their white friends and colleagues. Take the extra time to seek out true diversity, not tokenism, for your writer’s rooms, casts and crews. There is room for all of us, and we can support each other and lift each other up. 

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

During my 20s, my greatest influences were Rebecca Miller, Miranda July, and Amanda Palmer, all incredible independent spirits with a DIY drive and intriguing experimental elements with their storytelling. 

As I have been in my 30s, I find myself inspired by anyone who bravely shares their voice and tackles difficult subjects. I am currently in awe of Michaela Coel and the brilliance of I May Destroy You.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist? 

Interviews where people go into the process of how they created something inspires me. I love hearing their thoughts, journeys, and feelings about it all. What were they trying to accomplish? How do they feel about it? What did they struggle with? I love every detail, and it gets my own thoughts and ideas stirring. 

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about? 

I have a feature length, female driven, supernatural thriller screenplay that I am working to get into the hands of an agent in hopes to sell it.

I am also evolving Tabs & Clea into a full supernatural thriller series titled Missing. The series introduces an additional lead character who is a Native American woman deputy and goes into solving what has happened to multiple missing Indigenous women. The greater purpose of the series is to bring more attention to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and GIrls (MMIWG) epidemic that is currently happening in the United States and Canada. Currently, I am doing research and seeking out a Native American woman writing partner to co-create this with me. 

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

This last summer I directed a short film capturing the choreography and poetry of Meg Affonso, who is an incredible artist and was doing a show in Albany, NY, titled Body: An Experiential Art installation It was her expression of the separation of the body and soul and included her expression of being a black woman. The day we filmed was absolutely incredible. It was a small crew and two dancers, including Meg. There were no egos that day, and we all worked so beautifully together. Everyone contributed their ideas and the footage was gorgeous. I felt in my power and in my joy the entire shoot. That was living my vision and is my goal for every project. 

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

I would be fully financed for developing my own series. 

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Financial stability and being able to balance having a young family while working in film and TV. Working six days a week for 12+ hour days is not sustainable in general, let alone if you are a mother. I believe productions do not have to be run the way they are, and with the right mindset amongst the producers, a healthier work lifestyle can be formed. There are other ways to do production if we are willing to be open to it. 

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self? 

I take walks in nature. This is where I feel grounded and magical. My thoughts can work themselves out, and I can open up to let new ideas rise. 

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

I would let go of self-doubt and worry.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art? 

La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi. I visited in 2011, and it has stayed with me. It felt like walking into a fairy tale. All of his work felt that way to me. The magic in his work vibrates through you and sparks your own inner magic. I’m in love with it.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead? 

My father. I reflect a lot on who he was as a person, the layers of complexities. I try to see him as a full human being, what he had to battle and overcome in his shortened life. I admire the interesting choices he made for himself and how he loved, for better or worse. He was open to everyone and kind to everyone, no matter their race or sexuality. His best friends were immigrants, whom he supported in any way they needed. I am who I am because of what I learned from him, how he treated others, and how he loved me. His openness and encouragement of all of my whims made me believe that I could do anything. 

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

A human being with an incredible mindset and willpower to make things happen. 

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be? 

Genuine. 

Q: What is your guilty pleasure? 

Spending time by myself either going out or staying in to be engrossed in something be it art, nature, or a movie or series. 

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Cherish these moments, even the dark ones. Spend time with those you love. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself and your path. It’s going to be really rough, but there is purpose to it all. Never give up. Follow your intuition and use your voice. 

Q: Where would you most like to live? 

In a house wherever it is safe for my bi-racial family. 

Q: What is your idea of success? 

Work/life balance with my work as a filmmaker and having financial freedom. My child(ren) growing up to be kind, respectful human beings with an incredible inner strength. My husband pursuing and living his dreams. 

Q: What is your idea of happiness? 

Happiness is being in the present moment free from over analyzing the past and worrying about the future. 

Q: Final Thoughts?

Our country is in chaos and it is hard to navigate that while navigating what we are each going through personally. Don’t give up hope. Find hope in the small things. A small kind gesture from a loved one or even a stranger. A child laughing. The sweetness of a piece of fruit. The little things can add up to get us through each day. When it all gets too hard, go outside or look out a window. Take in the air, feel how big nature is, the earth is, and feel yourself a part of it. We are bigger than just this one moment. We can overcome this rock bottom as a collective, heal, and find our way to a better future for all. We may not know how we will get there or how long it will take, but trust that even the hard, terrifying times are part of the path. Wishing health, love, and safety to everyone.

Fast Forward Friday with Zeva Oelbaum

Letters From Baghdad — London Premieres

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award winning filmmaker Zeva Oelbaum. She recently co-directed and produced the NEH supported documentary Letters from Baghdad, which showed theatrically in over 150 theaters in the U.S. and U.K. and premiered on PBS in 2018. The film is voiced and exec. produced by Tilda Swinton. Oelbaum also produced Ahead of Time, a feature length documentary about journalist Ruth Gruber, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before garnering six Best Documentary awards.  Click here to learn more.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I’m working with my producing partner  Sabine Krayenbühl, on a documentary film about the visionary artist and performer Loïe Fuller. The film is titled Obsessed with Light.  Fuller was the American creator of modern dance and a trailblazing inventor who became an overnight sensation in Paris in 1892. Electricity was still in its infancy, yet she invented remarkable lighting techniques, taking out numerous patents on these techniques, as well as stage design and costuming, as early as 1893. She even wanted to incorporate fluorescent materials into her costumes and worked with Thomas Edison on this project.  She was close friends with Marie Curie and Auguste Rodin, and her inventions became the foundation of today’s most elaborate multi-media productions. Fuller was one of the most famous performers in the world at the turn of the 20th century and although few people know her name, her legacy is remarkably strong. She has inspired or influenced luminaries including Taylor Swift, Alexander McQueen, and numerous other artists and designers. Both Dior and Valentino have referenced her in their recent collections.

We are thrilled that we just received a media production grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for this film project! We previously received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and Artemis Rising, so we’re feeling very optimistic about the potential of this project to reach a broad audience.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

After the distribution of our film about Gertrude Bell, we were looking for another remarkable woman whose name has been forgotten, but whose accomplishments still resonate today. When we looked  deeply into Loïe Fuller, we found an unconventional woman who achieved success on her own terms. She disrupted conventional ideas of femininity and gender identity and had enormous respect for the power of science to transform lives. We feel that her story is surprisingly contemporary.

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?

Loïe Fuller was an outlier in many ways and her story is an inspiring one. Bringing an inspiring story to an audience is always gratifying, but during these crazy and uncertain times, inspiring stories are, perhaps, even more valuable.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

I began my career as a still photographer, so I have been most influenced by painters and photographers. So many have influenced my work — from Cy Twombley to Anna Atkins to the incredible photojournalist Robert Capa. A zillion years ago, I was an intern at the International Center of Photography and have immense respect for photojournalists. I was very fortunate that Rizzoli Int. published a monograph of my cyanotypes, which I did as an homage to Anna Atkins. Atkins was the first person to publish a book illustrated by photographs in 1843. Documentary film is actually the perfect union of my love for both photojournalism and fine art.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist? 

The feeling that I have something potentially meaningful to contribute to the contemporary conversation keeps me motivated. I feel inspired by the subjects of my films and photography projects to get their stories across.  I hate the idea of people (especially women) being forgotten and written out of history.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

Our previous film Letters From Baghdad tells the story of another incredible woman, British explorer and diplomat Gertrude Bell. Bell was sometimes called the female “Lawrence of Arabia” but she was actually much more influential than her colleague T.E. Lawrence, helping to reshape the Middle East after WWI.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

When we were originally pitching our film on Gertrude Bell, we were told by one British broadcaster “why would we be interested in a film on Gertrude Bell, since she was only a footnote to history?” I’m happy that we proved him wrong. As a result of the press for the film, Gertrude Bell finally has a Blue Plaque installed at her London residence; and her archive at Newcastle University, which we used extensively, is now on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, in recognition of its global significance. It is one of the few archives with this designation in the UK.  Bell has now been profiled in television segments, books and plays and we are very gratified that we have contributed to bringing Gertrude Bell back into the history books.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Exactly what I am doing.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Allowing myself to become discouraged, if I don’t succeed right away. Too many projects are still in my drawers!

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I never leave my creative self!

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Being timid about expressing my vision.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Too many to choose from.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

I most admire my grandmother who passed away when I was 16 years old. She was the first person in my family to come to this country. She arrived in 1905 from the pogroms in Lithuania with a cousin when she was only 14 years old. They made their way to St. Joseph, Mo. and were soon followed by the rest of their families. My grandmother and grandfather owned several buildings, but my grandfather developed a heart condition, so the upkeep of the buildings fell to my tiny 4’10” grandmother (along with raising 5 children). During the Great Depression, there were frequently men who would get off the train looking for work and my grandmother would always have chores for them, in exchange for a hot meal. She was grateful for their help and never turned anyone away. My grandmother sent both sons to medical school, two daughters to nursing school and one daughter to teachers college. She had grit and determination and was an incredibly generous soul.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Generosity of spirit.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Curious.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art … I’ve really missed going there this summer. It is deeply spiritual and nourishing to me.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Not to be intimidated by people who I think know more about what I am doing than I do

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Lots of places! I like Montclair, NJ ! (where I live now)

Q: What is your idea of success?

To be productive and continually engaged in creative pursuits

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

That my family is healthy and doing well and that I am able to pursue my passions.

 

 

 

Fast Forward Friday with Tracy Brigden

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed director-writer Tracy Brigden. She  has spent over 30 years in the theatre nurturing, developing, producing and directing new work for the stage. She was Artistic Director of City Theatre in Pittsburgh for 16 years where she produced almost 200 new plays and musicals including world premieres by Keith Reddin, Chistopher Durang, Sharon Washington, Daniel Beaty, Jeffrey Hatcher, Michael Hollinger, Cori Thomas, Adam Rapp and many more.  You can visit her website at www.tracybrigden.com

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it. 

I’m writing a fictional podcast called The Okachokee Sink.  It’s about a tiny, kooky town in the Florida Everglades with only 12 residents. When one of them goes missing, the other 11 become suspects. It’s sort of Sharp Objects  meets Twin Peaks. I hope to record it with my husband, Mike DelGaudio, who is a voice actor, and some pals this summer. I just have to figure out the ending! 

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project? 

I read an article a few years ago about a missing man in a tiny town in the Australian Outback. I filed it away in my “ideas” folder and came back to it recently. I transposed it from the Outback to Florida since recording an audio drama full of Australian accents might prove a bit challenging. And Florida has such great, crazy characters, including descendants of the “carny folks” from the Ringling Brothers days who used to winter in down there. I was interested in making a podcast even before the pandemic! I loved Homecoming and Limetown and wanted to do a serialized drama like that. 

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment? 

I have been doing quite a lot of reading, reflecting, posting, protesting, donating and other actions towards a more equitable and just world. It’s just my small part, but I think we are all learning that we can feel proud of our work as artists telling stories with important messages of social justice, but it’s just not enough. We have to make change in every way we can – starting with ourselves. The more we can listen and learn and reflect and act personally, the better we will be at getting the important ideas of the moment out into the zeitgeist with our work. 

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work? 

My late mother, Madeline Tracy Brigden, was an inspiration and a champion for me. She was the fiction editor at Mademoiselle magazine in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and published and worked with many incredible writers of all stripes and genres. She always told me “Do something with your life you would do anyway even if you weren’t being paid for it.” And she led by example as a woman who did not let her gender or having a family keep her from also having a wonderful career. 

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist? 

That spark that keeps showing up that says “That would make a great story!” or “Ooh, I can envision how that story could be told!” 

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about? 

I have a play that I wrote that I’m dying to get out into the world! It’s called Stage Struck and it’s about Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, who worked for the great actor-manager Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre in London during the time he was writing his famous novel. The play parallels that story with a downtown theatre troupe in 1980s New York putting on a production of Dracula. The two worlds collide in theatrical ways and reveal that a life in the theatre is both fraught and joyous in any century. 

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision? 

The triumphant opening night of the first production I directed at City Theatre as a newly appointed artistic director in 2001. 

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing? 

Directing a television show or a film that I wrote. 

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision? 

I have been a theatre person my whole career, and starting down the path of a whole new field takes some doing! 

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self? 

Keep reading, watching, listening and supporting other people’s work. 

Put myself in challenging situations. Recently, I volunteered to be a writer for a local theatre company’s 24-hour play marathon. I stayed up all night on Friday and wrote a play that was performed on Zoom on Saturday night. It had a whole zombie subplot. If it hadn’t been 2 am I probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to write that! 

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be? 

Self-censorship. Feeling that since I haven’t been primarily a writer for my whole career, I’m not allowed or not as talented. 

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Too hard! I went into the theatre because I love all the arts and theatre combines them all. But, I’ll say: a whole bunch of productions ranging from Dreamgirls to the production of Midsummer I saw at the Bridge Theatre in London last summer – enhanced by the fact that it was my kids’ first Shakespeare, and they laughed their asses off and loved it. I’m also a museum and art junkie and couldn’t begin to pick a favorite painting OR song OR novel OR movie – well maybe The Godfather.  I guess any piece of art that pulls you in and transports you to another place – even for a moment. 

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead? 

Theatre people – really any artists – who aren’t actually making a financial living at their work but feel so passionately called to the art they must still pursue it every day for their whole lives.

And the Obamas. They were onstage for eight years with an audience of millions and they never missed a line or a cue or a step. They deserve a standing ovation forever. 

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be? 

Being a great friend, step-mom and wife. 

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be? 

Multi-faceted.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure? 

Wine at lunch. 

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say? 

Try to get some work or an observership in film or TV. 

Write. You’re allowed! 

Take more vacations.  

Q: Where would you most like to live? 

Greenwich Village in the 1960s.

Q: What is your idea of success? 

Work you are excited about and getting to be with the people you love. 

Q: What is your idea of happiness? 

A long dinner with friends after a spectacular play. 

Swimming in the ocean.

Wandering around a museum by myself, after a glass of wine at lunch, preferably in a foreign city.

Typing  “The End” as I finish a piece of writing.

Q: Final Thoughts?  

Vote in the fall like your life depends on it, ‘cause it does! 

 

Fast Forward Friday with Donna Kaz

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed  New York based writer-director-choreographer-activist Donna Kaz. For the past 20 years she has led Guerrilla Girls on Tour with performances that address social issues and prove feminists are funny. Her new eBook, PUSH/PUSHBACK 9 Steps to make a Difference with Activism and Art (because the world’s gone bananas) can be found at ggontour.com and  donnakaz.com,

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I am a multi-genre writer and I work in nonfiction, poetry, stage and screen. Currently, I’m working on a play set in New York City in 1981 at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.  It is based on my experiences of living through that era and losing so many friends to AIDS, specifically a very close collaborator who directed my first plays. The play is called The Docent, and had a first read with American Renaissance Theatre Company in NYC in February.

I am also still very involved in my work as a member of the activist theater group Guerrilla Girls On Tour.  Usually, at this time, we would be touring to colleges around the country with lectures, workshops and performances but since COVID-19 we have had to pivot to virtual workshops and artist talks. Our third Art of Activism Poster Making Workshop will be offered via Zoom on June 26.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes who have had an impact on you and your work?

My mom was very creative and had an amazing sense of humor. My dad made beautiful things out of wood and I spent a lot of time in his workshop.  I have also been inspired by the work of Yoko Ono, Gloria Steinem, and others who have made it possible for women in theater to have a voice on stage, like Deborah Randall of Venus Theatre and Lisa McNulty of the Women’s Project Theatre.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

Realizing that creating art takes many steps, some of them slower than others, and you often have to be patient to allow inspiration to enter.  I have found that making art is a process and that putting time into thinking about an idea is often just as important as executing that idea.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I would like to share some links to some organizations doing important work within the theater community right now like The Broadway Advocacy Coalition, using the arts for social change; Honor Roll, an advocacy group for women playwrights over 40; and Guerrilla Girls On Tour’s Blog featuring womxn artists called  On Being a Womxn Artist.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision? 

Remember to celebrate your successes, even if they seem small. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Believe in yourself and your ability.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

This is such a great question, especially during this self-quarantine year. If I could, I would be in a crowded theater, either involved in a production or sitting in the audience watching some great new play or musical.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Living in a world which oppresses and marginalizes women is the biggest obstacle I can think of. Patriarchy has to go.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I read, write, listen to music, cook, and try to connect with nature whenever I can.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

 I think of my past as something I have worked hard to accept so rather than letting it go I would like to answer this question in a different way. I could never really “let go” of the violence and abuse that is in my past – the trauma of surviving domestic violence and sexual assault.  For me it is more a question of how to accept what happened to me. In order to make peace with my past and move forward I first realized that it was impossible to change what happened. I came to accept the fact that I am who I am because of my past. The way forward for me was to acknowledge what I have gone through and that has made me stronger.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I am drawn to activist art and work that inspires change such as the artistic responses to the murder of George Floyd like LA artist Nikkolas Smith’s portrait of Floyd; and Houston street artists Donkeeboy and Donkeymom who painted a powerful mural in Houston’s Third Ward.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Michelle Obama. I’ve never met her but whenever I see her speak I feel like she’s talking to me.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Helping to change the face of theater to include the work of more women and artists of color.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Feminist.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Hawaii. It is a beautiful and magical place.

Q: What is your idea of success?

I wrote a lot about this in my memoir UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour.  This is from the book: “Getting cast in a theater production or a movie or having my play produced does not make me an artist. Art is in me, lives in my soul, the vibration inside fights a way out to make stuff up. Nobody has to buy this stuff, this art, or look at it, or produce it. It is art because I am an artist and I made it up. If it is the truest stuff I can make, it is a success. Not to say that getting money for your art is not okay. It is. But it is no longer the criteria by which I identify myself as an artist. I am success. I am a success. My story is at the end of a pencil poised over an empty page. I picked the pencil up. And wrote.”

Q: Final Thoughts? 

Thank you for this opportunity to connect with other creative people.