Fast Forward Friday with Kathleen Wallace

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed Kathleen Wallace, a creator-writer-producer and an actor in the web series The Evagelists and the upcoming Settling Up. She is also the founder of Seanachie Communications, a storytelling company. She was in the world premiere of Dennis Lehane’s Coronado, which was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. To learn more, her website at www.kathleenwallace.com.

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

At the moment, my primary project is the OKAY Initiative, which currently consists of a music video for a song called OKAY as well as covers of that song done by as many varied voices as possible. We hope to eventually expand the OKAY Initiative to an online emotional health resource center for teens and their teachers.

The video is a journey of finding the confidence to connect and talk. It starts with Ally not interacting with the song or with the messages that pop up on her phone. Slowly starts to look at the messages on her phone and mouth some of the words. Eventually she is able to sing directly to the camera. Finding the courage to articulate what she is feeling does not magically solve everything, but it is, as she sings in the song, a way toward being okay.

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

The inspiration for this project is Ally Reichard, the student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who wrote the song OKAY. When I first spoke to Ally about possibly doing a music video, she spoke of wanting to help as many people as possible. In the song, Ally articulates beautifully that it’s okay to not be okay. We hope that through this project we can shift conversations around emotional health  and help remove the stigma around not being okay, especially for teens.

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

I grew up wanting to be Katharine Hepburn. (And Wonder Woman.) I think from an early age I connected with her independence. When I grew older, I learned of how she took control of narratives and of her career, and then I really wanted to be her when I grew up.  

I had the great pleasure a few years ago of being on a podcast with Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner, a transmedia storytelling and creative design company. The way Jeff conceives of storytelling – the many approaches we can use and integrate, the many ways in which we can use storytelling to impact society – is profoundly inspiring to me and deeply influential.  

There are also lots of women in entertainment who inspire me now. I want to build on the work of women like Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay who lift up so many through the stories they tell, they way they tell them, and the doors they open.

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

My deep belief that artists have the power to shape and improve our world through our work.

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

Settling Up is a web series about two former college roommates who end up living together again in their late 30s. Think Two Broke Girls meets The Odd Couple. High-powered but broke, Alex needs a roommate after divorcing her husband for lying about wanting to have children. Darcy, a poor grad student who can’t seem to finish her dissertation, needs a safe place to live after discovering her boyfriend was cheating. They are each other’s yin and yang, best friend and worst task-master, who push each other to to settle for nothing less than the best.

When you’re tired of settling down and settling for, your only option is to settle up.

We’re finalizing some paperwork and making some small changes and aiming to have it released late this Spring.

The Evagelists is a mockumentary/comedy web series about evangelists for feminism. (Take the “n” out of “evangelist” and you get “evagelist”.) Sister Mary Beyonce is on a mission to make the world more vagtastic and spreads the good word through documentary-style videos about their vagenda as well as through PSAs such as “10 Things to Do With Your Female Characters Besides Rape Them.” You can lean more about this project here: www.TheEvagelists.com.

My brain also keeps wandering off to Good People, a nascent, hour-long drama series in the vein of Broadchurch and True Detective. It’s a procedural that uses the central mystery as a stealth way of addressing the demand side of human trafficking.

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

When I most feel that I’m living in my vision is when “happy accidents” happen, when it feels like the world is conspiring to help me out. One recent example of this is from this past Fall when I went to a conference completely unrelated to the OKAY Initiative. I met multiple powerhouse people (impressive in not only their accomplishments but also in intelligence and compassion) whose interests aligned with the OKAY Initiative and who are now advisors for the project. Serendipity – or living in my vision?

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

Showrunning Good People and Settling Up Season 2. I’d also be creating transmedia stories.

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

“Shoulds”. Listening too much to all the things I was told I should be doing and not enough to what I knew in my heart to be true.

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

Not enough! I meditate twice every day which helps me stay focused on what is and isn’t important and stay connected to my creativity.  

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

Self-judgement born of fear. Being afraid of not being talented enough, smart enough, prepared enough, etc.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Just one?! Every time I hear the finale of Turandot I get chills and have to stop what I’m doing. It never fails.

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

Two people: My parents. I know it’s cliche to say, but it’s true. My parents raised my siblings and me to live so that our presence on this planet makes the world a better place. A lesson they taught by example: My father was an English and drama teacher and my mother is a retired nurse for a school for special services. After my father passed and my mother and I were going through his papers, we were surprised at the size of the folder of letters from charities to which he gave regularly – no matter how they were doing financially. I hope that I embody the best of them and that I make them proud by living their example.  

And I should note that my parents’ lived values came from their parents who lived the same values. I come from a long line of people of whom I am very proud.

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

Using narratives to make the world a more inclusive, compassionate, connected place. I believe to the core of my being that we can change the world by changing narratives, that this is both our gift and responsibility as storytellers.

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

Wannabe-Wonder-Woman. (If I use hyphens that counts as one word, right?)

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

British mysteries! I have always loved solving puzzles and started reading Agatha Christie when I was in elementary school. Mysteries are essentially puzzles in narrative form, so they merge two loves of mine.

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

If you get others’ approval, awesome. If not, no worries. The more you seek validation externally, the less you will find. Be secure in yourself. You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. It’s great actually, because you can learn from them and get better and better.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I really do love New York City and where I live now in my beautiful, pre-war apartment uptown. That said, I am a water baby and dream of living near the ocean. Somewhere clean and quiet and abundant in natural beauty that also has a thriving arts scene and a diverse, inclusive community. Still searching for that place.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Having a positive impact on the world.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Contentment in the now.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Many thanks to Joanne for the chance to do this. It’s been a beneficial therapy session!

Also, what we do as artists, as storytellers matters. Think of the amount of time people spend with stories, whether they are songs or plays or film or TV or a painting or … The stories put into the world shape our understanding of it and our place in it. What we do in creating those stories, that is noble, important work. It matters. And I honor all of you who are doing the work.

 

 

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