Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020 Interview with Miwa Matreyek

REDCAT presents the Los Angeles premiere of Infinitely Yours by animator, designer and performer Miwa Matreyek for the debut of her latest work. Running for three performances from Thursday, January 16 through Saturday, January 18, 2020, the award-winning interdisciplinary creator brings her nightmarish vision of climate grief to Los Angeles audiences before heading to Park City, Utah for the works’ world premiere during Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program. Infinitely Yours will then embark on a North American tour throughout June. 
In our conversation Matreyek discusses the project in detail.

This brilliant new work, Infinitely Yours, sounds like a film but is, at the same time, a live theatrical experience. I see it’s also headed to Sundance’s New Frontier program, which is where Festivalgoers get "a peek into the next dimension of storytelling,” as they explain on their site. Describe for our readers your new piece's exact nature and composition.

MM: I am an animator, designer, and performer. I create live performances where I step behind the screen and into my kaleidoscopic moving images that are projected onto a screen, and interact with them as a shadow silhouette. My work is at once fantastical and visual like cinema, but is also physically present, intimate, and about creating an emotional connection with the audience, like theater. My work often weaves in narratives of nature and humanity with my shadow taking on various scales of consciousness and perspectives.

Describe what you mean by dreamlike.

MM: My work tends to not have any text, and doesn’t follow a specific character or a clear narrative. Rather, the images the audience sees are surreal and poetic, while also being a physical experience for the shadow silhouette they see on screen. Shadow is interesting because it is physical (cast by a real body) but also abstracted. As a shadow, my body can get larger than life, to show close-ups of my face, my hands, my feet, etc, as well as play with cinematic tropes and conventions, like POV shots. By combining a real body with the video, I want the dreamlike or nigtmare-ish visual moments to seem like real experiences happening to the physical body. 

The work also very much plays with illusion, and transformation, and can feel like a magic show.

From whence does your inspiration come for this issue of climate change?

MM: Much of the inspiration came from news article headlines about climate change that I’d been seeing in the last few years. I began notetaking and cataloguing these articles, as they became inspirations for the images and embodied experiences, as I was imagining up ways to create a metaphorical version of the headlines. A giant body emitting trash in a landfill. A figure reaching in to the ground and pulling out oil.

Apart from making audiences aware of climate change and what it is doing to destroy our world as we know it, what are your other goals with this project? What would you like to see people do to help?

MM: I would say creating a discussion about climate change is my main goal. I often incorporate artist talks when I tour (especially with university presenters). With Infinitely Yours, part of the talk will be not just about the inspiration (articles, books) but also my personal struggles as I wrestle with personal choices in my everyday life. Much of the imagery in the piece came from my daily life –  the plastics floating in the polluted ocean scene is plastic trash I generated. I began doing what I call a plastic audit, where I collected all the plastic trash I generate in a month (rather than putting it out in the blue bin to be taken away every week). It was eye-opening to see the month’s worth of trash in one place, to think through the choices I made in the grocery store, and how I might make those choices differently. Some items, like grains, I can fairly easily avoid plastics by going to a store that has bulk bins. However, some other items, such as tofu, seems impossible to acquire without generating plastic trash – unless I figured out how to make it myself, or completely stopped eating it. I think there is something to be said about stopping and reassessing all the choices we make everyday - driving or taking public transportation, eating plant-based foods or not, buying new or getting used, etc etc. 
I feel like in our world, we need a wider imagination of the before and after of the choices that we make – we tend to see only the moment. I am interested in the work rattling the audiences a bit to reconsider the befores and afters of the choices that they make.

The music we’ll hear in Infinitely Yours is by Morgan Sorne aka SORNE but he did not create it with you or for the piece, correct? How did the two of you approach this collaboration and will he perform the score live at other shows beyond REDCAT and Sundance?

MM: I met Morgan a few years ago when a friend invited him to one of my shows in Los Angeles. Since then I got to know his music and as I started working on Infinitely Yours, I began to feel his music really resonated with the energy and feeling of the scenes. I asked Morgan if he’d consider me using his music, and he said yes, so I went through his whole discography (he has many albums!) to start to pin down which songs work for the project. He gave me the song files, which I was able to start adding animation to, and use the music to help define the structure of how the images and scenes unfold from one to the next. As an animator with some music background, letting the music really drive the energy of the visuals is key for me, using the  rhythms and beats to drive the visual beats. 

So the idea is that I have one version of the full show with all pre-recorded music, including his vocals, and another version of the full show with a lot of the layers in the music removed, so that Morgan can perform live with his vocal and instruments. How often we get to do this will be up to the presenters and our availability....

If you are live on tour with the project, will you answer questions from each audience after the presentation?

MM: Yes, normally there is a Q and A after the shows, where I answer questions from the audience. A lot of my touring takes place through university presenters, and I plan to incorporate artist talks, discussions, and workshops as well. With my past work, the focal point of my talk had been mainly about making interdisciplinary work, and my process. With Infinitely Yours as part of the tour, I’d love for the artist talks to also focus on climate change, sustainability, and personal choices. 

With a run-time of 25 minutes, the L.A. presentation of Infinitely Yours will be paired with some of Matreyek’s older work, creating an 80-minute program, which will include a 15-minute intermission. Each performance will begin at 8:30 pm. Tickets for Infinitely Yours are $22 or $18 for REDCAT members, and all ages are welcome. The Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) is located at 631 W 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For tickets, please call the box office at 213 237-2800 or visit https://www.redcat.org/event/miwa-matreyek-infinitely-yours.

• Miwa Matreyek - www.semihemisphere.com
• Matreyek’s Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/miwamatreyekartist
• Matreyek’s Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/matreyek
• Matreyek’s Twitter - https://twitter.com/miwamatreyek
• Matreyek’s Vimeo - https://vimeo.com/matreyek

Friday, January 10, 2020

Interview with Dr. Venus Opal Reese

Best-selling author, acclaimed international speaker and business mentor Dr. Venus Opal Reese will kick-off her latest tour, The Raw Truth Book+ Tour, during MLK weekend at Highways in Santa Monica. Highways is stretching the limits once again to add enrichment to the Los Angeles theatre scene. Dr. Venus is one very theatrical lady who tells our readers in detail where she came from and how she has risen to the heights of fame and success.

Tell our readers about your background and how it affected your current career. As a writer, I am always pleased to see someone rise up out of poverty, take charge and shape their destiny.

Dr. Venus: By the time I was 16, I was living on the streets of Baltimore, MD, eating out of trashcans and sleeping in urine and beer. On the streets, everyone lies. Streetlife is rooted in survival. I had to discern quickly what a person wanted and what to say in order to stay alive.  I became masterful at hearing what people are NOT saying.

This specific capacity is my “million-dollar moneymaker.” Everyone has one.
It’s formed in a moment of crisis when life knocks you to your knees. I can “hear” what people will buy from only you that is rooted in your lived experience. I then position, package, and price it so my clients become the highest-paid leader in their industries, live fulfilled lives and leave a legacy that transforms the world. Simply put, I turned myself into a category of one and I do the same for high net-worth, top-performing, high achievers, business owners, and experts. If I hadn’t lived on the streets, I would never have grossed $5 million in less than 6 years, without loans, investors, a sales team, or government funding.
It’s not in spite of the streets but BECAUSE of what I learned on the streets I am now able to empower and model for others how to “pimp”  their pain instead of their pain pimping them. My clients have grossed millions by implementing my strategies, systems, and programs.

What does your book detail? Is there a specific plan to follow?

Dr. Venus: From the means streets of Baltimore to Stanford Ph.D., to Black Woman Millionaire, The Raw Truth: A Pimp’s Daughter’s Diary is a relentlessly honest and emotionally intimate account of my spiritual healing from a traumatic childhood to salvation and personal power. Inspiring, disturbing, and as “real” as it gets, enter a world very few survive. Ruthlessly authentic, sensually erotic, and viscerally explicit, this story is a road map to guide you, if you’re ready, from socially acceptable acts of self-hate to self-making, self-love, to ultimately self-respect.

Explain the different parts to your evening, so our readers know exactly what to expect.

Dr. Venus: The Raw Truth Book+ Tour: Pimp Slap The Past Into Peace, Purpose, Passion & Profits is a 3-part experience. Unlike conventional book tours, this is a full-day experience for book lovers, lifetime learners, and theatergoers.

1.     The Book Signing: Bring your copy of my bestselling book, The Raw Truth: A Pimp Daughter’s Diary, or purchase one on-site (come early to get yours before they are sold out!), and let’s grab a photo together.
2.     The Wealth Workshop: During this three-hour session, I will share how I turned my painful and traumatic childhood into millions. And meaning. If you have ever felt trapped by the past, knowing there’s SO much more for you, don’t miss this session!
    1. I am also including “love seats,” where a few select audience members get to come on stage where I use my multi-million-dollar brain to show you how to monetize your pain or turn your pain into purpose!
    2. We will finish the session by passing the mic to members in the audience (you?) for “Share YOUR Truth” moments to be witnessed, heard, seen, and confirmed by a loving tribe of fellow “Truth-Tellers” who understand.
3.     The Solo Performance: This is where the book comes to LIFE! It’s one thing to read my powerful and raw words on the page, and it’s great to learn how YOU can pimp your own pain into peace or profits. But to SEE, FEEL, and WITNESS me bringing my words to life? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you can’t get ANYWHERE else on the planet!

How much spirituality is involved in the program?

Dr. Venus: This program is rooted in my personal relationship with God—as a street urchin. I talk to God like he is a Black Man who just got out of prison. #realtalk  So, my relationship with God is VERY “Street.” In my imaginings, God is a gangsta not an angelic white man in the sky. Because I grew-up on the streets, I needed a God who bleeds; someone I could relate to. So, the entire program is rooted in my personal, street-life centered relationship with God. It’s important to know I didn’t meet God in the church. I met God on the streets. I met Jesus in the club. (Kirk Franklin’s “Stomp)  So, if a person is “religious” they will clutch their pearls when they hear how real and raw God and I roll. I curse, cry and pray—sometimes in the same breath.
My work—written, taught, or performed—doesn’t fit into a box of respectability. 

As a girl from the streets, I don’t traffic in respectability. I traffic in truth. I wasn’t built for the church. I was built for the marketplace. I am foul-mouth, sexually explicit, queer-identified and into kink. AND I love the Lord. Just like the imperfect vessels from the Bible—from David, to Moses, to Saul turned Paul—I’m a hot mess on a good day! That doesn’t mean I can’t love you. And it doesn’t mean God can’t use me for those of us who would NEVER make it with a “traditional” relationship with spirituality.

How do audiences generally react?

Dr. Venus: My audiences are hungry for the truth. Some have to set aside their judgments of what a Godly woman would say or talk about, which I regard as admirable. But those who are open-minded and open-hearted walk away inspired, with new fresh perspectives and wisdom. I always recommend audiences check out some of my Facebook or Instagram live streams, YouTube videos, and blog articles to get a sense of my flow before they come. That way the aren't surprised by how I remix the sacred with the streets. I got an edge on me. I do prepare new audience members, fans and followers for what to expect before I start my programs. I make it my business that everyone who comes to my tour stops and performances are taken care of.

Money is mentioned in the pr. Do you specifically encourage making money as one of the goals or does it come as an aftermath of success?

Dr. Venus: Money is not "effort." It’s energy. “Making” money is hard work, so I don’t advise it. The millions I have manifested come from healing my own historical, cultural and familial traumas—not my effort. Working hard will not make you rich. It will only make you tired. Most people have been taught to bring in money from what they “do.” Rich people bring in money from what they “know.”
When I say "know," I don’t mean skills, talents or credentials. There are tons of people who have the same skills, talents, and credentials that you have. So, you end up in a rat race where the cheapest price wins. The key isn’t “doing.” The keys that have made the biggest difference in my life, allowing me to fulfill my destiny, have NOTHING  to do with "doing." Truthtelling. Healing. Surrender. Allow. Trust. Receive. These energetic states are magic. The more you heal the more you can receive, without earning it, proving it, overcoming it, hustling, grinding, or slavin’.
I can show you how to break your first million in minutes (and I will at the wealth workshop) but money is the easy part. Healing—that’s the rub. When you identify your million-dollar moneymaker that is rooted in your pain—not your brain—and you price, package, and position it properly in the marketplace, financial AND emotional freedom, success, and fulfillment are natural fallouts.

Sum up your life in one sentence. Use past, present, and future in your statement.

Dr. Venus: From the Streets to Stanford, Ph.D., To Hot Mess Millionaire. My life is a miracle.

Dr. Venus Opal Reese presents The Raw Truth Book Tour at Highways Performances Space & Gallery, located at 1651 18th Street, Santa Monica, on Friday January 17 at 8:30 pm, Saturday January 18 at 8:30 pm and Sunday January 19 at 3: 30 pm. Plus you may attend a free open rehearsal on Monday January 13 at 8: 00 pm.

Contact the following link for tix: https://highwaysperformance.org/ :

Thursday, January 9, 2020

2020 Interview with Bryan Rasmussen

An award-winning actor as well as a director, producer, teacher, coach, and Artistic Director of the Whitefire Theatre, Bryan Rasmussen is proud to be celebrating its’ 37th season this year! In the fifteen years he has owned the Whitefire, Bryan has produced over 500 shows, as well as over 50 world premiere productions including “Blood Brothers”, “Love Like Blue”, “Mark Twain in the 20th Century”, “Seasons of Change” and many others. He has directed and acted in the world premiere of the critically acclaimed production of “FIREHOUSE” as well as directing the NAACP Best Solo Show of the Year award-winning “BILLIE!...backstage w/ Lady Day” about the life of Billie Holiday . With Solofest about to begin, Rasmussen tells us in detail about the program, what solofest means and how it will benefit the actors and the Whitefire Theatre this season.

Explain to our readers the exact meaning of Solofest.

BR: Solofest is a festival of one person shows or solo theater that is a celebration of the solo journey that brings 80 shows to the stage in 90 days. The biggest difference with this festival as opposed to other solo festivals is that we only do one show per day and not multiple shows in the same day. That’s so that the soloists can create a full production and not do their shows on other production’s sets or lights which is the case with most. And one of the biggest differences is that the performers are able to pay for their shows out of their box office rather than paying the fees upfront like most festivals. I did my own solo show back in the early 90s about Vincent van Gogh called Sincerely Yours, Vincent and performed it for approximately 10 years in local theaters and at the Edinburgh Festival and the Getty Museum. I learned a lot about producing a solo show and wanted to help other solo artists to get theirs done and not lose an arm and a leg financially like I did and to hopefully provide a safe harbor for solo artists to develop their shows.  Mine was a little easier because van Gogh is a name and that helped with marketing but it’s still a very difficult thing to do and as an actor I think it’s the hardest thing they'll ever have to do in their career. Hamlet doesn’t even have an hour and 20 minute monologue!

How long have you been doing it and how long does it run this year and on what nights does it run?

BR: This is the eighth year of Solofest and we do shows every single night of the week Monday through Sunday with two shows on Sunday which includes a matinee for one of the performances.

How many plays are there usually and how do you choose the plays?

BR: It changes every year. We began with about 20 as part of the festival and it has grown to over 80 shows in 90 days and has become the largest solo theater Festival on the West Coast . All of the shows only do one performance except a few that do a little bit of a run during the festival because they’ve done their shows before and want to do a run. That way everybody’s show gets paid for through their audiences. It’s when you try and do a run of solo shows is when it gets very difficult because of the numbers. We start accepting proposals for shows September 1, and we go through all of those and figure out which ones will be in the festival. I have a lot of help with that from my associate producer Nancy Santiago who lives in Seattle and she does a lot of the administrative work and organization that goes into handling all of the logistics needed for this kind of festival. We don’t have a big team or staff or anything like that, and so we are almost a solo show in itself as a theatre!

Is there a theme covering the shows this year?

BR: It’s not a strict theme but we definitely wanted female oriented stories this year which is why we opened the festival with Ladies First about some of the great female historical figures of our country.

What does the program of shows add to or how does it enhance your overall lineup of Theatre?

BR: I think Solo theater has now become the purest form of storytelling in theater. It used to be more of a showcase, vanity situation mostly. But now it has become a platform in which issues that haven’t been tackled as much in film or television can be approached through solo theatre. We have done solo shows here at the Whitefire ever since I took over in 2005. We have produced over 1000 solo shows at the Whitefire which have gone to Theatres all over the world.

What else of importance will you be performing in 2020? Anything radically new?

BR: Unfortunately I can’t speak about any of that at this moment because we are still negotiating with various producers and companies on possible projects that we will be helping to produce in 2020. One that I can mention will be the third installment of Howard Skora‘s family trilogy. We produced Howard‘s first two plays Miserable with an Ocean View and Damaged Furniture. Howard is one of the greatest comedy playwrights in America and we are proud to collaborate with him on his new plays.

As an actor is there anything new on the horizon for you to report?

BR: I’m always working as an actor mostly in film and television now. I don’t do much theater anymore because I’m so busy producing and directing now. I have some possible projects on the horizon but nothing set yet.

Is there anything you care to add?

BR: I think the biggest radically new situation we’re presenting this year is the ability to live stream live theater on a regular basis. We have been developing this technology for a number of years and finally have come to a point where we are like the Netflix of theater and able to stream multiple shows because we offer multiple shows in the same week. We created a “vertical rep” which basically has shows running once a week vertically rather than a lateral run like a Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday situation which is what is the normal template. It’s taken years to get to the point with technology that we can do this and are very excited about the prospect of streaming our content from the front row center seat worldwide!
We are streaming most of the solofest and a lot of our other content.
To do that simply go to www.whitefiretheatre.com/live and enjoy!