Interview: Playwright and Actor Sarah Hunter on why DOGS ARE BETTER THAN PEOPLE

Dogs Are Better Than People, written and performed by Sarah Hunter, and developed and directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson, is an eccentric romp through drinking, bad men, and fabulous dogs who each tell Sarah’s story. But why, you may ask, does Sarah Hunter truly believe that Dogs are better than people? Could it be the canines in her life might be better at telling the truth about life’s trials and tribulations, as well as the many joys, they have experienced with her in life?

In tribute to all her knowledgeable dogs over the years, the writer/performer decided to let them tell her story. Lilly the Airedale. along with the Chiweenie duo Koa and Louis the Fourteenth, and several others spill all about her humorous journey - beginning with her divorce in Chicago, frustration, bad relationships, to revelation and celebration in finding a "working relationship" in sobriety with Matthew, the man who appreciates both her and her dogs.

Intrigued by a play’s title and a devoted dog Mom myself, I decided to speak with its writer/performer Sarah Hunter to find out more about her and the play’s creation. To my surprise, I found out Ms. Hunter is also a retired English teacher (as I am), although she taught for many more years than I did. I was also interested to find out about her travels with groups of adolescents to Europe, something I always thought I would have loved to do, had I had the patience for it.

And to top everything off, turns out she also believes that astrology provides insights into understanding other people, especially students and learning to get along with men. And since I used my understanding of astrological birth charts in similar ways, which worked every time, I was curious about whether or not the dogs offer any insights about it in the play.

Shari Barrett (Shari): Hi Sarah. I know we have a lot to talk about given that Dogs Are Better Than People is an eccentric romp through drinking, bad men, and fabulous dogs. So let’s start with the fabulous dogs who tell your story. What can you tell me about the ones you have shared your life with and is there one in particular that inspired you to write the play?

Sarah Hunter (Sarah): Thanks, Shari, for your questions and the chance to let me rhapsodize about dogs, my first loves. Growing up, I had my springer spaniel, Toby, to talk to when things got tough with my family. He always gave me a sloppy kiss and comforted me whenever I needed it. He inspired me to write this piece, along with all the other dogs who have loved me and whom I have adored. So I decided the best way to give them credit for being a part of my life was to BECOME them and let them speak.

Shari: I often think my dog rescued me. Do you believe the unconditional love and emotional support you get from a devoted dog is one of the best presents you can give yourself in life?

Sarah: Oh, yes. I think the presence of a dog, with its head on my knee or in my lap is therapy. It’s hard to remain glum or irritated for long when there’s an enthusiastic, loving little pair of eyes begging for a piece of chicken or wagging her tail for a walk. I can’t imagine living without two of them. They rescued me when I was drunk, when I became sober, and when I went through one bad relationship after another. Always there...always nonjudgmental, always pure love.

Shari: Tell me about your partnership with well-known solo show director Jessica Lynn Johnson. Did you start developing Dogs Are Better Than People as a student in her ongoing free weekly solo theatre class?

Sarah: Actually, no, I sought Jessica out after seeing my friend, and fellow Solo Artist, Lisa Verlo, perform an excerpt of her newest one woman show in Jessica’s Soaring Solo Salon. From there, I started to work with Jessica one-on-one to create my show. Jessica is humorous, talented, creative and full of sound advice and encouragement. And the best part is that Jessica has an adorable “Chug” named Ruby Peanut who makes frequent appearances during our coaching sessions.

Shari: Anything you want to share about the “drinking and bad men” who populate the play?

Sarah: Well, the scene that I put in the play featuring a hideous “Silver Singles date” really happened. Complete with the sweaty armpit-stained t-shirt and the bad attitude. I found my online dating experiences absurd and depressing, so I put one of them in the show... for a bit of humor.

Shari: Tell me a bit more about Matthew, the man who finally appreciates both you and your dogs. Did you meet while walking your dogs? What made you realize he was different than the other men you had dated?

Sarah: Matthew, whose real name is Andres, is a fellow sober man who loves my dogs and me. He has a sense of humor and appreciation of music and the Arts. We’ve been together for a decade.

Shari: That in itself is pretty special! Do you talk about your years as an English teacher in the play as seen through the eyes of your dogs?  No doubt teachers now are on Zoom with their pets often clamoring for attention during online classes!

Sarah: At one point in my show, I have Sarah (me, the main character) grading essays on the couch and swearing out loud. Lilly, the Airedale, makes a comment about what Sarah thinks of the essays and then says she’s grateful she’s a dog instead of an English student.

Shari: I know you led several tours of Europe with students. Was there a favorite place you especially loved sharing with them?

Sarah: I’m in love with Paris, and the kids loved it too -- the nighttime boat ride down the Seine, the trip to the chocolate factory, the ice cream parlors, the Louvre, the cafes, everything. even going to Versailles, a place I find to be magic. They did too. I did my best to wear them out so they wouldn’t complain about the deeply mediocre food catered by the tour company. We all managed to come home a little porkier than when we started out!

Shari: I have been to Paris many times and I absolutely adore the people and places, especially all the museums! It also seems we both have a strong interest in astrology. Have you used its techniques to better understand your dogs – and men?

Sarah: Men, yes, dogs no. I think dogs are God’s gifts to us, but men… well, I’ve made mistakes astrologically there. I’m a Sagittarius and my human partner is a Libra, so we are compatible. All dogs have gotten along great with me. Lilly was a Gemini, and my two chiweenies are both little Tauruses. Stubborn, but oh so loving!

Shari: Is there anything else you would like viewers to know about yourself and/or Dogs Are Better Than People?

Sarah: I hope they enjoy my whacky sensibilities and appreciation of DOGS, especially since God spelled backwards is DOG.

Shari: Thanks so much for speaking with me about the show! I can’t wait to be in the audience!


The eccentric collection of talking dogs presented by Sarah Hunter in Dogs Are Better Than People takes place as part of the Whitefire Theatre Solofest 2021 Livestream on Saturday, March 13th at 7pm PST/10 pm EST. Tickets are $15.99, available at https://www.whitefiretheatre.com with a portion of the show's proceeds being donated to Pasadena Humane, Hand In Paw Rescue, and Soi Dog Foundation. So settle in to enjoy the show with your own four-legged furry friends around your home screen!

 

Background on Sarah Hunter and Jessica Lynn Johnson:

Sarah Hunter is the other half of Two Heads are Better Productions. She began creating characters and dramas in her neighborhood backyard at age eight back in West Lafayette, Indiana. From graduate school to her time in Los Angeles, Sarah remains a dedicated student of classical and modern theater. She has dubbed Japanese cartoons, done voice-over work, had her original plays produced in Los Angeles and Pasadena as well as being a published short story writer. She continues acting, creating, writing and dreaming.

The most important thing for Sarah is the continuous re-inventing of herself each time she writes another play or TV episode. Working with Sandra Cruze on TWO HEADS ARE BETTER PRODUCTIONS has allowed Sarah to continue writing episodes and acting, and working on her one-woman solo shows which she has presented at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA as well as the Whitefire Theatre.

Jessica Lynn Johnson is a published playwright, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, Board member of the LA Women's Theatre Festival and Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo Theatre Company LLC. For years, Jessica has taught an ongoing free weekly solo theatre class, as well as paid private coaching sessions to guide solo artists in the development of their one person plays. For over a decade she has “edu-tained” international audiences touring her own 25-character one person shows. Recently, Jessica was thrilled to direct 5 solo artists in the LA Women's Theatre Festival, 17 solo shows in Whitefire Theatre's Solo Fest 2017, and 15 solo shows in the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2017. Over the years, Jessica's solo shows haven taken home TOP OF FRINGE, ENCORE PRODUCER AWARDS, & several other accolades! For more info on her various projects, visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com


Spotlight Series: Meet Janet Miller, a Multi-Talented Theatre Professor, Producer, Director, Choreographer and Tapper


This Spotlight focuses on Janet Miller, a Theater Professor at College of the Desert, Producing Artistic Director at Good People Theater Company, a multi-talented Producer, Director, Choreographer, and Tapper, as well as a lover of all furry friends. I have attended multiple productions in which Janet has contributed her skills, including several hit Hollywood Fringe Festival productions including The Toxic Avenger, Hello Again! The Songs of Allan Sherman, Marry Me a Little, and The Fantasticks just to name a few. Janet is pictured here with Gordon Goodman, the star of Barrymore which she directed, when they attended and won Ovation Awards for the production. Here is the link to my review on Broadway World: https://www.broadwayworld.com/los-angeles/article/BWW-Reviews-Gordon-Goodman-Channels-John-Barrymore-Into-Reality-Onstage-at-Greenway-Court-20131125


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background? 

Janet Miller (Janet): I am a producer, theatre director, choreographer, and educator.

(SB): What production were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?  

(Janet): We had just opened a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) at College of the Desert. We did 2 out of 6 performances before we had to shut down the production.

(SB):  How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team? 

(Janet): We had been waiting to hear that our college was going to shut down as there were a number of emails that went back and forth. When I got the final word, I passed on the information to my co-director Maricela Sandoval, a graduating student, and we contacted everyone. When we arrived at the theatre, I spoke to the cast and crew. It was quite sad for our students at College of the Desert as they worked so diligently, especially the student co-director.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(Janet): We would like to remount in the Fall, but we don’t think that is possible, unfortunately.

(SB):  What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown? 

(Janet): We had been granted the rights to Middletown by Will Enos for our fall production, which I would be directing. We are holding off on making any final plans for that show at this point, as well as holding off on the planning on producing The Fantasticks in Spring 2021. We will decide as the course of the Coronavirus becomes clearer.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites? I am still teaching online.

(Janet): I teach Script Analysis, Introduction to Theatre, Acting I, and Tap. I am also attending many Zoom meetings, reading and posting articles, as well as spending time speaking to my colleagues.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Janet): It WILL happen. Theatre is a survivor and so are we!


Featured photo: Janet Miller and Gordon Goodman at the Ovation Awards

This article first appeared on Broadway World.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 43 - 49

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 43: Recalling a time when our mental, physical, spiritual or emotional health was compromised.

Day 44: Recalling our rock bottom as well our peak time in our lives.

Day 45: Recalling a meaningful moment of celebration in our lives.

Day 46: Calling to mind our biggest fan and supporter.

Day 47: Calling to mind our Fathers or Father Figures.

Day 48: Calling to mind our Mothers, Mother Figures or Mother Nature.

Day 49: Calling to mind our "Chosen Family".

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.


 


Spotlight Series: Meet Martin Thompson - A Recovering Soap Opera Actor, Official Sherlock Holmes Performer, & Acting Instructor at NY Film Academy


This Spotlight focuses on Martin Thompson, a self-proclaimed recovering soap opera actor who often graces stages as an “Official Sherlock Holmes Performer” and now frequents the stage or directs at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills, and also appears in films and on TV series. And as a distinguished member of the acting faculty at The New York Film Academy, Martin now teaches an Acting for Film class online. Read on to find out more about this talented actor who recently directed an outstanding production of The Manor at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Martin Thompson as Sherlock Holmes

Martin Thompson (Martin): I’m a recovering and repentant former New York soap opera actor (All My Children, Guiding Light, The Edge of Night) with numerous award-winning and critically-acclaimed New York and regional stage performances across the country, which are now most likely forgotten – and perhaps best left to the imagination.

Today, however, I continue my meteoric rise to obscurity by working in Los Angeles Theatre! As a company member at Theatre 40, I was last seen in the American Premiere of Renovations for Six, and reprising my role as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily. In fact, I've been named an “Official Sherlock Holmes Performer” by the Diogenes Club, UK, the International Sherlock Holmes Society, for my numerous appearances as the iconic detective. Remind me to tell you about the time a collector on eBay got more bids for my autograph than for Benedict Cumberbatch’s!

 

In my spare time, I also enjoy appearing on television and in major motion pictures with many big Hollywood stars who probably don't remember working with me. I co-star with Kevin Costner in The New Daughter, opposite Paul Rudd in Wanderlust, and with Colin Firth in Main Street (the final screenplay by the legendary Horton Foote). My television credits include Lake Effects with Jane Seymour for Hallmark, NCIS: Los AngelesCriminal MindsScorpionComedy Bang Bang, and Uncle Buck: a very short-lived comedy on ABC. And, I’m currently appearing in the first season of the new series Penny Dreadful: City of Angels which premieres on Showtime this month.

Martin Thompson in "Wanderlust" (Universal Pictures)

I'm also a somewhat distinguished member of the acting faculty at The New York Film Academy, where I'm proud to guide a new generation of actors toward their dreams of becoming just as rich and famous as I am!

(SB): You certainly are staying busy!  What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

Jennifer Lee Laks and Martin Thompson in "Night Watch" at Theatre 40

(Martin): I had just finished directing the Theatre 40 production of The Manor at Greystone Mansion, and we actually closed about two weeks before the "safer at home" order hit. So, we were lucky that we got to finish the run! It was our 18th Season, and we surpassed our 300th performance this year. We produce The Manor under an Equity contract each year, so not only are the actors paid, but one of my former students who I cast in the lead this year, qualified for her Equity card with this production, and is now a proud union member! So, I was happy that we got through the run! (SB) For those who have never attended a performance of The Manor during any of its 18 seasons, here is my 2020 review of the production, which is staged in the actual mansion where the tragic events occurred.

(Martin): Unfortunately, I was also scheduled to begin production this month on a feature film, an audio production for Audacity, and as a potential Series Regular on two TV Pilots! But those are now on hold until an undetermined later date… if they happen at all.

(SB): How were the shutdowns communicated with the cast and production team?

(Martin): One of the TV Pilots had just begun production when the shut-down hit. The producers thought they could still shoot the first episode, but unfortunately, they were wrong. The producers of both pilots, the feature film, and the producers from Audacity reached out to the cast and crew via email to let us know that we would stop production immediately. So, we’re all out of work until we get the all-clear!

(SB): Are plans in place to present any of those productions at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Martin): We’re all in a wait-and-see posture right now. The audio program has been cancelled completely, but the feature film has a chance of coming back, if they can hold on to their investors. The two television pilots will miss the window for Pilot Season, so they may have to reformat their current plans. It’s likely, that if we do have the opportunity to shoot the pilots, that they will not be going to network television but rather be shopped to online distributors, which may change the nature of the series or the number of episodes. We just don’t know right now. I’m just hoping that they’ll reach out to me again, once they get the go-ahead to start production!

(SB):  How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

Mona Lee Wylde and MartinThompson in "Renovations for Six" at Theatre 40

(Martin): I’m fortunate in that I’m still teaching as an Acting Instructor at New York Film Academy here in Los Angeles. The school shut down on March 13th, but we are still attempting to teach classes online with Zoom. It’s admittedly a little weird trying to teach an acting class online, but we’re doing the best we can. Fortunately, my current class is an Acting for Film class, so working on camera (even if it’s a webcam!) still fits into the general nature of the class.

We were supposed to be shooting the students’ final films this month, but those plans are out the window since we can’t go on location, or even be in the same room. So, we’re attempting to shoot an entire film with each student self-taping themselves for their scenes! I’ve got some really bright and talented students who have written an entire script which allows all the scenes to be shot in individual close-ups. It’s sort of a combination of an Agatha Christie murder mystery and a Christopher Guest mockumentary. And it’s very funny!

So, we’re having a lot of fun, and it’s given my students a unique and creative outlet during our quarantine time. I’m not sure what will happen, though, once this semester ends in May. It’s likely that the school will remain closed for much of the Summer, so I may be out of work… again!

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Martin): This is a strange time for all of us in the creative arts, especially in the Theatre since ours is such a collaborative field. We simply cannot do what we do without everyone else - and especially without an audience! So, being alone in quarantine can easily take its toll. Suddenly we find ourselves with nothing to do, and no one to do it with. It can feel depressing, scary, and even futile at times. I know I’ve felt all of those things in the last few weeks. And, that’s ok!

It’s perfectly acceptable right now to take care of yourself. There’s no need to push yourself to “Keep the theatre alive.” Because right now, Live Theatre is dead since it requires an in-person performance in front of a live audience. Without those ingredients, it simply does not exist. So, let’s not feel compelled to move theatre online, or to force people to watch our new monologues on YouTube. I would actually prefer to binge-watch anything on Netflix right now, rather than to sit through a staged reading of “Uncle Vanya" on Zoom!

(SB): I understand what you are saying about Live Theatre, but I still believe Theatre itself as an art form now lives online in many forms. It’s just the unspoken, interactive, and emotional give-and-take that is missing without the live audience.

(Martin): Certainly many of us are continuing our studies, learning new monologues, reading plays, updating resumes and websites, and doing all of that actor “busy work." But I would urge my fellow actors not to feel compelled to do anything if you don’t want to. Take care of yourself. That’s the most important thing you can do right now. When we come out of this - and we will - things will be much different, and I certainly hope the Theatre will be different! I don’t think we will see the old models of theatre companies and productions as we know them now, especially since many of the smaller companies in LA will no longer exist while many of the larger companies will need to restructure.

And we will all need to ask ourselves “Why do we do this?” and, “Who do we do this for?” Our relationship with our audiences must change in order to keep Theatre alive in the future. We cannot ask them to simply sit numbly and watch us perform. We must realize that they are an integral part of our performance and must find new ways to welcome them in and involve them.

I look forward to seeing a newer and more vibrant Theatre community in the future, with truly innovative and engaging works which speak with a new and compelling voice to our currently shell-shocked audiences. They deserve that from us! And we must listen to their needs in order to bring them back. Then, and only then, can we all move forward together.

I would love to hear from other actors, artists, playwrights, designers, and students who are all in the same boat - or in your own little boats floating around. And, if there is anything I can do to help, encourage, or just listen - I’m happy to do that. I can be found at the following social links, and I’ll look forward to hearing from anyone who’d like to reach out:

Twitter: twitter.com/MartinThomActor

Instagram: instagram.com/MartinThompsonActor

Facebook: facebook.com/MartinThompsonActor


This article first appeared on Broadway World.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 36 - 42

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 36: Recalling a betrayal we suffered.

Day 37: Recalling a crowded event or gathering we attended in the past.

Day 38: Exploring our sexuality.

Day 39: Exploring our resentments.

Day 40: Revisiting our childhood home in our minds.

Day 41: Exploring our understanding of God.

Day 42: Recalling a time when we acted as a leader.

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 29 - 35

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 29: Recalling a Best Friend.

Day 30: Recalling our proudest accomplishment.

Day 31: Letting our imaginations carry us into a fantasy.

Day 32: Processing a conflict in our lives.

Day 33: Exploring our purpose.

Day 34: Exploring a leap of faith that we took.

Day 35: Recalling an act of generosity.

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.



Steven Sabel's Twist On The Trade: Get Ready For Your New World


The world has forever changed. There is no doubt about that. The world changes all the time. The world of entertainment changes all the time. The most successful artists have been the ones who have been able to consistently adapt to those changes, adjust their approach, redirect their strategy, and provide the new required content.

So much has been written about the necessity of approaching your career as the business it must be in order to succeed. Look around you right now. Take notice of the businesses that are successfully adapting to change, adjusting their approach, redirecting their strategies, and providing the new required content. Learn from them so that you will be ready to hit the ground running when auditions open up again.

Auditions will open again. If you don’t believe that, then you should turn your focus right now to locating work in the least expensive, most attractive suburban community you can find.

If you do believe auditions will open up again, then you better get ready for your new world.

None of us can know exactly yet what the new world is going to look like. History tells us that entertainment will still be a commodity, no matter what the planet throws at us.

Auditions will open again and once they do, it will mean work for every artist in every field of this craft - unless they’re not ready. You are your commodity.

Get Ready.

Here are some things you should be doing right now to get ready.

First, get healthy.

That’s actually the easiest one. We all know the hours can get crazy when we’re working on a project, especially if we are also working another job. That schedule presents far too many excuses for eating random crap at random times and washing it down with cocktails at whatever is open and still serving both.

Not now.

Get healthy. Learn to prepare healthy food for yourself. It is a life skill that will serve you throughout your life and future career in anything. Make a commitment to yourself to treat your commodity better. Prepare your product for the showroom floor.

After you get healthy, get in shape.

If you’re in front of the audience, you need to realize it’s an aesthetic art. Look the part. If your roles are the “I’ve been sitting on my sofa eating my own homemade baked goods during quarantine” look, then rage on! Undoubtedly, the way that art mimics life, there will someday soon be auditions for those roles. Go for it.

If the audition you want is a “dashing leading role,” you had better get ready for your new world. The most beautiful aspect of this truth is in the also strong truth that most people will not take this simple advice, thus only enhancing the advantage of those who will.

Those who use this time to perfect their look for the roles they wish to have, will have far greater success than ever before in obtaining auditions for those roles when auditions open again. It just stands to reason. A lot of the business is about beating the odds.

Next, get educated.

The internet is an incredible thing. You can pretty much learn at least something about just about anything. Learn how to stitch a tear in a costume. It’s a very valuable skill that may save your own bum from being exposed some day. Learn how a camera operates so that you know better how to operate in front of a camera. Wow. Learn more about the details of how certain microphones work so you will know how to use them better. Learn how to use power tools so you can help build a set some day. Or maybe not.

There are so many things about our craft you don’t know that you could use this time to at least dabble into right now. Learn to edit your own reel. Woah, what?
Read scripts. Stop scrolling through everyone’s clever memes and photos of their homemade baked goods, and read some scripts. Read all types of scripts: plays, teleplays, radio plays, screenplays. Find a better understanding of the use of direction in the script. Discover roles or types of roles you want to play. Read them out loud to keep your face, tongue, lips, voice, and diaphragm from atrophy. Use your tools, or you will be rusty when your opportunity comes. Get on your feet and read some scripts!

Learn an entire new set of monologues to use for the new world of new auditions you are preparing for. Throw out that old piece your college theatre professor helped you perfect in your old world and learn a new piece. You’re a new artist preparing for your new world. This is a perfect time to refresh and renew your vigor for pursuing your craft by exploring new monologues to perfect.

Sharpen your skills and hone your edge. Remember what it was that made you want to pursue this craft as a career. Remember what inspired you to throw yourself into it. This is a time that has been thrust upon you. You get to decide how to use it. Or not.

Auditions will open up.

Get ready. Get healthy. Get in shape. Get educated. Read scripts. Learn new monologues. Remember why you’re here, and throw yourself into it.

Get ready for your new world.



CONNECT THRU CREATIVITY - APRIL 29 - May 6, 2020

 

Join solo artist Diana Varco (IG @dianavarco) as she leads a daily art therapy exercise to Connect Thru Creativity and draw your feelings into the language of weather!

LIVE at 11am PST on IG @dianavarco

In this 10-15 min experience, you’ll create a snap-shot sketch of your current inner world and also have the freedom to use art to articulate anxiety, frustration, joy, etc - really any emotion under the sun. This exercise is also great to do with loved ones and children to open up dialogue on our own unique and collective experiences during this unprecedented time. Mental health experts agree that being able to label our emotions, helps to support managing mental health.

No need to stick to just weather. Anything goes in your 'Weather Report' - so draw away!

Like weather - emotions can change minute by minute or stay for much longer than we'd prefer. Track your journey by joining Diana daily and writing down the description of your picture afterwards - at the end of stay at home orders, we will have a story of our experience!

This past week for Diana saw complex clouds, the sun and moon acting as stabilizing factors, and the present suspended between a difficult past and hopeful future.

Catch up on the past week of Connect Thru Creativity using the links below:

April 29th:

April 30:

May 1:

May 2:

May 3:

May 4:

May 5:

May 6th:

This art therapy exercise was first taught to Diana at the The Actors Fund - a vital support network for individuals in entertainment. Though Diana is not affiliated with Actors Fund, she remains an ardent supporter of their work. If you’d like to learn more or donate please visit: ActorsFund.org

Mental health matters and you do too! If you need immediate mental health support, contact Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 (US/Canada) or 85258 (UK) - visit CrisisTextLine.org to learn more.


Diana Varco is an LA based actress, comedian, and storyteller.

Diana is the writer/performer of Shattered - a dark comedy solo show that explores dating, dysfunction, and sexual devastation, as well as the complex path of trauma recovery. Fresh off a 25 show run of Shattered at Edinburgh Fringe, Diana is excited to share her use of the arts to support conversations on mental health! Directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson, Shattered premiered at the 2017 Whitefire Theatre SoloFest and went on to the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Outdoor Voices Festival, United Solo off-Broadway, and LA Women’s Theatre Festival.

Learn more about Diana at DianaVarco.com.
Learn more about Jessica Lynn Johnson and her free solo show class: JessicaLynnJohnson.com.



Save Our Local Theatre - Whitefire Theatre


This is a guest post by Diana Varco


The Whitefire Theatre is a beautiful, 84-seat, state-of-the-art theatre in Sherman Oaks. With the support of Artistic Director Bryan Rasmussen and solo theatre teacher Jessica Lynn Johnson, creator of the Soaring Solo artistic community, hundreds - if not thousands - of people have been able to develop and share their stories at Whitefire Theatre. To me, it's so much more than a theatre - it's an artistic home.

I am one of those performers and am now an internationally touring artist - having completed a 25 show run of my solo show Shattered at The Edinburgh Fringe in 2019. As a result, I also now utilize my story to support discussions on mental health and trauma recovery - two themes I explore in Shattered.

Hands down, I would not have started this journey, had it not been for Whitefire Theatre. Whitefire is where I first saw Kimleigh Smith powerfully perform her critically acclaimed solo show T-O-T-A-L-L-Y about transforming her trauma; and, with Kimleigh's loving support, I slowly started to write about transforming mine. Whitefire is where I made the leap to attend Jessica Lynn Johnson’s exceptional (and free!) solo show class on the Whitefire stage - space donated by Artistic Director Bryan Rasmussen. And in 2017, with the expert guidance of my director Jessica Lynn Johnson, the Whitefire Theatre is where I premiered my solo show Shattered at The Whitefire Theatre SoloFest - the largest solo theatre festival on the West Coast.

I return every year to perform Shattered at Whitefire Theatre SoloFest because Bryan creates a festival that is incredibly supportive for the solo artist; but, more so, I return for the community.

With COVID-19 threatening many small businesses, the impact on the arts has been especially painful. Please consider supporting Whitefire Theatre to continue their great work!

Here are three ways to support:

  1. Donate to the GoFundMe campaign: Click Here
  2. Support Whitefire Theatre SoloFest (Jan 9 - March 27) programming or become an on-line member! Find out more by going to www.whitefiretheatre.com
  3. Share your love for Whitefire on social media IG: @Whitefire_theatre, Twitter: @WhitefireThtr, Facebook: Whitefire Theatre

My story is just one of many. I asked fellow artists at Whitefire to weigh in on their journeys and experiences.

These are their stories:

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke often of his Vision of a Beloved Community - a community that honors the Dignity and Worth of every Individual with no one left out! The Whitefire Theatre Management and Community masterfully activates that Vision in every show it produces. Whether through a solo or ensemble performance - LA audiences experience subject matter from A to Z - uncensored - with no experience left out - honoring the Dignity and Worth and Creativity of All! Edutainment at its Best! Truly, the Beloved Community in Action!” ~ Candace Carnicelli (Ex. Dir., Common Peace, Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence) / Writer/Performer - Becoming Peace, a One Woman Rhythmic Dramedy about Power, Culture, Violence and Nonviolence

“Having found the Whitefire Theatre, and working with Jessica Lynn Johnson, has emboldened me to pursue all kinds of projects just knowing that there is a supportive and encouraging community of artists there. Solofest, in particular, the largest celebration of solo theatre on the West Coast, is incredibly inspiring and diverse, and offers not only the opportunity to take in these incredible performances, but is pretty much a welcome mat for anyone interested in pursuing an adventure in the theatrical arts. Community is what it is about, I have never experienced such close yet far reaching camaraderie.” ~ Lisa Verlo, Writer/Performer - HOLLYWOODN'T

“The Whitefire Theatre gave me a safe place to perform my solo show. Bryan and the support staff are generous, competent and helpful.” ~ Susan Porter, Writer/Performer - Wake Up Little Susy

“I have been part of The Whitefire Theatre for about 10 years. I've had my original works produced many times. Bryan has been a mentor AND a brother to me. He has truly built a loving supportive creative environment for artists of all levels. I perform all over the country, but I'm happiest at home at The Whitefire because of Bryan and his generous spirit.” ~ Toni Perrotta, Writer/Performer - Here’s What I’m Saying: Life Lessons From An Italian Mama

“Bryan Rasmussen and the team at Whitefire Theatre truly brought my life back to the stage where it always belonged. The chance to bring my shows to life in such a beautiful venue, supported by someone with such a passion for solo-performers and a capable crew...well, it was like being at home.” ~ Heather Dowling, Writer/Performer - Unemployed. Finally. & Fertile

“The theatre's artistic director, Bryan Rasmussen, is a kind, generous soul, a visionary and passionate supporter of solo theatre, which he frequently says is the most challenging of all theatrical expressions for any actor to undertake. The Whitefire has anchored, midwived and given me and my one-woman show, 'Wild At Hart', a home to return to and feel loved and celebrated within. It has also given home to the extraordinary Soaring Solo Theatre Community that Jessica Lynn Johnson created - a tribe of tremendously talented misfits who somehow all fit together in answering the inner call to Tell Their Stories. And the world, all of us as the larger tribe of belonging, need these stories!” ~ Kamakshi Hart, Writer/Performer - Wild At Hart

“The Whitefire Theatre has always had a welcoming, special and deeply creative energy for me. Before I premiered my show this past February, I used to take class here and was always in awe of their solofest shows. I wanted to be a part of it, badly.

Fast forward many moons later, thanks to Jessica Lynn Johnson, Bryan Rasmussen and Brandon Loeser, my show was brought into this world with their solid theatrical production savvy. I had zero worries (which made me worry) they knew me and what I needed and proceeded to produce magic not only for my sold out audience, but for me as well. I’m still in awe of how easy they make it look!” ~ Maeria Pae, Writer/Performer - Ma’s Kitchen

“I have quite a few lovely stories to share. I have had the privilege of performing at the Whitefire for the last 21 years and this place has literally changed my life. I came to LA for a 6 week run with all intentions of returning home to New York City. However, people plan and g-d laughs because instead of returning home, my show got picked up and produced for a six months run and won “BEST SOLO PRODUCTION” that year at the ADA AWARDS. I also had the AMAZING fortune of meeting my husband at The Whitefire theater. This phenomenal place has been my lucky charm. I am eternally grateful!” ~ Pam Levin, Writer/Performer - Tales of Modern Motherhood - Parts I & II

“The Whitefire Theater and the Soaring Solo community taught me to be so much more than just a performer. With their guidance, I’ve learned to value my stories, my voice, and my capacity for storytelling. They’ve empowered me to create, and I will be forever grateful.” ~ Brandon Raman, Writer/Performer - I Can’t Indian Good


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ISOLATE.MEDITATE.CREATE WITH JESSICA LYNN JOHNSON - STAY AT HOME DAYS 22 - 28

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 22 - Identifying an Influencer in our lives.

Day 23 - Recalling a moment of Recognition in our lives.

Day 24 - Getting in touch with our feelings of jealousy and envy.

Day 25 - Exploring Coronavirus Covid-19 as a metaphor.

Day 26 - Exploring a coming of age memory.

Day 27 - Identifying an enemy in our lives.

Day 28 - Recalling a time of exploration in our lives.

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.


 

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Isolate.Meditate.Create with Jessica Lynn Johnson - Stay at Home Days 16 - 21

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 15 - Recalling a great Love story from our lives.

Day 16 - Get in touch with a shameful secret, an embarrassing story, or the thing we thought we would never share with anyone.

Day 17 - Imagining climbing a mountain to reach our dreams and removing weights that hold us back.

Day 18 - Examining a life lesson that continues to circle back around and around again in our lives. 

Day 19 - Recalling a piece of Art that was meaningful to us.

Day 20 - Recalling a crossroad moment in our lives.

Day 21 - Recalling a holiday tradition.

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

Isolate.Meditate.Create with Jessica Lynn Johnson - Stay at Home Days 8 - 15

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 8 - Exploring our Super Powers.

Day 9 - Exploring Control & Surrender.

Day 10 - Exploring the concept of PAUSE & RESET during COVID-19.

Day 11 - Exploring the "Other Sides" of people that come out during COVID-19.

Day 12 - Imagine your lives as a Movie Trailer. 

Day 13 - Recalling an unhealed childhood memory that we can offer closure to as an adult.

Day 14 - Examining our MISSION and our PASSION.

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.

Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

Isolate.Meditate.Create with Jessica Lynn Johnson - Stay at Home Days 1 - 7

Everyday of the Stay at Home mandate of the COVID-19 crisis, Jessica Lynn Johnson, BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST WINNER, invites you to create your one person play through her guided meditation and visualization. She encourages you to isolate, meditate, and create as an artistic community EVERY DAY as we are in the STAY AT HOME mode.

Day 1 - Exploring themes of FEAR & HOPE during the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis

Day 2 - Exploring themes of LOSS & GAIN during the coronavirus COVID-19

Day 3 - Exploring our HAPPY PLACE

Day 4 - Exploring SPEED WRITING on themes of Health, Home, Change & Community

Day 5 - Exploring a memory of a struggle that you were able to survive

Day 6 - Exploring our most predominant feeling during COVID-19

Day 7 - Exploring a relationship that has been on the forefront of our minds during COVID-19

Jessica Lynn Johnson, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, is the Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the Direction & Development of one person plays. Jessica is passionate about the transformational power of solo theatre and has aided in the creation of over 100 solo shows (and still going strong)! Visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com for more information on Jessica's work Directing and Developing 1 Person Plays.