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, 90-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 of people have been able to develop and share their stories at Whitefire Theatre. To us, it's so much more than a theatre - it's an artistic home.

I am one of those students and now an internationally touring artist - having just completed a 25 show run of my solo show Shattered at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As a result, I’m also starting to pursue work in using the arts to support discussions on mental health and trauma recovery - two themes I explore in my show.

Hands down, I would not have started this journey, had it not been for Whitefire and Jessica Lynn Johnson’s Soaring Solo community. Whitefire is where I first saw solo artist Kimleigh Smith speak powerfully about her trauma in her critically acclaimed solo show T-O-T-A-L-L-Y; it’s where I made the leap to attend Jessica Lynn Johnson’s free solo show class on the Whitefire stage - space donated by Artistic Director Bryan Rassmussen. And in 2017, the Whitefire 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 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 most small businesses, the impact on the arts will be especially painful. Please consider supporting Whitefire Theatre to continue their great work!

Here are three ways to support:

  1. Donate to the GoFundMe campaign: gofundme.com/f/support-whitefire-theatre
  2. Support upcoming live-streamed programming: Best Of Fest (starting May 16), StreamFest (June 13 - August 29) or become an on-line member! Find out more by going to www.whitefiretheatre.com
  3. Share your love for Whitefire - please follow, like, and comment 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


Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

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.


 

Jessica-Lynn-Johnson-Soaring-Solo

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.


Spotlight Series: Meet Melanie MacQueen – Actress and Playwright Who Found Her Home Base Directing at 'Theatre 40'


Today's Spotlight focuses on Actress, Anime Voice Artist, and Playwright, Melanie MacQueen, who found her home base directing plays at Theatre 40, who I recently saw in that group’s annual production of "The Manor."


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

Melanie MacQueen (MM): I have been lucky enough to be on all sides of a theatrical stage. I’ve acted in many plays over the years, although fewer recently. I am also a produced Playwright, although I have never published my plays—except for a few of my children’s plays. The majority of my Directing jobs have been at Theatre 40, my “Home Base” where I have directed several plays over the past couple of decades. And a theatre is always my favorite place to be!

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

(MM): We had just opened the World Premiere of "Taming the Lion" by Jack Rushen, which had won the Julie Harris Playwrighting Award the previous year. It’s a true story set in Old Hollywood with characters based on real people–such as Louis B. Mayer and Joan Crawford.

(SB): I was so looking forward to seeing that show and had already booked my seats to review it. How did you communicate the shutdown with your cast and production team?

(MM): Our Artistic Director and I had been discussing what we needed to do about the show when the word came down from the Mayor of Beverly Hills that we must close. So, there was no further discussion. We sent an email out to everyone and said we’d open up after a couple of weeks IF that was a possibility.

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

(MM): We may film the show if that is possible to arrange with AEA and everyone involved, but we’re not sure we will be allowed to do so. Then, we might put it up on some other online platform. As far as doing it for an in-person audience, that does not seem possible unless the decision is made to bring it back in mid-May to play in rep with our next show.

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

(MM): Our next Theatre 40 production is supposed to be "[Incident] at Our Lady of Perpetual Help" which was being directed by our wonderful Ann Hearn Tobolowsky. I don’t know if they are trying to work on that–separately–or not. I think everything is in a holding pattern right now.

(SB): The entire world seems to be in a holding pattern at the moment without any idea what the future may bring. But for now, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(MM): I actually started a page dedicated to people who are currently doing art inspired by the “Shelter in Place” scenario we are all experiencing. It is called Celebratory Arts Festival, and the plan is to do a theatrical event at some venue –possibly Theatre 40 – after the worst of this is passed and it is safe to gather in groups once again. I’ve asked writer and musician friends to contribute work, as well as painter friends who might want to contribute their art to decorate the venue. I’ve already had one friend write and perform a song with his daughter from their seclusion, and another wrote a poem. We all want to visualize a time in our thoughts where we will again come together to present art to each other and to the public.

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

(MM): Artists have always enlightened and explored dark times throughout history, and this time is no different. That is our calling, and we will continue. We always have told stories to each other; we always will. The “curtains” will rise again!

The main challenge for artists, in these kinds of dark times, is to bring out of this situation the best we can in ourselves and everyone around us, and call out, artistically, the worst that always arises, sadly, within us and others. We hold up many mirrors for us all to view the Human Journey, and we must never turn away.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.