Actress, Aleisha Force is best known for her work in Chase (2010), Subconscious (2015), and Prison Break (2005). This interview discusses the characters she played in “Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to politics and local homelessness, in cities like Los Angeles and nationally.
This Spotlight focuses on Ashley Griffin, an actor in Los Angeles since the age of five who moved to New York City to follow her theatre dreams - and is now both writing and acting in shows.
Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background, beginning in Los Angeles which led you to decide to move to NYC?
Ashley Griffin (Ashley): I'm a 5th generation Californian (possibly 6th), but I'm the first actor/dramatist in my family. I grew up at the wonderful rep company, The Santa Monica Playhouse, and made my theatrical debut when I was 5. I worked professionally as a child actor in theater, film and TV and attended the Hamilton Academy of Music Performing Arts High School. I adore Los Angeles theatre, but was always a bit frustrated because it's much more challenging to do theatre in LA than in NYC since there aren't as many theatrical productions in LA and Broadway and touring shows rarely audition here.
Ashley Griffin playing Denise off-Broadway in the revival of "Dubarry Was a Lady," directed by Evan Peters
It’s my experience that the culture is much more TV/Film focused here which was never my true performing interest. But I did appear quite a bit in productions at the Will Geer Theaticum Botanicum (making my Shakespeare debut when I was still a young child), as well as at Royce Hall, The Santa Monica Playhouse, the Morgan-Wixson Theater, and in touring productions, including taking the wonderful show Mary-Mary to the UK where I played Mary-Mary in London, Warwick and Stratford-Upon-Avon.
But at the end of the day, it always felt like if you wanted to do Film/TV you needed to be in LA, and if you wanted to do theatre, you needed to be in NYC. After doing a good amount of Film/TV, I realized my heart was always still within the theater. So, I went to college at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and stayed in the city after graduating, but I'm occasionally still doing work in LA when the right opportunity presents itself.
(SB):What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?
(Ashley): I'm a Broadway person, and I was literally on my way to a show when I was told Broadway was being shut down. In addition, I had just finished directing The Middleman at the Hudson Theater where we were fortunate to be able to complete our run, and was in meetings about productions I had coming down the pipeline which have obviously been postponed. We're still trying to figure out next steps for three shows of mine in the wake of the shutdown.
Ashley Griffin playing the lead role of Arcadia in "Trial" off-Broadway, directed by Lori Petty. Photo by Micah Joe
(SB):How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?
(Ashley): By the time we received an email about the closure, most of us had already seen it on the news.
(SB):Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?
(Ashley): It depends. Some are being shut down permanently, some are figuring out how to reschedule, and some are in limbo. A lot will depend on when the shutdown actually ends, which is basically out of our hands.
(SB):What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?
(Ashley): I have three specific shows that have been directly affected, but since none of them have been officially announced yet, I can’t really say anything specific about them. I can say one is meant to go up this fall.
(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?
Ashley Griffin playing the lead role of Astrid in development with "Snow" off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. Photo by Micah Joel
(Ashley): I'm fortunate that I'm a writer, so I'm working to get as much writing done as I can. I'm in talks to be a part of some virtual readings of projects, and my collaborators and I are meeting online to work and make future plans. I run a podcast for the Onstage Network and I've been doing episodes of that.
I am also taking some dance classes online whenever I can, and really enjoy Kathryn Morgan’s wonderful classes on YouTube. I also love Claudia Dean, anything from the Royal Ballet, and Westside Academy of Dance where I grew up studying - special shout out to Celeste Amos, Chason Greenwood, and Johnny Chong's classes - and I'm very excited to stream Ashley Shaw's class from Matthew Bourne's New Adventures Company.
(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?
(Ashley): I think this is a great opportunity to showcase work online and bring it to the attention of people outside our normal communities. I think this could be a great time for LA theatre to be seen and appreciated by audiences all over the country, and hopefully when we're all back, the online experience can be a doorway to better supporting live theatre in the Los Angeles area.
Actor, Avery Dresel-Kurtz is best known for her work in Betrayed (2016), Mia (2014), and The Hierarchy (2012). This interview discusses the characters she played in “The Serpent" at the Odyssey Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to this work of experimental theater that explores the biblical Book of Genesis while comparing it to the modern experience.
Actress and Producer, Riley Rose Critchlow, is best known for her work in Anime Crimes Division (2017), Timeless (2016), and S.W.A.T. (2017). Actor, Terry Woodberry, is best known for his work in Dexter (2006), Medium (2005), and Numb3rs (2005). These interviews discuss the characters they played in “The Serpent" at the Odyssey Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to this work of experimental theater that explores the biblical Book of Genesis while comparing it to the modern experience.
Actor, Poet, and the 2016 Poetry Out Loud National Champion, Ahkei Togun. This interview discusses the characters he played in “The Serpent" at the Odyssey Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to this work of experimental theater that explores the biblical Book of Genesis while comparing it to the modern experience.
This Spotlight focuses on Jessica Lynn Johnson, proud founder and CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the direction and development of one person plays who has collaborated on well over 100 solo shows and is still going strong despite the current shutdown. And now she is offering free classes on ZOOM until it is possible to perform in a theater again.
Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?
Jessica Lynn Johnson (JLJ): Besides encouraging other solo artists to develop their own shows while operating my company Soaring Solo, I am also a solo artist myself and have toured for 13+ years with my own two award-winning one woman shows. I am also on the Board of the LA Women's Theatre Festival and we have been empowering diverse women's voices for nearly 3 decades!
Lastly, I would like everyone to know that I have taught a 100% FREE One Person Play Development Class for about a decade, and while this has primarily been at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, I have now taken my free class online via ZOOM. In addition, I also offer affordable and awesome coaching (one-on-one, small group, and power pair sessions) because as a solo artist myself I know how important it is to get valuable feedback at an affordable price.
(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the shows?
(JLJ): At any given time, I have 20-30 solo shows up and running with some making their world premiere and others simply continuing to tour since I work with my solo artists for years and help them tour internationally. All of that said, I had close to two dozen solo shows coming up that I directed and developed in three different festivals (Solofest 2020 at Whitefire Theatre, LA Women's Theatre Festival in March, and the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June). And of course, those have all been postponed.
Bryan Rasmussen at the Whitefire Theatre is such an innovative Artistic Director and had been perfecting the Live Stream experience of shows long before this COVID-19 pandemic took over. Therefore, he is planning to begin streaming shows as soon as mandates dictate this is possible. Many of my clients are excited to experiment with this new medium which is planned to begin in June.
(SB):How did you communicate the shutdown with your clients?
(JLJ): Every artist has handled the devastation of this moment differently. Therefore, some clients have processed this news with me on the phone, others have found texting and emailing the best way to process. And many have been partaking in my ongoing free online class, my coaching services, and my free daily Isolate Meditate Create experience, so events were discussed via all those options. My free guided meditation and writing sessions take place on ZOOM at 9am (PT) during the Stay at Home, with more information available on JessicaLynnJohnson.com.
All to say, this is such a challenging time and it is important to respect each person's nuanced way of handling this crisis and hold space for their feelings and the mode in which they feel comfortable engaging.
(SB) Are plans in place to present shows at a future date and how are you keeping the Arts alive during social distancing?
(JLJ): As an eternal optimist, I encourage my clients to "Never Give Up" and "Always Think Outside the Box". We must "Let Go of What Was" and step into the reality of "What Is." Suffice it to say, I am in discussion with several clients about the Live Streaming dates for those who were in the tail end of Solofest, and therefore unable to perform their shows when COVID-19 hit. I am also in discussion with those who would like to wait until we are able to gather in person at Whitefire to resume the production of their shows. I respect both choices.
As it stands right now, the Hollywood Fringe which is traditionally held in June has been postponed until October, and most people are eager to partake during this rescheduled time and I will be there to support them in the Fall.
The LA Women's Theatre Festival is also in talks about next steps to carry on with our programming, and our publicist Philip Sokoloff will certainly make an official statement on that once the Board has agreed upon appropriate next steps.
Lastly, I encourage everyone to TAKE CREATIVE ACTION right now since Art is more important than ever! After all, how many of us are getting through this challenging time by reading a good book, binging television shows and films, or tuning into content being streamed around the globe? I hope the majority of us are nurturing our souls and entertaining our minds with Art to get through this day-to-day madness.
For example, recently my brilliantly talented client Dana Lynn and I hosted a ZOOM reading of her one-woman show Transcending the Mirror about her journey to accept and love herself as a lesbian woman, and we had 40 people tune in and give us incredible feedback to implement into the script.
We have moved all of our Soaring Solo LLC services online, and I have also transferred all of my coaching services and my 100% free One Person Play Development class to ZOOM so that we can all continue with our Art and not be stopped by this virus. I like to say kill the coronavirus and NOT creativity! As such, I am still coaching solo artists in the development and direction of their one-person plays from the comfort of their living room, offering One-on-One coaching, small group coaching featuring 6 solo artists at a time, and Power Pairs where two artists work together with me on larger excerpts of their solo shows.
With all the fear and uncertainty in the world right now, I know many people appreciate something else to focus on besides the virus and I want to provide that much needed creative outlet for them. And for those who are financial strained and cannot afford my paid services, I have got their back too, offering my 100% free One-Person Play development class on Saturday mornings, as well as my free guided meditation and writing sessions on ZOOM daily at 9am (PT). For more information on my free class and my paid services, please visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com
Yes, we need to keep our physical bodies healthy right now, but our mind, heart and spirit need to stay healthy too. Creative expression is a HUGE part of that overall wellness. This is a season for pioneers, innovators, and trailblazers to come forward and take the lead. We all need to think outside of the box and find ways to serve and connect and share our Art like never before. Yes, it is sad that we cannot perform in a theater at this moment in time, but desperation often breeds ingenuity. So, turn that negativity into new ways of creatively expressing yourself and connecting with others. There are true possibilities here if we can let go of the old and step into the new.
Stay healthy, stocked, safe and healthy everyone. We will get through this together!
Actor and Director, Matt Kirkwood, is best known for his work in Quantum Leap (1989), What's Love Got to Do with It (1993) , and Happy Birthday Little Grace (2008). This interview discusses the characters he played in “Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to politics and local homelessness, in cities like Los Angeles and nationally.
Actress and Voice Broadcaster, Tanya Alexander, is best known for her work in Ethnically Ambiguous, The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead , and Tomb Raider - Video Game. This interview discusses the character she played in “Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to politics and local homelessness, in cities like Los Angeles and nationally.
Actress and Voice Broadcaster, Tarina Pouncy, is best known for her work in Roman J. Israel, Esq., Veronica Mars (2019), Queen Sugar, and This is Us. This interview discusses the characters she played in “Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to politics and local homelessness, in cities like Los Angeles and nationally.
THE OUTSIDER, a razor-sharp, hilarious satire of modern American politics is currently was getting a witty and smartly paced West Coast premiere at North Coast Repertory Theatre, which now is closed due to the lockdown. Written by Paul Slade Smith (Unnecessary Farce) and overflowing with clever plot twists, the play is a fun-house mirror held up to reflect the often confounding, yet proudly enduring American political system.
A Resident Artist at A Noise Within and a member at the Antaeus Theatre Company, she's also played in productions such as "Gem of the Ocean" at A Noise Within, "The Mountaintop" at the Garry Marshall Theatre, and "The Cake" at The Geffen Playhouse and Echo Theatre Company. Classically trained in Shakespeare and theatre at The Old Globe at the University of San Diego, she's also appeared in off-broadway and regional theatrical such as "The Winters Tale" at Theatre 150, "Merry Wives of Windsor", "Alls Well That Ends Well," "Two Gentleman of Verona" at The Old Globe, "Hecuba" at The Pearl Theatre Company, and "The Cherry Orchard" at The Classical Theatre of Harlem. As a Director, Ratteray has helmed "By The Way Meet Vera Stark," "In Love and Warcraft," and "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" at Pomona College, along with staged readings throughout the Los Angeles area.
Ratteray's film and television credits also include “Snowfall,” “Castle," “All My Children," “Chemistry," “The Young and the Restless” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” just to name a few. With a master's in Arts education and training from The Old Globe at the University of San Diego and a bachelor's from New York University, she is currently a professor at Pomona College and has also studied theatrical clown with Philippe Gaulier, Christopher Bayes, David Bridel, and Angela De Castro and she is currently at work creating her solo clown show, “Both, And,” according to her website.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Paul Culos began acting at the age of nine. He started his formal training at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Performance in 2007. During that time, he was able to travel abroad to London and study at the British American Drama Academy for four weeks under the instruction of numerous British talents including John Barton, Debra Warner, Fiona Shaw, Brian Cox, and Mark Wing Davey. He was staring in “Measure for Measure" at the Antaeus Theatre Company, which now closed due to the corona virus.
Rob has made Los Angeles his primary home since 1997. He is a proud member of the Antaeus Company, as well as the Troubadour Theater Company. He was staring in “Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre, which now closed due to the corona virus.