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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.


 

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.


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.


Voices from the Fringe: Writer/Performer Ross John Gosla

Returning to this year’s Fringe after his 2017 Producer’s Encore! Award-winning Desert Warrior: A Benghazi Story is writer/performer Ross John Gosla. He is premiering his new solo show, Sexual Misadventures of a Straight White Male: A Privilege Story.

Ross spoke with Better Lemons about the new piece and what he’s been involved with since we saw him last.

Better Lemons: What have you been up to since the 2017 Fringe?
Ross John Gosla: Wow, hard to believe it's been two years. Been keeping busy. I did a short run of Desert Warrior in January 2018, followed by a couple of one act plays. I was brought on staff full-time at the Complex Hollywood, where Monica Martin and team have been working at full speed to improve and renovate since she took over ownership last year.

I filmed an episode of the web series The Wasteland, in which I played a captured insurgent in a dystopian future. I shot a big commercial at the beginning of this year directed by an Academy Award-winner (NDA). Most recently, I provided the narration for the documentary Masculinity that Inspires Change that dropped on Amazon Prime this past May.

BL: Tell us a bit about the new piece. What was the inspiration?
RJG: The piece follows a privileged straight white male named "Ross" as he goes on an adventure through the Man Make Machine in order to become a real man in 2019. When the Weinstein scandal broke, I found myself quickly saying, "But I'm not like that," as I’m sure many men did. And we men tended to vocalize that sentiment loudly.

But as the narrative evolved, a resounding female voice said: "Shut up and let this play out." And as it did, the moment of epiphany came. I asked myself if there were any areas of sexual violation that I have committed, any lines crossed, any boundaries not respected. And in that introspection, I found a myriad of unchecked behavior — behavior that in a different set of life circumstances could very well lead to a Weinstein-esque persona.

From there, I applied the same formula I used with Desert Warrior. I took that behavior I revealed and a couple other seemingly unrelated events (my Taekwondo years, and a couple of key conversations with my Dad), put them into the brain mixer, and here we are!

BL: Your director, Steph Martinez, is a Fringe first-timer. What’s her background?
RJG: She is a blessing from Heaven. We met at the theater program at Arizona State in 2007. A similar training style — the program primarily utilizes Viewpoints as a tool to train actors and devise new work. We reconnected here in LA and are part of the same acting studio, Studio 24/7. A brilliant actress and artist, she has masterfully shaped the piece and kept me truthful in the work with insightful notes and questions. Most importantly, she has brought a perspective that is crucial to any conversation dealing with improving gender relations.

BL: What message do you hope to deliver with this piece?
RJG: Understanding and healing. I believe there are certain unifying male experiences that all men share. I'd like to think that if the show causes one other man to honestly examine his "gray areas," and he comes to recognize those times when he may not have actually had consent. Or he was false with his intentions, and learns from those mistakes and can foster a higher ideal in the future, that would be a powerful message indeed.

BL: How does it feel to be back at the Fringe as a performer?
RJG: I love the Fringe, it's my absolute favorite time of the year. You meet so many like-minded artists and make so many new friends. The electricity in the air is palpable — this year especially. All the participants seem extra pumped!

BL: What words of advice would you give to Fringe neophytes?
RJG: Dive in headfirst, have fun, hydrate, rest when needed; rinse and repeat.

BL: What other shows playing this year sound intriguing to you?
RJG: On my must-see list:
At the Complex:
It's Personal
Klingon Tamburlane
Pocketmon!
This Way Yonder
At the Broadwater:
Meet Me in Mizzery
At the McCadden:
No More Toys
At the Stephanie Feury:
George.

Sexual Misadventures of a Straight White Male: A Privilege Story plays June 14-
29 at the Complex Hollywood’s Flight Theatre, 6472 Santa Monica Blvd. Specific dates and showtimes, as well as ticketing information, can be found on the Fringe site.


LIVING IN LA LA LAND, part I

Love it, hate it or feel indifferent about it, Damien Chazelle's film La La Land is more than just a movie for those of us in the arts living in the Hollywood area.   Dealing as it does with the unexpected and yet somehow inevitable love affair between two aspiring artists, a jazz pianist (Sebastion) and an actress (Mia), La La Land uses the landscape and the reality of the world in which we live here to spin elaborate romantic fantasies about the vagaries of fate.  That is, as we pursue the fulfillment of our professional hopes and dreams, is there indeed a destiny that can be achieved by persistence and hard work, or it all simply the luck of the draw, with very little regard for talent or deserving?

After having watched the movie twice and read the published screenplay - which is significantly different in some crucial respects from the film -- I do feel a lot of admiration for what the 31 year old Mr. Chazelle was able to accomplish.  He has a great sense of rhythm, pace and visual imagination - qualities he also displayed in his earlier film, Whiplash.  He's a sharp observer of nuance between characters - take a close look at that scene between Sebastian and his older sister (Laura), where we learn everything we need to know about Seb in a scene that never stops moving forward -- as well as the nuance of the entertainment industry itself, veering between documentary-like depictions (those heartless casting sessions) and tongue-in-cheek lampooning (the "hot" screenwriter, Carlo, who is starting a franchise based on the Goldilocks story written as a home-invasion thriller.)  More than that, this guy can write some multi-faceted dialogue, even when it comes to diehard romantic conventions.  It's harder to appreciate out of context, but take a look at this exchange early on when Seb helps Mia try to track down where her car is parked:

MIA: Strange that we keep running into each other.

SEB: It is strange.  Maybe it means something.

MIA: I doubt it.

SEB: Yeah, I don't think so either.

These lines give Gosling and Stone so much to work with as they navigate the perilous tightrope of attraction.  Such a nice sense of spontaneity without ever forcing the characters to talk about how difficult it is to trust each other.  Add to this the visual excitement he stirs up in La La Lands's first and last 10 minutes - each as pleasurable a piece of pure filmmaking as any American film in recent memory -- and there is no overstating it.  This guy's got game.

There are, however, two things in this admirable film that I have to take issue with -- one of which goes back directly to the La La Land that we live in, and something that I don't think Mr. Chazelle accurately captured.

Okay, and this is where I guess should say that warning, something of a hallmark of our times: SPOILER ALERT!  As if you who have followed me this far wouldn't have figured out by now that I'm going to be discussing this film in some depth.  But the last thing I want is even one reader lying awake at night, quaking with anger at having some surprise spoiled.  The essence of life is surprise - find it wherever you can, keep it close to your heart.

One of the hardest things about writing that ventures into the world of romance -- especially hetero romance -- is being equally fair to both characters.  The terrain of love/relationships is so littered with emotional, political and neurotic minefields -- well, I think we all get the perils, especially when a man is doing the writing.  In my (admittedly male) opinion, I think the young Mr. Chazelle acquits himself pretty well.  Sebastian and Mia both seem like recognizable inhabitants of SoCal, the kind of folks who slave away at demanding and often demeaning jobs while waiting for their lives to take off.

What I have trouble with, though - and where I think that La La Land goes slightly off the rails - is in Mia's decision to write a one-woman show for herself.  In fact, it's not even Mia's idea to do it - she takes her cue from Sebastian telling her that's what she should be doing, based on Mia's having told him that she used to make up stories and act them out when she was a kid.  Huh?  Say what?

Hey, take it from this Twisted Hipster - a veteran of 25 years in New York theater and 20 years in Los Angeles theater -- it's HARD to write a good play, much less a good full-length one person show.   HARD.  Just because you made up little skits when you were a kid doesn't mean you have what it takes to command a stage for 70 minutes.  And there's nothing in Mia's personality or life experience to make us believe she can do it.  (She's not an introvert, not a word person, not a great storyteller.)  It kind of makes sense that Sebastian suggests it -- he wants her to be special and  believes she can do anything!  And it kind of makes sense that Mia would take a shot at it, wanting to please him, to live up to this crazy idea he has of her.  But there's no way she would go through with it.  No way.  She's too smart to court such certain disaster.  And her friends would head her off at the pass, they would sit her down and tell her: girl,  what are you thinking?  You don't have the chops to write a good monologue, much less a good show.  And the risk of money and reputation just isn't worth it.

It's telling that -- while we see several examples of jazz and Sebastian's obsession with it - we don't see a single moment of Mia's show.  We see her scribbling down ideas, we see her pre-show, and we see the lights come up on the skeletal crew of an audience when the show is over, but Chazelle cannot even imagine a highlight for us.  We hear afterwards that she cannot even afford to pay the rent on the theater -- something that is highly unlikely, since every theater owner I'm aware of demands full payment in advance, especially for a one night rental.  Then again, just getting the show up at all takes the cooperation of friends and fellow artists, none of whom seem to be involved in helping Mia make this happen.

No, as a screenwriter myself, I understand what young Chazelle had in mind.  Mia has to crash and burn doing this crazy idea that Sebastian had for her - which is then redeemed when it turns out that a casting person was in her skeletal audience (wow!) and this casting person will become the agent in making all her dreams come true (double wow!)  Because ultimately it's all about the power of love to transform the ordinary into the magical, and it's about belief - believing in the power of that love - that makes the transformation possible.

(But really - a major casting person goes to a small theater in North Hollywood to see an unknown actress in the one performance of her one woman show?   Love may make miracles happen, but this is truly one for the ages.)

It's a credit to Damien Chazelle's skill as a filmmaker, I suppose, that his romantic fable succeeds in seducing us to the degree that it does.  He knows the world of jazz and the industry town that is Hollywood to a remarkable degree.  But the reality of making theater here and what it takes to put on a play?

Not so much, amigo.  No, not so much.

ps - Here's a fun read about why no one went to Mia's solo show.