I'm working on a project with my buddy Kyle and we could really use your help!
We are looking for people in the Fresno-Clovis area to take a walk, jog, or bike ride on the Clovis Rail Trail, Dry Creek Trail, or Old Town Trail and film themselves (and the trails!) as they do it. We're then gonna take all that footage and put together a social media spot that demonstrates how you can still adhere to social distancing recommendations/requirements while making time to get out in nature and enjoy some fresh air and exercise.
We need horizontal footage (turn your phone sideways!) and we're looking for all sorts of shots: selfies, signage, getting out of your car, landscapes, whatever. We'd love to get audio, too. Sounds of nature. Breathing. Remarks about how good it feels to be outside. Smiles and thumbs up, etc. 1080p is acceptable for quality but if you are able to check in your phone (or camera) and see about capturing 4k footage, that's even better. If you're not sure what footage your device captures, don't worry about: we'll accept whatever you've got. (and we'll still even accept vertical footage if you forget to turn your phone).
Helmets if you're bike riding, please (especially on kiddos!). Masks are optional as long as you're social distancing (to reflect the natural population). And although our goal right now is to cover the three trails mentioned above, if you're out and about jogging or walking or cycling anywhere in Fresno County, we'd love that footage, too! Even if you're just running around your neighborhood or playing in your backyard.
Only other catch is please try not to wear major logos/copyrighted designs on your shirts. Bright colors are always best for camera when possible.
We need this footage by 9 PM on Monday, May 18th. We only need a couple mins per person/family.
For those who have Gmail:
Submit through Google Forms
For those who don't:
Submit on Dropbox
Or Email any questions to me, if you have them.
Thanks so much!
BTW, here is a recent project Kyle and I worked on together:
This Wednesday, I attended the premiere of Gallows II at Maya Cinemas. My friends Chris and Travis from Tremendum Pictures wrote and directed the piece, which featured the talents of SO many of my other friends and colleagues, both behind and in front of the camera. It was awesome seeing so many familiar faces and places on the big screen, and I was especially proud of the inspired camera work my creative partner-in-film, Kyle Gentz, did as cinematographer. Honestly, if I started to list everyone else I was proud of, this would be a very long post, indeed.
On Friday, my film "Story Queens" premiered at The Big Tell showcase at Tower Theatre . I was one of 10 filmmakers who won a $5k grant for producing a mini-doc about life in the Central Valley. This is my second time winning the award; this year I made a film focused on Drag Story Time, a free family-friendly event that happens sporadically throughout Fresno and our surrounding communities. I believe it is important on so many levels, least of all which is it teaches children to approach the unknown with playful curiosity rather than fear.
This week I discussed future collaborations with a few other Fresno creatives, worked on Fools-related duties with my partner-in-theatre, Miguel, and got feedback on recent work from my MFA advisor.
Not at all a bad week for art here in Fresno.
I'm probably jumping the gun here a little, but just wanted to announce I've started a grief support blog.
For my third semester of grad school, I was required to do something a little outside of my normal artistic disciplines so I thought I'd try building a website from scratch. (Building a site on wordpress.org is VERY different than using a drag and drop site builder like Weebly).
So far, it's proved far more challenging and time consuming than I anticipated, but I plan to stick with it for the time being. Not only is it a cathartic way for me to move past some of my grief, I'm still learning new skills every time I log on.
If you're interested in following the journey, check it out here: beautyinthedim.com.
It’s an old song.
It’s an old tale from way back when.
It’s an old song.
And we’re gonna sing it again and again.
We're gonna sing it again.
- Hermes, Hadestown
I saw Hadestown nearly a month ago, the night before its official Broadway opening. I was pretty familiar with the music (and story) going in. In fact, the show's transfer to the Great White Way is one of the primary reasons my theatre-nerd friends and I decided April would be the perfect time to visit New York. We bought our tickets to the show months in advance, even before we had our lodging secured.
I didn't know what to expect when I took my seat at the Walter Kerr Theater, but I knew it was very unlikely I would be disappointed by what I saw. After all, I already knew I loved Anais Mitchell's score. I knew I would be a fan of Amber Gray and Patrick Page (if their performances on the original cast album were any indication). I also came in immeasurably excited to be seeing a piece developed and directed by goddess-on-earth and personal #careergoals embodiment, Rachel Chavkin. Once I saw the set, even before the house lights dimmed, I knew I would likely be a fan of the technical elements of the show, too.
What I didn't expect was to be so impressed and inspired by the material that it would continue to consume my thoughts even weeks later. The evening I was attendance at Hadestown, I was entranced for most of the first act simply because of the energy radiating off the performers and musicians on stage (in a lovely homage to Mitchell's singer-songwriter roots, the musicians are as much a focal point of the show as the characters are. They are placed prominently on stage throughout the play's entirety and even given individual shout-outs by Persephone in an entr'acte after intermission). David Neumann's choreography is incredibly layered and specific. Bradley King's lighting, particularly when the entire stage transforms from 'Up on Top" to the depths of Hades, reaches levels of outright magnificence, as does Rachel Hauck's set design, which is so integral to the production it almost becomes a character itself. Every moment of Act I was perfect, precise, and bursting with a sort of indescribable joy that kept my attention fully rapt from start to finish. (Anyone who knows me well knows I can find about 200 things "wrong" with any given show, even one I enjoy, by intermission. With this production, I had zero complaints.)
Act II was even better. Having a visual association with the lyrics somehow made them feel all the more pertinent in relationship to our current political climate (Going in, I thought you couldn't get more eerily relevant than "Why We Build the Wall" but turns out seeing Orpheus plead with the dead workers to band together and stand up for themselves was the thing that hit hardest for me on a socio-political level.) As the story came to a close and the ending played out the way it's played out for centuries, I found myself knocked out of breath. It was an ending I knew was coming but it still managed to catch me off guard because Orpheus' character is written (and played) with such earnest hope that I fooled myself into believing the cast had somehow planned out an alternate ending for our evening's audience. But, no. Hermes and the ensemble even warned us outright in the opening number: "It's a sad song...It's a tragedy". As they repeated that phrase again in the final song, a touch slower and far more somber than the first time around, I felt my body rejecting the ending they were showing me, even as they continued to sing about Orpheus and his ability to, "make you see how the world could be, in spite of the way that it is." In other words, I found myself desperately trying to see the love story play out the way it could be, in spite of the way it was going down right before my very eyes.
I had tears streaming down my face well before Gray began singing the curtain call number, "I Raise My Cup". It's a a simple, quiet song that toasts to Orpheus, "wherever he is wandering, alone on the earth", Persephone urges the audience to let the music "follow him and bring him comfort". The song, for me, harkens back to a speech I love in Terrance McNally's Master Class, which is a fictional account of a workshop led by real-life renowned opera singer, Maria Callas. In the show, McNally has Callas talk about playing the character of Medea, how one night on stage in the role, she experiences a moment where she feels connected to every actress who has ever played the part before her, back on through to ancient Greece, back on through to whoever the inspiration for the real Medea was. It is a love letter to theatre, acting, actors, and storytelling, all at once.
I felt the same way about this callback to Orpheus- one of the first characters in one of the first recorded stories to fail in such an undeniably human way. On the night I'm in attendance at Hadestown, Gray sings the last words ("To Orpheus and all of us, goodnight, brothers, goodnight") and the crowd leaps to a well-deserved standing ovation. I jump up, too (again, out of character), flooded with an overwhelming wash of love, respect, and outright awe for theatrical artists- modern and ancient, professional and amateur, American and foreign. I am simultaneously overcome with feelings of empathy and pain for every idiot human who has ever felt the need to metaphorically turn over their shoulder and make sure their loved one was behind them, thereby losing them in the process. Right before the lights in the theatre come up, I feel myself transition from a few sympathetic tears to full-on, chest-heaving sobs. I have to force myself to stop thinking about the show in order to collect myself enough to not look like an insane person in front of my friends and the other patrons in the audience.
I try to vocalize how I feel after the show and I am not able to do an adequate job.
That was April 16th. And here I am on May 12th still thinking about it, still trying to verbalize why the show had such a profound effect on me.
It occurred to me only a couple days ago why Orpheus' story– a narrative about "someone who tries" and fails– has effected me so powerfully at this particular moment in time. In a world where it seems like art and arts funding is constantly being stripped away, in a world where leaders don't listen to the cries of our earth or any marginalized or suffering group, in a world where people, like the dead workers in Hades, rather disengage and 'keep their heads low' than fight against tyranny and abuse, the artists out there don't give up. They continue to try, over and over again. They continue to have love and hope for a world that offers scarce return in the way of both. On some level, when the cast sings, "It's a love song about someone who tries," they are singing about themselves. They are singing about the other companies and crews on Broadway, past and present. They are singing of visual artists and photographers and dancers and musicians and writers. They are singing about all of us who continue to work toward making "the world we dream about the one we live in now." When Orpheus sings, "Give me a lyre and a campfire and an open field at night. Give me sky that you can't buy or sell at any price. And I'll give you a song for free, 'cause that's how life oughta be," he is representative of all the rest of us who would take peace over power and beauty over billions, every single time.
In effect, I had thought Hadestown contained a love letter to artists within the play and I was moved to tears by that alone, but I now see the entire piece is one giant, beautiful, powerful love letter to art and storytelling, artists and storytellers, alike.
No wonder I can't get it out of my head.
With great trepidation, I read some of my poetry in front of an audience at my last grad school residency. I've always hesitated to associate the word 'poetry' with my poem-like musings, mostly because my experiences in undergrad drummed in the notion I needed to take far more poetry courses and follow far more established rules of poetry before I'd ever be worthy of calling myself a poet. This feeling of inadequacy has stuck with me over the years, and though I might post poetic pieces on blogs or social media from time to time, I generally don't ever do anything with this extension of my writing practice.
The response to my work, from peers and advisors at residency, was far more supportive and encouraging than I could have possibly anticipated. So much so, it's taken me an entire month to soak up all the ramifications from that one 10-minute presentation. In the interest of not turning this blog post into a novel, I will spare you most of those realizations for the time being. I will share this, though:
I've come to understand that, although I don't necessarily do so purposefully, I usually write to be heard instead of to be read. I think it's the performer in me. In other words, the one thing I was too afraid to give to my poetry was the one thing it needed all along: my voice. In that sense, the pieces are not really poems but rather, monologues. And with this minor distinction, I am far more willing to accept them as art and myself as the artist who created them.
This semester, I am experimenting with different ways to showcase my writings as spoken word pieces. Some ideas for bringing these poems back to life (and honestly, credit goes to my classmates for most of these ideas) include having dancers choreograph movement to them, creating short films for them, turning them into songs, and (perhaps most obviously but also most terrifyingly) finding the courage to perform them live at local poetry slams.
Another idea that came up is to take my individual poems and make corresponding visual art pieces for them. Ultimately, the goal would be to display the live painting in a gallery and, using iPods or something similar, people could listen to the poem associated with each piece on display while viewing each piece of art. This is the idea I decided to begin playing with first, mostly because painting relaxes me and I I can do it alone, in the privacy of my own home. It also doesn't hurt that I'm such a neophyte at painting, it somehow removes the self-induced pressure to be perfect (whereas, if I started out going the short film route, I'd be much more critical of myself and the entire investigation process would likely be more stressful than fun).
After executing this spoken-word-meets-visual-art strategy, I think this particular poem is probably too long to be practical for an art show exhibit. For flow and functionality sake, if I were to ever engineer this concept in a real world environment instead of just on a digital platform, I would want to keep each spoken word piece to under a minute or so. Honestly, that'd probably work better digitally instead. Still, I think the juxtaposition between the two (or is it three? or four?) mediums is cool. And this experiment brought up another idea. One could do several paintings that told a poem's story from start to finish and string them along in a video so that people were only looking at each individual image for about 10-15 seconds. Of course, I'd probably need to get much better as a visual artist before truly considering that route.
Next up: I want to talk to my dancer friends. Would any of you be interested in choreographing something to one of my poems?? If so, let's chat.