My MORE is MORE Charlotte Arts Philosphy

I get oh-so-very tired of the ubiquitous “less is more” credo. It seems that we are being told constantly to accept or be happy with less: less stuff in our lives, less busy-ness, less carbs, less work, less technology, less soda blahdy blahdy blahdy blah and it is just so bo-ring to me!  I do get the general theory behind simplifying it all, but I am not sure I like the practice of it–as generally applied to everything in our culture, and as the current consensus would have it.  I will happily admit, there are certain things of which I will always unabashedly want MORE; many of them are chocolate and that goes without saying. However, in terms of Charlotte’s arts scene….I consistently find  myself hoping for MORE of certain very specific things and I will continue to make it my mission to do everything in my power in my small portion of the world of Charlotte to facilitate these big ‘ole wants. I scoff at the idea that less is more–in my book only MORE is truly MORE!

And, to that end, here is my personal Charlotte Arts MORE is MORE list:

1. I want MORE Charlotte writers to get their voices heard. 

We need more diversity in perspective, always.  I especially encourage female writers because they are the least represented in all mediums. And since women are over 50% of the population, our stories ARE universal. Period.

If you are a writer of any type and I know it, I will tend to ask you everytime I see you if you are writing. I do this not to bug, but because  I do genuinely want to know and because I believe encouragement of this typically solitary artistry is crucial. Whether it’s poetry, theatre, a novel, spoken word, music, a screenplay–we need more voices. Write MORE, CLT people!

2.I want MORE Charlotte artists to become self-producers.

As artists, even when we are currently involved in a project we are all  typically clamoring after our next job. The only way around this is to take a grand leap and employ ourselves part of the time via producing our own projects. Although self-producing is not easy, it will afford you a modicum of control over your artistic life that you will not have otherwise. It is simply a way to ensure that you are always working on a project in which you believe and of which you absolutely want to be a  part. It puts you in the proactive driver’s seat: ‘I am creating something!’ versus the reactive waiting game: ‘I sure hope someone chooses me.’ It is wonderfully empowering to be the Creator of a project. Self producing allows you to take back some finite control of your artistic life. That feeling of control is worth a whole lot in this business and as a result all of this is good for your career path, your psyche and ultimately your art.

So if you ever happen to ask me, even in passing, about producing or show an inkling of interest in this at all,  I WILL sit you down and share everything I know to help you become the show runner of your artistic life. I happen to think that the more artists that we have that understand this business aspect of things, the faster and stronger we will grow as an artistic community. We’ll have more creative artist-driven projects being born right here, which will be fantastic. In addition, the knowledge of what happens on the other side of the process will ultimately add value to your presence within a project as a cast member/artist because you will better understand the bigger picture of the project as a whole. Wanna know more? Ask me, you’ll get an ear full.

3. I want MORE information sharing and arts crowdsourcing in our community.

I have seen recently something that warms the cockles of my heart here in Charlotte—arts orgs aiding other arts orgs here in town, helping to get the word out about projects and events. We are a small community and we need to do MORE of this. The adage ‘the high tide rises all the boats’ really does apply here; together as a larger group we are much stronger than if we choose to exist in our small company-oriented vacuums. So helping each other out in this way is good for the karma and the community.

This is the reason I ADORE twitter. Twitter contains infinite amounts of sharing and sourcing of great ideas all swapped freely in relation to theatre, independent film and the arts in general from all around the country and worldwide. If you aren’t on twitter yet you should be, even if it’s just to lurk around a read a bit, which is an easy way to start. Twitter is a medium based on engagement though, so get yourself a fun twitter handle and a funky avatar (remove that ugly egg please!) and hop on. I consistently re-tweet articles and links from around the web about arts life in Charlotte and other places, Charlotte cool stuff to do, interesting places to eat, drink, meet, etc. so follow me @donnachronicles and say hi, and I will follow back.

These are my primary MORE is MORE wants for this week for Charlotte; I find they change daily at my personal artsy whimsy and with my creative mood. Do tell–what would you like to see MORE of in the CLT arts scene?

Project Endings, Project Beginnings

It’s always bittersweet when a good project ends. Or, as the case may be, transitions.

For over 2 years now I have focused my efforts towards the short film Aphasia, a project that I was asked to be a part in Feb of 2010. I think it is fair to say that none of my producing partners (Jim Gloster, Chuck & Tonya Bludsworth) or I thought the project would be nearly as successful as it has turned out to be, or that it would have taken on a life of its own in the way that it has. Mostly, we wanted to give our friend Charlotte theatre and film actor Carl McIntyre a chance to tell his story and in the process, provide an opportunity to allow him to take back some of what the stroke stole from him at 44: his ability to make a living. The entire Charlotte film community came together to help us film the project in March of 2010; over 40 screenings later with events and film festivals across the US, including  LA and NYC, and in 4 counties internationally, it all feels quite surreal. We all wore many hats during the project; as Executive Producer, mine ranged initially from fundraiser, to on-set documentation, and then to premier event planner for the two events we held for the film in Chapel Hill and Charlotte. I was on set every day and found the process of watching it all come together completely exhilarating. After our premiere in May 2010, my jobs moved on to public relations/marketing to booking/ sales agent for the film and it’s star, Carl McIntyre. After much hard work from Chuck Bludsworth researching various distribution companies and filming educational & informative dvd extras, on April 27, 2012 we held our DVD release party and got to celebrate the artists responsible for the film one more time before we released the DVD to the world. Carl traveled immediately to Seattle to keynote a convention of Neurology nurses the day after our release here in Charlotte and sold every DVD he brought with him: somewhere in the neighborhood of 200. They have been selling quickly and steadily ever since-you can purchase one here

Carl continues to tour with Aphasia and will have an Australian premiere in August when he takes the film to Sydney. He continues to have upcoming dates as a public speaker traveling with the film, and his bookings and tour dates are now being managed by JTA talent.  There is much positive talk of other projects in the works for Carl and I know he will take full advantage of these opportunities. 

Sometimes, the project doesn’t really end as much as it transitions. Other very qualified people need to become a part to allow it to move to its next natural growth phase. In my mind, it’s what I imagine sending your kid off to college must be like: you’ve gotten him ready, and he’s ready go- but everyone’s a little nervous and happy and sad all at the same time.

But, closing the door on one great project does leave room for the next great thing to come along…

Summer is for new projects! And, fun podcasts and interviews-

…..and there are a few floating around in the ether that have been seemingly wanting to gel for sometime now! It’s all very exciting and we’ll announce here soon. And, sheesh, yeah–we’ll be blogging away about them too, cause shared information makes us all wiser, smarter, stronger, and rises all the boats for us here in the arts in the CLT.

In the meantime,  I had a great interview experience with Dr. Nancy Berk, of the fun & fab ‘Whine at 9’ weekly Podcast, whose sassy motto is “There’s nothing wrong with a little whine, especially if it leads to laughter, solutions and strategy.” Love. It.  And, her too,  by the way. This lady’s doing a lot of fun and informational stuff in her own right. Books, tours, speaking engagements-and that’s only the beginning–check her out.

You can hear my  full interview with Dr. Nancy here. We cover a lot of ground in less than 20 minutes, including the continued success of the short film Aphasia and some upcoming theatre projects in the pipeline….

Theatre without a net. Wait…

Several weeknds ago, I flew without a net, theatre-wise.

I was asked to be a director for one of the six short plays presented as part of 24-Hour Theatre Project at Theatre Charlotte. This is a special theatre boot camp event where, in the course of one 24 hour period, a play is written, cast and fully produced on stage. Typically, the rehearsal process alone takes a full 3-4 weeks or more for a non-musical, just as a point of comparison.

Anyone that is familiar with theatre knows that one of the most thrilling things about it is that it is live, so there is always an element of excitement connected to the performance. And because it is live, any number of things can happen during the course of a performance that are COMPLETELY UNPLANNED, adding an element of unknown for everyone involved, including the audience. It is, technically, acting without a net. But, those of us that participate on a regular basis have many different rituals and tricks that we utilize in attempt to control the chaos that eventually becomes the art. So a theatre project where all of the existing givens are now variable unknowns is pretty darn unnerving. And somewhat intimidating. Included in these unknowns, by the way, was the overall theme of the plays. The writers themselves didn’t even get that piece of info until 8pm on the night they were to start writing against their 12 hour deadline.

Anyone that has ever worked with me on any project knows that I work to conquer and control the variable unknowns that live and lurk in my theatre world.
As an actor, I check and double-check props and costume pieces prior to a show, even though there are typically additional people tasked with doing this. I create lists of my clothing changes and props needed between my scenes, print out copies and post at all stage entrances and exits. I figure out my ‘plan B’ for the times that the prop phone doesn’t ring, an actor doesn’t enter or drops a line, or drops a glass, etc. I do love rehearsal, and have been known to schedule extra time for work outside of the original set schedule. When I step on stage I forget all that planning and let it go, but these organizational items provide structure for my process.
As an independent theatre producer, my planning takes on a whole other level. Typically, I pick my pieces over 2 years in advance, and secure any producing partners, funding and sponsors. I cast and hire tech personnel as much as a year in advance of the project. I even pre-purchase costume pieces, props, and opening night gifts if I see something that I think will work within the confines and themes of the show. I work from tabbed and divided notebooks, keeping track of it all as I go. I have been told, repeatedly, in my producing career that I set deadlines for things “too early”. But I start early and consider myself a practical realist; something inevitably will happen that is unexpected and if everything else is already tied up, decided upon and generally done, then there is time to deal with the unknown surprise issue(s). Yes, I know: this means I plan for the surprise. But, it is how I prefer to work and it feels practical to me.

So you can understand why being a part of something like the 24-Hour Theatre Project should send me into override. And I am guessing Ron Law, Executive Director at Theatre Charlotte and a project partner of mine for three years running considered this about me as well, but asked me to be a part of this project anyway- for which I am very grateful. I was surprised, to say the least, at my personal reaction to all of this. Instead of feeling nervous, I found it all absolutely exhilarating. The whole thing became about quickly identifying and utilizing the opportunities that were immediately presenting themselves. I got lucky, and was gifted with an incredibly witty, well written and workable piece which I later found out was written by Charlotte Magazine writer Jenn Grabenstetter. Bonus: It had a well placed twist of a punchline about a timely topic. The actors were game to ‘mine the funny’ into comedy bits that really worked well with the structure; and here I learned something. As a director, there is nothing better than coming up with what you perceive as a funny bit, watching actors execute it perfectly and then having it kill in front of an audience. The entire process felt like it was somehow on organic fast forward! When the actors got up to do their one and only performance that evening, they took it to the next level, and as I sat on the back row in the dark of the theatre with my fellow directors at the jumping off point, I felt really proud of all the unbelievable work that everyone had done in that one 24 hour period.

I am currently working on development of several brand new theatre projects about all of which I am very excited. The collaborations are ones that I have been thinking about and working toward for some time now. The juggling should prove to be interesting because they are all very unique pieces at different stages of development. I certainly don’t have it all figured out yet-but strangely, that’s not bothering me this time around. I am now flying without a net… and I think I like it.

Great Docs about Art and Artists

Thanks to my friend, local Charlotte filmmaker and documentarian April Denee, I recently found myself on a documentary viewing kick. I watched a lot of great docs-all about art, artists and collectors, and have been recommending this list often because the stories are both interesting, thoughtfully told and worthy of discussion. So, I am going to use this opportunity to post these docs in the order in which I viewed them and write a short blurb about each. I watched them all on Netflix on Demand, but they are all widely available on iTunes and other outlets as well.

Love to hear what you think!

Exit thru the Gift Shop- Banksy’s Oscar Nominated doc on street art and artist that asks the question “What is Art? ”
Art of the Steal- Controversial relocation to move Barnes Art Collection to Philly.
A Man Named Pearl- Inspiring story of self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar from my homestate of South Carolina.
Herb and Dorothy- How a librarian and postal worker became NYC’s biggest art collectors.
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work- Joan Rivers broke many barriers for women and comics.

And check out April’s current project, Busk, on Charlotte street artists here : http://www.indiegogo.com/buskmovie

Wildacres Residency Awarded to Donna Scott Productions for Summer 2011

donna scott productions
is excited to announce the award of a 2011 residency at Wildacres for creative work and development of two new theatre projects. The residency will take place in August 2011 at Wildacres Conference Center in Little Switzerland, NC.

The Wildacres Residency Program began in 1999 and over the past twelve years has hosted approximately 290 writers, artists, and musicians. Wildacres chooses 25 artists each year for residency awards.

Aphasia Screening Schedule

Aphasia on tour with Carl McIntyre : Spring/Summer 2011
**All events are private hires unless noted**

March 1 UNC-Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
March 31 West Va Speech & Hearing Convention Flatwoods, WVA
April 13/14 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
April 18/19 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN (April 18, Public Event**)
April 21 Emerson University/Spaulding Hospital Boston, MA
April 26 Northeast AHEC/ Appalachian University Boone, NC
May 3 Southeast AHEC Stroke Convention Greensboro, NC
May 21 Rogers C. Peace Rehab Greenville, SC
June 11 TBA
June 14-16 TBA
June 24-26 TBA

To book a screening of Aphasia please go to http://www.aphasiathemovie.com for more information