What a difference a venue makes!
So here I am, two performances into my 6 week run at The Marsh with my solo show, My Stroke of Luck! Something beyond my wildest dreams only a few years ago.
How many years ago? Had to look back at my old website to establish the time line! The first time I performed a piece of what would become My Stroke of Luck was December 13, 2013 at The Marsh Berkeley, as part of a David Ford class showcase. It was only my second experience storytelling, the first 6 months earlier at a College of Marin Drama Dept Solo Performance Class Showcase, taught by W. Allen Taylor, writer and performer of In Search of My Father. For that showcase, I told a story about navigating the adoption maze. Little did I know that would begin the unpacking that lead to My Stroke of Luck. An audience member rushed over, hugged me with tears in her eyes, and said, "You're telling my story! You need to find David Ford."
So find David Ford I did. That first class performance at The Marsh, I shared struggles with my older son, Logan, in his challenging teen years. I was nervous, afraid of forgetting lines, and feeling vulnerable about going public with intimate moments. But I didn't forget my lines, didn't die of embarrassment and no one walked out. And I realized, the stakes are so different from my former MD life, I could relax and enjoy the ride.
After the show, an improv friend (GK thank you!) hugged me and said, "You need to have more fun!" David said, "We need to find you a better way to connect with the audience." Both comments felt like, "Yes, ok, LOTS of room for improvement! In both the script and delivery." I can do both.
I had just started Meisner actor training that fall, after a couple of years of improv classes (thank you, Patricia Ryan Madson then BATS), and my first lead in a scripted play -improv coach Ralph Thomas, cast me. I loved it, and thought, I'd better learn something about this! So, I kept at it, studying, writing, reading, revising, learning, writing, reading, revising, performing until, late spring 2016, I had a show (and a stack of outtakes about two feet high)!!!
David Ford said, "Why not take it to a Fringe Festival? It's the least expensive way to produce your own work. Consider it like an out of town tryout. " For a gal raised in Manhatten, and schooled in New Haven, I get that! So, sign me up! (Full disclosure: applied to festivals 8 months earlier, before I had the show, knowing I would drop out if I hadn't finished it, and would otherwise have to wait until summer 2017.)
Hit the Fringe circuit May 2016. A fun whirlwind of rehearsing, performing, getting feedback, tweaking, meeting other artists, seeing other shows and shameless self promotion - the only way to get butts in the seats. Made some major changes between May -June and September Fringes, then had a fun, sold out Marsh Rising, a one night only full length audition for a run October 2016. (Thank you all who were there! You were a hot audience!) While waiting to hear if I'd get a run, started in on a new piece! (About growing up middle class and black - or Negro as we were then known- in Manhatten.) What fun! I'd forgotten the special excitement of starting a project.
Then, Ann Randolph's director, Joshua Townshend, who had seen my Rising, asked if I was interested in feedback. How could I say anything but yes? He shared some strong feelings about strengthening the arc of the show. So the next few months, I spent digging down, generating and performing reams of new material, distilling, moving huge blocks until I had what in some ways feels like a whole new show, though in truth, only about 25% of the script changed. But it's more of a family story, feels more complete, and has gathered raves!
Two BC Fringe festivals, United Solo Off Broadway in NYC and Atlanta Black Theater Festival, a few more tweaks, and ready for The Marsh!
Now here's the fun part. Given 15 hours of tech time (= time in theater to work out lights, sound, adapt blocking to the space), a luxury after the 3 hour maximum on the road, my director Rebecca Fisher, the Technical Manager, Hector Zavala, Sound and Lightboard Operator, Alexa Almira and I could play!!! And in the process, we made some new discoveries and got ideas for exciting new sound and light cues that really support the story.
And back in the space where it started, it feels as if the special alchemy that is The Marsh - the creatives, risk taking, nimbleness, nurturing and supportive community - in which the sum is greater than all the wonderful parts, has held and buoyed me as I found my voice. And now I get to share it with you (with thanks to all of you who helped me on this road)!
My Stroke of Luck at The Marsh, San Francisco, 1062 Valencia St (x 22nd St, BART Mission &24th) runs through December 9th, Thursdays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 5 PM.
I had a waiting list for sold out shows Off Broadway at United Solo. Tickets are still available for all the remaining Marsh performances, but going fast!!! Don't wait! Special benefit performances for Attitudinal Healing International 11/18 with talkback with founders, Jerry Jampolsky M.D. and Diane Cirincione, PhD and for Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery 11/30 with talkback by Patricia Gill, MS, MFT, Executive Director. And the incomparable Ann Randolph is the talkback speaker 11/9!
or phone 415-641-0235 M-F 10AM-5PM
A great interview with Vicki Larson of the Marin IJ.
And another with Maureen Langham of KGO Radio, look for October 29, 2017