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Seven Questions: Robin Tynes Miller

This week, local independent theatre company Three Bone Theatre produces The Daffodil Girls, a retelling of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, but substitute the slick-talking real estate salesmen with girl scouts during cookie season. The show takes a look at the intense pressures of growing up in a highly competitive environment.

To preview the fun, I talked to Robin Tynes Miller, Founding Artistic Director for Thee Bone Theatre, about The Daffodil Girls, working in Spirit Square, and what’s next for Three Bone Theatre.

The Daffodil Girls runs this weekend, November 15-17 at Duke Energy Theater in Spirit Square. Get your tickets now.

Andy: What appealed to you when deciding to produce The Daffodil Girls?

Robin: We love the idea of taking this classic story of cutthroat manhood (Glengarry Glen Ross) and retelling it within the world of an all female scout troop during cookie season. This is the East Coast Premiere of the show, it’s actually only the second time it’s ever been produced – and the first time with an adult cast! It was developed by Bren Rapp and Jeff Swearingen in Dallas and our Executive Director caught a reading of it when she was down in Texas for work. We jumped at the chance to bring this story to Charlotte and challenge the way people think of the canon of “classic” plays that are overwhelmingly dominated by white men.

Andy: Why did you decide to use The Daffodil Girls to kick off your season?

Robin: These are challenging times in our country and we wanted to laugh! This show is absurd and hilarious, but it’s so much more than just a thin parody of Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s amazing how well Mamet’s harsh intensity plays within the realm of childhood. These girls are struggling with friendships, competition, self-image and are not getting the support they need. I think everyone will be able to find something to relate to within the characters. Being a pre-teen girl is ROUGH.

Andy: What is the importance of using an all women and POC cast?

Robin: This show supplies such great meaty roles for women – which is something we’re always looking for. It’s important for us to be looking for work that gives women the chance to shine on stage. None of the roles in this piece are race-specific but it’s important to us to have racial diversity on our stage — and not only in roles that are required to be played by actors of color. We had an incredible turn-out of women for auditions and we got the cream of the crop! It’s important to us that we aren’t just producing white centric theatre – that’s not the Charlotte community and we want to do our best to try to reflect our city.

Andy: What is Girls Rock Charlotte‘s role in the performance?

Robin: Girls Rock Charlotte is our FABULOUS Community Partner! We partner with other local organizations on each show in order to highlight the amazing work being done in Charlotte and also as a call to action for our artists and audience members to get involved. We chose Girls Rock Charlotte because the Daffodil Girls could have SERIOUSLY benefitted from their programming that encourages young women through music to be collaborative, kind, and stand up for themselves and others. It was a perfect fit!

Andy: What is your favorite part about seeing a show at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square?

Robin: The Daffodil Girls is the kickoff to our 3rd season in The Duke Energy Theatre so there are so many good memories. It feels like home and we absolutely love the BPAC staff. There are so many “favorites” racing through my mind: the Front of House Staff (shoutout to John Moore!), the intimacy of the theatre, that feeling of excitement when the lights go down at the beginning of the show, the electricity of experiencing a live show together with strangers (anything could happen!), and of course grabbing a glass of wine to take in the theatre never hurts!

Andy:  2019 is Three Bone Theatre’s eighth year in Charlotte. How do you see Three Bone Theatre continuing to evolve?

Robin: So our 2018-2019 season is our 7th season, which is totally crazy! (How are we a 2nd grader already!?!) This is a very exciting time for the company. We have a ton of forward momentum and wonderful patrons here in Charlotte. There are some new and thrilling opportunities coming out soon (join our mailing list at threebonetheatre.com to stay in the know!!) and we’re starting to look at our work over the last decade and think about the future. We hope that Three Bone Theatre will continue to be a local Charlotte Theatre staple for a long, long time. We love what we do!

Andy: What should theatre fans be looking out for in the rest of Three Bone’s season?

Robin: Oh, this season is SO exciting. After The Daffodil Girls, we have the Charlotte premiere of By the Water by Sharyn Rothstein which will be directed by Ron Law (Theatre Charlotte) which I am very excited about. It’s a beautiful piece. And then in May we are really looking forward to producing OSLO by J.T. Rogers, directed by Paige Johnston. This was the 2017 Tony award winner for Best New Play. It focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the 1990s and the Oslo accords that strived for peace. It’s a powerful story about humanizing the other side and the art of compromise. And we wrap up our season with Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline, which is her newest work focused on race in the education system and how we are or aren’t serving our young men of color. We’re very excited to have Sidney Horton back to direct that final piece. It’s going to be an exhilarating season!

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Seven Questions: Three Bone Theatre

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Every Brilliant Thing’s Tania Kelly

This Thursday, Charlotte theater group Three Bone Theatre premiers Every Brilliant Thing, an interactive play written by Duncan Macmillan and Johnny Donahoe, directed by Robin Tynes, and starring Tania Kelly. The show runs May 17-19, and May 24-26 at the Duke Energy Theatre at Spirit Square in Uptown Charlotte.

Since its inception in 2012, Three Bone Theatre has been producing exceptional theatrical performances that are “socially engaged, professionally managed, and creatively inspired.”

In anticipation of Every Brilliant Thing, I asked co-founder and Artistic Director (and director of Every Brilliant Thing) Robin Tynes to talk a little bit about the history and purpose of Three Bone Theatre.

Andy Goh: The name Three Bone Theatre comes from a Reba McEntire quote. Can you explain that quote?

Robin Tynes: When Carmen Bartlett and I founded Three Bone Theatre in 2012, we were looking for a name that conveyed the types of stories we wanted to tell and reflected our own fun and fresh personalities. The quote, “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone,” guides us to pick pieces that will inspire, strengthen, and entertain our community. It’s become the foundation of our business philosophy and it’s also a great way to look at life, you need to dream big, stay strong, and be able to laugh along the way. Plus, everyone loves Reba.

AG: When selecting plays to produce, what are some of the common themes or ideas you look for?

RT: We produce the best of contemporary theatre and that involves telling complex stories that are compelling and lead our audience to explore their own humanity in a new way. We’re constantly looking for pieces that we feel are relevant to our Charlotte audiences and stories that are entertaining but may ask viewers to lean into being a little uncomfortable. We believe that theatre has the power to create a stronger and more enriched society. When we’re looking at pieces, we also look for exciting new challenges. Our upcoming piece Every Brilliant Thing is a one-person show and is interactive with the audience. We’ve never done anything quite like it before and were excited to stretch in a new way while tackling the issue of mental health. We try to use our pieces to create conversation and ask questions — but the bottom line is that it has to be entertaining. People have to want to listen to the story.

AG: For each performance, Three Bone Theatre selects a different non-profit partner. How would you describe the goals of these partnerships?

RT: Yes, our Community Partnerships started in our second season and pairs a local organization doing work that ties in thematically with each show we produce. One of the main goals is building awareness. I like being able to talk to people after seeing one of our shows that impacted them and say, “Wow, this story really moved you. Did you know there was a way to get involved with these same issues in our city through this amazing organization?” It’s a soft call to action. But it also builds awareness of all of the amazing work being done in this city. I think all of our artists learn a lot from the partnerships as well. We’re currently working with HopeWay as our partner for Every Brilliant Thing and it’s been so fascinating learning about the need for mental health care in our area and all of the great work that HopeWay is doing. These partnerships are two-way streets. Most of our partners don’t know anything about the theatre process and hopefully they bring some non-theatre goers through the doors to see a play.

AG: Three Bone Theatre productions are performed in the Duke Energy Theatre in Spirit Square. What are some of the benefits of this venue?

RT: We love being in the Duke Energy Theatre at Spirit Square. Three Bone Theatre started at an upstairs bar in NoDa that fit about 60 people, so expanding to The Duke has been a dream come true. We love the facility and the staff at Spirit Square. We feel supported and like we have a great team working alongside us for each show – and the location is hard to beat! It’s right in uptown with plenty of parking options available, easily accessible from public transportation and it’s surrounded by delicious restaurants so it makes for a nice “night out.” We have very limited time in the space for tech (we move into the space the Sunday before we open on that Thursday) so our artists have to be ready to go and triple-prepared in order to make the most of every minute. That can definitely be challenging. We also have the challenge of only running for two weekends which can be tricky when most theatres find that you don’t really generate much word of mouth momentum until weekend three. On the other hand, we have more seating and are in an actual theatre (versus a bar) so it’s nice having more options for designs from a technical standpoint. Blumenthal Performing Arts also does a non-profit waiver for the space, which makes it more affordable for emerging companies.

AG: Three Bone Theatre is entirely made up of part-time employees. What are some of the challenges you face with that kind of setup?

RT: Yeah, so we have four members on our management team, and we all have day-jobs. So it’s truly a labor of love. As we’ve grown rapidly, it’s created some challenges with capacity. We have huge visions of the work we want to do and the partnerships we want to create but it comes down to finding the time. We currently do four shows a season and have been brainstorming additional programming for a while – but struggle with the people-power needed to implement those. We’re always trying to find some balance as well since two of our team members have young kids, one of our team members is also back in school, and I’m getting married in October! :P We’re crazy people. But we love what we do!

AG: Talk a little about your background in theatre. Were you an actor, producer etc. growing up? What are some plays or performances of any kind that shaped your passion for theatre?

RT: I’ve been doing theatre since a very young age. I was very involved in school clubs and plays growing up and was lucky to go to schools in western NC that had very healthy theatre programs. I was active with Asheville Community Theatre and worked there most summers as a counselor, teacher, and camp director. Playing Dorothy Gale in Asheville Community Theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz is what probably cemented in my head that I wanted to do theatre professionally. I just became obsessed. It’s a wonderful art form and I believe it’s one of the best ways to step into someone else’s shoes. I have a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance from Catawba College, but during my senior year I shifted my plan of moving to NYC and started to dream about having more control over the stories being told on stage. Carmen Bartlett, our Founding Artist, and I concocted the idea of Three Bone Theatre in the summer of 2011 and we had our first production in Fall of 2012. Since then, we’ve added team members and become a 501(c)3 and continue to grow our organization. Becky was in our first production in Charlotte of The Vagina Monologues and we scooped her up with her whip-smart background in finances and business and she’s now been our Executive Director for almost five years. She’s been a game changer for us and we have a really great team. I’ve been directing more than acting now, which I love equally as much. And producing is its own type of joy. Three Bone has really become my baby and while sometimes it’s totally exhausting – it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

AG: How would you like to see Three Bone Theatre evolve in the future?

RT: I have so many dreams for Three Bone Theatre, but mostly I just want us to keep telling these beautiful stories, using local talent (like award-winning Charlotte comedienne, Tania Kelly starring in Every Brilliant Thing),  and getting people passionate about coming to the theatre. I truly believe that theatre can change the world.

To learn more about Three Bone Theatre, click here. Get your tickets for Every Brilliant Thing here.

Responses edited for syntax only.

Seven Questions with Jen Band of Playing for Others

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Jen Band of Playing for Others. Photo courtesy of thesavageway.com

People with disabilities, especially children, often times miss out on some of the joy and wonder than most of us take for granted as we grow up. Events like birthday parties, proms and vacations many times minimize the involvement of the disabled, limiting the exuberance that others routinely enjoy.

Fortunately, organizations like Playing for Others make it a point that kids with disabilities don’t miss out on feeling like they’re the superstar. One such event is happening this Sunday at McKnight Hall on the UNCC campus. For the ninth consecutive year, Playing for Others presents its Red Carpet program which makes the buddies (PFO’s affectionate term for kids with disabilities) the star of the show, both literally and figuratively.

At the center of the Red Carpet program is a production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which features performances from both the teens and buddies. Before the show, however, the buddies are treated to a VIP experience, as they will arrive at the show in style. A limo ride to the venue is followed by a walk down the red carpet, where spectators, PFO teens and the buddies themselves are dressed like movie stars at the Oscars. As the cameras flash, the buddies and teens strike poses and bask in the adulation of the event, which is the culmination of homecoming weekend.

Playing for others was formed in 2006 to teach teenagers that you can take what you’re passionate about and use it to benefit the greater good. Today, 75 teens (eighth grade through high school) from 37 different schools participate in the Playing for Others program. Two teens team up with each buddy for friend dates, art experiences and relationship building. One of the program’s main focuses is diversity, with teens and buddies of all races, nationalities, sexualities and economic backgrounds included. Through this mentorship, teens in the program learn personal development, leadership training and public service.

To get a better idea of what to expect at the Red Carpet Event, I asked seven questions to Jen Band (formerly of Children’s Theatre of Charlotte), Executive Director of Playing for Others.

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What are some of the other activities in homecoming weekend leading up to the red carpet event? Friday night we will host HeARTbeat, an evening celebrating 12 local non-profits by bringing their story to life through the music, dance, spoken word, and digital art. Then on Saturday night we’ll gather to celebrate 10 years and watch a premiere of our first ever original musical, Ready. Set. Go.

What was the inspiration for the red carpet event? The Red Carpet event is a PFO staple. It’s a time for our “buddies”, children with disabilities, to be celebrated and treated like the rockstars they are! We believe that every human being deserves love and belonging.

How many teens and how many buddies participate in each homecoming? We have 75 teens in the program and 36 buddies that all come together for a weekend of hugs, high fives and dance parties :)

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How are the performances (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in this case) selected? You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was the very first PFO show. It seemed fitting to do it for our ten year anniversary.

What has the response been like from previous parents or caregivers? Parents are blown away by their experience with PFO. Many talk about how important these friendships are for their kids. The care, attention and love given to the buddies is simply beautiful to watch.

How often do you hear from former buddies and what do they say? Many of our buddies stay in the program year after year, they just can’t get enough of it! Those that move on come back for performances and stay in touch with their former PFO teen buddy. It’s a life-long relationship.

Personally, what is your favorite part of the red carpet event? That moment when I get to open the door to the limo and see all the excited faces inside. It’s honestly one of my favorite moments of the entire PFO season :)  

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Playing for Other’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is this Sunday, March 5 at McKnight Hall on the Campus of UNC Charlotte (9025 University Rd.) at 4:30 p.m. with red carpet festivities starting at 3 p.m. Show up in your freshest attire, and pay what you can at the door.

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Sous Terrain – Seven Questions with Rémy Thurston

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Rémy Thurston

Since 1971, North Carolina has been the nation’s leading producer of sweet potatoes, but in general, they’ve always been second class spuds to their more starchy and mealy brothers. Tonight (Friday, January 6), however, the sweet potato rightly takes its place in the spotlight at Free Range Brewing in Villa Heights.

Photographer Rémy Thurston makes his solo photo exhibition debut tonight from 6-8 p.m. with his sweet potato immersion, Sous Terrain. Thurston teamed up with sous chefs from several prominent Charlotte restaurants like 300 East, The Fig Tree, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen and many more to present a photo series of sweet potato inspired dishes created specifically for the show. Intrigued by the possibilites beyond casseroles and fries, I asked Rémy a few questions about his show.

GohJo: How did you choose the sweet potato to work with?

Rémy: The sweet potato is actually integral to North Carolina agriculture. The state produces the most sweet potatoes in the country. I chose it because there’s a famous photograph of an Irish potato that sold for $1 million. It was a simple photograph, and I was inspired to recreate it in my own way.

GohJo: How did you first experience sweet potatoes?

Rémy: I think my first experience with the sweet potato was as a puree as a kid. I honestly thought it was carrots, but after questioning my dad, the chef, about it I was assured it was a sweet potato, not funny-tasting carrots. I’ve loved them since.

GohJo: You’ve got a premiere lineup of sous chefs working with you including Alex Verica from Heritage Food & Drink, Myles Scaglione from Heirloom, Andres Pico of Customshop and Larry Suggs, mixologist from The Punch Room. How did you decide upon who to work with?

Rémy: Sous chefs often run the kitchen behind the line and let the more experienced head chefs take the praise. It’s not always the case, but I’ve seen my fair share of it when I was part of the industry. I wanted to highlight their hard work in the same way the sweet potato doesn’t get all the praise I think it should as part of the state’s agriculture.

GohJo: Why sous chefs and not the folk at the top of the food chain? [GohJo note: Pun very much intended]

Rémy: The sweet potato doesn’t get any recognition until it hits the sunlight and the palate. Sous chefs are similar. You need to see and taste their work to realize what they’re capable of. This show serves to do both.

GohJo: What are some of your favorite sweet potato recipes?

Rémy: My favorite way to have sweet potatoes is pretty simple actually. I cut them up into cubes and roast them with lots of salt, cayenne, olive oil and freshly ground cumin. I like the sweet soft inside contrasting with the crusty caramelized spice crust on the outside.

GohJo: How long will your art be on the walls at Free Range Brewing?

Rémy: The art will be on the wall until January 29th!

Hit up Free Range Brewing (2320 N. Davidson St.) tonight from 6-8 p.m. where you can not only see Rémy’s work, but also get some sweet potato tamales from The Masa Casa, sweet potato fries from Terra Flora, sample some sweet potato cotton candy (!!) from Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen and sip on some sweet potato gruit from the fine folks at Free Range Brewing. Afterwards, don’t forget to head down to C3 Lab in South End for Lara Americo’s opening reception for Chrysalis – A Study in Human Life from 7-10 p.m. Sweet!

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Chrysalis – Seven Questions with Lara Americo

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Lara Americo steps into the realm of visual art.

Charlotte musician and activist Lara Americo is stepping into the realm of visual art, starting this Friday (January 6) with an exhibition at C3 Lab in South End called Chrysalis – A Study in Human Life.  According to the Facebook event page:

Skin and bones are a cocoon for the soul to develop and grow on planet Earth. Chrysalis sheds that shell and peers into what’s hidden beneath.

Chrysalis is an exploration of what it means to inhabit a human body. It is common to assume that we are our bodies. Our bodies are a shell and our true selves are much more than human flesh. Chrysalis examines this flesh and what if means to navigate the world in these bodies using photography and 3-D molding. Each photo and 3-d mold will examine one subject and tell that person’s story.

Chrysalis (a butterfly which is becoming an adult but still enclosed in a hard case) is Americo’s first venture into the world of visual and art, after having released her debut album She / They in November 2016 (read the Creative Loafing review here). Chrysalis is a mixed media installation featuring photography and physical models, some using live people as their foundation.

lara-americo-chrysalis-gohjoAmerico took some time recently to answer a few questions I had for her about the show, which you can see at C3 Lab (2525 Distribution St.) until January 23.

GohJo: Tell me a little bit about what visitors can expect to see at your installation at C3 Lab.

Americo: Visitors can expect to see real life. They will see people, physically. But they will see them in other forms than their human body.

GohJo: It appears that the inspiration for the show may have come from your experiences as a transgender person. Talk about how your gender identity evolution has influenced this show.

Americo: Being transgender forced me to closely examine what it means to be connected to a human body on earth. It made me see that we are not our bodies. The body is just a tool that we use. Even though the body decays we never die.

GohJo: How did you choose the subjects depicted for this show?

Americo: I know it may sound cliché but the subjects choose me just as much is I chose them. Anyone could’ve been a subject for this project. Everyone has a story in a way that they express themselves with their bodies. That’s all that I was looking for.

GohJo: You’ve gained some notoriety for your work as a musician, releasing the album She/They in 2016. What’s different for you in creating an art show versus a musical project?

Americo: I look at both mediums as different forms of artistic expression. Both are ways to describe something that is abstract and both are limiting in their own way.

GohJo: What’s something about the relationship between our bodies and our actual “selves” that people don’t often consider?

lara-americo-chrysalis-gohjo-1Americo: Most people, including me, forget that they are not their body and think the opposite is true. The truth whether we like it or not is that our body is dying every moment. This can be scary unless you realize that you will never die.

GohJo: What do you hope people will come away with after viewing Chrysalis?

Americo: I hope people can see that the human body is precious and beautiful because of its fragility. The fact that the body is dying is what makes the body so beautiful. Still, the true beauty is on the inside but can’t be seen.

GohJo: What else do you want people to know about this exhibition?

Americo: That life is beautiful. It’s always beautiful.

Check out the opening reception of Chrysalis – A Study in Human Life this Friday, January 6 at C3 Lab in South End from 7-10 p.m. All answers edited only for spelling and grammar.