Thursday, June 18, 2015

Talking Transformation

Sharrell D. Luckett, Ph.D., is currently an Assistant Professor of Performance in the Department of Theatre and Dance at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She is an award-winning director and producer of over 60 shows. We asked her a few questions to figure out just how she's done it all.  

How do you handle your time in such a way that you are able to teach at Cal State, publish your writing, direct, produce, as well as write a one woman show? 
I enter all of my commitments into a calendar and make sure to schedule 'me' time so I don't get overwhelmed. Sometimes, it actually feels as if I'm not doing enough. It's crazy. I do what I love so it seldom feels like work. 

Have the performing arts been prevalent throughout your life?
Absolutely. I began performing around age 14, took a break, and then picked back up in grad school. 

Your solo show, "YoungGiftedandFat", is a testament to the possibility of transforming ourselves. How does it feel to now reside in the body of someone 100 pounds lighter?
I'm still working through my transweight experience. At times it feels weird. I still have those moments where I feel like I need a size 14 pant. It's also a lot of pressure to maintain the weight loss. I have to monitor what I eat at all times, bit I still eat unhealthy foods, and it shows up on the scale and on my body immediately. 

What is your relationship to food currently, and how have you been able to keep the weight off?
Food is the enemy, except for kale and avocados. I love them both! I'm working on my relationship with food and the guilt that comes along with eating. I want to eat and be okay with eating. 

What would you say to anyone who is struggling with weight loss?
Weight loss is not fun and it doesn't free you up. Sure, it can be exciting to be smaller, but there are negative effects that come with weight loss. 

See Sharrell D. Luckett in her one woman show, "YoungGiftedandFat", on June 19th at the Ivy Substation. For tickets, please go to our website,  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Just As She Is

Florence LaRue is the only remaining original member of the legendary six time Grammy-winning group, The 5th Dimension. When she is not performing on prestigious stages worldwide, Miss LaRue's busy schedule includes speaking publicly, completing her book, and performing her one woman show, "Just As I Am". We asked her a few questions about her successful career and her current endeavors.

Having founded The Fifth Dimension almost 50 years ago, what inspired you to write and perform your own solo work?
I was inspired to write and perform my one woman show by the many people who asked me to do so! After performing it, quite a few women told me how my story encouraged them to have hope and to believe that age is not a hindrance to fulfilling the dream that God has placed within them. It also made me realize and be thankful for the blessed life I have had and to not take it for granted!

How is performing solo different, in your experience, than performing in a group?
While there is more freedom to make changes (in the script, songs, costuming, etc.) in a solo show, there is also more responsibility!

When was the moment you realized you were passionate about performing?
I realized I was passionate about performing when I starred in the musical, "Mo Magic", in Canada and enjoyed it despite the hard work required!

If you were to offer one piece of advice to aspiring performers, what would it be?
The one piece of advice I would give to aspiring performers is to continue studying your craft, even when you are successful. There is always something you can learn. (I still take vocal and acting lessons!)

Which moment in your show has challenged you the most to share with audiences?
The most challenging moment in my show to share with others is how my career affected my relationship with my son! It is very personal, emotional, and heartfelt. We are both very private people and are still working some things out!

See Florence LaRue in her one woman show, "Just As I Am", on June 19th at the Ivy Substation. To buy tickets, please go to our website,


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bravery Is Beautiful

Jozanne Marie is an actor, poet, writer, and advocate for abused women. She is an international spoken word artist and has performed in over a dozen plays, films, and national commercials. Her one woman show, "Beautiful" is poetically conveyed with persuasive narrative and dialogue, which deals with three generations of women. We asked her a few questions about her life and her work, a journey of bravery, survival, and victory.

Your work as an artist has a clear focus on women. Can you explain why creating a support network of strong women is important to you?
Yes, I think for too long, women's voices have been silenced on many issues, especially in the area of sexual violation. It is important to me to create a forum where women can break their silence and own their freedom.

Was your first genre of writing poetry?
Oh, yes. The first time I penned my emotions was a three page poem in my best friend's bedroom.

How and at what point did you decide to start performing solo theatre work?
From the age of sixteen I knew I was going to perform a solo show, even though I had never seen one. I guess God answered my prayers because once I landed in LA a few years later, I had the opportunity to work as an assistant for Tony-nominated actress,  
Charlayne Woodard. Charlayne invited me to her solo play, "In Real Life", and I was completely blown away. However, I had to go through my own healing process before presenting the piece on stage. That took me eight years. Once I was ready, Charlayne took me under her wing and mentored me. After that, "Beautiful" was born.

When writing poetry, is your creative process different than when writing, for example, a theatre piece like "Beautiful"? How so?
Yes and no. Yes, when I write anything, it has to be an issue that I am passionate about. However, right now I am hired to write poems for different events, which takes me on a different journey. I normally sit down with clients, hear their vision, then I pray, and the message comes to me.

Can you explain what your campaign "The Shame Does Not Belong To You" stands for and what methods you use to get your message across?
As a survivor of sexual abuse, one of the main issues I have dealt with is shame. There was a part of me that never felt worthy. It took me eight years to realize I was fearfully and wonderfully made. During the premier of my five week run, I encountered many men and women who wanted to share their secret with me after seeing my show. The common thread I found in each conversation was SHAME. Some people had kept their abuse hidden for over forty years because they felt like it was their fault and found it impossible to disclose to anyone. At that point I believed it was my responsibility to stand up with them and declare "The Shame Does Not Belong To You". It made me realize when we speak out; we give others the permission to speak as well. This was the genesis of the campaign.

Your work is very brave and revealing. What inspired you to tell your personal story?
Thank you. To be honest, I believe it is my calling. So many horrific things had taken place in my life as a child and I guess, the only way from down was up. There were too many people who had similar stories and some lost their minds during the process. The fact that I was still breathing and had a glimpse of hope. I wanted to inspire others to take their lives back. I want anyone who has been through this to know, they have the power to change their story.

Which moments in your play were most difficult to share with audiences?
It was difficult to discuss about being pregnant and having an abortion.

Because of your courage to tell your story, and impacting other women with similar experiences, how has this show not only contributed to your healing, but impacted you in terms of what women share with you after seeing your work?
Performing "Beautiful" is more than life-changing. I am a different person because I did this show; it has helped me to overcome the fear of what other people think about me. Also, hearing other people's stories that are different in culture and age affirmed that the human experience is a universal experience and we all are searching for one thing...LOVE. 

What was it like having First Lady Obama in the audience at one of your performances?
It was an honor to know my work was chosen for the event and she loved it. I was on top of the moon.

How has your spirituality and relationship to religion allowed you to rise above many of your experiences?
Wow, do we have time? LOL. The foundation of who I am is rooted in Christ. This relationship has helped me to overcome my past and given me the keys to regeneration into a new woman. The old me has become a memory and not a constant reality. I am not saying I don't have challenging days. What I am saying is my relationship with God allows me to RISE with new miracles each morning. I am able to see myself the way He sees me, WHOLE. 

See Jozanne Marie in her one woman show, "Beautiful", on June 19th at the Ivy Substation. To buy tickets, please go to our website,

Monday, June 15, 2015

Steel Drums and Dreams

Juliette Jeffers is an actor, writer, producer, director and educator. She has graced the stage, the screen, and the internet, for over twenty years--with no signs of stopping anytime soon. We asked Juliette a few questions about her experience as a performer to see just how she manages to do it all.

Juliette Jeffers in "Pan Gyul" at the 2015 Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival

Having experience in many different aspects of entertainment (writing, directing, acting, producing), do you have one area that you prefer, or one that you are particularly passionate about?
I love all aspects but am particularly passionate about acting, mostly because it's my first love. It's something I've wanted to do since I was a young child. So, succeeding in this field has been rewarding on so many levels.

Can you briefly describe your experience in taking your solo show on the road?
My favorite experience on the road was performing Batman and Robin in the Boogie Down in the Virgin Islands. It was through the Women Wise Conference on St. Thomas and St. Croix. The whole experience from the travel arrangements and accommodations through the actual performances went smoothly. But the biggest joy was being able to inspire young Caribbean girls. That was priceless.

How many solo shows have you now written?
I've written three solo shows.

And how do you feel about each of them, since they are all different?
Batman and Robin in the Boogie Down has a special place in my heart because it was my first piece, and it was inspired by my brother's death in 1996. It was also nominated for a Drama Desk Award in New York, which was such a huge validation for me. After the intensity of my first solo show, ChocolateMatch.Com was pure comic relief. As a Caribbean-American, I'm always looking for opportunities to share our stories and I'm able to do that with Pan Gyul. It's also a great educational tool.

What were the most difficult moments in your solo plays to share with audiences?
In Batman and Robin in the Boogie Down, I reveal that I was sexually abused by my uncle when I was a child. That was difficult to share in the beginning, but I've had countless women come up to me after the show and thank me. So the fact that it has such healing potential dissolves any fear that I had. In ChocolateMatch.Com, I was concerned about appearing desperate. In Pan Gyul, my biggest challenge was learning to play the steel pan drum.

You have experience as an educator teaching workshops. Do you have one specific piece of advice you would give to aspiring performers?
Some people are stuck because they want to figure out the structure and the whole story, so they won't begin writing until they figure it all out. JUST START WRITING! Figure out the structure later. Nothing is a waste of time. Writing is therapeutic whether you share it or not.

What exactly do you teach, and how does teaching add to your creativity as an artist? 
I've been teaching acting for about six years, but I really found my niche when I started teaching solo show workshops. My solo show workshop is entitled, "Release and Let Go". Release the story. Let go of the fear. Helping others find and share their voice through the structure of my class has deepened my creativity. It continues to inspire and fuel my profound need to express. It validates the fact that I was born to do this.

See Juliette Jeffers in her one woman show, "Pan Gyul", on June 19th at the Ivy Substation. To buy tickets, please go to our website,

Friday, June 12, 2015

On Dance and Determination

Tracy Silver, a born and bred New Yorker, has been dancing her whole life. From the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to Sidney Poitier dance films. From guest-starring TV roles to teaching at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA). She has danced her way to the top, and we asked her a few questions about where she's gone and where she's headed. 

Tracy Silver in "Motion Cures" at the 2015 Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival


How do you think movement and choreography can enhance storytelling in a way that words perhaps cannot? 
Being an actress, I’ve learned that it’s the ‘white’ between the words, and that silence and stillness are two of the most powerful things you can do. That being said…if you can juxtapose that with the right movement in the right moment, EVERYTHING LANDS! The story, the moment, the words that came before and after...because you can direct the audience’s eye and direct the focus to the most specific, small gesture…that will mean EVERYTHING!  

You speak of how dance saved your life. What do you mean by that?
More than once. It saved my life as a child, keeping me away from Ritalin, as well as giving me something else to focus on other than my unhappy surroundings. It forced me to prove myself as a human being as a teenager. I wanted it. I had to get it. No one gave it to me. I found out about my desire and resilience very early!  Then, it saved me financially as a young adult. I began working at the age of 17. I made more money than I thought possible. It showed me what success could be. It saved me in my 30’s and 40’s by giving me teaching and reminding me who I was when being a struggling actress in Hollywood was my identity. Finally, in my late 40’s, I have come full circle and appreciate what it means to be able to move. I am actually learning how I ‘dance’ now…and I am very proud of the maturity and understanding that ‘less is more’. Now I don’t have to dazzle you with my footwork…..I can dazzle you with my humanity...or at least that’s what I’m going for.

Do you still dance, or are you now strictly a choreographer? If you no longer dance, how does it feel to have moved from being a dancer to a choreographer? How do they each satisfy you in different ways?
I do still dance. I have a fantasy of doing major characters that move like you would never expect! BUT my real movement and attachment to music is used for the people who can actually do what I see in my mind. I am glad to now be the ‘choreographer’. I can see it in my mind…and have other people do it. They have the responsibility to move ‘FOR’ me. It’s a very different focus. I can now pay attention to ‘it’, not me…..and it’s very liberating. I loved being the ‘dancer’ and giving the choreographer their vision…and now I love giving the vision and the subtext and the details, and seeing it become a reality..I might actually like the wholeness of being the choreographer better…I like the bigger picture.

How is the process of creating choreography for yourself different from that of creating choreography for other dancers?
I am 49. I am on the ‘other end’ of movement. I am not interested in physical prowess for myself. That is for the more able. I have to be very truthful to my own moments. I can’t cover it up with a trick. So I have to dig a little bit more and have more patience with musicality…I can’t use speed or technique like I can with dancers. I have to use graciousness, humility and vulnerability. My dancers use ALL of the above  for my work as a choreography with  the emphasis on speed!

You speak of how satisfying it is to be teaching at AMDA. What do you most enjoy about teaching dance?

What I most enjoy about teaching is giving someone the pathway to their potential. Whether it is a physical issue or a connective story issue, I find that when you tell someone "Yes, YOU are possible"…"what you think in your mind’s eye is possible"...That is the moment!! The ability to ask the right questions based on my work as an actor/director/storyteller makes me aware that I am the right person in the room. Being a dancer is not always enough. I am able to communicate this with the advanced dance students as well as with the actors who are finding their whole selves for the first time. I NEVER tire of that!!!! Everyone is a different recipe or equation. I LOVE figuring out the specific equation that leads to freedom!!!!  

What advice would you give to those who would like to become a dancer?  
If you want to become a dancer: study who/what came before you.  And by study I mean...10,000 hours…Who is Carmen de Lavallade? Dudley Williams? Desmond Richardson? Pina Bausch? Gelsey Kirkland? Fernando Bujones?......Bejart? Mark Morris? Maria Tallchief? Balanchine? Don’t walk into my class with no vision for yourself. What choreographers are right for you? What companies? What Broadway shows? And learn the definition of patience. What does it mean to finish a moment? You cannot do B before you finish A. And lastly…you must be A MUSICIAN! The thing that separates the good from the great is your musicianship!    

What advice would you give to parents who have children who are hyper as you once were in terms of figuring out a way to channel that energy?  
If your child is hyper…put them in ballet class….hip-hop class, tap class…piano, trombone…..DON’T give them drugs to ‘calm them down’. That energy is their genius. FUNNEL IT!!! AND GET OUT OF THE WAY!

You have clearly had a passion for dance your whole life, but have you ever felt tempted to follow a different path?
I have been very tempted to do many other things. I have been successful in design, directing, acting…BUT all roads have led me back to Dance……It won’t let me get away.

See Tracy Silver in her one woman show, "Motion Cures", on June 19th at the Ivy Substation. To buy tickets, please go to our website,