Interviews With the Directors of ‘Love, Loss and What I Wore’ at Arts Collective@HCC

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Love, Loss and What I Wore, a play by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron and based on the book by Ilene Beckerman opened at the Howard Community College Arts Collective this last weekend. It continues through October 18, 2015. The play is a time capsule of a woman’s life: relationships and wardrobes: a stunning collection of compelling, funny, moving stories about mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, lovers, and all in between.

This brilliant “clothesline” of monologues and ensemble pieces about women and their individual and common journeys will be performed by many of the area’s most fabulous women; each weekend will feature a different cast! What follows is an interview with the producers of the event.

Danielle: Who initiated this project/production? What prompted it (gut instinct)? Who envisioned the varying casts?

Producing Artistic Director Sue Kramer.
Susan G. Kramer.

Susan G. Kramer (Director, 1st Weekend of Performances, October 2, 3, 4 and Arts Collective’s Producing Artistic Director): This season’s Horowitz Center’s theme, Year of the Woman, inspired Arts Collective to choose Nora and Delia Ephron’s work.  Once the play was chosen, we brainstormed on various ways to mount it – would it be produced as a play with actors on their feet (memorized with movement) or would it be produced as a reading? Would it be produced with the same cast or various casts?  The decision to mount this work as a reading bubbled to the fore when AC’s core team (Grace, Darius and me, as well as AC’s executive producer, Valerie Lash) zeroed in on the concept to include as many women in the arts in Howard County as we could in this project.

'Love, Loss, and What I Wore' – Saturday, October 3rd Cast: First Row, Left to Right: Valerie Lash, Gabrielle Amaro, Apryl Motley, Peggy Yates, Carole Graham Lehan, Elizabeth Homan, Barbara Brickman. Second Row, Left to Right: Carolyn Kelemen, Susan Porter, Sierra Young, Tara Hart, Terri  Laurino, and Diane Schumacher. Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.
‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ – Saturday, October 3rd Cast:
First Row, Left to Right: Valerie Lash, Gabrielle Amaro, Apryl Motley, Peggy Yates, Carole Graham Lehan, Elizabeth Homan, and Barbara Brickman.
Second Row, Left to Right: Carolyn Kelemen, Susan Porter, Sierra Young, Tara Hart, Terri Laurino, and Diane Schumacher. Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.

After creative and collaborative brainstorming sessions, the vision to feature the readings over three weekends, under the direction of AC’s core team, with 5 different casts featuring Howard Community College current and past students, staff, faculty, and very special guest artists made beautiful sense to us. (The 5 casts shakes out as follows: Weekend #1 includes 3 separate casts, directed by S.G. Kramer: October 2, 3, 4 – Weekend #2 includes a single cast, directed by Darius McKeiver: October 9, 10, 11 – Weekend #3 includes a single cast, directed by Grace Anastasiadis: October 16, 17, 18)

Why did you become involved in this production?

Valerie Lash.
Valerie Lash.

Valerie Lash (Gingy, 1st weekend of performances, Oct 2, 3, 4, Dean of Arts and Humanities, HCC and Arts Collective’s Executive Producer): I have loved being a part of AC productions in the past. This project allowed me to work with one of my favorite directors, Sue Kramer, and share the stage with a diverse group of amazing women, including HCC students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community guest performers.

Susan: Once the play was chosen, I knew I had to be involved!  Telling these stories, imagining so many women breathing life, giving voice to these stories – yes!  That is why!

Darius McKeiver.
Darius McKeiver.

Darius McKeiver (Director  of 2nd weekend, October 9, 10, 11, and AC’s Office Manager):  I had to be convinced. At first I thought, I’m not a woman I can’t relate to this piece. But I love a challenge and it has been so very worth it. This piece starts a conversation; sharing of personal stories which is amazing to be in the room for. It has been a great learning experience. There is something everyone can relate to man or woman…what it is to love, struggle, fight, forgive, and lose.

Director Grace Anastasiadis.
Grace Anastasiadis.

Grace Anastasiadis (Director  of 3rd weekend of performances, Oct 16, 17, 18, and AC’s Associate Artistic and Managing Director: We thought it would be great to have all three of the Arts Collective team put their own spin on the readings and do that with different casts!

What “story” spoke to you? Did you get to select your story and if so why did you select it?

Valerie: Sue assigned me the role of Gingy.  This character mirrors many of my life experiences with loves and losses.  Fashion is also important in my world of aesthetics, as dean of Arts and Humanities at HCC.

Susan: About casting:  Last summer, Grace, Darius and I (in collaboration with Valerie) initiated a huge outreach campaign (to 80-plus women). The response was overwhelming!  The directors worked closely to coordinate the various casts, assign roles, etc.!  This is a first-time effort of this nature for AC and it’s been received with such enthusiasm and commitment by everyone involved!

What do you like and dislike about the story/character?

Valerie: LIKE: I like the fact that Gingy has made bold choices in her life, even if not always for the right reasons.  But she acknowledges that and embraces her chosen paths, come what may!  DISLIKE: It took Gingy a very long time to realize that a woman can be whole without a man “taking care of her,” as she says.

Susan: This style of storytelling in this play is brilliant!  The details, colors and flavors in the writing are incredibly relatable – to everyone in the room!

Darius:  I love that these are real women, real stories, and you get a bit of everything. It’s not just about the  hardships and struggles that women face but it also celebrates the woman, and shows just how much she is capable of! What’s not to love about that?

If you could give your “character” a piece of advice – what would that be?

Valerie: Though men are important in her life, Gingy needs to cherish the women who are there loving and supporting her through the years.

What do you hope the audience takes away from this production?

Valerie: The power and resilience of women through love and loss, and that we can look good through it all!

Susan: The power of storytelling, the power of sharing memories – no matter who you are, what gender you are – are to always be cherished. Honoring the stories felt deeply is a part of our journey as people… connection, community.

Darius: For the gentlemen in the audience I hope they learn something new, and perhaps they will leave and say to their mother, sister, daughter…”I had no idea.” For the woman in the audience I want them to enjoy being “in” on it.

Grace: Firstly, I hope the audience, after being riveted by our show, come back and become a long-time AC patron! We produce many different types of work, and there is something for everyone!

What have you learned about yourself or fellow women from being involved in this production?

Valerie: IT’S GREAT TO HAVE GIRLFRIENDS!!

Susan: I’ve always known it takes a village to create magic on and off the stage, no matter the size of the project (from readings, workshop productions, to large scale productions).  I had the pleasure of directing 28 of these women (those featured in the first weekend). At the very core of what I learned lives with the 28 women who shared their time with me, during our one-on-one rehearsals and ultimately with each other on stage. How they, without hesitation, and with absolute trust, entered into this very special project incredibly prepared and with desire, which was palpable, burst to get at the text, but also to share their own stories with me… their life-stories, which were very personal and deeply felt.  I learned so much about these amazing women in such a short time… what they think, how they feel, their memories… that’s been the best gift of all!

Grace:  How many people one project can bring together! Women from all different professions and walks of life have come together to tell a story and that is magical!

What is your motto with Arts Collective/Theater?

Susan: Where anything and everything is possible! Today’s the day!

What experience at HCC/Art’s Collective has left an impact on you with a student, an event, or performance?

Valerie: I particularly appreciate the work that AC does in the areas of improvisation and development of new work.

Susan: The privilege to work within a learning community which includes the work current and past students, staff, faculty, and guest artists who gather to create art every day… on and off the stage has been powerful beyond measure. The impact of having this privilege to work and collaborate side by side with folks full of such incredible energy and passion, folks who show up in the room ready to surrender to the work, yearn to follow their dreams, their imagination, who possess a desire to tell stories… sometimes stories of their own… sometimes for the first time in their lives, and sometimes for the 100th time in their lives – both are equally as powerful!  And… the audiences who show up to experience it all, to share this joy, this passion – what a gift that has been!

Darius:  In general being able to say I have a full time job in the theatre is something to really celebrate, and I’m so grateful and blessed to be able to say that. On top of that I’m able to be the one to make an impact on students’ lives, some of which; it’s their first time being on stage, their first costume, their first time putting on stage makeup. I love witnessing that joy and discovery.

Top Row (Left to Right): Photo 1: Valerie Lash, Debbie Mobley, Latishia Jones, Photo 2: Valerie Lash, Photo 3: Lenny Kramer, Cheryl Campo, Julie Jones, Peggy Yates Bottom Row (Left to Right): Photo 4: Peggy Yates, Photo 5: Helen B. Mitchell, Jean Moon, Liz Bobo, and Photo 6: Nancy Tarr Hart. Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.
Top Row (Left to Right): Photo 1: Valerie Lash, Debbie Mobley, and Latishia Jones. Photo 2: Valerie Lash. Photo 3: Lenny Kramer, Cheryl Campo, Julie Jones, and Peggy Yates. Bottom Row (Left to Right): Photo 4: Peggy Yates. Photo 5: Helen B. Mitchell, Jean Moon, and Liz Bobo, and Photo 6: Nancy Tarr Hart. Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.

What is the one “do or die” play you would like to be involved in and why?

Valerie: My favorite characters are those who have similar qualities to those that I admire in Marilyn Monroe, sexy and sassy on the outside and vulnerable and frail on the inside.  I have played many of these kinds of characters in my 50 years of acting.  I would one day like to play Thelma (referred to as “Mama”) in Marsha Norman’s ‘night, Mother.

Susan: My initial response was Jesus Christ Superstar (which I’ve wanted to be a part of since I was 12 years old, perhaps younger) – but the show I have the most desire to work on is AC’s next original play. We’ve developed and produced six of them in the past and it’s time to experience our seventh… but, AC’s 22nd season is a secret surprise!  Keep watching for details!

Darius: I would say August in Osage County. I love shows about big families. All of those characters are so complex and everyone has a secret.

Grace:  Chicago! Because it’s very female oriented and involves a lot of singing and fabulous dancing!

What is the one lesson you’d like to pass on to other women both personally and professionally?

Valerie: Actually, I have two bits of advice.  1) Don’t let anyone tell you that you CAN’T do something, and 2) If it’s worth doing, might as well have FUN doing it!

Susan: Not a lesson, but a wish.  Say “yes” to the gifts offered in life. Sometimes they show up out of the blue (like this project). Yes, it might mean stepping outside of your comfort zone, or that you might need to set something else aside to make room for that “yes”… but, no matter what, know that your voice, your stories are invaluable and will absolutely inspire many to do the same! You deserve to be heard!  Speak and do, ladies, speak and do!  Say “yes” to your gifts!

How do you want to be remembered?

Valerie: Someone who loved with all of her heart, and had FUN doing it!

Susan: That’s a good question!

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Love, Loss, and What I Wore plays at the HCC’s Horowitz Center Studio Theatre through October 18, 2015 .

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TICKETS:
$20 for general admission, $12 for seniors, military, groups, $10 for students with identification.
—–Parental guidance suggested – for folks 12 and up.
—–Seating is limited; purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.
—–Tickets may be purchased through the Box Office at (443) 518-1500, or online.

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DIRECTIONS & PARKING:
—–Directions and Parking Information.

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