Leah Cooper is Co-Artistic Director of Wonderlust Productions. She has been directing, producing, and performing in theater for thirty years. She was the director for the Veterans Play Project, a collaboration between Footprints Collective, Mixed Blood Theatre and Bedlam Theatre. Locally, she has also directed productions for Commonweal Theatre, Park Square Theatre, History Theatre, Theatre in the Round, Gremlin Theater, 20% Theatre Company, Shakespearean Youth Theatre, Starting Gate Productions, Ministry of Cultural Warfare, Prufrock Theatre, Fortune’s Fool Productions, and the Fringe Festival as well as many workshops of new scripts. Leah was most recently the Executive Director of the Minnesota Theater Alliance, was partner and co-founder of MinnesotaPlaylist.com, serves as board chair for Live Action Set, a board member of the California Institute of Contemporary Arts, and she was the Executive Director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival from 2001 to 2006.
On this episode, singer/songwriter Katy Vernon talks about depression, her fairly new relationship with sobriety, how she went from writing songs in her head to process life to being an actual artist and what parenting is like for someone who lost both parents before adulthood.
Born and raised in London, UK, Katy now calls Minnesota home. She has written songs for as long as she can remember and is always happiest when she’s singing, even when dealing with some pretty tough challenges. Katy’s debut solo release was ‘Before I Forget’. This was both a tribute to her parents, whom she lost as a teen, but also an embrace of her new solo direction after discovering the ukulele and the songwriting it inspired.
In a deliberate effort to use her writing to move beyond the grief and sadness of her earlier work Katy wrote the song ‘Pearl’ which she released as a single prior to this full length release. Each song on ‘Present’ is an exploration of the effort to embrace the here and now. Exploring the realities of life, the good and the bad, without being numbed or sugar coated.
Katy Vernon has also used her enthusiasm and knowledge of the local ukulele scene to organize and perform at her successful Annual Uke Fest Concert, now expanded to a two night celebration and fundraiser benefitting Arc GTC. Katy has been featured on TPT’s Almanac, WCCO’s Women Who Rock, The Current, KFAI, and more. In addition to clubs and festivals she has performed at venues including The Guthrie, The Cowles Center with the James Sewell Ballet, and even the Fitzgerald Theater with Garrison Keillor!
On this episode, Kory talks about wanting to work with the best to push himself to grow. He talks about making space for himself, making space for others and how important truth and sincerity are to any collaborative work.
Kory LaQuess Pullam was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. He earned his BFA at Stephen F. Austin State University in 2013. Leaving the collegiate nest, Kory moved to Chicago and worked with Raven Theatre, Light Opera Works, The Gift Theatre, and Porchlight Music Theatre in their Jeff-nominated production of Pal Joey.
Since moving to the Twin Cities, he’s worked with Guthrie Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, Pillsbury House + Theatre, Park Square Theatre, History Theatre, Brave New Workshop, Walking Shadow Theatre Company, Theatre Pro Rata, HUGE Improv Theater, Minneapolis Musical Theatre, and Paul Bunyan Playhouse.
Kory is a founding member of Blackout Improv, the premier Black comedy troupe in the Twin Cities. Also, Kory is founding artisric director of Underdog Theatre. He makes his Ten Thousand Thing’s Theatre debut as Perkich in Fiddler On The Roof this winter. Keep up with Kory on social media platforms: @laquess
On this episode of the podcast, Hans Buetow talks a lot about podcasting. He talks about the specifics of working in that medium and how it’s different from radio work. Hans talks about the iterative nature of relationships and creative work, the messes and mistakes that are always in the wake of creative successes and shares some of his favorite shows.
Hans Buetow is a producer for American Public Media. He’s the producer and editor of the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast. Hans has also worked on In the Dark, Reasonably Sound, Life of the Law, Live Law, A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, The Soundtrack Series, Secret Skin and numerous other podcasts. He also helps develop new shows.
“In India I think everyone is pretty much always dancing.”
Divya Maiya and Madhu Bangalore talk about their marriage, their work with Bollywood Dance Scene and how the two intersect.
Bollywood Dance Scene was formed in 2012 by Divya Maiya, Rashi Mangalick and Jinal Vakil, three dynamic Indian dancers who wanted to share their love of movement and Indian culture with their neighbors and friends.The trio took on dance choreography projects with growing scale, complexity, and team size. Their dancers have performed at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Festival of Nations and other venues that define the cultural scene in Minnesota.
In 2014, the dance community they inspire was strong enough to create the first live Bollywood dance drama to be performed at the Minnesota Fringe Festival – the largest unjuried theater festival in the country. With 50+ cast members, Hi! Hello! Namaste? Was the highest ticket selling show of the 2014 festival. Armed with theatrical experience, Bollywood Dance Scene presented Spicy Masala Chai at the 2015 MN Fringe Festival, and it became the highest selling show in MN Fringe history!
Shannon Forney is working at the intersection of creativity, creative placemaking, entrepreneurialism, small business, nonprofit management, and clown. On this episode of the podcast, Shannon talks about the work clown training does to separate the person from the ego and to see the foley of attempting that separation. She also shares very openly about running her own business with her partner and her past year of resilience after her sister’s suicide.
Originally from Maine, Shannon Forney has performed in the Twin Cities with Jon Ferguson Theater (Animal Farm 2008), TigerLion Arts (MN State Fair 2013), and at the Walker Art Center in a steam punk-musical by the LISPS (FUTURITY 2012). She studied Red Nose with master clown, Giovanni Fusetti and contemplative performance with Naropa University faculty, Nina Rolle. Puppetry credits include Odessa’s Animal Adventure (2012) at the MN Zoo, Instruments of Tortuga (2007) at Heart of the Beast, and Dreamland Fire Waltz in Boulder Colorado (2003).
Shannon is the co-owner of WORKHORSE COFFEE BAR in St Paul is the lead curator for the Smallest Museum in St Paul, a 2015-2016 Knight Foundation St Paul Arts Challenge project. Shannon served as inaugural board chair for 20% Theater from 2009-2012. Her last performance with the company was as ensemble lead for the MN Fringe Festival creation Elephant Shoes and Olive Juice (2008), about miscommunication, inspired by typewriters, tin-can phones, and text messaging. Scooper, her dubious under-dog clown character has made appearances at the Walker Art Center’s Open Field (2014), LRT Green Line Launch, and various Twin Cities events. She considers clowning as artistic social practice, engaging audiences in small acts of curiosity.
“I don’t have to be only about this rigid, tough-guy masculinity that was passed down in my neighborhood, I’m into poetry.”
Jake Virden learned anti-racism and a love for hip-hop music and culture at a very young age. On this episode of the podcast, Jake talks about growing up in Northeast Minneapolis amidst a huge cultural shift in that area and it’s relationship to North Minneapolis. He talks about how rap music is black music but it’s also working class music, struggle music, the people’s music.
Jake shares stories from over a decade of activism and community organizing. He talks about the importance of being willing to be corrected, checked or redirected when doing organizing and justice work. And Jake thoughtfully unpacks a nuanced understanding of white-skin privilege and how it has been used as part of the narrative to strengthen and continue systemic oppression.
Jake Virden is a writer, performance artist and popular educator focused on the intersections of race, class, culture and ecology. Jake has worked as a facilitator with S.P.E.A.C.(Sustainable Progress Engaging Active Citizens), an organizer with Hope Community’s Parks and Power Campaign, and facilitates trainings on Racial Justice and European American resistance to white supremacy.
Nina Simon is inspiring speaker, writer and thinker who started changing the way museums and cultural institutions do and think about their work when she started her Museum 2.0 blog over a decade ago.
In this episode of the podcast, Nina talks about writing and sharing her latest book “The Art of Relevance” and how she came to her working definition of the word Relevance. She shares stories of truly living off the grid, getting her homes electricity from solar power and having to haul bathroom waste in a bucket every day and why that lifestyle makes her judge others less.
Nina also talks about the importance of athletics and playing sports in her life and how much play factors into all parts of her work and life. Plus Nina talks about growing up with a rockstar father, how writing books let her actually focus more on doing the work she wants to do and what community and partnership really means to her.
Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History Nina Simon is an internationally-recognized expert on active community participation in cultural institutions and has been named a “museum visionary” by Smithsonian Magazine for her innovative approach to design. Nina received the American Alliance for Museums’ Nancy Hanks Memorial Award in 2012 and was named one of the 50 most “powerful and influential people in nonprofit arts” by the Western States Arts Federation in 2012 and 2013. Nina is the author of The Participatory Museum (2010) and the popular Museum 2.0 blog.
Jon Ferguson talks about how his desire to move and imagine and create caused expulsion from school but its what propels his work as an artist in adulthood. He shares how his early creative experiences as an adolescent listening to a walkman on road trips and imagining scenarios, chases, rescues, romantic stories – all to a soundtrack informs how his work interacts with set and sound as well as words. Also, Jon talks about how his negative experiences as a young student make him nervous about sending his son to school. And how becoming a parent raises money concerns that sometimes push a focus on making art to the side.
Tina North talks about being the mother of a young graphic artist and how her work has influenced his connection to the arts, “when he was in utero, I was in a show.” What it’s like to grow up with a father who is a working musician and a mother who is a makeup artist and how that made her less likely to wear makeup day to day. Also, the creativity of owning and operating her own business, Moss Envy.