Category Archives: Writer

KEEPING WHAT WE LOVE ALIVE

 

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I AM MORE THAN INSPIRED… I AM PROUD!

 

It happened because I went to see an Off-Off-Broadway show that my classmates and friends staged last night!

 

Dolores is a one-act play shedding light on sisterhood and struggles with domestic violence. The play was written by Edward Allan Baker – whom I happened to meet last night- as I was helping out at the box office at The Playroom Theatre. (Yeah… so that was cool…)

 

Most importantly the play was raising awareness about domestic violence and violence against women. The beautiful and talented ladies Paulina Cossio (in my drama school grad year!) and Luisa Muhr (Artistic Director of the Fengari Ensemble co-producing this play) worked with director Kathleen McNenny to bring forth this story of sibling love and strive for healthy lives despite unimaginable, violent and cyclical circumstances.

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I learn by going where I have to go. – Theodore Roethke

 

I’ve shared this quote in a Thank You card that I once gave to the dialect coach of this play, Julia Lenardon, who was also one of my voice and speech teachers in drama school. I like it because it embodies what she instilled in me when learning about a dialect (she informed me that in this play the ladies are from Rhode Island). By taking the time to get very specific and learn how to speak and sound the way that another person speaks it can often give an actor insight into how to look through the eyes of that character.

 

I was reminded of the Roethke’s quote because I witnessed my friendly friends embody and transform into two characters (dialect and all) that have suffered and/or witnessed violent crimes. In doing so I began to be introduced to Dolores (Cossio), a woman currently compelled into retaliation and self-defense after years of domestic violence, and her sister Sandra (Muhr), who grew up watching Dolores enter abusive relationships and has journeyed into a marriage of her own that she finds comfortable and safe. These two contrasting personalities and experiences highlighted a journey from childhood until this very crucial point in their lives where Dolores has decided she can’t take the abuse anymore.

 

The play inadvertently helps the audience understand better what abusive and/or violent cycles of behaviour look like, how they disguise themselves into domestic life and relationships from an early age, and (if the cycles are not addressed or broken) how they will unfortunately resurface in adult relationships again and again.

 

We try to keep what we love alive. We do it by our daily living and by our work. My need to learn about other people’s lives through books and plays has been a need to make life more vivid as I am living it. Not to let the days go by unnumbered or without meaning. And the longer I have lived the more I have counted on the life force of work to keep me alive. – Marian Seldes.

 

I like, and was reminded of, this Seldes quote because as actors and theatre makers and participants we get to do exactly that – keep what we love alive. We can do it by learning about other people’s lives; women like Sandra and Dolores who can shed light on breaking cycles of violence. In doing so, even if we don’t share the extreme experiences of the characters by transforming into them we can recognize that some people do. We can recognize that these lives and these issues matter. We can work together to do what we love to do (embody other people) and it’s inevitable that we will touch other souls that way. Maybe even contribute to ending cycles of violence!

 

Our work, if we give ourselves over to it and support each other’s efforts, can keep stories alive! A tradition even older than Shakespeare himself! In following this tradition, and in focusing on doing our work well… it will in turn keep us alive in our love of working. I saw my friends do this last night – and they’ll do it again for the last two performances on Wednesday night. Oh and I’ll be in the box office helping out… I wonder who else will show up? Hehe

 

Tickets and information about DOLORES, the Fengari Ensemble and/or how to donate to SHEARED (an organization raising awareness about domestic violence): https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dolores-fengari-ensemble#/ 


 “…[t]he most reliable predictor of whether a country is violent within itself— or will use military violence against another country— is not poverty, natural resources, religion, or even degree of democracy: it’s violence against females. It normalizes all other violence.” – Gloria Steinem, My Life On The Road

(photo courtesy of Rob Douthat)

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JOSEPH BYRNE

Writer, Lawyer, Farmer

 

Wheat Fields:

https://www.ebookit.com/books/0000000553/Wheat-Fields.html

White Snow Blackout:

https://www.ebookit.com/books/0000000465/White-Snow-Blackout.html

Of Great Character: 

https://www.ebookit.com/books/0000000450/Of-Great-Character.html

 

1. What inspired your latest novel, Wheat Fields?

I wrote WHEAT FIELDS in order to tell what I thought was a compelling tale on human nature. The story is drawn from the hardships arising out of the last great depression. Life was filled with values gleaned from hardship and poverty.

Yet within this sometimes stark existence there developed a security in their own known world. “We may not have much but it is ours,” describes the ethic. Change, even change with hope for a better future, was viewed with suspicion. Thus, the introduction of mobile combine harvesters were seen as disruptive to the hard working life of the farm. Therein lies the fodder for compelling storytelling.

The book is really about the steady stream of opportunities that we have to connect with God, even in the hard times of our lives. Much as with the wheat farmers, the question arises as to whether we even recognize those opportunities to connect with God, or whether we are too occupied with temporal concerns to even notice them. But the real puzzle then is that God is a temporal concern living in our natural lives. Our preconditioning that God is supernatural may add difficulty to our reception to notice that god is there with us in the natural world.

 

2. How did it feel to be selected for the E.J. Lajeunesse Award being presented by the Essex County Historical Society?

I will receive the Lajeunesse award for significant contribution to history in October 2011. I am very grateful to win this award, and I am most appreciative of it. I am also surprised, because there are so many great contributors to history in the Essex Windsor region that I never considered myself to be a candidate for such an award.

Writing these books for me is a work of love. It goes to show though that if perform works of love, you never know the directions those works will lead you in.

 

Check out an Interview with Kim Hutchinson, from Our Windsor, about the award:

http://www.ourwindsor.ca/2011/07/local-author-to-receive-award-for-history/

 

3. The novel deals with the effect of the purchasing of a new mobile harvest combine for a family farm during the Great Depression – how does farming equipment create social change in your novel?

Farm equipment, specifically the mobile combine harvester creates great social change in the novel. Before combines and tractors, family farms were constituted of large families, with eight or ten kids being commonplace. The kids along with the parents spent long days toiling on the farms. The work was so prevalent that the farm was actually the main place where lives were lived. The family worked there, socialized there, and played there. There was seldom disconnect from work.

The wheat harvest was no exception. It was a labour filled affair, wherein the wheat straw had to be cut and hauled to a threshing machine where the wheat was separated from the straw. Both were then again hauled away.

The combine stopped all of the haulage and much of the hand labour. The combine rolled through the standing wheat as it cut the straw, and separated the grain from it, in one operation. This meant ultimately that there were more kids on the farm than were needed there. Many therefore found jobs off the farms, causing great social changes. Fast growing cities, and reduced numbers of farmers are examples.

 

4. While the characters in your novel experience this social change, their experiences also present the question of how human beings find connection to a natural goodness, or higher power, and recognize its influence within our day-to-day lives – why did you feel it was important to write about this?   

It is important to write about “how human beings find connection to a natural, or higher power – and recognize its influence within our day-to-day lives,” because life boils down to contests between good and evil. Each of us has that basic choice to make.

There are many complications in life and it can be difficult to maintain our focus, even once we have made a choice. We need the power of God with us. That power of God is available to us in our natural world. A simple example of it is when people connect the good in them with the good in others around them toward a positive purpose. This quickly becomes a culture of good, or God, with enormous opportunity to achieve those positive purposes.

 

5. What are your hopes for this novel in the future? 

There is great possibility for this book to be told as a movie. It already has the attention of some filmmakers.

I also plan to engage a speaking tour, to meet and engage with the many good people in this country.

I hope to continue writing books on the theme of human interaction with Divine as a natural phenomenon. The actual subject matter will be varied. My next book is entitled OUR INSPIRATION JIM MAHON. It is about a hockey phenom who met with death at the age of nineteen. Yet his accomplishments as a truly good and caring person inspire still, even now, forty years after his death.

 

You may also access the books of Joseph Byrne at the following websites:

Amazon.com

Borders.com

bn.com

ebookstore.sony.com

ebooks.google.com

diesel-ebooks.com

iTunes

 

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MONICA MUSTELIER

Actor, Coach, Writer, Producer

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2458351/

www.monicamustelier.net


1. What inspires you to be an actor?

Well, there’s a couple of things. I didn’t necessarily want to be an actor in the first place. I just kind of fell into it. I was originally singing in a band in Atlanta. I came home and a friend of mine just said that, “You should try this because I think you’ll be a natural at it”. I just found that it was easier to be an actor than it was to be a musician. That’s originally why I did it.

I think what inspires me to continue to be an actor is the creativity and the people. I love that authentic connection that you get when you are creating with somebody.

2. What is the best part about what you do?

Besides being on T.V.?

I think it’s the community part. It’s getting to create and really having fun with people in the process of it. When I teach, or when I coach… personally, it’s seeing their growth creatively, and just as a person too. I feel that acting is just a process of getting to know who you are. The more you know yourself, the better actor you are.

3. Who do you admire?

I admire people who really just go for it. I admire anyone who really sees their vision, or really taps into what they love to do and just totally goes for it. That’s the kind of person I just really love, and those are the kind of people I like to surround myself by, and create a community of that around me. I guess if I were to choose a person… I don’t know. I guess people who fall into that aspect of it. People who are just really good at what they do.

4. What films, books or other works have had a major influence on your own acting or writing?

I went to go see Lily Tomlin, almost 7 or 8 years ago, when she was touring with a 1 woman show called The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life In The Universe. Seeing her play, I think, like 15 different characters in an hour and a half! I was just like, “holy cow! That was really, really cool”. She was one of the major influences on my creativity.

Also, music as well. The first person that comes to mind is Michael Jackson. His Off The Wall album is so amazing.

5. Have you seen any films lately that you really liked?

I just saw Win Win with Paul Giomatti. It was a little Indie that he did. That was really great. It was just about… he was a lawyer, and through a series of events, there was this kid who comes to him who is this amazing wrestler. That was really good.

What else have I seen that I was absolutely inspired by?

There’s so many. I recently saw Waiting For Guffman. Have you seen it? It’s awesome. It’s shot, kind of, documentary style. It’s just such a ridiculous comedy about a community theatre troupe who produces this event for their centennial town. It’s pretty awesome.

I saw a movie with… Hilary Swank. The movie Conviction was really great too.

6. What motivates you as an actor?

The first thing I was going to say was money!

I don’t want to do anything else so I’m constantly thinking, “Okay, what can I do next?”. I was actually thinking about that this morning, “What can I do next?” I have a few ideas.

So… money and not wanting to get a day job really motivate me to be better.

7. You seem to enjoy comedy a lot, what do you find is really important to remember when you’re involved in a comedic work?

I think really committing to the ridiculousness of it and totally not being afraid to look really stupid, or to offend people. That’s important, says the woman who wrote something about Jehovah’s Witnesses! I think with comedy you have to fully commit to what you’re doing and do it 110%, or else it’s not really funny.

8. You mentioned you created something about Jehovah’s Witnesses? What was that?

It’s a short called God Squad. I did it a couple of years ago. My girlfriend and I wrote it. It’s basically a group of rogue Jehovah’s Witnesses that go door to door and have unusual tactics to get you to become a Jehovah’s Witness. We put it in the Vancouver Short Film Festival a couple of years ago. I won Best Actress for it.

9. How have your experiences as an actor informed the way you coach other actors?

That’s a great question… I steal from my teachers. I’ve been really blessed to have some amazing teachers in my life who have really pushed me both creatively and personally.

They taught me to be unapologetic about my work. I find that a lot of… my sense is that a lot of Canadian… it’s just a part of our culture- is that we’re so polite, right? A lot of actors here are very apologetic about their work. Very, kind of, afraid to take up space. That’s one of my biggest lessons that I’ve learned and I try to impart that on my students and kids, or people, that I coach. To just not be apologetic. You deserve to be big, you deserve to be seen, you deserve to be talented and be acknowledged for it.

10. What do you admire most when working with a fellow actor?

I admire most someone who is really easy to work with, actually.

I worked with Cuba Gooding Jr. and he was so down to earth. He was really, really cool and made me feel really comfortable. You know, and I think there was no diva-ness about him. At one point, we were supposed to be having an argument and he was like, “This is really hard because we’re getting along so well. I need to be mad at you”. I turned to him just before we were supposed to go on, or start our take, and said, “Well you didn’t deserve the Oscar”. It’s like having something… you know, being able to say that without getting kicked off set… knowing that that’s okay.

So… that’s what I admire is just a sense of ease and grace and… humility is good.

11.You are also a humanitarian. What social cause are you involved in?

Right now, there’s a group of us who put together an organization called Munay Wawa. It’s to help support the community of Chinchero in Peru. They have a lot of, kind of like, a lot of First Nations. Basically, like anywhere on the planet, their Indigenous people are going through exactly the same thing that’s happened here, and what is happening here in Canada.

We just got together a group of really amazing people and started raising funds to send the community of children to school. To educate them… not necessarily in the Western point of view, which is really important because it’s not necessarily the right way. What eventually we want to do is build a school that teaches a basic curriculum of Math and Spanish… your fundamentals and their culture as well. If they do choose to leave the community then they’ve got that support system where they can read and write in Spanish, or English as well. Also, they’ve got that foundation of their own culture as well, and their traditional language in Quechua.

Munay Wawa means ‘beautiful children’ in the Quechua language. Check it out!

http://www.munaywawa.org/

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