The Performance Issue

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luri & wilma The smart magazine for smart ladies!

The Performance Issue

the green team Charlie Heck Editor-in-Chief & Layout Design Beth Eller Marketing Coordinator Blair Larkins Editorial Assistant General Inquiries

Advertising Inquiries

Isaiah Headen Amanda Goldchain Fallon Keplinger Adelle Gresock Amber Paranick Megan Paranick Audrey Grygiel Dafna Steinberg Bruna Siloto

Photography Copyeditor DIY Contributor DIY Contributor Smart girl reads, Contributor Food Contributor Food Contributor Stylist Design Intern

Much love & gratitude to... Lish Ephraim, Patrycja Mikos, Julie Simpson, Erica Basha, Sandi-Kaye Maffett and Mo Gregory.

Contents 4 6 7 10 14 24 28 30 49 54 58


The Performance Issue

Editor’s letter Smart girl reads A little history lesson...Mary Pickford Girl on the Up End of summer in fashion World Woman A profile on Buran Theatre Foxy Moxy Green gal’s performance makeup guide A profile on Taffety Punk Movie food recipes

believe so much in the power of performance I don’t want to convince people. I want them to experience it and come away convinced on their own.” -Marina Abramovic

Editor’s Letter

“And the audience loves me. And I love them. And they love me for loving them, and I love them for loving me. And we love each other. That’s because none of us got enough love in our childhoods. And that’s showbiz...Kid!” -Roxie Hart, “Chicago” Cut to circa 1998 – the lights are up, the stage is set and I’m in pageant style makeup and a sparkly, promtype dress, glitter EVERYWHERE; I still remember how heavy my eyelids were. I’m Titania, queen of the fairies and badass lady in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” And I totally beat that sexy senior out for this role! AND the boy I was crushin’ oh, so hard on, was cast to play Bottom.

It would be my greatest and last performance in the theater. Not because I didn’t relish the attention and the showbiz, I just got the writer’s bug bite that same year. And, I had priorities to keep straight, I was going to be the toughest crime reporter this town had ever seen. Plus, I probably wouldn’t have made it very far in showbiz; I don’t have enough moxy for it. But the chicas in this issue – they’ve got it and then some! Flip through the following pages and you’ll meet a songwriter, some punk rock theater peeps and three driven women cultivating booming performance communities in the DC area, just to name a few of my favorite features. There’s also some fabulous end-of-summer fashion and movie-style food to drool over. May we present issue number six in print – The Performance Issue.

Buy this super awesome publication in print here!



Amber Paranick

In this guide, we explore the sweet set of publications built on our fave smart, female performers.

Queen of Vaudeville: Story of Eva Tanguay, by Andrew L. Erdman. Eva was the firecracker performer you’ve never heard of! With her unruly red curly hair and outlandishly ribald wild stage performances and backstage antics (not unlike some of the female performance artists of today), in her heyday, she was billed as America’s greatest eccentric comedienne (collecting paychecks in the sum of $2500 per week) and Vaudeville’s greatest act. Despite all this, Eva never took herself too seriously. Her costumes were as elaborate as her personality (her $40 dress was made from – you guessed it — 400 pennies!) and she even knew it herself: she couldn’t sing. Yet still, she made a household name for herself by loving her audience. In turn, her audience loved her. Judy Garland: A Biography, by Anne Edwards. You’ll find a number of biographies written on the actress best known for her role as Dorothy on the Wizard of Oz. None go into as much detail as Edwards, exposing the good and the sometimes ugly side of show biz. Ingrid Bergman: My Story, by Bergman. 6 Features | Smart Girl Reads

When Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) famously toasts to his long-lost love, Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman), in the 1942 film “Casablanca,” ‘Here’s looking at you, kid,’ the entire world looked and fell in love with the memorable actress. This is Bergman’s chance to pen her side of the story — both on-screen and off, including an intimate look at her scandalous affair with Italian director, Roberto Rossellini.

Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates. To tell the story of the life of Marilyn Monroe, arguably one of the best authors of our time, JCO starts at the beginning --when Marilyn was Norma Jeane Mortensen; and gives us every detail of the legendary star’s life and marriages (to “the Athlete,” and “the Playwright”)

up until the night of her ill-fated death, to a sum of 738 pages. Though Blonde is not a truly accurate historical document, but a novel based on the life of the illustrious film star, it’s a very real glimpse into Norma Jean/Marilyn’s psyche. Then Again: Diane Keaton by Keaton. I fell hard for the great Diane Keaton the first time I laid eyes on her. I was circa 7 years old and stumbled upon Annie Hall. Not just a memoir of the actress’ life, Then Again is a vague combination of sorts: part autobiography, part tribute to her mother, Dorothy Keaton Hall, who kept 85 journals during her lifetime and part love letter to her own children.

smart girl reads

A little history lesson... Mary Pickford (1892-1979) The Life of Mary Pickford: Famous Silent Film Star & America’s First Sweetheart. Born Gladys Louise Smith in 1892, Canadian immigrant Mary Pickford caught the eye of Broadway impresario David Belasco in 1908 and consequently stole the heart of America when cast in William de Mille’s play, “The Warrens of Virginia,” at the age of thirteen. She went on to work with the biggest names in Hollywood, including Cecil de Mille, Lillian & Dorothy Gish and Lionel Barrymore. Known for her charming demeanor and wicked sense of humor, Mary personified the girl who everyone wanted to be friends with. The world loved her, and she loved them just the same. By the time Mary retired from acting in 1933, 25 years after her first film debut, more than 200 films were credited to her. Her work in the film industry paved the way for leading ladies that followed. Mary was a true smart lady.

offices and reluctantly asked to be cast in moving pictures. Her second big break happened at the young age of fifteen when she performed in her first short film (then known as “flickers”), “Her First Biscuits,” directed by David W. Griffith and produced by the Biograph Company in New York. In those early days of cinema, three to four days was all it took to film a movie, and by then she earned up to $40 a week. As fate would have it, she met her future husband, actor Owen Moore, the first day of filming. Typically cast as a young girl or child because of her diminutive figure, her image increased in popularity. By this time, she earned up to $10,000 a week, a salary unheard of, especially for a 21-year-old actress. “Poor Little Rich Girl,” released in 1917, became her first full-length feature film.

Poor Little Rich Girl When little Gladys was just 5 years old, her father died and subsequently, the Smith family fell into poverty. Her mother, Charlotte, akin to the modern-day stage mom / manager encouraged her, her sister and her brother, Lottie and Jack, to act in plays in order to support the family. In her early days of acting, she was billed as “Baby Gladys Smith.” This was the first of the many nicknames she acquired in her remarkable career: Little Mary, The Biograph Girl and The Queen of the Movies. Thomas Edison gave her the label, ‘the sweetheart of the Americans.’ New York, New York She later admitted that when she was a child, she walked into many production

Though she was often simply known to fans as “The Girl with the Curls” as in the early days of film industry, actors’ names were not known, it was David, himself, who suggested she change her name to the catchier-sounding stage name Mary Pickford. Good Things Come in Small Packages Measuring just over 5 feet tall, the pint-sized wonder became the world’s first motion picture ‘star,’ and enthusiastic fans flocked to see her perform in

She later joined Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players in 1911, cementing her as the industry’s first ‘star.’ Mary quickly became familiar with how the motion picture industry worked, and in 1915, Mary founded her own corporation. She demanded creative control of her films and came up with the concept of an independent star/producer. Along with other partners (Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin and D.W. Griffith), she created United Artists in 1919. ‘Little Mary’ Grows Up Tired of playing the little girl roles as she approached the age of 30, she cut off her curls and was never typecasted again. Though she was apprehensive about the new technology of talking films, in 1928, Mary starred in her first “talkie,” - “Coquette,” the film for which she received an Academy Award for Best Actress.

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

Pickfair After her bitter divorce to Owen Moore, Mary confessed that she never thought she would ever again find happiness. That is, until she met Douglas Fairbanks. In a May 1954 issue of McCall’s magazine, she recounted her second meeting with him, in the Knickerbocker hotel where they were both guests. “’Do you know who are the two outstanding artists in pantomime?’ he asked, and amazed me by naming Charlie Chaplin and me. He went on to say that I had mastered the art through a great economy of gesture. ‘You do less apparent acting than anyone else I know, and because of that, you express more,’ he said in that warm, emphatic way of his.” They married in 1920 and formed the run-of-the mill Hollywood royalty. Their honeymoon to Europe was anything but private (they were greeted by hordes of both national and international fans alike), and their estate,

colloquially dubbed ‘Pickfair,’ became the social epicenter of anyone who was anyone in Hollywood. In 1922, they opened the Pickford-Fairbanks Film Studio and produced their films on adjacent lots. The two were a dynamic duo. Even so, the ‘20’s and ‘30’s were a difficult time for her as ‘talking pictures’ threatened her career as a silent film star. Her last film, “Secrets,” performed poorly at the box office due to President Roosevelt closing of the banks the same week as the premiere, and her second marriage collapsed in 1936. Later Years Even as a retired actress, Mary remained an instrumental figure in the motion picture business. Along with the likes of Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles, she co-founded the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers in 1941. She married one of her most devoted film stars, Buddy Rogers,

A little history lesson on...

and the two adopted two children, finally allowing her to become the mother she always played on the screen. Of her favorite roles, she wrote, “If reincarnation should prove to be true and I had to come back as one of my roles, I suppose some avenging fate would return me to earth as Pollyanna, the ‘glad girl.’” She wrote this in her serialized life story in the March to June 1954 issues of McCall’s magazine; this text was used to create her autobiography, entitled, Sunshine and Shadows.

For more information, pick up Christel Schmidt’s authoritative expose, Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies, or Robert Windeler’s biography: America’s Sweetheart: the Story of Mary Pickford. For images of her life and work, check out Kevin Brownlow & Robert Cushman’s Mary Pickford Rediscovered: Rare Pictures of a Hollywood Legend, or visit the Library of Congress where you can request to view her donated filmed collection and visit the eponymously named, Mary Pickford Theater.

The Mens Issue

coming this winter...

Amber Paranick


on the up!

Annie Crane

10 FEATURES| Girl on the up

Dusty, dirty bars, long nights with a guitar, life’s lessons to fuel the fire – music is a wonderful gift. Few of us fine, lyric-loving folks have had the chance (even the gift) to bring a song to life. May we enlight you with a short glimpse into songwriting with the talented, DC-based songwriter, Annie Crane. She agreed to sit down and chat with us about city living and songwriting, in the scenic background of Grant Circle Park in DC, on a lovely Saturday morning.

girl on the up

Annie: Storytellers of all kinds have always had great influences on my writing. I particularly love the tales told/sung by Paul Simon, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Flannery O’Connor and Gillian Welch. l&w: Can you share any words of wisdom for aspiring songwriters like yourself? Do you have words of advice from someone that you carry with you?

Annie: Words of advice from my Dad that I carry with me always: “Anne, just l&w: You were originally from Rochester, put your head down into the wind and NY before you moved to Washington, go.” When I was 23, I decided I wanted DC. How does living in a fast-paced city to pursue music in some real kind of way. like NYC or Washington influence your I have a fairly practical mind, so I figured writing? that meant becoming a music teacher. Annie: I’ve lived in a big city since I was 18. First Toronto, then NYC, and now Washington, DC, and for sure all three have played a role in my songwriting. NYC perhaps the most since I lived there the longest, and it was there that I really began pursuing a career as an independent singer-songwriter. City architecture and skyscrapers seem to pop in my writing… I love comparing them to things that they are not; like the Manhattan skyscrapers being reminiscent of the Adirondack mountain ranges. The people of cities turn up a lot as well - everything from the hipsters of Brooklyn to the immigrants who keep the restaurant industry on its feet. Three of my four grandparents were immigrants to the US or Canada, and I worked for a while in a Lower Eastside museum dedicated to the immigrant histories of that neighborhood. So, these stories have always particularly grabbed me.

But after months of taking required classes, applications, entrance exams and auditioning at music schools, I realized that that just wasn’t the right path for me. I was distraught and didn’t know what to do. My Dad and I had a heart to heart soon thereafter. He said that a talent is a gift and that you have a responsibility to use it and share it; put your head down into the winds of self-doubt and fear, and just go do it. l&w: Can you describe your music in three words? Annie: Oh geez, that’s a toughie … I don’t actually think I can! I’ll leave for others to do. l&w: If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be?

Annie: I’ll keep this list short because there are so many. Edith Piaf, Dolly l&w: Who or what has been your greatest Parton, Johnny Cash and Gillian Welch. influence on your songwriting?

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

l&w: When did you write your first song? Do you remember it still? Annie: I actually didn’t really pick up the guitar until my early 20s while I was living in Toronto, ON. And I did start writing songs right away for better or for worse (God bless my dear roommates at that time!). My very first song was about a part of Toronto called Kensington Market. Originally, a densely populated immigrant neighborhood full of outdoor markets, it is now a pretty hip place inhabited by artists and young professionals and has thankfully retained a lot of its original market feel. When I was living there in the early 2000s, it had such a ramshackle beauty, and you could see the old and the new melding in a lovely, un-abrasive way. I think the song was actually called “Ramshackle Appeal”… and it may or may not by hiding away in the depths of my backup hardrive! l&w: What is your biggest dream? Annie: To be happy in life. To never regret not trying something, but also to never feel obliged to try something. To be thankful. And to always – regardless of what phase of life I’m in – continue to give myself an avenue for performing my own music. And… of course, to open for one of my music idols on a national tour. To learn more about Annie and to find out about her upcoming shows, check out Photography by Charlie Heck.

12 FEATURES| Girl on the up

Makeup by Mo Gregory

Head to for our special holiday fashion video.

World Woman by Beth Eller

Designer, traveler, teacher & maker Sass Brown. Worldly, cosmopolitan, urbane...these words get thrown around a lot to describe certain people. By definition alone, what would one want more in a World Woman profile than a savvy lady who fits all three? luri & wilma got the chance to sit down and talk with Sass Brown, a renowned designer, writer and educator on slow fashion. During our interview, we discovered firsthand how this smart lady embodies the definition of all three of these words. Like the cosmopolitan cocktail, itself, she is an intriguing mixture of knowledge, experience, travel, performance and suaveness, and that is what makes Sass Brown our World Girl for this issue. A native of London, England and creator of her own signature collection, Sass is now a resident of New York City. She currently serves as Assistant Dean for the School of Art and Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, writing, blogging, and educating around the world about slow fashion. These are just a few of the things she does do, and she does them well! She has published three books on eco-friendly fashion, including Eco Fashion, ReFashioned and Eco Fashion 2. Throughout her work, she has traveled around the world from Brazil to China and from Sri Lanka to Canada, all in the hopes of learning about and discussing sustainable design. We had a chat with the fab fashion cosmopolitan to learn a bit more about what she does and how she does it.

Beth Eller

l&w: Let’s start with a predictable, yet obligatory question. Your designs and ideas are so unique. Who or what do you draw on for your inspiration? Sass: I’m lucky enough to come across a wide range of designers when I travel across the world. The eco-fashion industry is very different from the mainstream industry. People are generally very sharing and very willing to reach out and connect you even with their biggest competitors. When I wrote the first book on Eco design, it really quite shocked me in a nice way that every designer I met said, ‘Oh, if you love my work, you’re going to love these guys. They’re my biggest competitors, and here’s how to get in touch with them.’ The industry has really grown up that way, and most people are pretty cognizant that they are working to change an industry, and that they are much stronger together than they are individually. People contact me all the time, and everyone I know leads me to someone else.

I started working as a consultant for developing craft base cooperatives in the developing world. I volunteered first at a cooperative in Brazil near Rio, and that morphed into me working as a design consultant, in many instances with women’s craft based cooperatives in developing and non-developing countries. We’ve lost some of our craft base here, so the reintroduction of it in Europe and the US is also really important. My career has sort of gone on its own little sort of organic trajectory where one thing led to another.

in such an enormous, intimidating industry?

l&w: You mentioned reintroducing craft based fashion in the U.S. How do you think the U.S. fairs in their progress compared to other countries?

l&w: Well, you certainly never gave up, and as a result you have traveled all over the world, talking to people about what you know and learning from craft masters about responsible fashion. Could you describe your most memorable experience so far?

Sass: I think there is a really interesting movement here. I think every country is a little different because everything feeds back to our culture, and what is natural and what we have a history in. When I wrote the very first book, Eco Fashion, about three or four years ago l&w: Speaking of the mainstream innow, my publishing house said, ‘We’d dustry, it seems like so many companies like you to make it a global spread on now are following a high volume, fast Eco Fashion.’ So, I ended up having turnover, business model that – let’s be to do a lot of research, and what came honest – is highly profitable, but really out of that was that I realized different low quality and not super environmen- countries tend to excel in different ways. tally or socially friendly. Why go green For example, the UK has an enormous when so many others are profiting from strength with designers working on fast fashion? recycled materials, and it makes a lot of sense because culturally they’ve always Sass: I had my own collection when had that reverence for vintage. In the I was living in the UK and Canada. US, there is a really great swell of grassReally, what I do now is write about roots [and] maker communities. You other designers. In fact, I worked in fast know, the sort of Made in Brooklyn or fashion for many years after I graduatbring back the Fashion District in New ed fashion school. I worked for some York type of arenas. Those are excepmass-oriented brands, and it was always tionally strong here. Then, if you go to problematic for me. First of all, I’m not places like Nashville or North Carolina, your sort of average corporate kind of there is a resurgence of craftsmanship designer. I don’t think I fit that mold type communities. Each community has very well, so it was always a challenge its own way that ties into their history. for me to fit into that space. When I had my own collection, I was always just l&w: Since you are the Assistant Dean much more ethical by default. It just for the School of Art and Design at FIT, seemed natural for me to recycle my you interact with a lot of future designown waste, to utilize it where I could. ers. What kind of advice do you give The real start of it for me was when students who are about to embark 26 World Woman | Sass Brown

Sass: I think that depends on the individual to a certain degree, but I guess first and foremost I think you have to be absolutely focused, determined and prepared to take some falls. Pick yourself up and get on and do it again. You can’t let anybody else define who you are. Every one of us has our own unique gift whatever that is, and you have to keep on trying until someone else gets it. You can’t give up in this business.

Sass: That is really hard to say because everything really is so unique and specific to a place. I guess what comes to mind are some of my more recent experiences; more because they are stuck the most in my mind at the moment. My second trip to Korea, I spent some additional personal time there researching for my third book, and I was fortunate to witness what the Koreans class as their national treasures. The holders [people] of a particular knowledge base are designated as national treasures. I met several while I was there. One was a dye master who works with indigo dyes with such an incredible knowledge base, and I met with a phenomenal weaver who works with a fiber that I don’t think even grows anywhere else but Korea. So, that was an amazing journey and really unique to the location. Sass Brown truly is a world girl! She’s been on many stages around the world, sharing her knowledge and expertise on slow, sustainable fashion. To learn more about Sass, her work and travels, you can visit her website at

world woman

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

Beth Eller

all the world’s a

In the words of William Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage…” Perhaps no statement could ring truer than for the drifting artists of The Buran Theatre Company, based out of NYC. While co-artistic founders Adam Burnett and Jud Knudsen admire their home base – in Adam’s own words, “New York is unparalleled in regards to the output of new theatre being made” – they built Buran Theatre on the belief that touring and sharing their art keeps them from getting too comfortable in one type of community and theatre. As Adam puts it, “ Leaving the city rejuvenates our spirit and allows our work to have a greater presence and context.” This is not your average touring troupe, though. The only members of the cast that hit the road are Adam and Jud. Typically, they reach a city and take about five days to two weeks to study and rehearse with a new company. Each new company is made up of denizens to that area that local company members cast prior to Jud and Adam’s arrival. Adam says, “This model allows us to continue developing the work throughout the tour.” They have performed in cities that include Kansas City, MO; Albuquerque NM; Los Angeles, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Lawrence, KS and Elfus Teatras in Vilnius, Lithuania. So, what does all that time on the road mean for the guys of Buran Theatre and the family and friends they leave behind? Adam stated that the worst part about touring for him is “forgoing the opportunity to commit to one place. Leaving your home base for long stretches of time can be a huge strain on relationships, and this 28 FEATURES | Buran Theater


has been the hardest part for me to reconcile.”

traveling this summer as they prepare for the spring 2015 release of MAMMOTH: A De-Extinction Love Story.

On the flipside though, he adds, “The best part of traveling is immersing ourselves in the new community and shaping the show to the qualities and personalities that are present.” Along their journeys, they discover opportunities to interact with different casts and audiences that keep them on their toes and redefine how they perform their shows. Adam summed up their traveling experiences with, “Touring our work is incredibly exhausting, but it feeds the crave of why we make theatre in the first place: sharing your vision with others as an invitation to share theirs. We never feel this more intensely than when we are on the road.” While the road might sometimes be long for these wandering artists, the pros seem to outweigh, if not balance out, the cons. Adam and Jud will receive a much needed break from

You can expect them on the road again soon, but until then you can check out more of their original works and the Buran Theatre Company, itself, on their website at


Take the pledge and buy nothing new (clothes wise) @

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma


Moxy Three driven women cultivate booming performance communities. Creati ve di recti on & i nterviews by Lish Ephraim

Photography by

Les Joueurs Photography

Makeup by

Erica Bansha & Mo Gregory

Hai r by

Patrycja Mikos, Julie Simpson & Sandi-Kaye Maffett


Allyson Jaffe Chic Boss Lady Comedy Geek, DC Improv Comedy Club

Styled by Lish Ephraim, hair by Patrycja Mikos and Julie Simpson, makeup by Erica Bansha.


This page: blue & white vintage swimsuit with skirt from Junction Vintage and Charles Albert sandals from Goodwill of Greater Washington. Cover: gold camisole from Junction Vintage, gold heels and bronze leggings from Goodwill of Greater Washington. Jewelry provided by Mimilah, Photographed at the swanky DC IMPROV, 1140 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20036

LE: I’ve heard you describe yourself as a “comedy geek.” I’m sure that “geek” is probably not going to be the first thing that comes to mind as readers peruse your hot pin-up pics that accompany this piece. Please explain… AJ: I just think it’s this overall, all-consuming enthusiasm I have that brings out the geekiness in me. I get excited about watching people laugh, and being involved in all the stuff that makes people laugh. I’m not a historical comedy trivia buff, like I couldn’t tell you what Steve Martin’s first album was. I just really, really enjoy comedy and it consumes my life. My dad is really funny. We tried to make each other laugh however we could. Laughter is just an easier way to deal with the stuff in your life. I just naturally gravitated toward funny from the get go. LE: I guess I kind of believe this geek

thing, but, again, you look like you belong frolicking on the beach in St. Barts…how’d you wind up running the show at the DC Improv, surrounded by all that sexy cinderblock?

was big at the time. I did this project where I followed this DC comic and Real World alum, Dave Edwards, around town. I just made everything about comedy and the Improv.

AJ: I went to American University in DC. I was pretty miserable and had a rough time in school. I’d always thought about trying stand-up, and needed to somehow deal with that horrible, unhappy funk I was in, so I thought what’s better than waiting tables at a comedy club to see what stand-up is really all about. I was 19 when I got a server job at DC Improv.

When I was about to graduate from AU, I asked if I could stay on at the Improv and they said yes. I did just about anything that needed to get done. Marketing, odd jobs, answer the phones, take reservations and I still was waiting tables too. I really got lucky. I worked a lot, and I worked hard, and I seized every opportunity. It was really never about making money; it was about being around comedy and the club. The DC Improv owners saw, and appreciated that, and they rewarded hard work.

Senior year, at AU you could earn credits if you had an internship around town. I asked the Improv if they’d take me on, and they said yes. It was the best thing ever. At school, every project I had ever done was already comedy At the time the folks that owned DC related so it just made sense. Improv also owned Old Town Theater in Alexandria, VA. I remember The Real World on MTV

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

For about a year and a half or so I was running Old Town Theater…for free. I was booking shows, doing the marketing, and dealing with the staff. I think I was maybe 22 by then. It was great and a huge opportunity. As a thank you, I was given partial ownership of the DC Improv, and 6 months later I got the management position.

one and find out they, along with a bunch of folks they know, have taken Five Minutes to Funny, the intro to stand-up class at the DC Improv Comedy School. As the principal, obviously you’re trying to turn each of these students into Star Search-status superstars. What else do you hope to achieve through the school?

LE: A ton of famous folks perform at the Improv. Without putting you on the spot, who’s funny and who’s not? Like, what are their names?

AJ: Ha! I really can’t say. Everyone’s so different. You can’t take a Kevin Nealon and compare him to Sheryl Underwood. I don’t feel like there’s anyone that’s a national headliner that’s not LE: So you are large and in charge of AJ: This is the biggest thing for me. Not funny at all. But it’s about what’s funny what seems like the whole sha-bang at just Five Minutes to Funny, all the class- to different folks. There’s a clientele, or the Improv… Manager, Owner, Prines. The people that meet each other in audience, for everyone. I try not to think cipal of The Comedy School…What’s those classes are from all different walks about my personal preferences when the best and worst thing about being the of life, and they meet and bond over booking comics. It’s not about what I boss at a place that’s all about fun? comedy. People who would otherwise like. It’s what the masses like. You can’t probably never talk to each other in a really know exactly what’s gonna work. AJ: It’s a 24/7 “life job.” It’s hard to bar, people of all different ages, races, I just try to produce the best possible check out. It’s my responsibility. That’s and backgrounds just connect over shows for an array of audiences. the best part and the worst part. It’s comedy, making people laugh, and great to have that kind of responsibilloosening up. We’re not cranking out LE: What about new comics? What ity but I’m the permanent emergency TV stars. That’s not even the point. does it take, beyond bribes and favors, contact, if you know what I mean? I’ve It’s a creative outlet. It’s supposed to to get time on the DC Improv stage? invested 16 years of my life now into be fun. I hate when it stops being fun. creating something I believe in. I take At every graduation show, I tell the AJ: There’s really no formula for getting what people think about their experistudents performing that night to “have stage time. For some people it takes 10 ence with DC Improv so personally so a fucking good time!” It’s supposed to years to build the confidence and the it’s sort of turned me into a total work- be about what they’ve achieved. That skillset comics need to work with difaholic. I try to separate work and life a they went out and actually tried this! It’s ferent audiences. Some people achieve bit, and chill out, but I love what I do such a high making people laugh. I want that in way less time. I give someone a so much it’s hard to pull away. It’s my them to enjoy every moment of it. chance when I feel like they’re ready. entire life. Again, no real plan. We do some The funny thing is, I had no plan showcases in our lounge to support local I don’t know if I’d say this is so bad it’s for the School. The whole “no plan” comics. We don’t have a set criteria. I the worst part, but my outward reaction thing is sort of the basis of my entire just tell them to make the people laugh, to funny has sort of changed over the career. I got that waitressing job and and make the audience happy. years. When a great show is going on, just thought, “I’ll wait tables for a year I’m having a fantastic time on the inside, or two.” Things just happened. I hope LE: Seems like a good stand-up show entertained and enjoying it. But, I’ve to continue to keep busy, and add new date night can help pretty much anyseen so much comedy, over so many classes when I can. The success of the body get laid, or at least a second date. years, I just don’t seem to physically school has been organic, people tell me Beyond your pretty awesome “day job,” laugh as much as I used to, or as much they want more, and I figure out how to how has humor helped you? as other folks do. My experience now give them what they want. is less about how funny a performer AJ: DC Improv date nights are great. actually is, and more about what a great Also, I don’t want 100 teachers teachGoing to a comedy show helps weed experience everyone else, the audience, ing. I look for teachers that are dedicat- people out because if you can’t laugh is having. When I overhear someone ed, passionate, and actively perusing the together, like if one of you finds the act from the audience say, “I just had a art themselves. I’d rather have a long funny and the other person doesn’t, great fuckin’ night!” that’s where I get waitlist for classes, so that students get odds are there’s probably not going to geeky. That’s the best part. the best experience, than have tons of be a great connection. For me personalso-so teachers. It’s not about the money, ly, I’ve had some tough health stuff I’ve LE: In the DC area, it’s pretty common I could fill a ton more classes. I want had to deal with. I know that if I didn’t to strike up a conversation with some the experience to be the best it can be. find a way to laugh about it, I would 34

just be miserable. That’s just a life skill. Everyone needs to learn how to relax, even though I don’t. We have to find the humor in things. I’ve had traumatic stuff happen, you gotta get through it. Comedy, being around it, has been the absolute key to getting through it and not being paralyzed because something shitty has happened. The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

Amy Saidman Story Czar & Artistic Executive Director, SpeakEasy DC

Styled by Lish Ephraim, hair by Sandi-Kaye Maffett, makeup by Mo Gregory.

This page: brown vest and plaid pants from Beltway Vintage, vintage tie from Goodwill of Greater Washington. Next page: black skirt and purple blazer from Beltway Vintage, blue camisole from Goodwill of Greater Washington. Jewelry provided by Mimilah, Photographed at the sweetest dive bar / live music joint The Pinch, 3548 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010,


LE: You are widely considered DC’s foremost authority on storytelling. How did you transition your chat skills into building a big community of gifted raconteurs?

I always checked out the lineup and one day, at the very bottom, there was the tiniest listing for “Storytelling Open Mic.” I had no idea what it was, but I knew it was something I wanted to check out. I went and watched a couple of times and AS: I studied social studies education in then my roommate noticed a job postschool and ended up working at a civics ing at Washington Storytellers Theater, education organization, but I always felt the organization that was running the like I should be doing something more event. At that exact time, I was working creative. I tried improv for quite a few as an arts administration organization, years. I wanted to do something more doing fundraising, licking stamps in a like that, more playful. When I was a tiny space. I basically was like “I’m outta kid, if someone asked me what I wanted here,” and that was that. to be, I said a comedian. I wasn’t a theater person so much, but I wanted to I got the Program Coordinator job and be creative, on stage, and making people one of my roles was to run the speaklaugh. easy, which was the storytelling event, and at the time, just one of Washington I continued to do improv for a while, Storytellers Theater’s programs. The and then there was sort of this “voila” speakeasy was an open mic storytelling moment. In DC there’s this venue event on the second Tuesday of every called Black Cat. For years, and to month. After a while, it really started to this day, they run this skinny ad in the grow, but while the speakeasy program Washington City Paper every week with was getting more and more popular, all their upcoming shows. Washington Storytellers Theater was

kind of losing steam, and no one really knew what to do with it anymore, so I said, give it to me! So, at the very last board of directors meeting for Washington Storytellers Theater, the first thing the board did was elect me president, and the second thing they did was resign, everyone last one of them. They basically handed me the organization. Speakeasy had the most energy, and was really the only program that was gaining new audiences, so we changed the name to SpeakEasy DC and made it its own organization all about storytelling. We made some other changes too. Anything anyone wanted to tell a story about had to be autobiographical, a first person narrative. Up until then people could tell folktales too. Also, we made a full commitment to cultivating local talent. The organization used to sometimes bring in ringers, “professional” storytellers. We wanted it to grow

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

organically, so that’s why we began coaching people. We thought, “If we want more and more local folks to try this, let’s help them improve the quality of their stories.” And then we thought, “Well, if we’re gonna coach them, let’s have classes…if we’re going to have classes, let’s have special shows to showcase the students and stories…” After a while, this burgeoning cadre of storytellers that never existed before were actively looking for opportunities to stretch themselves and get stage time. In the beginning all the shows were BYOB. It was a great time. I really wasn’t sure when this all started if I was going to like it and make a career out of it, but it just kept growing and I thought “Well, why would I kill something that is growing?” Once I took what became SpeakEasy DC over, I didn’t get paid for three years. The first year, I think I lived off of unemployment. The second and third year, I had a night job and basically lost my mind. But around 2006 or 2007, we got a $26,000 grant from the city and that was the huge boost that kept me motivated. LE: So, yay for you. Seriously, I’m pretty jealous. You cultivated this awesome gig. How can the rest of us regular folk get involved? AS: One of the things that’s great about SpeakEasy DC is that it’s a low barrier of entry at any level. Want to tell a story? Each of our different shows centers around a particular theme. Folks can check out what our current themes are on the website (, or if you follow SpeakEasy DC on Facebook it’s easy to keep up with what kind of stories we’re looking for. We’re actually in the process of making it easier for people to pitch themes to us. I’m constantly looking for ideas, and I want to make it as easy as possible for people to propose new and different themes. You can also take a class, or volunteer,

or, of course, come to the shows. There are actually one or two free student showcases each month that people can go to. There’s also the teacher track. I really want at least one or two more teachers. So, if someone is really into storytelling, and they can start off helping us coach people for shows, maybe they can successfully transition into a teaching position and join our staff.

AS: Something needs to happen. The better stories have an actual plot. Some folks stretch a premise, which ends up being more like an essay. I find it’s a better story when there’s action, and when there is a plot unfolding. We, the audience, need to care about you, the protagonist. Storytellers need to make us care about them; they have to be at the center of the story. Something has to matter. Something has to be at stake for Once you’ve taken a SpeakEasy DC you. If there’s nothing at stake, there’s class another really cool way to stay con- nothing to hook the audience in and nected is participating in test audiences. move the story forward. It also really We like to give our show storytellers needs to be honest. A story has to be the opportunity to rehearse in front of a emotionally honest and authentic in crowd at least one or two times before order to connect with people. a show. We’ll ask alumni to come because they know storytelling lingo, A good story doesn’t have to be funny. and can provide informed feedback to It’s great when it is funny though. Often help performers tighten their stories and we feature stories that tackle difficult prep for the shows. issues, but it helps when storytellers find humor in tough things. We did a show Alumni also get to participate in story about death. It was a great show, some salons where they meet and can bounce folks found comedy in those stories, and ideas off each other while they are put- some didn’t, but they were all successting together stories. Beyond coaching ful. from the staff, it’s a great way for folks to get good feedback and there’s just a lot LE: I’ve been to a few SpeakEasy DC of energy at the salons that really helps shows and I basically leave each one keep people motivated and working thinking pretty much the same thing, toward a great story. “Those folks gotta have some ginormous balls of thunder to get up and One of the things that really distinshare some of that stuff with total strangguishes SpeakEasy DC from other ers.” I’m blown away by how confident storytelling groups is the amount of and composed they are while sharing prep time we put into our shows. We some of the most intimate or embarrassdo a ton of work-shopping, coaching, ing moments of their lives. What advice and peer coaching and all of that really do you give performers to prepare them stems from our mission. We’re really for their first pass? not about giving just a few people glory. We don’t aim to create just a couple of AS: The one piece of advice I always storytelling superstars that you see over give storytellers is to try and actually see and over again. We’re about getting the story that they are telling in their new people on stage, and cultivating mind as it unfolds. Not the words they the community. It’s a craft that very few wrote on the paper, but the actual action people knew about up until a few years of the story. ago, and we’re not gonna get new material, and new storytellers, if we don’t For instance, if they are saying they are help people figure out how to do it. walking into a room, they should be seeing that in their mind or in their memLE: Spill it, give us the goods, fill us in… ory. When storytellers do that, they are what makes for a successful story? actually present in the story.

A well-told story is visual. The audience sees it, and is following you. We are sort of on your shoulder experiencing it with you. A good storyteller paints a picture, and if they are picturing the action of the story in their minds, that is much easier to do. The SpeakEasy DC teachers often tell their students before showcases to remember, “No one is gonna notice if you do it ‘right’ or not.” What that kind of means is that the audience is on your side. If you need to stop and make a correction, just do it. The audience is rooting for you. Another tip that seems to work is for storytellers to just pick 2 or 3 folks in the audience, friendly faces maybe, on the right and left-hand sides of the space and in the center. Tell your story as if it’s just the 4 of you and you are simply chatting with them. If you can focus on those people, you don’t really feel like there’s an entire audience there. And, you aren’t distracted, trying to dissect what each and every person’s facial expression means they are feeling about what you are saying. LE: By the end of a SpeakEasy DC show, sometimes I’m so spent, and all I did was sit on my ass and listen. Between the highs and lows of awesome belly laughs, and shedding a tear or two, it kind of feels like a therapy session. Do you charge extra for that? AS: People get so much out of developing their stories and the whole storytelling experience. They uncover memories and a lot of times they either reconnect, or connect on a deeper level with other people that impact the story. For instance, if someone is in the process of formulating a story idea they will often reach out to other “characters” to fact check. Like “how did this whole fieldtrip-gone-wrong thing really happen, mom?” Those chats usually end up being great conversations and it gives folks the chance to reexamine or reframe

their past. By reframe, I don’t mean to say that they twist the truth, it’s just that by that time there’s a distance, and a person can relate to that experience in a new and different way.

job for so many years now that I’m really motivated by having an idea and wanting to see it through. I’ve discovered I’m definitely more of a producer than a true artist. I’ve always been a bit of a kid in a candy shop and I am always super Sometimes those conversations or per- curious. I think it actually really comes spectives reinforce something that was down to my curiosity. When I have an already considered great. Or sometimes, idea, I have to see what can come of it. it makes something seem easier that was so difficult at the time. Putting stories When I think about doing something, together really makes people have to I make sure that whatever parameters I think. I can’t tell you how many times have to work within, time or money, I people say it is like therapy and we can produce something that I’m proud know that’s because we, the instructors of and something that upholds Speakand coaches and staff, ask storytellers Easy DC’s brand. In the beginning, the difficult questions. there was no brand promise. SpeakEasy DC didn’t “mean” anything to anyone. A good story has to be honest, and I’ve put a lot of time and energy into for that to happen, a storyteller has to creating experiences for people so that be honest with his or herself. Often they can walk away from any engageduring the crafting and review process, if ment with SpeakEasy DC and feel like something seems inauthentic we’ll keep their time was well spent. asking the storyteller, “But what’s really true?” We push people and it helps Anytime you chance it and just slap them to think about things in a new way. something together and say “it’s gonna It’s not a twelve-step program...promise. be fine” it really damages your brand. It really is, first and foremost, entertain- No matter how little you think the ment. But in order to get to good enter- impact will be, it’s a huge risk and you tainment, we ask hard questions that can can, most of the time, bet that word sometimes be therapeutic. travels fast. Let’s say you put on 20 amazing shows in a row, but number You know a storyteller has done his or 21 just doesn’t live up and you know her job when the audience really conthat you can trace it back to just not nects with them. Whether it’s because putting the time necessary in to make they can relate to parts of the story that it amazing, you’re screwed. I’ve investare familiar to them, or if the story is ed in the SpeakEasy DC brand. The about something so out of their norm entire staff and myself work so hard to it’s like living vicariously through the keep the shows and classes innovative, storyteller and getting to experience forward-thinking, and fresh. We can’t something completely new and differslack. It has to be as great as possible. ent. I think, whether you call it therapy As a show-goer myself, I know that if I or not, people come to shows and enjoy go and see something and if sucks once, the shows for both those reasons. I might go back and give it a second try. If it sucks twice, I definitely wont LE: The prophet Donna Summer once go back, and I might share that opinion declared, “She works hard for the mon- with friends. ey!” I’ve known you for a few years now, and it’s pretty difficult for me to think Point being, there’s just no reason to of anyone that makes things happen put something out there, and encourage the way you do. Where does that drive people to come to it, if it doesn’t further come from? enhance the brand experience, or AS: I’ve figured out through doing this SpeakEasy DC-brand-loyalists’ trust

in the brand. LE: Your “da bomb” status was further solidified when SpeakEasy DC sold out 4 shows at the 9:30 Club, a huge, historical venue in DC! How did that make you feel and what does it mean for the organization? AS: It was such a milestone! It makes me feel like a rock star! Honestly, when I think that this all started with about 25 people at the old Black Cat, it blows me away. Our biggest night at the 9:30 Club was about 1300 people! It’s huge for Speakeasy DC and for the art of storytelling. Storytelling is growing in popularity across the country, and people actually know what it is, and want to do it or see it. The sell out at the 9:30 Club was really our “we’ve arrived” moment. It felt really big. It’s what we’ve worked so hard for. It means we’re on the map and people really want to see this! LE: Be honest, tell me right now one thing that’s happened to you that is so embarrassing you’ve never told a story about it? AS: Honestly, I can’t really think of one. I’ve told some embarrassing things about myself. What tends to be most embarrassing is failure, or a struggle, or conflict, or shame. Those are all amazing sources for great stories so embarrassment is an easy go-to for me. I can tell you about the first story I ever told. It was at the old Black Cat. I remember it was freezing and they didn’t have the heat on. I was on stage with my coat on and there were about 30 people in the audience. The theme for the night was hair, and my story was all about my desperate struggles to straighten my super tight curls. I spent countless hours as a kid trying to achieve the Farah Fawcett flip, which was super popular when I was growing up. It was an uphill battle, and the Gaithersburg, MD humidity was my archenemy. When I was 16, I went to Jewish summer camp for the first time and was blown away when I saw that so many girls had my same curly affliction, except they weren’t fighting as hard against the curl as I was. It was a great story because there were some good laughs around the memories of being different, and struggling to fit in with my crazy curls as a kid; and, folks also were able to relate to my arrival at camp, and seeing and meeting girls that looked like me and were cool with it, being my first really big connection to my Jewish identity. Probably not the most embarrassing story, but definitely one of my most memorable. I got off that stage and was hooked.

Jaci Pulice Improv Extraordinaire, Washington Improv Theater player and Lady Laughter Leader

Styled by Lish Ephraim, hair by Patrycja Mikos, makeup by Erica Bansha.

This page: yellow tank, nautical shorts and red belt from Goodwill of Greater Washington and light blue blazer from Beltway Vintage. Previous page: vintage caftan from Goodwill of Greater Washington. Jewelry provided by Mimilah, Photographed at The Source Theater, 1835 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010,


LE: At the photo shoot, you made soda come out of my nose twice whilst telling tales from your seemingly adventurous childhood. When did you first realize your funny bone is more of a full on funny boner?

was the last to go to bed and I would do anything to keep everyone up with me. I was doing impersonations of a commercial. I want to say the commercial slogan was something like “Pepto Bismol, big time baby.” Not sure if it was really how it went, doesn’t sound JP: I discovered humor at a very young like a great marketing campaign, but age. I come from a large Italian family. that’s what I remember. Anyway, the My parents are very funny. They are en- girls at the sleepover kept making me tertainers and storytellers. My dad came do it over and over again and they were to the states from Italy in the 70’s and cracking up and I loved it. I realized I my mom is a total no-nonsense Long could make people laugh and just kind Island girl. It was a lively home. I reof became the “funny girl.” member giggling with my sister at night, making each other laugh. Making voic- For a long time, I actually held back es. We’d just lie in bed and she’d say, on the funny stuff cause I didn’t think “I’m a hunk of burning love” in weird it was cool to be funny. In 6th grade, at voices over and over again, cracking me Oaks School #3 in Oceanside, NY, I up till I passed out. I wanted to be my was called back for the part of Ariel for older sister. I saw her make me laugh, the live action production of The Little and how carefree and silly she was, and Mermaid, and so was my best friend I realized I could be silly too. Laura. Laura got the part and I was cast as Scuttle, the bird. I was so upset I I remember a sleepover when I was totally raged. I wrote Laura’s name on about 7 or 8. I was always that kid that a soccer ball and kicked it around the

yard. It was hard-core but I just wasn’t ready to accept that I was the funny one, I guess. I ran into the drama director 13 years later and thanked her, because she knew I was funny and talented before I did. She knew I wasn’t a sing song mermaid, I was a wise crackin’ bird. LE: As a freshman at American University in DC, you kick-started your improv career. Why did you feel improv was a good fit for your kind of funny? JP: `For my sweet sixteen I took a group of girlfriends to see a musical improv show at Chicago City Limits because my older sister’s best friend was into musical theater, knew me, and said I would love it. When the show started they asked the audience if anyone had a memorable moment that they’d like share. My mom, being the brassy lady she is, was

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

the first to offer something up and the performers brought her memorable moment to life in the style of musical theater. It was hilarious and I did love it.

and have a convertible to drive to the Hamptons for my fabulous summer weekends. My real-life version included living at home for a bit, then in the East Village in an apartment with After Scuttle, I had a few supporting 2 roommates, but no windows, and comedy roles in middle school, but, supporting myself as a cater waiter and a come high school, I just wasn’t a thespi- nanny while I took the UCB classes up an and didn’t really do any performing through the advanced studies levels. until the very last semester of senior year. I took a drama elective and one I learned the art of listening and the day we played improv games and it just importance of connecting with the audifelt so natural. The woman teaching the ence and fellow players. I learned how class was the school’s theater director to “play at the top of my intelligence,” and after the improv exercises she came meaning you’re already asking the up to me and asked me, “Where have audience to believe in you when you’re you been?” up there performing, so you have to be believable. You’re asking that the audiThat was the end of senior year. As ence invest in the ideas and characters soon as I got to AU, I saw one of those that you’re delivering. If you don’t play walls with a million posters about all it smart from the get go, you will lose the different clubs and causes that them. I’m all for funny, ridiculous, loud, students could sign up for. One of the colorful play; but, you gotta pull them in posters said something like, “Think with honestly and emotional truth. you’re funny? Come try out for Mission Improv-able.” I secretly went to the It’s very different in New York verses, auditions. I didn’t tell anyone because I think anywhere else. In New York, I’m super competitive and I really don’t people are going through improv trainlike to lose. If I hadn’t made it, no one ing, and putting in their 10,000 hours of had to know that I even tried out and I all the other improv-related stuff. At a could avoid any 6th grade Little Mercertain point, I was exhausted and realmaid rage. The audition process was ized too much of my life was all about so much fun, such a release, so playful. improv and I started thinking how could I knew it was what I was meant to be I improvise about the stuff happening in doing. It was just natural. Once I made the world when I was making my world the team it really became a brotherhood only all about improv. But in New York, and just my normal thing. Those guys you feel this pressure to see every show, are some of my best friends. to be in a practice group, to always be in class, to read the message boards, follow LE: Once you landed on improv, you the Twitter feeds... It’s a very involved upped the ante by moving to New York community and, ultimately, I saw the and enrolling at Upright Citizens Brifunniest things I’ve ever seen in my life, gade Training Center. Did they tame, I and learned from the most talented mean train you? improvisers. One day at UCB Amy Poehler dropped in to surprise teach a JP: AT UCB I learned long-form class. I stood at the door in awe. So to improv, which I’d never done before. sum up what I learned, really, just do Short-form improv is more like games, anything Amy Poehler does. Seriously, like what you see on Who’s Line is it that’s really it. Anyway? Long-form is scenic, and inspired by a word, story, or object. Grow- LE: Obviously you love the USA since ing up in Long Island, I always thought you’ve chosen to head back to our naI would live in New York City, work at tion’s capital and grace Washingtonians Glamour Magazine, be on SNL, on a regular basis with your now

souped-up improv skills. Where can we find you contributing to the greater good? JP: I moved back to DC because, well, I wanted a window. Not a window to the world, more just an actual window. I also have great friends, that are like family, in DC and NYC is just a quick bus or train ride away. I took about a year off from improv. I started to miss it and characters within me were bubbling over and I had nowhere to put them. My friends where like, “Can you get on a stage somewhere? You’re so annoying.” I reached out to an old friend who I knew was into stand-up and did improv in the DC area and he gave me the lay of the land about different places to take classes. I saw that Washington Improv Theater (WIT) had a musical improv class and I signed right up. Even though it’s was what hooked me way back when, I’d actually never taken a musical improv class, so it was kinda full circle. It was great to jump back in and also learn the specific set of rules and formulas that go along with musical improv. I took a few other courses at WIT and fell in love with the diversity of the performers and students. Everyone is so encouraging, and everyone is there for a different reason. It’s different than New York, in that people take classes because they’re bored in the their day job, or want to be a better public speaker, or make new friends because they’re new to the city. I perform with two ensemble teams, Commonwealth and iMusical, all over DC. We have season runs at great places, like The Source on 14th Street, NW. I started teaching at WIT about 2 years ago. It’s insanely rewarding. I get to spread this art form that makes people laugh, instills confidence, empowers people to share their ideas. Comedy is intimate, it’s revealing what you think is funny and that exposes people in a way that we don’t really expose ourselves to day-to-day.

LE: I’ve heard that you’re a pretty popu- even have an ounce of influence in that lar WIT instructor. What do you think type of decision. folks are looking to get out of a good improv class? I have a day job that I love. I can go to my godson’s birthday, I’m not in a tour JP: I think that folks are looking for an company where I’m gonna miss Christoutlet. Whether that means a break mas Eve dinner. The great thing about from a stressful job, a place to become this art form is it can be what you want it a better public speaker, or if they’ve just to be, and still be fulfilling. always wanted to try improv or have been “the funny one” and are trying to LE: So, it’s not good enough that lots figure out what to do with that. I enof folks find you funny? Now you are joy teaching the more advanced levels pushing for us to accept that lots of labecause I like to get into the nuanced dies can produce plentiful belly laughs… artistic direction of things. I side coach someone has an agenda! What’s your and interrupt a lot because I just want plan to help your silly sistas? folks to be able to try different things and think about different ways they JP: I am directing the October Issue, a can approach a scene. Even if students long-form improv show that will be part aren’t in it to become the next Kristin of the 2015 DC Women’s Voices TheWiig, improv is something anyone can atre Festival. The festival includes more use to improve relationships, or the way than 40 DC-area theater companies they approach their work, or even the that will present world-premiere plays, way you view yourself. And, if someone musicals and adaptations all written by falls in love with your class and decides female playwrights. to move to Chicago and follow their dream because of something I did while I’ve always loved women’s magazines teaching, I would be so super grateful to and fashion.

I was a Glamour Magazine Glambassador while I was living in NYC. I worked for Gilt Groupe. I wanted to merge that interest with improv and use the layout and features of a fashion magazine to shape a really cool format for an improv show. We’ll create a set of scenes inspired by things like the horoscope page, embarrassing stories, Do’s and Don’ts, advice, and what he’s really thinking. It’s an all female cast. LE: Lastly, you seem like a really happy and positive person (except for the soccer ball incident). That’s annoying for some readers, so let’s end this on a more digestible note for us less peppy people …What’s your least favorite thing about humanity? JP: Slow walkers. They drive me crazy. And it’s unfair that people think that they can’t be full throttle. I want everyone to be 100 percent all the time. LE: Wow, another positive point. JP: I’m a cheerleader.

Taffety Punk by Blair Larkins

The coolest rockers in theatre! Ask about the Taffety Punk Theater Company and you’re sure to get a multitude of answers like, “they’re punkers,” “no, they’re a band and they act,” or “they are the coolest group of artists in theatre.” With artists who dedicate themselves to making their passions and things that they love come to fruition, the “T Punks” are redefining the theatre industry. Known for their “Bootleg Shakespeare” and the” Riot Grrls” series, we caught up with some of the members of theatre’s most refreshing group. Michael Kyd, Lise Bruneau and Kimberly Gilbert discuss the origins of their company, their philosophy behind the price points of their shows and the roles of women in the theatre industry. l&w: Taffety Punk describes itself as a “theatre band,” how did Taffety Punks come together? What is the meaning behind the name? What are some of the inspirations behind the plays? Michael: We were a handful of punkers who realized that we were also classically trained actors and dancers. We believe theatre is dance and dance is theatre. We love music. We were all pretty disenchanted by the theatre and dance world. We missed the camaraderie of punk shows. We wanted to bring everything we loved about punk rock to the theatre. That includes low ticket prices, and intense questioning of what we do and why we do it. We try to merge dance, theatre and music as much as possible because we feel they are part of a whole. Our first show was, naturally, at the Black Cat in DC. It was where our bands would play. Our inspirations come from many sources. We try to merge dance, theatre and music as much as possible because we feel they are part of a whole.

Blair Larkins

But our company members look at the world, and ask questions and we take those questions into the studio. This is how came to be. Sometimes we ask those questions through material that already exists, which is how our adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece came to be. Lisa: We are a labor of love envisioned and constructed by Marcus Kyd, with many co-conspirators along the way. Marcus is from a DC punk background - which is a community of folks I would describe as the following - DIY-with-alittle-help-from-your-friends, positive impact, no frills, a passionate drive to create by creatively using its resources, and a commitment to include everyone that wants to be included. Our name is always cut from All’s Well That Ends Well, and means “a well-dressed whore.” I take issue with that, of course, as I see us as shabbily dressed Duchesses! We are all highly trained classical actors, working out of a black box in a community arts center with about 18 lighting instruments and using a volunteer actor for wardrobe on each show - usually me. As far as the work we do, we like quirky or undiscovered or unmined plays. We honor the text like the author’s widow, and do our best to turn up the volume on the meaning both to make the stories more accessible and more fun! Michael: It is amazing to me that Lise wouldn’t take more credit for starting this. I suppose Erin and I were the driving forces behind Taffety Punk, but we couldn’t have done it without Chris and Amanda and Lise. Erin was a Richmond punk and classically trained ballet dancer, who ultimately found her way up here. Erin is amazing at starting things. She ran off to Kalamazoo for a while and founded the RAD Festival (Midwest Regional Alternative Dance Festival). Then she came back to us. l&w: Marcus, can you elaborate more on Taffety Punk’s philosophy of making

the theatre experience more affordable and giving everybody the chance to experience the art and talent of Taffety Punk.

opinion, shaking things up is exactly the way to let them breathe! Taffety Punk is able to be more muscular, and I think, really take performance to a more intense place. One of the things I’ve Marcus: It’s pretty simple, really. We dreamed of for years is the simple hope believe theatre is a gift to the commuthat one day casting “against type” would nity. It should not be a luxury. We’re allow actors with a deep understanding shocked at how expensive it is to see a of and desire to play a certain role might play or a dance in DC. This is a vibrant, get the chance no matter what their living art. We love this art. Why would age, gender, race or physical attributes you shut people out by jacking up the are. That’s the sort of thing we’re able prices? to pursue. As well as doing a live rock version of Rape of Lucrece with original Theatre is an expensive form. It always music, dance, and the actors playing the has been, and it always will be. There instruments. isn’t a single non-profit theatre that survives from ticketing alone. They Kim: When I started working with the can’t. Capitalism doesn’t work here. We T Punks I wasn’t quite sure what it was accept gifts from people, to give gifts going to be, per se. What I DID know back. is that they were comprised of some of the most dynamic artists I had known. I’ve hear talk about perceived value What has evolved since its inception ticketing (which is why orchestra seats has been a company devoted to creating are more expensive than the balcony); I opportunities for professional actors to think there’s even a theatre in town that sink their teeth into. is now pricing tickets the way airlines do. But that’s all crap. We make art. Now on the subject of gender differWe’re not selling cars. Everyone should ences in our “theatreverse, “ I feel I have access to this, or what is the point have been a VERY fortunate actor in of doing it? Our feeling is that if you can that I have had the bulk of my theatre afford to see a movie, or a band, then experience with amazing companies that you should be able to pay about the have been quite responsible in terms of same amount to see a play, or a dance, equality. That’s not to say there aren’t or who knows, we may do a concert ver- issues with gender equality, the bulk of sion of a Purcell opera one day. That’s the world has issues with gender equalijust how we are. ty; but it is companies like Taffety Punk and Woolly Mammoth (where I am also l&w: Lise and Kim, you both have great a company member) in this community bodies of work within many aspects of who keep striving towards making it a the theater industry. What attracted level playing field. you all to the idea of Taffety Punk? As women in the industry, do you all find Lisa: As far as the women vs. men thing, that there is a major difference of how we can just start with the simple truth women are portrayed and the roles that with women having been largely given vs. men? in the background of great historical moments (with notable exceptions, of Lisa: In working for the bigger regional course), naturally men have more to do. theaters, it tends to be harder for them I don’t want to change history to make it to make challenging choices and take more palatable to modern generations, big risks. Especially with the more classi- but I sure would love girls to have a cal plays, there tends to be a preference chance to sink their teeth into some of not to shake things up too much. not to the male roles built around those moshake things up too much. In my ments! And I’d love to afford men the

56 A chat with the Taffety Punk Theater Company

same opportunity with some of the lady roles. It’s also worth mentioning that the numbers of women to men in plays is still staggeringly in the favor of men. I’ve been to many auditions with an equal number of men and women reading, when there have been 8 male roles available and 2 women.


Your portrayal question is a very good one. I went through a typical period in my 20s when I wanted all of my characters to be Amazons, but that certainly isn’t a solution. Desdemona is a strong woman, but she isn’t going to pull a knife on Othello - she loves him too much! It’s important to keep the female characters doing the job of taking their place in the story. But I think it would be less tempting to turn everyone into a warrior goddess if we got to actually play a few of those along the way. l&w: Lise, how did the idea of Riot Grrrls come about? Is it true that it started out as rival performances against an all-male group? Lisa: So, yes, Marcus gets the credit for that one, too. I was going off on how unfair it was for the big Shakespeare company in our town to decide to produce an all-male Romeo & Juliet, and denying us girls 3 whole parts (one of them JULIET!) in a show that had so many men in it anyway. I also couldn’t help noticing that while theaters often went the all-male route, no one EVER seemed to think it was fun to go the all-female one (which goes back to my old whine about how for some reason it’s always funnier to put a man in a dress than a mustache on a woman, right?)! So Marcus said, “Let’s do an all-female Romeo & Juliet, run it at the same time as theirs, and we will totally crush them.” Well, who could resist that? We knew one thing for sure - there would be no shortage of wonderfully talented and superbly trained women absolutely chomping at the bit to play any part they could. It was a terrible challenge to juggle everyone’s schedules (we began the planning process 7 weeks before opening!), but it

was a huge success. And, I have heard out. So what is it like to create with these from many folks, Kimberly was the best grrrls? Humbling. Mercutio they had ever seen. Lisa: I have to say that the Punks really Marcus: She is too kind. I am an thrive on equality, and where in other enabler. I was only echoing what the situations a sisterhood is vital to keeping women in the company were saying. your sanity, here it is just a wonderful Once we discovered we had the space launching pad and creative engine. and time to give to it, the women were Some of the boys on the team are better so driven that there was no way it wasn’t feminists than some of us! But what going to happen. They did crush that does thrill me about our ladies is the other show. enormous amount of talent - and the fact that while few of us would ever be l&w: Kim and Lise, can you both tell us called for the same roles, we often think about the sisterhood in Taffety Punk? of ourselves interchangeably as far as What is it like to create and perform casting. My dream! with such great artists like Erin [Mitchell], Esther [Williamson] and Tonya [Beckman}? For upcoming shows and updates, visit: Kim: Erin, Esther and Tonya are some of the smartest women I know. They Twitter: @TaffetyPunk are true collaborators, incredibly hard- working, and talented beyond all get The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

Snap . Crackle . Pop 58 Section of the magazine | Title of story

Recipes by Audrey Grygiel Photography byissue Charlie The Home Issue | print #5 | luri &Heck wilma

Audrey Grygiel

Movies – we love ‘em! But that sticker price, not so much. Plan a movie night in with your besties or boo and serve up these scrumptious recipes that won’t break that piggy bank. Bonus – you know all the ingredients in ‘em!

Nori Popcorn Ingredients: 1 bag microwave popcorn, your choice 1 single serving nori seaweed snack, such as Annie Chun’s or Seasnax .54 oz 1 tablespoon sesame seeds coconut oil spray 1/2 tsp powdered wasabl Salt and Pepper Putting it all together: Pop the popcorn according to package instructions and add to a bowl. With your hands, break up the nori into tiny pieces. You may have to rub it between your palms. 60 FOOD | Movie night in

Toss the nori, sesame seeds, wasabi, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Spray popcorn with coconut oil and toss to coat. Don’t make it wet but be sure to use enough so that the mixture will stick. Add seasoning to bowl with the popcorn and toss to coat.

Vanilla Bean Cookie Dough Bites with Mini Chips


Yields about 2 cups. Ingredients: 1 cup brown sugar 4 tablespoons softened butter 1 vanilla bean pod, cut down the middle and scraped of seeds 3 tablespoons milk 2/3 cup flour (any kind will work just fine) 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips Putting it all together: In a mixer, or by hand with a whisk, beat together the brown sugar, butter and vanilla bean seeds. Once combined, beat in milk. With a rubber spatula stir the flour and salt into the wet mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips.

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

Audrey Grygiel

Pretzel Nuggets with Smoked Paprika Salt and Roasted Garlic and Peppadew Dipping Cheese Pretzel Nuggets Makes about 4 dozen Ingredients: 1 cup warm water 2 teaspoons active dry yeast 2 1/2 cups flour + more to prevent sticking 2 tsp smoked paprika divided 1 tablespoon sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 cup baking soda 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1 large egg, whisked with 2 tablespoons warm water 2 tablespoons kosher salt Putting it all together: In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile whisk together the flour, 1 tsp paprika, sugar and salt. 62 FOOD | Movie night in

Add the yeast mixture to dry mixture and stir to combine with a rubber spatula to form a shaggy dough ball. On a floured counter top, knead the dough 5-10 times until a smooth ball is formed. The dough will still be slightly tacky. Add olive oil to a large clean bowl. Place dough into bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and roll out into long ropes, about 1 inch in diameter. Cut each rope into 1.5-2 inch pieces. Place pieces on a baking sheet and let rise again for 20 minutes.


Cheese Sauce: Cut each rope into 1.5-2 inch pieces. Place pieces on a baking sheet and let rise again for 20 minutes. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil and add baking soda and brown sugar. Reduce it to a simmer. In batches, simmer the pretzels for about 30 seconds per side. Flip them using a slotted spoon. Remove pretzels from solution and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Mix kosher salt and remaining paprika. With a pastry brush, apply the egg white mixture and then sprinkle with paprika salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour 1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature 1 cup cheddar cheese 1/4 cup diced peppadew or piquillo peppers 10 cloves roasted garlic salt and pepper to taste Putting it all together: In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add butter and flour. Stir constantly with a whisk until slightly browned. Add whole milk in a slow steady stream while continuously whisking. Once smooth, add cheese and whisk until smooth. Stir in peppers, garlic, salt and pepper.

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma

Audrey Grygiel

Cocktail recipes & photography by Mandy Pellegrin BLUE(Berry) ICEE Makes 2 Servings Ingredients: 1 cup Blueberries 1/2 cup water handful of ice cubes juice of 1/2 lemon 1 tablespoon honey (more to taste) 6 mint leaves Your choice in vodka Putting it all together: Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend on high until smooth, pour in the vodka. Add it to a cute glass and garnish with mint leaves and a blueberry or two.

64 BOOZE | Boozy ICEE

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Photography . design . modeling . source credits: Cover pg. 4 pg. 10 pg. 14-23 pg. 24 pg. 28 pg. 30- 35 pg. 36-42 pg. 43-47 pg. 49 pg. 54-57 pg. 60-66

Photography by Les Joueurs Photography. Styled by Lish Ephraim, hair by Patrycja Mikos and makeup by Erica Basha. Model credit, Allyson Jaffe. Editor’s picture photographed by Les Joueurs Photography, Erica Basha and Recipes & makeup copy bybyAudrey Grygiel hair by Sandi-Kaye Henry. Photography by Studio Moody Girl on the Up photos by Charlie Heck. Dog Days of Summer spread photographed by Les Joueurs Photography. Styled by Dafna Steinberg, hair by Sandi-Kaye Henry and makeup by Mo Gregory. Graphic design by Bruna Siloto. Model credit, Jillian Laffrey. World Woman photos provided by Sass Brown. Boran Theatre photos provided by Boran Theatre. Photography by Les Joueurs Photography. Styled by Lish Ephraim, hair by Patrycja Mikos and Julie Simpson and makeup by Erica Basha. Model credit, Allyson Jaffe. Photographed at DC Improv. Photography by Les Joueurs Photography. Styled by Lish Ephraim, hair by Sandi-Kaye Henry and makeup by Mo Gregory. Model credit, Amy Saidman. Photographed at The Pinch. Photography by Les Joueurs Photography. Styled by Lish Ephraim, hair by Patrycja Mikos and makeup by Erica Basha. Model credit, Jaci Pulice. Photographed at The Source Theatre. Compiled and designed by Bruna Siloto. Photography provided by Taffety Punk. Recipes by Audry Grygiel and photographed by Charlie Heck.

The Performance Issue | print issue #6 | luri & wilma


ife is a theatre set in which

there are but few practicable entrances.�

Victor Hugo

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