Saturday, September 29, 2012

A History of Disability in Film, Turner Classic Movies


The unconditional love he received from his family, rather than his disability, is the overriding theme of Christy Brown's life.


Bingimages.com
Daniel Day Lewis as Christy Brown, "My Left Foot"

Because awareness of those who are mentally and physically challenged, their struggles, and even more important their contribution to society is so important, Turner Classic Movies is  featuring several films in October with "The Projected Image; A History of Disability in Film", series.

Films featuring those living with a disability are an inspirational reminder of the strength of the human spirit. For me, it was "My Left Foot", "Rain Man", the "The Miracle Worker" and "The Best Years of our Lives", that left me smiling through my tears again and again. I also gained new perspective from, "At First Sight".


Bingimages.com
Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, "At First Sight"
 
Excerpt from the press release

The Projected Image: 

A History of Disability in Film in October

 

Turner Classic Movies will dedicate the month of October to exploring the ways people with disabilities have been portrayed in film. On behalf of Inclusion in the Arts, Lawrence Carter-Long will join TCM host Ben Mankiewicz for The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film. The special month-long exploration will air Tuesdays in October, beginning Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. (ET).

TCM makes today's announcement to coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) on July 26. And in a first for TCM, all films will be presented with both closed captioning and audio description (via secondary audio) for audience members with auditory and visual disabilities.

The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film features more than 20 films ranging from the 1920s to the 1980s. Each night's collection will explore particular aspects, themes, or types of disability, such as blindness, deafness and psychiatric or intellectual disabilities. In addition, one evening of programming will focus on newly disabled veterans returning home from war.

TCM's exploration of disability in cinema includes many Oscar-winning and nominated films, such as, to name a few:

An Affair to Remember (1957), in which Deborah Kerr's romantic rendezvous with Cary Grant is nearly derailed by a paralyzing accident

A Patch of Blue (1965), with Elizabeth Hartman as a blind white girl who falls in love with a black man, played by Sidney Poitier

Butterflies Are Free (1972), starring Edward Albert as a blind man attempting to break free from his over-protective mother

Gaby: A True Story (1987), the powerful tale of a girl with cerebral palsy trying to gain independence as an artist

Johnny Belinda (1948), starring Jane Wyman as a "deaf-mute" forced to defy expectations

The Miracle Worker (1962), starring Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan and Patty Duke as Helen Keller

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), with Jack Nicholson as a patient in a mental institution and Louise Fletcher as the infamous Nurse Ratched

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), the post-War drama starring Fredric March, Myrna Loy and real-life disabled veteran Harold Russell

Charly (1968), with Cliff Robertson as an intellectually disabled man who questions the limits of science after being turned into a genius.

Inclusion in the Arts
Inclusion in the Arts advocates for full inclusion of artists of color and performers with disabilities at all levels of production in film, television, and theatre. Our principal aim is to achieve full inclusion in American arts and entertainment, such that what we see on our screens and stages truly reflects the society in which we live; where each artist is considered on his/her merits as an individual; where the stories being told are drawn from authentic and diverse experiences; and where our individual humanity can be celebrated.

For more information:


National Council on Disability: http://www.ncd.gov

Website: http://inclusioninthearts.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LawrenceCarterLong


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

That it should come to this!


So, someone has wronged you.
Thinking of a little well deserved revenge?
Imagining various scenarios even...?

Before you go any further you may want to see this little play called Hamlet.

A reminder of  the effect revenge can have on the initiators and those surrounding them, Hamlet may be an extreme example, but it's a lesson worth being reminded of.

"An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind," as Ghandi said, long after Shakespeare's time, but the message is still the same.

Aahh....young love, what could possibly go wrong?
Ophelia & Hamlet, Ashley Bufkin & Geo Nikols
Photo courtesy of Table 8 Productions
Table 8 Productions' modern interpretation of "Hamlet" was the perfect scenario to bring someone who has never seen a Shakespeare play. In this case, it was my husband. I am happy to say he was impressed by their expressive and contemporary version of the classic.

As I wrote in a previous blog, Shaking up Shakespeare, many directors are re-shaping William Shakespeare's works to fit modern audiences without breaking the cardinal rule and changing the magical language. This opens up the experience to so many more, which is always a goal of those passionate about the performing arts. We know quality art affects people and we want everyone to be able to be "in on it!"

This production was beautifully directed by Troy Heard with a talented cast of seven. Since every director has a defining style, I asked Troy about his.


I don't feel limited by the style of the show, having hopped between 
campy musical to serious drama several times this year. 
I look for strong characters who go through a struggle and
find a redemption.  I've applied that to shows 
from "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" to "Hamlet."  

Troy Heard

Heard is a director of note in Las Vegas for doing exactly this. He was recently selected "Director of the Year" by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Nevada Public Radio's Desert Companion magazine.

I know I am looking forward to future performances by Table 8 Productions

"Hamlet aside, the purpose of Table 8 Productions 
is to rediscover rarely produced plays 
from new and classic authors." 

Troy Heard
Cast of "Hamlet" L to R
Ronn L. Williams, Jr., David McKee, Kim Glover, Ashley Bufkin
Geo Nikols, Mick Axelrod, Brandon Alan McClenahan
Photo courtesy of Table 8 Productions



Playbill

Cast

Hamlet.................................Geo Nikols
Claudius/Ghost......................Ronn L. Williams, Jr.
Gertrude/Osric.......................Kim Glover
Polonius/Gravedigger............. David McKee
Laertes/Guildenstern...............Brandon Alan McClenahan
Ophelia/Rosencranz............... Ashley Bufkin
Horatio/Player........................Mick Axelrod

Production Staff

Director/Production Designer...Troy Heard
Fight Director........................Sean Critchfield
Sound Designer.....................Sandy Stein
Lighting Designer...................Jake Coppenhaver
Promotional Photography........Bill Hughes
Executive Producers...............Gina Quaranto, Richard Brusky, Michael Bennett

Special thanks to Michael Morse, Brandon Burk, Eve Van Roekel Smith, Erik Amblad, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas CityLife, Las Vegas SEVEN, our Indiegogo fans, and of course William Shakespeare.

Very special thanks to Gina Quaranto of Blackbird Studios for generously providing a rehearsal home. www.blackbirdstudioslv.com





"That it should come to this!"......William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.2




Sunday, September 23, 2012

There for the Grace of Paul Go I....


One of the main reasons I went to see "Grace", in previews last week on Broadway, was to see Paul Rudd in a new and complex role.

Even with his long and varied career, like many I had mostly seen his humorous and likable characters.  Paul's portrayal of Steve, the God loving, well meaning hotel owner struggling with life's mix of heaven and hell, was intriguing. Seeing him in this role was like getting to know a whole other side of a longtime friend. 

Paul Rudd, Kate Arrington, "Grace"
Photo courtesy of O & M Public Relations, New York.

Paul, Michael, Ed, and Kate, all live their characters, they don't  "play" them. To me, that's the difference between acting and performing. As Stella Adler always said, "The play is not in the words, it's in you."

Michael Shannon as Sam, oozes pain out of every pore while going through his own personal hell hiding away in his "too sunny" Florida condo. Sam is caught in the abyss of grief, while wondering if he will or should, ever recover. 

Ed Asner "the legend" was nowhere to be seen. Meant as a compliment because to me he was just Karl, the exterminator, an old man who is invisible until you ask him just one question. Like a character who jumps from the pages of a novel, Karl has a story. For him, his ghosts from the past are carried by him every day, like the spray tank on his back. He lives with them because he has to. Older people know this truth. The rest of us learn it....slowly and painfully.

Kate Arrington embodies Sara, the Midwestern wife whose support of her husband is a given. Sara is kind, supportive and thoughtful. She is not just a "wife," she is a woman who is also a wife. There is a difference.

"Grace" is defined as a play that asks "Are we in control of our lives?" To me the defining lines spoken by a struggling character in the production are ...

"I didn't do anything wrong. I did everything right. Why is this happening to me?!"

For me, my real life experiences with such emotions inspired my poem, To Be Human.  Whether life makes sense to us or not, we are all "in it", the tragedy, and the grace, of living.


Kate Arrington, Michael Shannon, Ed Asner and Paul Rudd, "Grace" on Broadway.  Currently in previews...opens in October, runs through January 16. Historic Cort Theatre.
Photo courtesy of O & M Public Relations, New York.



"Grace"

Strictly limited Broadway engagement ends Jan. 16 2013


Historic Cort Theatre

138 W 48th Street

www.graceonbroadway.com

Cast

Paul Rudd............Steve
Michael Shannon....Sam
Ed Asner..............Karl
Kate Arrington.......Sara

Understudies

Danny McCarthy.....Steve/Sam
Jessica Love..........Kate
Jack Davidson........Karl


Playwright............Craig Wright

Director...............Dexter Bullard

Set Design............Beowulf Boritt

Costume Design......Tif Bullard

Lighting Design.......David Weiner

Sound Design.........Darron L. West

Make-Up Design......Nan Zabriskie

Fight Director .......J. David Brimmer

Casting................Caparelliotis Casting

General Management...101 Productions, Ltd.

Producer....Debbie Bisno

Producer....Fox Theatricals

Producer....Paula Wagner

Producer....Jessica Genick

Producer....Jed Bernstein

Producer....Christian Chadd Taylor

Producer....Miles Marek

Producer....Peter May

Producer....Bruce Bendell

Producer....Scott Prisand

Producer....William Berlind

Producer....Amanda Dubois

Producer....Alex Diclaudio

Producer....Stella La Rue

Producer....Dr. Ron Noy

Associate Producer....Dr. Judith Page

Publicity....O & M Co.

www.oandmco.com

The Cort Theatre's early non-musical hits gave it the reputation of being a "lucky" house. The first initial production was "Peg O' My Heart" in 1912. The Shuberts acquired the theatre in 1927.

The Shubert Organization, Cort Theatre


Playbill










Copyright 2012   Anna Wendt















Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Open Mic Night"....the brave, the few!


It takes some courage to be an aspiring comedian or even a successful stand up comic. Not the kind of courage required to be a war medic, or Coast Guard rescuer, for example, but it's no easy task putting yourself on a stage and trying to turn silence into laughter. You need a lot more than one good joke, but many good jokes, set ups, punchlines, humorous conversation, "crowd work", improv, and sometimes just plain self deprecation to get through a set.

Last night while in NYC I checked out "Broadway Comedy Club", a multiple room venue with several levels of performers from open mic newbies to seasoned pros.

In the comedy "cafe" room I watched several comics try out their material on the crowd.....that is if 16 people actually constitute a "crowd". It was a small room, so no disrespect.




I noticed the funniest of the bunch seemed to be the ones who took......their.....time...... Several of them rushed to their punch lines as if they couldn't wait to get it over with.  Maybe they think that silence is the worst thing they can hear....but sometimes it just means people are listening.

Because I can't help but support other performers, for a couple of the slightly awkward souls I threw in a "sympathy" laugh as did others. And when they were doing their "so, where are you from?" routine I tried to shout out an answer...never the truth, but that's okay. It's none of their business anyway.....(I'm kidding.)

I do remember one amusing guy by the name of Drake. Looked like with his baby face he could get away with anything. And he took his time, was confident and relaxed on stage, which seemed to make the audience comfortable.

For anyone reading this and thinking you may want to try out your hand at stand up comedy, I say give it a shot. You just might have what it takes. Plus, the world needs more funny people. 

I have performed ensemble improv and can say it is such a rush!....Terrifying at times, but definitely worth the experience. It definitely helped me that I had improv training at Stella Adler Academy and Second City. Many people think you can't learn to be funny, but that is wrong, you can...to varying degrees of success, but you can. I don't know if I will ever try open mic but many of my comedic friends have, including my friend and longtime comedian Joey Garza and a newbie, my cousin Amy Ress, and I hear she is good! Maybe I can convince her to try here....if she can make North Dakotans laugh in below zero weather she can probably crack Vegas tourists too.

One more thing, don't set yourself up for failure. Do yourself a favor and attend an open mic night or two first before attempting to actually appear in one. Most cities have at least a couple of open mic nights a week. 

Also, group or "ensemble improv" as its called, is also a great way to get into performing comedy. There is less pressure in ensemble improv than in standing in the spotlight all alone. Many comedy clubs offer seminars and classes in both stand up and improv comedy.This is how many successful and some famous stand up comics, writers, and comedic actors have gotten their start.


I've always thought that a big laugh is a really loud noise from
the soul saying, "Ain't that the truth."  ~Quincy Jones




The Industry Room at Broadway Comedy Club



Joey Garza - L.A. Comic  



Monday, September 17, 2012

Networking.....the Quiz


Many people think networking is just a group of people at an event hoping to "score" a new client or contact. This is not real networking. Real networking when done correctly, is mutually beneficial to everyone, and can be done anytime and anywhere.

Networking is defined as– “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of mutually productive relationships for employment or business”.
_______________________________________________________

How are your Networking skills?.....Take the QUIZ

Give yourself one for each yes answer and zero for each no.

  • I always dress appropriately for my profession.
  • When I meet someone I let them talk first before talking about myself and my business or profession.
  • I smile, use a firm handshake, and look the person in the eyes when introducing myself.
  • When I am talking with someone I am present in the conversation and not looking around for someone better to talk to.
  • I tell the truth when asked about my experience, skills and expertise.
  • After I have met someone who can be a potential business contact I always follow up with an email and then a phone call to let them know I enjoyed meeting them and would like to keep in touch. 
  •  I offer referrals of sources and give advice that can be of help to people I meet even if it's not directly beneficial to me at the time.
  •  I don't complain about my life, my profession, or others when meeting a new contact.
  • I consider social media a form of networking and behave online accordingly.


8-9 Points - You are great at networking and regarded as someone with good advice and helpful connections. 

5-7 points - You are somewhat successful at networking but sometimes wonder if you could do better.

3-4 points - Once in awhile you get lucky and make a good connection that leads to some business.

1-2 points - Don't even bother to attempt networking again until you've read the rules above!



Clair Zeto, Owner since 1997 of
The Social Register Las Vegas
The above is advice from Clair Zeto, owner of the Social Register Las Vegas. The Social Register provides focused networking at a high level. I had the pleasure of interviewing Clair for some tips on networking in the new economy. She said that the same rules still apply, but some, even more so. For example, now more than ever it's important to find ways to support one another professionally in as many ways as possible.

"Networking serves everyone best when it is about helping others as well as yourself.  By doing so, you will quickly gain a reputation as somebody worth talking to and keeping in contact with. The person you assist with a little information, referral, or even bringing business to their establishment will likely remember you and return the favor when they can."    Clair Zeto

There are groups available to businesses of all kinds for efficient networking. Focused, high level groups like the Social Register of Las Vegas, general business organizations like the various Chambers of Commerce, and even industry specific groups that serve a particular niche, are all of value.

Now is the time to get out there and meet people, share information and show your community and industry that you are a relevant member. Offer what knowledge and advice you have and ask others for the same. You never know when a synergistic business connection will occur!
The Social Register of Las Vegas is a networking organization and not affiliated with The Social Register, the directory of the same name. 

Copyright 2012  Anna Wendt

Thursday, September 13, 2012

TEN tips to look good in EVERY photo!

These days any photo taken anywhere can end up online in just a few seconds, and live forever, whether you want that or not!  That's why it's so important to take a great picture the first, and every time. (All shots below are amateur photos and all are used with permission).

Here are my TEN tips learned from years of posing:
  • FIRST and foremost...With digital cameras many people hold the camera low when taking a photo. They think they have to do this to look at the screen. They don't. This is the WORST angle possible and can make anyone look bad. It creates a double chin and adds weight to the subjects. Don't let the picture taker hold the camera below chin level. It's best to hold the camera at the height of the subject's heads and then tilt the camera down from the top at an angle. This is the most flattering to all.

Karen Wendt, natural light, pleasant background, waist up
  • Whenever possible have pictures taken with NO flash. Flash, even with today's camera flash delays can still make eyes red, faces pale, and hair off color. Natural sunlight especially with a partly cloudy cover is the best light for pictures. If the sun is bright make sure the sun is behind you, and not the subjects of the photo.

  • Have photos taken of you from the waist up. Full body shots are best left to the pros. If you are going to be in a full body shot, twist your whole body 1/4 to camera at the shoulder and stick one foot out in front of you. This breaks up the line giving your body dimension and thinning you out. For guys, make sure your shoulders are straight and put your weight on one foot more than the other, this will give you a casual line so you don't look like you're in a police line up.
Good casual guy shot, Bob!
  • If you are not wearing make up or just tired grab a pair of sunglasses then apply lipstick or lip gloss. Quick fix!
Anna Wendt after make up has worn off on the set of
"Now You See Me"
  • Open your mouth slightly in the photo and don't press your teeth together. Leaving a tiny space between your upper and lower teeth enhances your cheekbones and pulls up your chin in the process! Do not say "cheese"....say "eeeease" instead, this will help you remember this tip.
Julie Lumpkins...casual nature shot
  • Make your background pleasant and keep it simple; a tree, blue sky, even a brick wall or old barn can be nice if its all that's behind you. Don't stand closely in front of your background. Stand at least 2 feet away to give the photo depth and to avoid the "mug shot" effect.
  • If you are in a picture where the flash has to be used don't look directly at the camera but slightly above it. This will reduce red eye.
  • Never ever sit down on a sofa or soft chair in a photo if possible! It will make you look heavy and dumpy. If you sit in a chair make it a dining chair, a stool, a side chair, and sit at a slightly different angle rather than head on, giving the shot personality. If you must sit on a sofa sit on the edge!
Anna Wendt seated pose
  • If you are in a picture with two or more people do not lean on the other people and try to keep your hands OFF their shoulders. This way, if someone wants to crop the photo for your use or someone else to highlight just one person, this can be done without a strange hand stuck to a shoulder!
Kelly Osbourne, Celebrity Host, Karen Wendt and Anna Wendt Host Stand Ins
Miss USA Pageant 2012, (example of 4th person cropped out)
  • Remember there are some FREE basic photo edit programs that offer quick and easy color correct, crop, exposure, even minor airbrushing. Some you can download and some come with your camera and smart phone software. Taking the few extra minutes to do some quick edits makes all the difference!
BONUS!

Make a deal with your friends like I have. If you look outright "bad" in a photo (or they do), delete it or at least edit it as best you can! That's what friends are for.


Say "eeeease"!


Copyright 2012  Anna Wendt

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Broadway Cares"...in Las Vegas


Facing a dying nation

A moving paper fantasy

Listening for the new told lies.....

These lyrics, relevant as they are today, are actually from the rock musical "Hair", which debuted on Broadway in 1968, 44 years ago.

1968 is considered one of the most turbulent and confusing years in modern American history in the areas of politics, war, and society. In the far off future many might look back at 2012 the same way, with one big difference. No "hippies"....now that's kind of sad.

Admit it man...the hippies are missed! Back then most people misunderstood them. In reality though, maybe those that did were secretly jealous of all of that freedom, love and counter culture living. After all, everyone else had to grow up, why shouldn't the hippies?......

The "Tribe", Hard Rock Cafe, Las Vegas...Photo by Richard Brusky

Oh I know we recently had a similar uprising with the efforts  of "Occupy Wall Street". They deserve recognition. What's missing with them though is the peace, love, and conviction of the hippies' day and age. What "Occupy Wall Street" had/has is a lot of anger, warranted of course, but in the end they have so far not been any more productive than their "flower child" predecessors. Maybe time will tell.

A show like "Hair" can make a person think. "what would make me angry enough to protest, speak up, organize, march, become an activist for change?" Speaking for myself, I don't yet know the answer.

Broadway Cares & Rag Tag Entertainment's production of "Hair" got the show's message across while surrounding everyone in the room with energy, love and music! One of the best elements of this show is the breaking down of the fourth wall when the hippies dance around and sit down next to members of the audience. It takes a lot of focus for an actor to be in character amongst those that aren't. I learned this years ago doing dinner theater. It provides an added dimension for both the audience members and the performers.

Every time I catch a Rag Tag Entertainment production I wonder, "why don't more people know about this group?".....and "I can't believe the tickets are so cheap!" There are those who criticize Rag Tag and their set design, or lack thereof, and somewhat improvisational stage direction. To me that's like criticizing Jesus, (the original hippie), for not having his shoes tied...what I mean is it doesn't matter! The energy, the heart, the talent, the experience, is ALL there.

How can people be so heartless
how can people be so cruel
easy to be hard, easy to be cold
-Easy to be hard...song from "Hair"

Whatever city or town you live in, do yourself a favor and seek out these kinds of theater companies! Get on the email lists, go with friends, bring your kids, your kids friends, your parents, or go alone. These are performers bursting with talent and heart. Just the fact that they are doing this work for little or no pay for the sake of bringing the performing arts to everyone, when most of them are high end professionals who usually make much more, says it all. To that I say.....BRAVO!

All photos courtesy of Richard Brusky, photographer and retired Air Force veteran.

Brandon Nix as CLAUDE....I asked him how it felt to play
a man "sent to the slaughter" in Vietnam.
He said, "You know what? It was actually pretty intense."

What a piece of work is man
How noble in reason
How infinite in faculties


-What a piece of Work is Man....song from "Hair".....
lyrics adapted from Shakespeare's Hamlet...



Anne Barr.....as SHEILA...
Photo courtesy of Richard Brusky
Good morning Starshine, the earth says hello!...
You twinkle above us, we twinkle below... 
Good Morning Starshine.....song from "Hair"

The Tribe, one last protest......Photo courtesy of Richard Brusky


Somewhere inside something there is a rush of greatness
Who knows what stands in front of our lives....
.
Flesh Failures/Let the Sun Shine...song from "Hair"

Brandon Nix as Claude....and The Tribe


Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS - BroadwayCares.org

BC/EFA is the major supporter of seven programs at The Actors Fund, including The HIV/AIDS Initiative, The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, The Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic, The Actors Fund Work Program, The Dancers’ Resource, The Stage Managers’ Project and three supportive housing residences.

Broadway Cares, is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised over $195 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States. 

Rag Tag Entertainment was formed with a single thought in mind, "The performing arts are for everybody, not just those who can afford them. We have gathered performers from the Las Vegas strip, New York City, and everywhere in between who are passionate about sharing the arts. Our goal is to introduce the performing arts and enrich lives through various modes of performance at prices that are accessible to all families."

Rag Tag Entertainment, Putting the Community First with Accessible Theater

The above are excerpts from Broadway Cares and Rag Tag Entertainment's websites.

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a musical with book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni. Musc by Galt MacDermot. 


Photos courtesy of Richard Brusky

https://www.facebook.com/richard.brusky/photos


BONUS clip...true talent shines at auditions even without stage lights.....
Brandon Nix Audition for "Hair" 2008...Youtube  

Director, Andrew Wright
Choreographer - Callie Johnson Schouten, Musical Director - Roger Butterley

Stage Manager - Ally Chaykin, Assistant Director - Sefanie McCue
Assistant MD - Karalyn Clark, Technical Director - Marissa Nestlebush,
Lighting - Jeremy Hodges

Cast:
Dustin Dubreuil
Brandon Nix
Gus Langley
Carnell Johnson
Anne Barr
Marisa Miranda
Kirstin Maki
Lily Arce
Keith Dotson
Glenn Heath

Featuring:
Stephanie Sanchez
Jon Sangster
Brenna Folger
David Tarr
Christian Escobar
Sydney Story
Taylor Henderson
Niles Rivers
Sin City Dolls

Aimee Wade
Matthew Howard
Olga gomez
Richie Fazier
Ronnie Gaar
Amanda Bennett
Megan Koumis
Diana Wilson Estrada
Crystal Lasorsa
Tara Lynn
Scott Gibson-Uebele
Tammi Colombo

Hazelnut Cocaine: Roger Butterley - MD/Guitar, Matt Murphy - Drums, Karalyn Clark - Assistant Md/Keys, Aja Wilson - Bass

On With the Show: Kaelin Andruss, Molly McClendon, Maya Harris, Carter Fowler, Adelynn Tourondel, Michael Cimino, Gary Easton, Ava Nobert, Emily Anzell, Lauren Wolfgram

Special Thanks

Jane Khaldy
Greg Kata and "On With the Show"
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
Rag Tag Entertainment
The Hard Rock Cafe
AV Vegas
First Friday
Buffalo Exchange for donating costumes!
Erik Ball
Alda Tomasic
Christian Escobar
Lisa Story
Patty Spellman

Always remember to "let the sun shine in"....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Final Justice...and then some


Michelle Renee is the woman I portrayed in the re-enactment of a crime on "Final Justice with Erin Brockovich".  I was reminded of this part when a similar situation with a bank manager and robbery happened in Los Angeles two days ago.

Back in 2000, Michelle was sitting with her daughter Breea one night after dinner and three men burst into her home. They knocked her down, tied her up, strapped her with dynamite and threatened her. They told her they'd blow her and her daughter up if she didn''t rob the bank where she worked. To save her child's life, she committed the crime. Who wouldn't do the same?

In Michelle's case, her and her daughter survived the ordeal. However, afterwards another real nightmare unfolded. The defendents all claimed that it was actually Michelle that was the mastermind behind the whole thing. It took her almost two years to clear her name and while doing so had to live in hiding. To be a victim or a suspect is something we all hope never happens to us, and certainly not both.

I never had the chance to meet Michelle Renee but I tried to portray her situation honestly as if it were happening to me. I had only just got the part about 36 hours before filming. I had no photo of this woman, or any information on her, even her name, just a sentence about her story. 

Fortunately at least I had seen a couple of episodes of "Final Justice" before getting the call. In fact, one night after watching an episode about a woman who caught the person stealing her identity by going undercover, I decided to send my headshot and resume to the casting director.  By the way it is hardly ever done this way, so random, and the fact that I got a part out of it I will always consider luck. "Luck" meaning "opportunity aligning with preparation", that is!

In "Final Justice" I was trusted to portray a real person in a serious life and death situation. We had only one day to shoot all 14 scenes, so I was much too busy to worry about the nuances of any one of them that day.


A few weeks later after I had already told friends and family about the part I found out that "Final Justice with Erin Brockovich" was cancelled two weeks before the episode was to air. Hate when that happens. This meant I would never earn residuals or even see the show, much less have footage for my demo reel. That happens fairly often in the biz.  (It finally did air in 2010, about eight years later).

Not long after the shoot my friend Nicole met someone who worked at Lifetime Television. Nicole arranged for her to make a tape of the episode for me, and I finally was able to see it. That was the source of the link below. 

Michelle Renee took what happened to her and made it her cause. At the bottom of the post is a link to her blog and website. She is now a public speaker and author advocating against violent crime, teaching women how to protect themselves, and how to survive intense life challenges through extreme resiliency.

"Final Justice with Erin Brockovich", Bank Heist  12 min





Michelle Renee's Blog on the Huffington Post

Extreme Resiliency...Michelle Renee