Nikki Bagdady Horn with yours truly on Legal Marketing Coffee Talk discussing great graphic design … and The Backstreet Boys

VIEW VIDEO: https://fb.watch/39Vy8YXpiG/

Yes, Nikki Bagdady Horn and I talk about The Backstreet Boys … and design for marketing communications! To be honest I’m not sure why she puts up with me, nor why Rob Kates hasn’t murdered me yet over my dodgy Internet connection. My mother Susie Sexton is hibernating after the exciting Inauguration events this week AND a marathon viewing of ALL six seasons of Grace & Frankie.

More about Nikki: https://nikkiscreative.com

We discuss at length the need for thoughtful consulting when designing materials that have substantive and difficult messaging AND the importance of considering audience needs … always. Nikki is a master of her craft.

You know it’s a party when the Pope, President, and Vice President FCTRY action figures come out to play!

Jenn Kennedy commented, “Highly recommend Nikki! Her graphic design skillset is worth the investment, for those in the market for a designer. 👍”

Shout outs to dogs everywhere, creative lighting, Morris Day & The Time, community theatre, Dianne Rychlewski, lawyers, Blaine D. Fowler, Colleen McConnell Fowler, Jennifer Saulten Arapoff, Jenn Kennedy, Todd Forfinski, Joanie Davidson Forfinski, Kerr Russell, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, Bryan Bagdady, Lauren Crocker, Clark Hill, Trott Law, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, runners, and more.

VIEW VIDEO: https://fb.watch/39Vy8YXpiG/

I buy (and wear) weird t-shirts. Proudly.

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk this week with host Roy Sexton (ME!) and guest, graphic designer Nicole Bagdady Horn – THURSDAY, JANUARY 21

Join us this week for Legal Marketing Coffee Talk with host Roy Sexton (ME!) and guest, Nicole Bagdady Horn, a freelance graphic designer with 25 years of experience and a dear friend and former colleague of Roy’s. LINK: https://www.facebook.com/155057871244919/posts/3711370372280300/?d=n

Check out Nikki’s work at her website: http://www.nikkiscreative.com

It promises to be a fun and free-wheeling conversation focused on the principles of good design, challenges of visual communication in industries that need dense messaging, best practices she would recommend, and maybe even some markers of the good friendship (i.e. shenanigans) shared by Nikki and Roy sprinkled in—fingers crossed we get to hear about the night they saw the Backstreet Boys in concert!

Tune in live right here on Facebook, Thursday, January 21st at 3 pm ET: https://www.facebook.com/155057871244919/posts/3711370372280300/?d=n

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is brought to you by: By Aries and Kates Media.

I am so incredibly proud of my friend Brenda Zawacki Meller, published author! My copy of her book Social Media Pie: How to Enjoy a Bigger Slice of LinkedIn arrived today, beautifully inscribed and in a trademark Meller Marketing pink envelope. Now that is good branding! The book is fantastic, and even if you feel like you know a lot about LinkedIn, there is far more that she can teach you.

As I texted her today, “Brenda, you have surpassed us all in your accomplishments, in your bright light, and in your singular execution of strategy. What you have done in quick fashion in terms of positioning yourself is nothing short of impressive and remarkable. So damn proud of you!” Here are some photos from the many adventures I’ve been privileged to have with Brenda, and her support and encouragement of me and of so many others has meant the world. That is just who she is, and if you don’t know her yet (which would be shocking since she has 52,000 followers and counting on LinkedIn!), you really should!

Order from her website: https://www.mellermarketing.com/socialmediapiethebook

From Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1947345222?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

ABOUT THE BOOK: You’re on LinkedIn, but you’re not sure you’re getting the most out of it. You’re open to learning, but you need some guidance on how to be more effective at your time and efforts on LinkedIn. And, you believe you can have fun while learning. I mean, obviously. Otherwise, what the heck are you doing considering buying a book called, Social Media Pie. That’s crazy talk, right? Or is it BRILLIANT? Probably a bit of both. In Social Media Pie: How to Enjoy a Bigger Slice of LinkedIn, Brenda Meller will share strategies to help you make the most of your LinkedIn presence to help you to reach your business and career goals. In this book, you’ll learn how to:

Adjust your settings to maximize your visibility and reach

Optimize your LinkedIn profile

Create a powerful invitation that’s more likely to be accepted and screen in invitations while creating dialog

Generate greater levels of network engagement

Post (and how often to post) — and what to do NEXT

Build a company page and grow followers (LEADS!)

Rock on LinkedIn in just 15 minutes a day

Through a conversational approach, how-to instructions, and a sprinkling of pie-isms throughout, Brenda will teach you how to increase your slice of the LinkedIn pie. With over 50,000 LinkedIn followers, a LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) of 88, nearly 8,000 profile views in the past 90 days and an awesome LinkedIn network, she shows you how anyone with a strong desire to improve their results on LinkedIn — and an open mind for shining the spotlight on others — can supercharge their LinkedIn presence.

“Incoming!” Open Book Theatre’s “Home Less”

Theatre in pandemic requires ingenuity, creativity, and miles and miles and miles of heart. Oh, and a good internet connection. Michigan’s Open Book Theatre Company is killing it.

Artistic Director Krista Schafer Ewbank has created an outlet for talented artists across the country and particularly here in Michigan to offer what could be best described as bespoke theatrical offerings. Whether it’s a musical staged at a drive-in, behind a picture window or in someone’s driveway or a ten minute, one person play delivered one-on-one (actor to audience), the company has kept theatre alive in these dark times with magnificent results. (I reviewed their production of iPoppy in October.)

Their latest offering is Emily Rosenbaum’s Home Less – as described on the Open Book website: “On her child’s eleventh birthday, a mom reflects on bravery, helping, and the Hogwarts sorting hat.” The conceit of the show is that the mother in question (local legend and, yes, my friend Carrie Jay Sayer) is recording on video a message that her son will read fourteen years hence on his twenty-fifth birthday.

The mother’s message is funny, heartfelt, often poignant, reflective of the unifying isolation of 2020 and the sense of helplessness throughout. The joy of celebrating her bright and adventurous child on his birthday is overshadowed by her guilt that she hasn’t been fully present for him, consumed as she is by the Sisyphean task of her day job: finding warm shelter for the ever growing numbers of homeless people.

The playwright offers in her notes on the piece: “But there’s no such thing as a homeless person. There are people who are experiencing homelessness, just as there are people experiencing food insecurity, domestic violence, and poverty. All of these traumas are human rights violations; none of them are characteristics of people. The systems that perpetuate these violences upon people are complex and deeply rooted. They are, in fact, our economic, educational, governmental, healthcare, and food systems. They serve some people well and are designed to keep others oppressed. … All sorts of circumstances can lead to homelessness, but there is only one remedy. A home.”

Sayer turns in a master class of nuanced understatement, with crisply drawn emotion and empathy, framing herself carefully in the Zoom-based “stage.” She is aided and abetted by Angie Kane’s steady, no frills direction, maintaining focus on words, message, and face. Sayer is a compelling presence, transcending the inherent limits of technology to connect with her singular audience member. We as viewer take the place of the birthday boy, with Sayer delivering her deepest thoughts and fears directly to us. The effect is as haunting as it is relatable. Sayer paces her delivery with varying rhythms and levels, taking us through the highs and lows of a mother grappling with widescreen societal issues and small screen personal ones. This is an exceptional performance, not to be missed. Instructive, cathartic, essential.

Remaining performances are available on January 18th, 21st, and 25th and can be scheduled here. Tickets are $20.

Carrie Jay Sayer

#EpicCRMFails Webinar Series

Part 2: Epic Fails – and How to Avoid Them

Join me for a panel discussion on January 27, 11:30 AM EST! Register here.

Almost every law firm currently using CRM and other marketing and business development software is looking for ways to increase the ROI on these technology investments. In the pursuit of success with technology, sometimes learning what NOT to do from people who have dealt with challenges can be more instructive than hypothetical discussions about what you could or should do. 

Join us January 27 at 11:30 AM EST for part two of this four-part series examining some the top issues that can lead to “Epic CRM Fails.” You will hear from experienced marketing and business development professionals who will share real-life stories of how they overcame these obstacles. You’ll also see never-before-released videos that capture the frustration of failure – and get actionable ideas and best practices to succeed.

Here are just a few of the #EpicCRMFails “potholes” you will learn to avoid on the road to CRM Success:

  • Problems First, Products Second – Identify your needs and requirements first before attempting to evaluate software.
  • Let Lawyers Be Lawyers – Perhaps professionals who bill hundreds (or more) of dollars an hour shouldn’t be tasked with data entry. Minimizing their efforts by automating processes can maximize value – and adoption.
  • No Dog and Pony Shows – Don’t get distracted by shiny bells and whistles. Instead choose the features and functionality that match your needs and requirements.
  • Defeat the Deluge of Data – Don’t drown in dated data. Instead focus on getting information you need to succeed, keep it clean and turn it into actionable insights.

We hope you’ll join us for this fun and interactive discussion. We will also be accepting “fails” from the audience and awarding prizes for submissions.

Register here!

About the speakers

Chris Fritsch, J.D., CLIENTSFirst Consulting

Chris Fritsch, CRM Success Consultant and founder of CLIENTSFirst Consulting, has helped hundreds of law firms select and implement the right Client Relationship Management and eMarketing solutions to support their marketing and business development efforts and maximize return on investment. Her team of almost 100 data quality professionals helps firms clean and enhance data and maintain ongoing quality. A recognized authority on marketing and business development technologies, Chris writes and speaks nationally on topics including CRM, eMarketing and data quality. She was named among the top 10 Marketing and Business Development thought leaders in the JD Supra Readers’ Choice Awards. She was also inducted as Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management for her consulting contributions to the profession. Chris received her law degree from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, GA.

Christopher Raymond, Intapp

Chris Raymond, Practice Group Leader, Marketing and Business Development at Intapp, has spent nearly 15 years in the legal industry, working with Knowledge Management, Marketing and Business Development teams of AmLaw200 firms across the country. He is  Chair of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Northeast MarTech SIG. 

Chris joined the Intapp team as part of the OnePlace acquisition and previously worked at LexisNexis.

Roy Sexton, Clark Hill

As Director of Marketing, Roy Sexton helps lead Clark Hill’s marketing, branding and communications efforts. Sexton has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, business development and strategic planning. He has been heavily involved in the LMA as a regional and international leader and serves on numerous nonprofit boards and committees, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor, Royal Starr Film Festival, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and encoremichigan.com. Sexton earned his Bachelor’s degree from Wabash College, and holds Master’s degrees from The Ohio State University (M.A., Theatre) and the University of Michigan (MBA). He is a published author with two books, “Reel Roy Reviews,” Volumes 1 and 2, taken from his blog of the same name www.reelroyreviews.com.

Special thanks to Rob Kates, Kates Media

KM TV 2020

Legal Marketing Association – Midwest “Your Honor Awards” … hosted by yours truly #lmamkt

<giggle>

WATCH VIDEO: https://fb.watch/2-3FH_lfg5/

ICYMI – LMA Midwest Your Honor Awards were hosted today by yours truly. And only about eight technical snafus this time. 🤣 Thank you, LMA Midwest Region, Maureen Fechter Farr, Liz Highley Boehm, Megan McKeon, Laura Toledo, Rob Kates for the opportunity and for putting up with me.

Original event description: “Let’s celebrate! Please join us on Wednesday, January 13 at 11:30am CST/12:30pm EST to recognize the winners of our 2020 LMA Midwest Your Honor Awards. The virtual program will be live streamed courtesy of Kates Media: Video Production. Hosted by Roy Sexton, LMA International Treasurer and Director of Marketing at Clark Hill PLC, the program will feature video clips and visuals from award winners. What better way to start off 2021 than by showcasing the great work of legal marketers in the Midwest!

“THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS: A special thanks to Rothschild Marketing for sponsoring the 2020 Your Honor Awards. Rothschild Marketing solves firms’ promo problems – and puts the fun back in swag! The company produces super cool client gifts and unforgettable events for professional services companies. We also thank Rob Kates of Kates Media, producer of high quality, high value, high ROI video content and live steaming programming for the legal industry, for his role in making the live program possible.”

WATCH VIDEO: https://fb.watch/2-3FH_lfg5/ – ❤️

A series. Titled: “A study in moments of white hot panic when one’s husband turns on the TV and suddenly internet slows to a crawl.” Catchy, huh?

Thank you so much for #keepingfamiliesclose

We did it! $4,000 raised for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor. “Thank You So Much” from Do I Hear A Waltz? by Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim. (One of my mother Susie Sexton’s favorites. And, yes, I thought I’d be sly and have the lyrics to the side while I recorded this, but it’s pretty darn obvious from my constantly shifting eyes that I don’t know the words. LOL!)

Thank You So Much” from Do I Hear A Waltz?

Thank you for helping celebrate my birthday month (December 28 to be exact!) by helping others! Your contributions make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500 – here is the link to the fundraising page: https://lnkd.in/eQ_NVZD

Look No Further” from No Strings

I’m a proud board member of RMHCAA and have seen firsthand how every little bit makes a huge difference. Thank you SO MUCH for your incredible support! Love you. ❤️

It’s a Quiet Thing” from Flora the Red Menace

Happy New Year!

Thank you to these wonderful donors! (Apologies to anyone missed – these are screen captures from the record Facebook provides.)

Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

Wonderful miscellany …

Going through the week’s mail, and I spy this gem! Another hidden Wabash College connection or two: the Blue Bell plant manager mentioned here was my grandfather Roy Duncan, and JoEllen Adams, Jim Adams’ daughter, was a close friend of my mother Susie Sexton. JoEllen was a big influence on me choosing Wabash as was Bob. The Lilly Fellowship I received helped too. 😊

Congrats, Ellen and Bob Kellogg, on this well-deserved recognition – and thank you for your support of Wabash! Happy New Year and Wabash Always Fights!

Love this, David Troutman, Scott Feller, and team!

Thank you, Holly Maurer-Klein, SHRM-SCP, for this inclusion in HR/Advantage Advisory LLC, Powered by Clark Hill PLC’s year-end newsletter. Happy New Year, all! #Gratitude is more essential than ever these days.

Thank You For Being A Friend

“Throughout the year, Clark Hill Law PLC (HR/AA is a division of Clark Hill) holds Town Hall Meetings where the firm communicates and celebrates promotions, business wins, and goal achievement. For the year-end meeting in 2020, the firm decided to do something different. As Roy E. Sexton, Director of Marketing, described it recently, ‘our executive team at Clark Hill identified gratitude as the core theme for our year-end Town Hall. We organized a survey to collect examples in our colleagues’ own words and had them submit video shout-outs.’ Employees–the IT team and administrative staff who kept the firm’s wheels turning, fellow attorneys who had been quick to jump in to help when someone was sick or absent–heard heartfelt, personalized, and public descriptions of the impact of the ‘behind the scenes’ work that they had done. As an observer, it was uplifting. As Roy described it, ‘the results were phenomenal. People felt seen and heard and, most importantly, appreciated.’”

Read the rest here: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/HR-Advantage-Advisory-Update.html?soid=1102052405635&aid=ZAf78rQa5gI

Cameo personalized holiday message from actor Mark Sheppard

There is good in this world. We were blown away, Megan McKeon and Eric Lewandowski, by this incredible Christmas gift. John and I are big Supernatural fans, and Mark Sheppard’s “Crowley” is a particular fave. But even more, what he says here in his message is so heartfelt and kind and inclusive and loving. We were both incredibly moved by his words, and I suspect others will be as well. Megan and Eric – and Mark! – we love you very much. Our hearts are full.

Vintage holiday fun with my mom, her sisters Shirley and Sarah, and parents Edna and Roy

“If you dream it, you can achieve it” – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Prom, Midnight Sky, Wonder Woman 1984 … and Cimarron?

Joe: You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.

Norma: I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.

From Sunset Boulevard

“If you dream it, you can achieve it.” – Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) in Wonder Woman 1984

“Nothing good is born from lies.” – Diana (Gal Gadot) in Wonder Woman 1984

Sadly, this seems to be the season of watching big ticket blockbusters crammed onto a home screen. Furthermore, this seems to be the season where all of your Facebook friends march like lemmings to tell you what you’re supposed to think of said offerings before you even have had a chance to view them for yourself. Being the good-natured contrarian that my parents raised, I find myself in direct opposition to much of the feedback I’ve observed. To me, The Prom was kind-hearted escapism-with-attitude, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was a stagy self-indulgent slog, Midnight Sky was a resonant Truman Capote-meets-Ray Bradbury short (long) story, and Wonder Woman 1984 was a candy-coated (admittedly overstuffed) confection.

I loved The Prom. I, for one, like unapologetic musicals, and this Ryan Murphy production reads like Hairspray, The Greatest Showman, High School Musical, and Bye Bye Birdie had a socially progressive movie baby. Much needless ado has been made about (formerly?) beloved Carpool Karaoke maven James Corden playing a gay character, claiming his take is offensively stereotypical. Many critics’ descriptions have been as troubling as what they accuse Corden of perpetuating, if you ask me.

To me, it is one of Corden’s better and more thoughtful performances, layering broad comedy in a compelling gauze of pathos, to effectively depict a man struggling to find his path in the margins (in career, physicality, and, yes, sexuality). Corden is part of a free-wheeling quartet of Broadway narcissists (all compensating for respective ghosts of failures past) who descend on a small Indiana town to “rescue” it from its own prejudices after the local PTA shames and embarrasses a young lesbian (luminous newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman) in a way that would make even John Travolta’s character in Carrie cringe.

Meryl Streep (channeling a caustic yet charming mix of Patti LuPone and Susan Lucci), Nicole Kidman (at her most winsomely fragile), and Andrew Rannells (all bounding and puppyish joy) are Corden’s partners in well-intentioned, occasionally misplaced crime, and they have fabulous chemistry. Kerry Washington is suitably evangelically vampy as the rigid PTA president, and Keegan-Michael Key is a pleasant surprise (both as a singer and actor) as the high school’s show tune loving principal. Tracey Ullmann pops up as Corden’s regretful Midwestern ma, and their reconciliation scene is a lovely little masterclass in heightened understatement.

Oh, right, I did say the movie is kicky fun, but nothing I’ve written here much indicates why. Working from Matthew Sklar’s buoyant Broadway production, Murphy and team overdo everything in all the right ways, juxtaposing all-too-real intolerance and heartache (basically everyone in the film is guilty of uninformed prejudice of one kind or another) with the metaphysical joys of unhinged singing, dancing, glitter, and sequins. All ends (predictably) happily, almost Shakespearean (if Shakespeare listened to Ariana Grande), and I dare you not to sit through the end credits with a stupid, hopeful grin on your face.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is also adapted from the stage, as legendary director George C. Wolfe brings August Wilson’s play to the screen. I suspect my disappointment is more to do with the source material than Wolfe’s sure-handed if claustrophobic direction. To be honest, I wanted more of Viola Davis’ dynamite Ma Rainey and less of … everyone else. Davis has one scene worthy of the Hollywood time capsule, eviscerating the misogynistic and racist capitalist machine that steals artists’ voices (quite literally as Rainey is committing her vocals to vinyl) and tosses people to the curb when they’ve outlived their usefulness.

The film depicts one day in a Chicago recording studio as Rainey fights with, well, anyone who crosses her path in defense of her vision and to retain her integrity in a world that reduces her to a commodity. THAT is the movie I wanted to see, but Wolfe gives preferred time to Rainey’s studio musicians, a group of men whose primary purpose seems to be representing inter-generational animosity among those with a Y-chromosome. Perhaps I’ve just had my fill for one lifetime of toxic male posturing, but I grew weary of their (endless) scenes.

In total, the film feels like it never really escapes the confines of the stage, and I may be among the few viewers underwhelmed by Chadwick Boseman’s performance. His work seems hammy and like he is in search of another movie altogether. I could be wrong, but the overwhelming praise for Boseman here feels like groupthink rhapsodizing given that he is no longer with us. I’m going to hell. See you there. Boseman remains a singular talent, but I don’t think time will be kind to this particular role, Oscar-winning as it likely will be.

Wonder Woman 1984 follows the loping narrative style of all inexplicably beloved films made in, well, 1984, and thereby is a kind of referendum on the cardboard excess and shallow instant gratification of that hollow era, nostalgia for which continues to plague us in insidious ways to this very day.

I found it nicely character driven with a strong cast and with a warm and (mostly) light touch, but plagued by some script/logic problems in its final act. All in all, it met my comics-loving expectations, and I enjoyed what they were doing. Gal Gadot remains a commanding presence in a way we just don’t see in screen stars these days. She’s not an actor per se, but she is a star.

Director Patty Jenkins has great Rube Goldberg-esque fun with one improbable action sequence after another. All were clearly nods to similar films of the 80s featuring, say, Superman or Indiana Jones but enhanced through modern Fast and the Furious-style tech and suspension of disbelief. I’m not looking for pragmatism in a movie like this. Sometimes I just want to be entertained, and WW84 did that for me

Jenkins makes the smart choice of casting talent who will connect the dots in a wafer-thin script. In the film, Kristen Wiig consistently makes smart acting choices as her character progresses from heartbreakingly nerdy sidekick to sullen and insolent supervillain, never losing the heartache of exclusion underneath it all. I thought she was a refreshing and inspired choice to play Barbara Minerva/Cheetah.

Dreamy/witty Chris Pine doesn’t get much dialogue/plot to work with as newly resurrected love interest Steve Trevor, but he shines nonetheless, wringing laughs from fish-out-of-water nuance without ever belaboring the joke.

Pedro Pascal balances Trumpian satire and Babbitt-esque tragedy as a gilded charlatan who believes 80s greed is the key to self-acceptance. He’s grand until the dodgy final act strands him somewhere on manic Gene Wilder-isle, and the film limps to its inevitable world-saving resolution.

I also think if people had watched WW84 on the big screen, they would have walked away with a different vibe. Some may disagree, but there’s a hidden psychological bump to paying for a ticket and investing time away from home (one WANTS the movie to be good) that is erased by the small screen – which has little to do with what is actually being viewed. IMHO.

The global warming parable Midnight Sky (directed by and starring George Clooney), however, benefits from small screen viewing. That said, the film’s outer space, nail biting, race-against-time elements have all been covered (sometimes better) in The Martian, Interstellar, Ad Astra, and George Clooney’s own Gravity. Hell, throw in Event Horizon, Sunshine, and The Black Hole for good measure.

Rather, I enjoyed the film’s quiet moments with Clooney as the sole (maybe?) survivor on an ice-covered Earth, as he fights the elements, time, and his own failing health to deter a deep-space crew from returning to their certain death on an uninhabitable planet. I didn’t give two hoots about the space mission, which included Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, and Tiffany Boone, all doing their level best to make us care. However, I was transfixed by an almost unrecognizable Clooney who checked his golden boy charm at the door and exquisitely projected the exhaustion and anxiety and fear of someone nearing the literal end. So, in other words, how most of us feel in 2020.

If it were up to me, I would edit out all of the space-faring scenes and leave the film’s focus on George Clooney alone in a post-apocalyptic arctic, yielding a transcendent hour-long Twilight Zone episode.

Now, let’s see how I fare in the Twitterverse when I finally turn to watching Disney’s/Pixar’s Soul

Postscript … what follows is an email sent to my mother Susie Sexton this afternoon about 1960’s classic Cimarron. They don’t make movies like this any more, and that’s a shame.

From IMDB’s synopsis: “The epic saga of a frontier family, Cimarron starts with the Oklahoma Land Rush on 22 April 1889. The Cravet family builds their newspaper Oklahoma Wigwam into a business empire and Yancey Cravet is the adventurer-idealist who, to his wife’s anger, spurns the opportunity to become governor since this means helping to defraud the native Americans of their land and resources.”

I just finished Cimarron and liked it very very much. I do think that Edna Ferber captures perhaps somewhat formulaically but absolutely effectively, the passage and snowballing magnitude of time and life, with a lovely progressive sensibility (pun unintended).

Maria Schell is exquisite. I don’t think the film would’ve been half as good without her in it. I really like Anne Baxter too. Their one scene together is quite understated and powerful.

Glenn Ford is of course great too, but Maria Schell really got to me. She acts in a style ahead of its time. It’s a beautiful film, but at least in the first ten minutes I kept expecting them to burst into song. When it really digs into their struggle and unpredictable relationship, it’s very powerful. The supporting cast was of course great since all of those people had been in one million films already.

Thanks for recommending this! Love you!

My family loves movies. We always have. It is our cultural shorthand, and every holiday – until this one – has been spent in communion over what movies we saw, how they made us think and feel, and what these films might say about our culture and its advancement. That is in short why I write this blog. I can’t imagine watching a movie without having the opportunity to share how it speaks to my heart and mind.

Thank you for reading these thoughts of mine for nearly ten years (!), inspired as they are by a lifetime of loving movies.

My parents are a treasure. I’m very lucky.

I am so grateful for my incredible, inclusive, fierce, and kind-hearted parents Susie and Don Sexton 🥰🙌 Proud of them and of their integrity, their voices, and their compassion.

“We won’t forget, congressman” … this letter from my amazing and forward thinking dad Don Sexton was published in The Kokomo Tribune: https://www.kokomotribune.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letter-we-wont-forget-congressman/article_b35aa000-3fb1-11eb-9a34-4fdbf201566f.html

AND this same letter asking for accountability from his congressman also ran in The Journal Gazette! Thank you, Teresa Dowell, for alerting my mom! Here’s the link – subscription may be required: https://www.journalgazette.net/opinion/letters/20201219/letters?fbclid=IwAR3TNsBLwJtf6Vq4kZdUo_0rXg_SatOp4myQoWtRTAVnEnCE2jVwjt1mAKU

Letter: We won’t forget, congressman

Welcome to the politics of the 1830s!

Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose to support the Texas lawsuit to overturn votes from the November 2020 election in the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose to begin the erosion of our democracy.

Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose to destroy the sanctity of our right to vote.

Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose political party over country.

Our congressman, Jim Banks, chose to end the dignity of our system of self-government.

Our congressman, Jim Banks, cynically assumes that by 2022 we will have forgotten.

Don Sexton, Columbia City

I am not one you’d call particularly religious by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve always loved the #LordsPrayer, particularly #BarbraStreisand’s version from her iconic (first) #Christmas album. Make your own jokes! I love the music, her phrasing, and the timely/timeless message of the importance of kindness and forgiveness and generosity and grace – important to us all, regardless of faith. Hopefully, my version here does it some justice.

“Lord’s Prayer”

For my birthday this month (December 28 to be exact!), I’m raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Just click donate on this fundraising page: https://lnkd.in/eQ_NVZD

I’m a proud board member and have seen firsthand how every little bit helps. This little fundraiser is nearing the $3000 mark because of wonderful support from kind and generous friends like you! #KeepingFamiliesClose

“We may be essential workers but we aren’t expendable.” Theatre Nova’s “I’m Streaming of an ALRIGHT Christmas” and The Ringwald’s “Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas”

2020. The artifacts of this momentous tire-fire of a year will be fascinating to view years from now. For all of the foolishness afoot in America these days, there has also been incredible ingenuity and anxiety-induced whimsy to spare.

Our Southeast Michigan theatre community rallied to find new ways to entertain, distract, and survive this year, employing ubiquitous Zoom technology to reinvent the much-needed art of storytelling.

Ann Arbor’s Theatre Nova has reimagined its annual holiday panto tradition for this new era with sublime results. I’m Streaming of an ALRIGHT Christmas is, intentionally or not, a delightful throwback to children’s variety shows of the 1980s like Pee Wee’s Playhouse or Pryor’s Place.

Written by Carla Milarch and and R MacKenzie Lewis (who serves double duty as music director), the free-wheeling hour (just the right length!) features multi-talented David Moan, Mike Sandusky, Monica Spencer, and Charles the Puppy, with a cameo performance by a famous mystery guest (clue: “fairy ex machina”).

The story, borrowing liberally from holiday classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, follows the footprint of so many tv-specials of yore, as Santa, Rudolph, Friendly the Elf, Mrs. Claus (Sandusky is a Madealike, culinarily-challenged scream here), Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowman, and an adorable puppy, yes, try to “save Christmas,” this year from the “Rona Monster” (bearing an uncanny resemblance to Philly sports mascot “Gritty”). Spencer’s Friendly and Sandusky’s Rudolph exclaim early on, “We may be essential workers but we aren’t expendable!”

Sandusky

While the “Rona Monster” concept may seem a bit too on-the-nose given what we are all living through, it ends up being just the right parable for these tricky times. The script is loaded with zany references that both adults and children will enjoy, not shying away from a political pot shot or two. And the daffy and delightful musical numbers are plentiful, with nods to The Knack (lead singer of which was none other than Detroit native son and Geoffrey Fieger-sibling Doug Fieger), Les Miserables, Hamilton, and … Buck Owens (!) among others. Moan shines in a “Bring Him Home” moment that not only captures his soaring vocals and incredible musicality but also his deft comic timing.

The show is winsome and sweet and nicely avails itself of the interactivity that the Zoom platform provides. There are many moments for the kids to get involved, kind of a 21st-century version of clapping to bring Tinker Bell back to life. This show is well worth your time not to mention your investment in supporting one of our most creative local theater companies.

And speaking of fab local theater companies that exude cleverness and irreverence, The Ringwald brings us Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas in their inimitable style. Directed by Brandy Joe Plambeck with a smart, economical eye, the production showcases a dynamite Joe Bailey as a Santa whose “biggest fan” Annie Willis (Suzan M. Jacokes aiming for the rafters and nailing Kathy Bates in a brilliant parody performance) cares for him after a sleigh mishap.

Ringwald newcomer Aurora Boarealis Pigdon plays Annie’s pet pig and (arguably) steals the entire show

From The Ringwald’s website: “Written by Ringwald favorites Vince Kelley and Matthew Arrington … [the show] tells the story of Annie Willis, a lonely (slightly psychotic?) woman who lives in a remote cabin in Colorado. When she discovers a wrecked sleigh during a blizzard, she hauls the sole survivor back to her house to tend to him. When she discovers her patient is none other than St. Nick himself, Annie can’t believe her luck and she tries to persuade Santa to rewrite his Naughty and Nice lists to her liking. Will Santa’s Number One Fan succeed?”

Dyan Bailey is great boozy fun as Mrs. Claus, and Kelley vamps it up as Lauren Bacall. Production values are top notch, fully embracing The Ringwald’s unsung super powers around video design, editing, and execution. The cinematography and scenic design are polished and really add to the enjoyment. Unlike Theatre Nova’s offering, this one isn’t *quite* for kiddos, although teenagers of a certain satiric bent would adore it.

Bailey and Jacokes

The Ringwald is offering a bonus holiday cabaret, and, at a brisk and breezy 30 minutes, it is well worth a viewing. Again, from their website: “Also included with your ticket is the The Ringwald Holiday Cabaret, a new virtual cabaret with some of your favorite holiday melodies. The cabaret features Ringwald favorites: Kryssy Becker, Alisa Marie Chirco, Jordan Gagnon, Dante Hill, Christopher Kamm, Vince Kelley, Richard Payton, and Matthew Wallace. The cabaret is accompanied by Jeremy St. Martin.” Payton, Kamm, Gagnon, and Becker are particular standouts, with engaging delivery, articulating nicely the heartache and pathos underlying the “HAP-happiest time of the year.”

Both productions are streaming online. Theatre Nova’s performances are scheduled in order to maximize the interactivity, and The Ringwald’s show is video-on-demand. Ticket details follow…

I’M STREAMING OF AN ALRIGHT CHRISTMAS

Sun, Dec 20 5pm
Wed, Dec 23 7pm
Thurs, Dec 24 7pm
Sat, Dec 26 11am & 2pm
Sun, Dec 27 5pm

GET TICKETS HERE. Ticket holders will receive a link to click on to view and maybe even participate in the fun! Tickets are $10 (one viewer), $15 (two people), and $25 (family).

Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas

Tickets for Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas are available at three different giving levels: $20, $50, and $100. Performances stream December 4-31. Purchase here.

Once you purchase your ticket, an email will be sent to you which will include links for Have Yourself a MISERY Little Christmas, a virtual program, and a special bonus video, The Ringwald Holiday Cabaret. All of the videos are hosted on Vimeo. You can watch these on your phone/computer/tablet or, if you have the capability, you can stream them to your smart TV. (You can follow these steps to make it work).

The Sweetest Sounds” (click title for my rendition) from Richard Rodgers’ No Strings (later repurposed for the 1997 ABC/Disney television production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Brandy and Whitney Houston) … Want to join me in supporting a good cause? For my birthday this month (December 28 to be exact!), I’m raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Just click donate on this fundraising page: https://lnkd.in/eQ_NVZD

I’m a proud board member and have seen firsthand how every little bit helps. This little fundraiser is nearing the $3000 mark because of wonderful support from kind and generous friends like you! #keepingfamiliesclose

“The Sweetest Sounds” from No Strings
Charles the Puppy
Moan, Sandusky, Spencer

The Night Before Christmas with Pass The Time Players and yours truly

The Night Before Christmas read by yours truly – watch video here: https://fb.watch/2rMVQMOzDY/ … You’re welcome, America! 🎅🤣🎁 Thank you, Debbie DeCeco Lannen and Pass The Time Players, for having me!

Well, after nine months I finally wore a tie again. And jacket! For our Clark Hill town hall yesterday, I was honored to be asked to emcee a section on gratitude. We have so many wonderful people in our organization and they all contributed their thoughts, some written and some in video for the occasion.

Link to the video that we aired as part of the segment – thank you to my colleague Gloria Pak for her expert work on this: https://vimeo.com/488719637/c9cea08140

“Thank you for being a friend.” Want to join me in supporting a good cause? For my birthday this month (December 28 to be exact!), I’m raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Just click donate on this fundraising page: https://lnkd.in/eQ_NVZD

I’m a proud board member and have seen firsthand how every little bit helps. This little fundraiser is nearing the $2500 mark because of wonderful support from kind and generous friends like you!

Thanks to our donors since the last musical interlude: Mary Kimber, Guinevere Lehman Anderson, Gail Paul, Jan Anne Dubin, Tammy L. Zonker, Nathan Darling, Lauren Sargent, Zach London, Lauren M. London, Deborah Farone, Kim Perret, Randi Lou Franklin, Megan Hill. Love you! ❤️ … Thank you for your support.

“Thank you for being a friend.” Golden Girls

Quickly shifting sands of adolescence: The Never List

Teen melodrama often has been an effective cinematic metaphor for the human condition. When it’s done well – with pathos and wit – it can be transcendent: Clueless; Easy A; Booksmart; The Edge of Seventeen; Mean Girls; The Fault In Our Stars; Saved!; Love, Simon. There’s now one more to add to that auspicious collection of films: The Never List.

Deftly directed by Michelle Mower, from Ariadne Shaffer’s sensitive screenplay, The Never List details the challenges facing two tightly bonded childhood friends Liz (Brenna D’Amico) and Eva (Fivel Stewart) while navigating the slings and arrows of high school and what happens when tragedy befalls one of the pair.

Stewart and D’Amico are compelling, luminous presences, and their dynamic as lifelong friends is as engaging as it is ultimately heartbreaking. One of the key differentiators in this film versus comparable efforts is how believably teen life is depicted: messy, ugly, tempestuous, deep-feeling, loving, and, yes, kind. There is no shortage of bullying in the film, but it is authentically portrayed, notably in the light it shines on quickly shifting sands of adolescence (re: who doles out vs. who is victimized by bullying) … sometimes in the span of just one afternoon!

D’Amico and Stewart

The conceit of the film is that Liz and Eva, both straight-A over-achievers, have created impish, ill-behaved alter egos named “Vicky and Veronica” whose “never list” includes all the bad deeds they’d like to perform in real life but just … can’t. After the aforementioned tragedy, Eva, aided and abetted by neighborhood hooligans (with hearts of gold) Joey (Andrew Kai) and Taylor (Anna Grace Barlow), starts checking items off the list, spiraling to a point of no return that is at turns predictable and refreshingly dark.

Mower avoids the satirical light touch of, say, Mean Girls or Clueless, that might bring safe harbor to an audience, instead embracing the avant garde notion😉 that, well, nasty deeds hurt people and have consequences. Crazy that! Stewart turns in a nuanced performance, projecting beautifully the inscrutable and mercurial ways of a grieving teen.

Kai and Barlow offer a fresh take on the “bad influence” trope, revealing the sweetness at the core of the misunderstood and offering a nice redemption for those marginalized unfairly in the brutal gauntlet that is American high school.

Stewart, Barlow, and Kai

Mower has offered some fun “Easter eggs” in her casting as well for those who follow this genre. All of the aforementioned actors have cut their teeth in any number of Disney/CW/Netflix productions (e.g. The Descendants, Atypical, Supernatural), but the real surprises are Jonathan Bennett (AKA Mean Girls’ Aaron Samuels) and Keiko Agena (AKA Gilmore Girls’ Lane Kim) as, respectively, high school teacher Mr. Snyder and Eva’s mother Jennifer.

Bennett is a winsome presence, bringing brightness to his classroom scenes. Agena knocks it out of the park as Eva’s anxious, beleaguered helicopter-parent, bringing the rapid-fire spark she always had as Rory Gilmore’s bestie but with heartbreaking poignancy that only a few decades of real living can bring.

Bennett and Agena

Agena leaves it all on the field in her scenes and gives the film its emotional anchor, particularly in the film’s final act. Matt Corboy (from George Clooney’s – not Disney’s – The Descendants) is a great foil for Agena as her husband and Eva’s father, walking that fine line of sharing parental burdens while finding his own voice in the mix. Corboy and Agena have great chemistry, tracing realistically the trajectory of shared life through only a handful of scenes.

In addition to the exceptional ensemble, Mower has great fun using Eva’s pen and ink illustrations (she aspires to be a graphic novelist) to, literally, animate key moments in the film. Introduced about one-third of the way into The Never List, the cartoon versions of “Vicky and Veronica” offer silent commentary on the proceedings, adding some necessary comic relief without detracting from the film’s gravitas.

And the soundtrack is a pip too – angsty and poppy in all the right ways, consistent with the inner and outer lives of these rich characters.

Stewart and Kai

The film is in limited release and more info can be found here: https://www.neverlistmovie.com/. I do hope this challenging but fun, sweetly affirming film find its audience in these trying times. It’s a keeper and worth seeking out.

“More” from Dick Tracy

Want to join me in supporting a good cause? For my birthday this month (December 28 to be exact!), I’m raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Just click donate on this fundraising page: https://lnkd.in/eQ_NVZD

I’m a proud board member and have seen firsthand how every little bit helps. This little fundraiser is nearing the $2500 mark because of wonderful support from kind and generous friends like you!

Thanks to our donors-to-date: Gail Paul, Jan Anne Dubin, Tammy Zonker, Nathan Darling, Lauren Sargent, Zach and Lauren London, Deborah Farone, Kim Perret, Randi Lou Franklin, Megan Hill, Julie Flitz Maeder, Liz Doyle, Jon McHatton. Love you! ❤️

Thank you for your support.

#KeepingFamiliesClose