“Sometimes joy has a terrible cost.” Theatre NOVA & The Ringwald Theatre’s filmed co-production of A New Brain

A NEW BRAIN by William Finn and James Lapine, produced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre, via Broadway on Demand in June 2021. Artwork by Bob Hank.

A New Brain by William Finn (Falsettos, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and James Lapine (Falsettos, Into the Woods, Passion) is one of those musicals held in rapturous, nay obsessive esteem by the theater community but is virtually unknown by anyone who doesn’t know the difference between stage left and stage right. (Cue Hanna-Barbera’s Snagglepuss.)

And that’s a shame. Written in 1998, following Finn’s harrowing ordeal with brain surgery, this musical roman à clef resonates now more than ever, with its themes of isolation and stifled creativity, a jaded and callous medical industry, a business community that literally works its employees to their deathbeds, and ultimately the redemptive power of just slowing the eff down.

If you’ve never heard the clever score (that is part pastiche, part light poperetta, and all wit) via cast album nor ever seen a live production, then you are in luck … no matter what part of the world in which you live or how “busy” your schedule. Theatre NOVA, in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre, released a brilliant filmed co-production of A New Brain this weekend on Broadway on Demand.

(L to R): Jason Briggs, Vince Kelley, Diane Hill, Alaina Kerr, Richard Payton, Steve DeBruyne, Liz Schultz, and Arielle Crosby in A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine produced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre. Photo by Jake B. Turner.

From their press release:

By the Tony Award-winning authors of Falsettos, A New Brain is a life-affirming, heartfelt, often comical musical about a composer during a medical emergency. As doctors and nurses fly in and out of his room, trying to figure out what’s wrong with his brain, Gordon drifts in and out of consciousness as he contemplates his life, legacy, and the meaning of music – all while navigating his relationships with his best friend, mother, and boyfriend. A New Brain is an unexpectedly funny, relatable, and ultimately touching meditation on how beautiful the world is when we slow down enough to look.

With special permission and a unique COVID-19 Contingency License from Concord Theatricals, Theatre NOVA and The Ringwald Theatre shot the musical over a period of two weeks to ensure that all COVID protocols and safety procedures could be upheld. The cast spent the month of March learning and rehearsing the all-sung show over Zoom with music director R. MacKenzie Lewis. At the beginning of April, the cast transitioned to socially distanced and masked in-person music rehearsals at Theatre NOVA. Finally, with all of the cast and crew partially or fully vaccinated and all participants COVID-tested, director Vince Kelley and cinematographer Jake Turner rehearsed and shot the show over a 12-day period, scene by scene, with arduous planning about how it would all be stitched together in post-production. This schedule allowed them to have the fewest people in the theatre at once, but also provided very new experiences for the stage actors who were accustomed to rehearsing a play for 4-6 weeks. The crew and cast wrapped the filming on April 24.

Read that previous paragraph again. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

This production – which will be aired three weekends this PRIDE month of June (appropriate) – is one helluva feat of logistics and moxie. Yes, right now we are all starting to peek out our front doors like the Munchkins when Dorothy dropped that house on the Wicked Witch of the West. But several months ago, when this production was being devised, most of us still were more worried about buying groceries safely than figuring out how to stage and film a full-blown musical between two cross-regional theatre companies. Theatre people will not be contained. Remember that!

So I’d be impressed by this production under any circumstances. However, it’s so damn good that I forgot within minutes that this incredible crew had any constraints at all. That may be the best compliment I could provide. This gleaming production may have been forged in the fires of pandemic but it transcends the moment, reflecting our fraught human condition both today and tomorrow.

(L to R): Jason Briggs, Steve DeBruyne, Alaina Kerr, Diane Hill, Richard Payton, Vince Kelley, Arielle Crosby, Liz Schultz, and Jamie Richards in A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine produced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre. Photo by Jake B. Turner.

The cast includes Jason Briggs, Arielle Crosby, Steve DeBruyne, Diane Hill, Vince Kelley, Alaina Kerr, Richard Payton, Jamie Richards, and Liz Schultz. This ensemble is tight, both in their vocals and their stage relationships. Given the compressed/limited rehearsal and filming schedule, that is testament to their talent, professionalism, and performance history.

The production team includes Vince Kelley (director, costumer), R. MacKenzie Lewis (music director, musical tracks), Jake Turner (set designer, cinematographer, sound engineer, editor), Dan Morrison (lighting designer), Brandy Joe Plambeck (additional camera work), and Briana O’Neal (stage manager).

This is an all-star team, and it shows. The cinematography, lighting, sound, and edits are all on point. There is the occasional bit of mic buzz and a randomly disruptive cutaway shot or two, but on the balance the production is staged in a nicely polished way, balancing the visceral immediacy of live theatre with the more controlled and directive nature of film. It’s a pretty thrilling hybrid and great fun to watch performers heretofore only seen live in such a recorded setting.

Every actor has iconic moments. Kelley, being an actor himself, is clearly a director who knows how to frame actorly impulses to benefit both the individual performer and the overall needs of the narrative.

Payton has the heaviest lift, rarely leaving the stage, and he plays our protagonist Gordon with an impish poignancy and deeply layered inner life. Payton is so gifted, and one of his superpowers as a performer is bringing distinct clarity to the relationships his characters have with others onstage. That talent propels this piece to new heights, notably in his interactions with a crackling good Hill as Gordon’s mother and a luminous Kelley as his life partner Roger.

Hill’s numbers – both with Payton and solo – are all standouts: the wry neurosis of “Mother’s Gonna Make Things Fine,” the incendiary comedy of “Throw It Out,” and the smoldering regret of “Music Still Plays On.”

(L to R): Arielle Crosby and Vince Kelley in A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine produced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre. Photo by Jake B. Turner.

Crosby electrifies whenever she enters the picture as a wise and whimsical homeless person/Greek chorus. Her line delivery and physicality can be piercingly funny and deeply heartbreaking, depending on the moment, and her singing his divine.

Speaking of soaring vocals, someone get DeBruyne and Payton to record an album of pop standard duets stat. Kerr and Briggs are also great fun in a handful of ensemble parts, bringing deft comic chops and a much-appreciated nibble or two on the scenery.

The production design is sleek and efficient, with onstage lighting rigs that serve a host of purposes from operating room to MRI to nightclub bistro. Turner is wearing many hats, and the slick integration of cinematography and design roles is evident in the final product. Morrison does fine work with the lighting cues which remain overtly theatrical (appropriate for the piece) while honoring the more naturalistic needs of the camera.

And Lewis deserves special recognition for his music direction here. Onscreen at times and always accompanying the cast on piano, he has created a lush and enveloping soundscape without the benefit of orchestra or, well, much time. It’s a remarkable achievement.

(L to R): Richard Payton, R. MacKenzie Lewis, Diane Hill, Vince Kelley, Jason Briggs, and Liz Schultz in A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine produced by Theatre NOVA in collaboration with The Ringwald Theatre. Photo by Jake B. Turner.

My only critique would be that the latter third – focused as it primarily is on the fevered imaginings of our hero’s coma-afflicted mind – doesn’t feel particularly differentiated from the rest of the show. Not dissimilar to, say, the “Loveland” sequence in Follies or the musical numbers in Rob Marshall’s film treatment of Chicago, this section of A New Brain should take on a heightened, nightmarish quality. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite achieved here – other than a sequin or two, not much is offered to signal we as an audience are trapped in Gordon’s dreamscape. I don’t know that I have a recommendation but this is where the post-production that film affords (versus stage work) might have aided and abetted. But it’s a minor quibble.

Theatre NOVA and The Ringwald’s A New Brain is a revelation, attesting to the talent, ingenuity, and collaboration in our Southeast Michigan theatrical community. It is a show for the ages and should not be missed. Per one lyric in the number “And They’re Off,” “sometimes joy has a terrible cost.” Given the past year, we’ve all paid an extraordinary price for our safety and that of our loved ones. We all deserve a bit of joy now, so do yourself a favor and purchase a ticket for A New Brain.

A New Brain will be available ON DEMAND on June 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, and 20. Tickets are $25 per person. Ticket-holders may watch the show on Broadway On Demand on their computers, tablets, smartphones, and TV via the Broadway on Demand App, using AppleTV, Roku, all compatible Amazon Video devices. For tickets, visit www.TheatreNOVA.org.

From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured: Payton
From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured (L-R): Crosby, Kelley, Payton

From their press release:

Theatre NOVA is Ann Arbor’s resident professional theatre company. Its mission is to raise awareness of the value and excitement of new plays and playwrights and provide resources for playwrights to develop their craft by importing, exporting, and developing new work.

The Ringwald Theatre is based in Ferndale, and its mission is to engage diverse audiences through fresh, risk-taking theatrical experiences.
This activity is supported in part by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured: DeBruyne
From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured: Briggs

Vince Kelley (Director) just returned to the Detroit area and is very happy to be back. After a lifetime of telling people what to do, he decided to legitimize his behavior and try his hand at directing. With decades of acting under his belt, Vince has performed all over Metro Detroit, a few places in New York City, and a handful of National Tours. One day about a decade ago Joe Bailey from The Ringwald asked if he would be interested in costuming a production of “Hurlyburly” and since then he’s enjoyed working behind the scenes. Making his directorial debut at The Ringwald helming “Company” in 2018, that show also starred Richard Payton and Diane Hill. Vince is looking forward to what show he can direct Richard and Diane in next. Maybe “Escape to Margaritaville?”

From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured: Hill
From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured (L-R): Payton, Kelley

R. MacKenzie Lewis (Music Director, Tracks) is the composer/music director for Eastern Michigan University’s School of Communication, Media, and Theatre Arts and a lecturer and accompanist with the School of Music and Dance. Favorite projects outside of university life include music directing and orchestrating the National Tour and Off-Broadway premiere of “The Berenstain Bears Live! In Family Matters, The Musical,” “Titanic” and “Gypsy” at the Hangar Theatre in New York (Broadway World Award, Best Music Direction); “A Little Night Music” at the Performance Network (Wilde Award, Best Music Direction); “Legally Blonde” at MSU (Pulsar Award, Best Music Direction), “Irrational” (Composer, Wilde Award, Best New Script); and “Romance in Hard Times” with William Finn at the Barrington Stage Co. He composed music for the shows “Wings of Ikarus,” “Jason Invisible,” and “Mockingbird” (two Helen Hayes nominations), all of which were commissioned and premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.. Lewis has also composed the musicals: “Video Games: The Rock Opera,” “Treasure Island,” “Pinocchio,” “A Very British Christmas,” “Sugar Plum Panto,” “The Elves and the Schumachers,” and “Soaring on Black Wings,” a world premiere with Ben Vereen.

William Finn (Music/Lyrics/Book) is the writer and composer of “Falsettos,” for which he received two Tony Awards, Best Book of a Musical (with James Lapine) and Best Original Score. He has also written and composed In “Trousers,” “March of the Falsettos,” and “Falsettoland” (Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, two Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, the Lucille Lortel Award, and Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwriting). Mr. Finn wrote the lyrics to Graciela Daniele’s “Tango Apasionado” (music by the great Astor Piazzolla) and, with Michael Starobin, the music to Lapine’s version of “The Winter’s Tale.” His musical “Romance in Hard Times” was presented at The Public Theater. Recently, he wrote “Painting You for Love’s Fire,” a piece commissioned and performed by the Acting Company, based on Shakespeare’s sonnets. For television, Mr. Finn provided the music and lyrics for the Ace Award-winning HBO cartoon “Ira Sleeps Over,” “Tom Thumb and Thumbelina,” “Pokey Little Puppy’s First Christmas,” and, with Ellen Fitzhugh, two “Brave Little Toaster” cartoons. Mr. Finn has written for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New Yorker. A graduate of Williams College, where he was awarded the Hutchinson Fellowship for Musical Composition, Finn now teaches a weekly master class at the NYU Tisch Graduate Program in Musical Theatre Writing. His most recent projects include “Elegies, A Song Cycle” (Lincoln Center), “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which had a three-year run on Broadway and has been produced nationally and all over the world, and “Little Miss Sunshine” with James Lapine. For the past four years, he has been the Artistic Head of the Musical Theatre Lab at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured (L-R): Payton, Kerr, Schultz
From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured: Richards

James Lapine (Book) was born in 1949 in Mansfield, Ohio, and lived there until his early teens when his family moved to Stamford, Connecticut. He attended public schools before entering Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he majored in History. He went on to get an MFA in Design from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. After graduate school, he moved to New York City, where he worked part-time as a waiter; a page and tour guide at NBC; a free-lance photographer and graphic designer; and an architectural preservationist for the Architectural League of NY. One of his free-lance jobs was designing the magazine of the Yale School of Drama, Yale/Theater, then edited by Rocco Landesman and Robert Marx. The dean of the School of Drama, Robert Brustein, offered Lapine a full-time job designing all of the printed materials for the School of Drama and the Yale Repertory Theatre as well as a faculty position teaching a course in advertising design. While at Yale, his students urged him to direct a play during the annual January period when both faculty and students undertook a project outside of their areas of study or expertise. At their suggestion Lapine directed a Gertrude Stein play, “Photograph.” The play was five acts, and just three pages in length. Assembling students and friends, the play was presented in New Haven and came to the attention of director Lee Breuer, who helped arrange for a small performance space in Soho to present the work for three weeks. The production was enthusiastically received and won Lapine an Obie award. Lapine was approached to create a new piece for the Music-Theatre Group. He wrote and directed a workshop version of “Twelve Dreams,” a work inspired by a Jungian case history. The play was later presented at the Public Theatre and revived by Lincoln Center Theatre. Lapine eventually left the visual arts for a career in the theatre where he has also written and directed the plays “Table Settings,” “Luck, Pluck and Virtue,” “The Moment When,” “Fran’s Bed,” and “Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing.” He has written the book for and directed Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Into the Woods,” “Passion,” and the multi-media revue “Sondheim on Sondheim.” He also directed “Merrily We Roll Along” as part of Encores! at New York City Center. With William Finn, he has collaborated on “March of the Falsettos” and “Falsettoland,” later presented on Broadway as “Falsettos,” “A New Brain,” “Muscle,” and the soon to be produced, “Little Miss Sunshine” which will open at 2nd Stage Theatre. On Broadway, he has also directed David Henry Hwang’s “Golden Child,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Michel Legrand’s “Amour, “and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” He directed Jenny Allen’s solo piece “I Got Sick and Then I Got Better” with Darren Katz. Lapine directed the 2012 Broadway revival of Annie. He is co-producing and directing the upcoming HBO documentary “Six By Sondheim,” which is due to be released this winter. In the Spring of 2014, Lincoln Center Theater will produce his stage adaptation of the Moss Hart memoir, “Act One.” Lapine has also directed several productions off-Broadway as well as three films. He is the recipient of three Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2011, he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Lapine is a member of the Dramatist Guild Council and, for the last twelve years, has been a mentor for TDF’s Open Doors Program. He is also on the board of Ars Nova Theatre. He currently lives in New York City.

From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured (L-R): Payton, Schultz

Cast:

Jason Briggs (Richard)
Arielle Crosby (Homeless Woman)
Steve DeBruyne (Doctor)
Diane Hill (Mother)
Vince Kelley (Roger)
Alaina Kerr (Waitress/Nancy D.)
Richard Payton (Gordon)
Jamie Richards (Mr. Bungee)
Liz Schultz (Rhoda)

Production Team:

Director/Costume Designer: Vince Kelley

Music director/musical tracks: R. MacKenzie Lewis

Set design, cinematographer, sound engineer, editor: Jake Turner

Lighting design: Dan Morrison

Additional Camerawork: Brandy Joe Plambeck

Stage Management: Briana O’Neal

From Theatre NOVA’s Facebook page – pictured: ensemble

No one left the cake out in the rain: Legal Marketing Coffee Talk – #PRIDE Edition

Facebook VIDEO: https://fb.watch/5VdOeTARJ0/

YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PgWNbKBiX-g&feature=youtu.be

I have to say I am pretty damn proud of today’s show. Thank you, Terry Isner and Greg Griffin, for suggesting this and helping map out the approach and, Rob Kates, for being utterly amazing. In addition to Terry, we had gracious, candid, funny, loving guests in Keith Wewe and Amber Bollman. And my brilliant ma Susie Sexton is now EVERYONE’s ma. I’m so proud of her.

And our engaged and supportive commenters and friends Deborah McMurray, Heather Morse-Geller, Vivian Gorin Hood, Marcia Delgadillo, Tahisha Fugate, William Fitzgerald who kept the party going and helped us feel confident and loved every minute.

Yes, we laughed and shared deep truths. And there was singing. From I Will Survive to MacArthur Park, Don’t Leave Me This Way to Part of Your World. But, and I will only speak for myself, I suspect there will always be a part of any #LGBTQ+ professional worried about reception and approval and support. I know it felt very special to feel all of those things today. One hundred fold. #pride #loveislove #family 🌈

Our friend and fellow LMCT host Tahisha Fugate wrote, “Today’s episode of Legal Marketing Coffee Talk was one for the books. Do yourself a favor and catch the replay. The stories, the transparency, and of course the entertainment were phenomenal! You’ll also want to add a few songs to your playlist. … A special thanks to our wonderful host Roy Sexton and guests Keith Wewe , Amber Bollman, Terry M Isner and Roy’s mom (my favorite social mom).”

Terry wrote: “This was a big first for me, I am very comfortable being me, but never really discussed being me publicly like that, lol. … I love that the conversation has started and that our small community of legal marketing brothers and sisters are all in to create a community of acceptance and inclusion. … PRIDE is about everyone being proud to be themselves. 🐝 U but remember to 🐝Kind to everyone along the way.”

Happy Pride Month!🌈

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk (#PRIDE edition!) – Thursday, June 3, 3 pm ET

Looking forward to this conversation with Amber Bollman, Keith Wewe, and Terry Isner on Rob Kates’ / Kates Media: Video Production’s “Legal Marketing Coffee Talk (#PRIDE edition!)” sponsored by Jessica Aries’ By Aries. Thank you to Terry and to Greg Griffin, both of Jaffe, for devising and helping develop the idea. Thank you to By Aries’ Katelynn McGuire, as always, for the exceptional promotional support. 🌈 Don’t miss it, THIS Thursday at 3 pm ET.

Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/155057871244919/posts/4091182347632432/?d=n

YouTube Live: https://youtu.be/PgWNbKBiX-g

Official show description: Legal Marketing Coffee Talk kicks off PRIDE month in style on June 3 with a full house. Host Roy Sexton chats with fellow LGBTQ+ legal marketing mavens Amber Bollman (Director of Client Service at Barnes & Thornburg LLP), Keith Wewe (Vice President of Strategy and Solutions at Content Pilot LLC), and Terry M Isner (Owner/CEO, Marketing & Branding at Jaffe ).

This promises to be a special episode, full of laughter, insights, hard truths, and maybe a showtune or two. Our panel will discuss what challenges LGBTQ+ professionals face in our industry, what secret superpowers set them apart, what inclusion and equity looks like from their perspective, and what our collective future may hold. Don’t miss it!

Tune in Thursday, June 3rd at 3:00pm ET.

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

Toxic masculinity begins at home: The Four Horsemen’s film Life

The pandemic pushed my theatre friends to increasingly innovative avenues of creative expression. My pal Kyle Kimlick – we were in Farmington Players’ Legally Blonde the Musical together nearly ten (!) years ago – started an arts collective Four Horsemen with a few of his buddies. Kyle’s day job is helping manage automotive marketing events, but somehow he and his cohorts found time to film a 60-minute thriller last year. And a pretty damn good one.

I made the mistake of watching Life the other night right before bed. Don’t do that. I’ve had creepy dreams since. That’s how effective the piece is. From their website:

Nothing is as it seems as a sinister force puts strain on the relationship between two best friends, bringing out the best and worst in both of them and revealing the true nature of their relationship.

Kimlick

The project that started it all! We came together on a whim and made this movie during the beginning of lockdown. We’re extremely proud of it. If you can look past the amateur quality of the camera and sound at times, we think you’ll really enjoy what we put together.

P.S. watch it a second time for an entirely different experience….

Kyle plays one of said best friends, and his real life BFF Eli Ansara portrays the other. They are named “Kyle” and “Eli” in the film respectively (natch). AND they directed and wrote Life, also respectively.

Kimlick and Ansara

Like any good horror – think Stephen King, Twilight Zone, Hitchcock – the premise of Life is allegorical but based in a real-life dynamic. I suspect Kimlick’s and Ansara’s shared bachelor life is not dissimilarly grubby and devil-may-care as what is depicted in the film.

That said, capturing such a dynamic on film – notably guerrilla style – isn’t easy. Life succeeds at plumbing the natural love these two clearly feel for each other and, indicative of their generation’s sensibilities, doesn’t shy away from any homoerotic subtext in their otherwise heteronormative frat boy antics. That is refreshing.

Kimlick and Ansara

I don’t want to spoil the twists but there is, yes, a supernatural component. Think Groundhog Day as channeled by George Romero or Sam Raimi. Morgan Gagnon has a nicely spidery turn as the potential mystical catalyst for the boys’ troubles.

Gagnon

But don’t be mistaken. The problems Kyle and Eli incur are uniquely their own. That is likely what I appreciated the most. The film both celebrates and skewers the man-boy impulses of their age group, noting that toxic masculinity begins at home, between obsessive online gaming and rec room bar aspirations.

Ansara

The film is shot and edited in a compelling, grungy, skittering fashion. Blair Witch-esque but with a bit more élan. If I were to offer a critique or recommendation, it would be to trim a few minutes, primarily from scenes of the boys’ party antics. Those sequences do set up context for how primal their living situation has become, but ultimately they pull focus from the unraveling mystery of Kyle awaking every morning in the nearby woods.

The film is currently free to view on the Four Horsemen’s website and is well worth checking out. This arts collective is one to watch as they also promise offerings in poetry, DJ sets, design, and more. Pandemic has been good in some strange and surprising ways.

Kimlick and Ansara

Being Anti-Social? Law Firms Need to Be More Outgoing and Consider Social Media | LeXFactor Podcast with yours truly

Thank you to Lexicon’s Lauren and Brad for your bright light, joy, and insight!

LISTEN HERE: https://youtu.be/b7o8o7XqkaM

“In this episode of The LeXFactor, a lawfully good podcast, Lexicon Services Brand Manager Lauren Hoffman and CIO Brad Paubel are joined by Roy Sexton, Director of Marketing, Clark Hill Law, in discussing now that the world we live in is fully digital – what does that mean for using content marketing to drive a brand message when things like sponsorships and in person events are no longer available?

“Download this episode now to also hear discussions related to questions such as: Is social media finally accepted fully by all?; Social media used to be seen as this ‘other’ channel, delegitimized by its newness and its risk, so isn’t it an essential part of any brand conversation?

“Learn more about Lexicon’s holistic suite of practice management technology and services, which includes marketing services for law firms of any size, that liberate law firms to do more of what they do best – practice law.”

Life is far too short: Mental Health Awareness Month … thank you, Kate Harry Shipham, for including my thoughts in your article

Thank you, Kate Harry Shipham, for including my thoughts in this timely, important piece: http://www.khspeople.com/1/post/2021/05/may-mental-health-awareness-month-lets-talk-about-it.html

Kate writes, “May is ‘Mental Health Awareness Month’. I’m not sure I can remember a more important time to acknowledge this and have a real conversation about mental health.

“Luckily, I see a positive change in our firms; there is more of a willingness to have the conversation, continue the conversation, and show vulnerability when it comes to the topic of mental health.

“I have asked some of our marketing friends – Logan Tracey, Cheryl Foster, Roy Sexton, Tahisha Fugate, Jennifer Gessner Shankleton – to share how they are trying to avoid burnout and how they are looking after themselves. Burnout is an issue I’ve been watching closely (and providing data on). It is a very real topic for marketers right now. Put another way, self-care is critically important and these marketers capture this sentiment beautifully.

“These sentiments highlight good self care and positive mental health practices for us all to take in and replicate.”

Kate writes: “Roy is a shining beacon for all of us. His ability to share and show vulnerability with his work family is inspirational.” Thank you, Kate! My contribution to her article follows:

“I do feel like I’ve been burning the candle at every end possible. I’m not sure there’s any wick left! That said, I’ve also found this to be a strangely rewarding time because it has, at times, leveled the playing field, allowed us marketers to drive our firms toward digital tactics that actually work, and has afforded us a kind of singular focus one rarely gets in this career. But that comes at a price – low energy, neglected relationships, no exercise, spending far too much money at Amazon.

“I’m trying to ease back into balance and reclaim my time. Shutting down the computer at 5:30 or 6 instead of 7 or 8. Avoiding work email on the weekends. Taking walks with my husband. I’m also more forthcoming than I’ve ever been with colleagues and leaders about what I need for balance, and the response has been positive. By the way, THEY are feeling it too. But none of us are necessarily brave enough to be the first to say it out loud. Sometimes that is the best way to resilience – telling people how you feel. And if they can’t accept that or don’t want to, life is far too short to put your energy into a person or organization so selfish.”

Catnip cocktails, Robert Mitchum and authentic humanity: today’s Legal Marketing Coffee Talk with Jaffe’s Greg Griffin

FACEBOOK VIDEO: https://fb.watch/5kniObvbzj/

YOUTUBE: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qy70GlQjrco&feature=youtu.be

Rob Kates and I had a delightful chat with superstar Greg Griffin of Jaffe. Rob and I also learned our mothers have the same birthday, and we heard from my mom Susie Sexton that apparently Robert Mitchum has been paying her nightly visits. 😳

Greg shared with us the joys of his new role at Jaffe, the importance of authenticity and listening in effective business development, his commitment to volunteering and fitness, and how he gave the Houston mayor a catnip (nee mint) mojito. Missed opportunity: he didn’t bring his adorable pup on camera!

Learn more about Greg and read the Houston Chronicle feature about him (and referenced in today’s show) here: https://www.jaffepr.com/our-team/greg-griffin

Show mentions include: Terry M Isner , Vivian Hood , Melanie Trudeau , Evyan O’Keefe , Amy Verhulst , Gigi Zientek , Jenna Schiappacasse , Heather Morse , Megan McKeon , Nancy Myrland , Gina Furia Rubel (she/her) 🌏 , Laura Toledo , Lindsay Griffiths , Gail Lamarche , Deborah Brightman Farone , Sally Schmidt , Clayton Dodds , Cheryl Bame , Robin Devereux Gerard , Andrew Laver , Tahisha Fugate, MBA [she/her] , Jessica Aries (she/her/hers) , Stacy Monohan Payne, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and Howard the Duck. 🦆

I adore my Clark Hill colleague Emilie Strozier McCarthy. She always knows exactly what I need to hear and/or see … and this image is no exception. I am so happy that serendipity brought us together. She has made me a better human being and professional. We will be friends for life.

This Thursday! Legal Marketing Coffee Talk guest Jaffe’s Gregory Griffin with yours truly

This week’s Legal Marketing Coffee Talk guest is Gregory Griffin, who recently joined Jaffe PR as Senior Vice President, Client Service. Roy Sexton and Greg will discuss keeping conversation strategic when coaching attorneys on business development opportunities and how this pandemic has turbo-charged those efforts, and Greg’s exciting, new role at Jaffe to share his insights as a legal industry consultant.

Greg will also share his fitness journey as a half-marathoner and how his cerebral palsy has given him a drive to succeed and an empathy that fuels his extensive community volunteering. Recently listed by the Houston Business Journal as one of its ‘40 Under 40,’ Greg consistently gives back to his community, profession and others.

Tune in Thursday at 3:00pm ET, https://youtu.be/qy70GlQjrco.


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

Alchemic, essential, transfixing: Theatre NOVA’s latest Play of the Month … The W.I.T.C.H

History shows that, when the majority in rule starts to feel that they are losing their cultural hegemony, they get ugly and they go on the attack, no matter what lip service they provide to the contrary. Even in some of my volunteer board service recently, I have seen it from others in ways that truly have shocked me.

My mother and I were having this conversation yesterday. The wonderful thing in this moment is that those who have been forced to live in the margins now have access to so many megaphones – digital and otherwise – by which to tell their stories and hopefully cement positive, permanent change.

One such example is Theatre NOVA’s latest “Play of the Month”: The W.I.T.C.H, a firecracker of a show, written and performed by incisive, chameleonic Morgan Breon and ably directed by Diane Hill with a keen eye toward economy of space, dance-like movement, and the rich language of the text itself. (THE W.I.T.C.H. stands for Wound Intervention Through Care and Healing.)

From the press release: “Theatre NOVA, Ann Arbor’s professional theatre with an exclusive focus on new plays and playwrights, presents a new play written specifically for the Zoom format each month (January through April) with their PLAY OF THE MONTH series. ‘THE W.I.T.C.H’ by Morgan Breon, the fourth offering in the series, will be performed live on Zoom on Wednesday, April 28 at 8pm and available ON DEMAND for Series Pass holders through the end of May 2021.

“‘THE W.I.T.C.H.’ shows the joys, pains, and struggles of Ms. Morgan, a newly hired Behavior Specialist at a Detroit public high school. When hope begins to crack open her students’ hearts and minds, Ms. Morgan’s office might just be the most dangerous room in the entire school. Directed by Theatre NOVA Producing Artistic Director, Diane Hill. Featuring Morgan Breon in a tour de force role as she portrays an array of characters in the public school setting including a behavior specialist, students, teachers and administrators.”

And that press release isn’t just hype. It is one of the most accurate descriptions I have seen in a press release about a piece of work in a long time. Morgan Breon in style and delivery is like this wondrous combination of Anna Deavere Smith and Zoe Caldwell. She is alchemic and transfixing. A one person show is never easy, let alone holding the audience’s rapt attention via Zoom for 30 minutes.

Like quicksilver, she depicts a host of characters – from teachers to multiple teenagers to school administrators – gracefully, sharply, rapidly morphing from one to the next, each clearly drawn and distinct. It is a remarkable performance, made that much more significant in service as it is to a message of inclusion and of the necessity for all of us to break down the fears that hold us back from authentic connection.

Highly recommend!

Note: the performance was followed by a talk-back about the play and the desensitization to trauma amongst youth experiences in and out of school. Interested attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and join the discussion.

Tickets are $10 each month, or $30 for a Series Pass, which includes admission to four plays for the price of three and the opportunity to view all four plays ON DEMAND if any of the live performances are missed. Purchase tickets online at www.TheatreNova.org. All proceeds benefit Theatre NOVA’s ongoing efforts to stay alive through the pandemic. This activity is supported in part by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Morgan Breon (playwright/performer) earned four degrees from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor—none of which are in theatre. She holds an: LLMSW, EdMA, BA Psychology and BA English. She kick-started her theatre career playing 15 of the 16 characters featured in Nilaja Sun’s, “NO CHILD” at Matrix Theatre Company. Morgan is an ensemble member of Shakespeare in Detroit and is an alumnus of Mosaic Youth Theater in Detroit, University of Michigan’s CRLT Players, and the University of Michigan Educational Theatre Company and has received awards for her plays “WAKING UP ALIVE” and “PORTRAIT OF A WISE WOMAN.” Morgan was a 2017 Mitten Lab Fellow, 2017-2018 University Musical Society (UMS) Artist in Residence, 2018 Playwriting Scholarship Recipient with PlayPenn Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, and a 2018 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellow. Her docu-play “TELLING OUR STORIES” platforms the narratives of Black women in America, and a technology-infused version of the project was showcased at the 2018 TEDxDetroit Lab in collaboration with Metropolitan Museum of Design Detroit. The exhibit told stories through QR codes, and was entitled “smART: Telling Our Stories | Black Women in America.” In December, 2020, Morgan published “A Refugee of Me: A Collection of Poems and A Refugee of Me: The Workbook,” which uses poetry to guide readers into self-reflection and healing. Morgan credits Jesus Christ for her gifts of anything creative.

Diane Hill (Director) is a Producing Artistic Director at Theatre NOVA and was founder and Artistic/Executive Director of Two Muses Theatre, another nonprofit, professional theatre in West Bloomfield. There she performed in and directed many plays and musicals each year and did the work of technical director, publicist, sound designer, webmaster, and graphic designer for every production. Diane was a professor at University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland Community College, where she originated and designed the Theatre degree program. She has a Ph.D. in Theatre from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts in Theatre from the University of Michigan. She previously taught high school drama and music, where she produced and directed theatrical productions in the public school system (Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor) for 20 years. Diane has additionally produced and directed shows for professional theatre companies including Breathe Art Theatre Company in Detroit, Opus Mime in Ann Arbor, Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield, Tipping Point Theatre in Northville, and Heartlande Theatre Company in Detroit. Diane is an award-winning actor and member of Actors’ Equity Association and the American Guild of Musical Artists and has performed at many professional theatres in southeast Michigan, including the Fisher Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, Masonic Temple, Michigan Opera Theatre, Detroit’s Gem Theatre, Purple Rose Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Encore Musical Theatre, Croswell Opera House, Open Book Theatre, The Ringwald Theatre and Cherry County Playhouse. She was awarded a Wilde Award for her portrayal of Professor Vivian Bearing in “WIT,” a Rogue Critic’s Award for her work as Mama in “‘NIGHT MOTHER,” both with Breathe Art Theatre Project, and an Ann Arbor News Award for her work as Agnes in “I DO! I DO!” at Kerrytown Concert House. Diane also has performed leading roles in several independent films, television and radio commercials, and industrial films. At Theatre NOVA, she directed “CLUTTER,” “FOLLIES IN CONCERT” and “KILL MOVE PARADISE” (Council Cargle Award for Excellence in Diverse Storytelling) and has kept very busy this year producing, directing and stage managing several Zoom plays written especially for Theatre NOVA. Theatre NOVA audiences saw her play Olympe de Gouges in “THE REVOLUTIONISTS” (Wilde Award Best Production), Zelda in “THE HOW AND THE WHY” (Wilde Award Best Actress), Penelope Easter in “THE TOTALITARIANS,” Sherri in “ADMISSIONS” and Phyllis in “FOLLIES IN CONCERT.”

Eversheds Sutherland’s Dominic Ayres with Rob Kates and yours truly on Legal Marketing Coffee Talk

FACEBOOK VIDEO: https://fb.watch/4C9THLrfGN/

YOUTUBE: https://youtu.be/O4QKfSWdxDQ

Rob’s original doggo Oliver –
April 1 was his “gotcha day”

Eversheds Sutherland’s Dominic Ayres – as well as my precious mom Susie Sexton! – joined us to chat today about business development and client engagement in this new age.

We had a rich and robust conversation about the power of client teams, bringing humanity into your conversations with clients, anticipating their needs through empathy, being aware of social issues and expectations, the importance of diversity and inclusion in those conversations, and proper data and reporting being essential to the process.

Shout outs in the show to Brenda Pontiff, Timothy Corcoran, Mari Hutchinson, Don Sexton, Stefanie Marrone, Nancy Slome, Joe Biden, trains, Star Wars, beloved dogs, kids, Legal Marketing Association – LMA International, and Greatest Showman.

Enjoy!

Show description: This week our guest on Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is Dominic Ayres, the Senior Client Development Manager – Industrials Sector at Eversheds Sutherland. He and Roy Sexton will discuss the approaches Dominic and Eversheds have taken to supercharge client development in these quarantine days. Dominic will address Eversheds’ Global KAM with its greater focus on protecting and investing resources in a smaller set of clients.

Dominic and Roy will also talk about developing content with which clients actually want to engage, getting closer to the clients in ways meaningful to them, firms becoming more than just “external lawyers” but connected advisors, and the rapidly evolving value and roles of Business Development and Marketing professionals in those processes.

They may also talk about what it’s like to work from home with three little ones in England during this pandemic, Dominic’s love of Star Wars and superheroes, building a home gym in one’s garage, and playing Greatest Showman dress-up with one’s children.

Dominic’s closet

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