WBEZ | Hungry Artists http://www.wbez.org/tags/hungry-artists Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Actress saving her energy for her art http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/actress-saving-her-energy-her-art-100763 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/katy montage 1.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 600px; " title="Katy Albert in her Logan Square apartment. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div></div><p><em>I met Katy Albert at her apartment in Logan Square, a space that isn&#39;t quite like a typical 24-year-old&rsquo;s. Albert has turned her abode (and its basement) into a performance space and workshop. Despite the art that literally surrounds her, at this point in her life, the Washington State native wants a job that leaves her creative energies free for her art -- at least for now. She&#39;s happy with her &quot;pays-the-bills job&quot; at a catering company, but also admits she doesn&#39;t want to be there when she&#39;s 35. The hard part is figuring out where she does want to be and how to get there.</em></p><p><em><strong>The beginning</strong></em></p><p>I started theater young. I wouldn&rsquo;t say either of my parents know much about theater, but they&rsquo;re super supportive and came from a really supportive community where there were a lot of opportunities to pursue creative endeavors. And there were good programs already set for children who wanted to do theater. So I think it makes sense [that I&#39;m doing this now].<br /><br /><em><strong>Having a day job you don&#39;t hate</strong></em>...<br /><br />I got to Chicago, I just sort of wanted to move. I got done with college &hellip; and didn&rsquo;t have a place to go but knew that I didn&rsquo;t want to stay in Washington, and just sort of picked Chicago. I didn&rsquo;t know anyone here. I have an aunt in the suburbs, and I knew that there was one person that had gone to my college that lived here, but I didn&rsquo;t know them very well until I moved. And then I made fast friends with them because I didn&rsquo;t have any other friends.<br /><br />I temped for a little while. I got this like terrible job that I held for maybe a week at this waffle place, where they asked for actors. And it was on <em>Craigslist</em> and I was like &lsquo;No one asks for actors, what&rsquo;s up with this?!&rsquo; And that&rsquo;s because they wanted you to memorize all these sort of prompts about waffles and then shout them out to people in the street to get them to come in. And so I did two days of training and then never went back. Like, I don&rsquo;t need the $40 paycheck, I just need to get out of here. And then (I) worked at law firm for a little while. And it <em>was </em>sort of bleak &hellip;</p><p>I started auditioning like a couple weeks after I got here and &hellip; that winter I was in a play at the <a href="http://www.therbp.org/">Right Brain Project</a> &hellip; And that was really great, because I met a lot of actors quickly, I got to be involved in a process quickly and have all my spare time sort of taken up by doing theater and auditioning and having the people that I met sort of expose me to the Chicago theater scene.</p><p><em><strong>So you can pursue your art</strong></em></p><p>I work at a catering company. And it&rsquo;s great. It&rsquo;s a catering company in Wicker Park so I can bike there and it&rsquo;s really close, it&rsquo;s really flexible. I really like working and I don&rsquo;t really care if it&rsquo;s in a theatrical field at all. I would prefer something to be super flexible and be totally apart from any sort of artistic venture than something to be really strict and demand a lot of my time and not allow me to pursue the theater that I&rsquo;m really passionate about, which is the stuff that I create myself.<br /><br />And actually, it&rsquo;s fun and easy and it&rsquo;s nice to, like, not have to devote a lot of like mental creative energy to my job so I can sort of save that for theater and just making ideas.<br /><br />I don&rsquo;t particularly want to work for a catering company when I&rsquo;m 35. And so I guess I would like either to invest more of my time and sort of turn, maybe like a nonprofit or arts job into like my primary way of making money. &hellip; I think I see jobs in the arts and jobs in theaters that are jobs that I can imagine having and enjoying and getting as much back from them as I could give to them, in a way that isn&rsquo;t creatively stifling. &hellip; And I think I would like those jobs.<br /><br />There are still days where you wake up and you&rsquo;re like, &lsquo;Oh man. There&rsquo;s no chance that I&rsquo;m going to go into something that&rsquo;s maybe a little more lucrative or&nbsp; &hellip; that has the upward mobility that I imagine that some actual jobs (have) &hellip; It seems like the possibility for salary is limited in theater. And I think that when I&rsquo;m blinded by reality some cold mornings (laughs) it can be sort of depressing. But then that night I&rsquo;m doing theater, and it&rsquo;s exactly what I want to be doing.<br /><br />Right now I&rsquo;m entertaining the idea of having like a nonprofit buildshop for artists &hellip; so that people can have all their tools in one place &hellip; I mean I know a lot of set designers who have just crazy amount of tools because they&rsquo;re like, if I&rsquo;m building for a small theater company, I&rsquo;m not going to have any of this so I have to own it myself. &hellip; But who knows if that&rsquo;ll ever come to fruition. That&rsquo;s my dream idea of the nonprofit company I want this month (laughs).</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/katy montage 2_0.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 600px; " title="Albert's home is filled with works in progress and works from the past. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div></div></div><p><em><strong>Working for the future</strong></em><br /><br />Right now I&rsquo;m working with a performance duo called<a href="http://mothergirlperformance.com/"> Mothergirl</a>, and it&rsquo;s me and actually my roommate Sophia. And we started, we met in college &hellip; we had similar artistic desires and visions and so we decided to form a performance duo.<br /><br />Right now, we&rsquo;re building a giant muffin for a cabaret night that we&rsquo;re doing that&rsquo;s associated with <a href="http://www.foodperformance.org/">Food and Performance</a>. So I&rsquo;m thinking about, oh, we need to cut the foam tonight, and we need to finalize our script, and we need to buy our miscellaneous materials and start working on it. And then I think long-term about, well, we need to start working on long-term projects, we need to start applying for bigger grants or, do we want to do more gallery stuff, do we want to do more theater stuff, where are those opportunities, how do we get them?<br /><br />If I could see a transition happening in me from college to my first year in Chicago to now, I&rsquo;d say that in college I was sort of concerned, I was coming out of a theater program that was very geared on auditioning and performing. And when I first moved to Chicago, I was also auditioning and performing and waiting for that validation &ndash; the company wants you to be in this play, this director likes your work, this reviewer is interested in you as a performer, and while those things are still wonderful to hear, wonderful to get, as a performer it&rsquo;s becoming clear to me through making my own work that getting my idea out to people is a lot more gratifying &hellip; so I think it&rsquo;s more of, what&rsquo;s out there in art and what can I create myself than trying to (pauses) be really good at getting people to like me.<br /><br />As far as an end goal of wanting to be famous &hellip; that doesn&rsquo;t really cross my mind as something that appeals to me &hellip; I think long-term goals of having a strong community, whether that&rsquo;s in Chicago or somewhere else. When I started, I moved here initially not knowing anyone, I gave myself five years, I was like, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m just going to stick with it five years, and the first year&rsquo;s going to be really tough because I don&rsquo;t know anyone so I&rsquo;m just going to be lonely.&rsquo;<br /><br />I needed to give myself enough time to kind of get over the rockier stuff.</p></p> Fri, 20 Jul 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/actress-saving-her-energy-her-art-100763 The Comedian who's struggling with just what fame means http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/comedian-whos-struggling-just-what-fame-means-100765 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/julia montage 2.5.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 519px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="Julia Solomon in her North Side apartment. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /><em>It&rsquo;s impossible to not laugh when talking to Julia Solomon, both with her and at her, at least a little </em><em>&ndash;</em><em> and she knows and relishes it. When we met, the 21-year-old <a href="https://twitter.com/JuliaRSolomon">stand-up comedian</a> was brutally honest about her desire for fame, relative fortune and just getting people to like her. Well, not like her, but at least like her work.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; "><em>Wanting to be liked is something most comedians readily admit to,&nbsp;</em><em>and so we discussed this issue in depth, especially after&nbsp;</em><em>discovering our mutual love for </em>WTF with Marc Maron<em>, a podcast where comedians share their innermost neuroses and the economic realities of trying to pursue their craft. Even in her moments of insecurity, Solomon is steadfast in her devotion to comedy and possesses a confidence that seems necessary to get to the level of success she desires.&nbsp;</em><em style="text-align: center; ">Solomon might not have a plan B, which, given the economic realities of her field could seem a little crazy, but perhaps that&#39;s what it takes to get what she really wants.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div></div><p><em><strong>You like me, you really do</strong></em><br />I go to Columbia [College]. I&rsquo;m in my third year here. I started off as a theater major my freshman year. And then I switched over to television writing and producing, just because I wanted to be able to learn &hellip; video editing and producing and things that, and I didn&rsquo;t really like the theater major there. So I started doing that, and I should be done next year, but we&rsquo;ll see (laughs).<br /><br />I&rsquo;m from Buffalo. I wanted to be in a city, so this really appealed to me. They have a program here where you can do Second City and get college credits so I was like, &lsquo;Oh I really want to do that&rsquo; &ndash; even though I haven&rsquo;t done that and probably actually won&rsquo;t now that I&rsquo;ve been here.<br /><br />I always thought I was hilarious, I always thought I was really funny. That was my thing, that was how I made friends and stuff. Just a smarta**. I would do like voices in class to make the kids laugh and I used to do like a New Yorker voice and everybody thought it was so funny &hellip; I mean it&rsquo;s not even good, but for a 4th-grader pretty impressive maybe. I&rsquo;d be like &lsquo;Cmon let&rsquo;s get a coffee and a bagel and we&rsquo;ll talk,&rsquo; and they&rsquo;re just like &lsquo;Oh my gosh, you&rsquo;re so funny!&rsquo;</p><p>But I always just thought I would be kind of like a Molly Shannon. Or any of the girls on <em>SNL (Saturday Night Live)</em>, doing goofy characters and acting and stuff like that. So I always wanted to do comedy but I didn&rsquo;t see it as doing comedy; I just thought of it as doing acting. And then I kind of just started being aware of stand up and I liked that because you get to do whatever you want &hellip;<br /><br />I was never the one to make my family laugh, so I guess that&rsquo;s why I wanted to do that. &hellip; Sometimes they&rsquo;re like, &lsquo;Okay, you need to cool it.&rsquo; But I&rsquo;ve always made my mom laugh and she has a great sense of humor.<br /><br /><em><strong>The bad student...</strong></em><br />I really don&rsquo;t like being in college. I&rsquo;m a very bad student, I&rsquo;m not good at doing work. I don&rsquo;t know what it is. Either I can&rsquo;t handle &hellip; it&rsquo;s not even that big of a workload, but I can&rsquo;t handle it as little as it is, and then I&rsquo;m just really bad at time management and making sure I get everything done.<br /><br /><em><b>...Who loves comedy</b></em><br />I don&rsquo;t know that I would have sought out an open mic &hellip; I mean I&rsquo;m sure eventually. It was just kind of like, they had it at the school and I was like &lsquo;Oh, yeahhh, I&rsquo;m going to do that.&rsquo;<br /><br />I was nervous &hellip; I just talked about orientation and it was like really dumb &hellip; there were just condoms everywhere that they were handing out. And I was just like (weird voice) &lsquo;I think they want us to have <em>sex </em>with each other.&#39; And everyone&rsquo;s like &#39;Oh my God,&#39; like roaring with laughter. And I was like, &#39;Yeah guys.&#39; It was ridiculous.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s why I was really scared to do my first open mic [at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy] because I was like, everybody&rsquo;s going to be so old. And then I went with somebody so then I was nervous because I didn&rsquo;t want them to think I was a loser &hellip; So I abandoned all my jokes and wrote new ones that weren&rsquo;t jokes yet &ndash; which is fine to do at an open mic but &hellip; I just didn&rsquo;t really get what was going on yet or what I was supposed to do.<br /><br />&hellip; I was a mess. I got &ndash; first of all &ndash; so dressed up. Like, big dangly earring(s) ... I got all dolled up, and then I got nervous so then I drank. &hellip; I didn&rsquo;t know a lot about stand-up but I knew people bombed. And I was like, &#39;Ugh, well, it didn&rsquo;t happen the first time so I guess it&rsquo;s going to happen now.&#39; And then that was still in my head and it totally did happen.<br /><br />I didn&rsquo;t understand that you had to go out all the time to get better so I like, thought I was a stand-up but I would go out once every two months. Really randomly. Like the school had open mics once a month and I would go to that.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/julia montage 1_1.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 600px; " title="A home filled with comic influences. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div><br /><p><em><strong>...who&#39;s figuring it out</strong></em></p><p>The Lincoln Lodge is really awesome. I guess that&rsquo;s my big thing this year. Aside from getting stage time there, we&rsquo;re all producers. So basically that means we each have specific jobs and we have to make sure we&rsquo;re selling tickets and promoting it and booking people and doing duties and stuff.<br /><br />I&rsquo;ve never had a place (before) where I&rsquo;ve gotten to go up a lot. Even though I want to do well it&rsquo;s not the pressure of, well, if I don&rsquo;t do well they&rsquo;re not going to book me again. Because at least why I was brought on was not because I was at a level that I&rsquo;m like, &lsquo;Yeah, I&rsquo;m really awesome.&rsquo; But I think they saw a potential in me so that was very nice.&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>To be famous</strong></em><br />I&#39;m so lucky that my parents are supporting me as long as I&rsquo;m in college, so at least for the next two years &ndash; and I&rsquo;m sure as long as I guilt them and they don&rsquo;t lose their jobs &ndash; I don&rsquo;t think I&rsquo;ll be on the streets. But it&rsquo;s important to me to be able to, not necessarily rely on them which is why I&rsquo;m like, well, I guess I&rsquo;ll get a job at Bloomingdales.<br /><br />I used to really just want to be famous but (now), I just want to be able to not have to work at Bloomingdales and do comedy, but also be like, not recognized but like, have recognition in the industry &hellip; not necessarily where I walk down the street and people are like, &lsquo;Oh hey,&rsquo; but people are like, &lsquo;Yes, I know that comic, she&rsquo;s great to work with, let&rsquo;s book her.&#39; And oh, also be a star.<br /><br />I love Chicago, I love living here, I love all the people here, so it&rsquo;s not like a thing like, I can&rsquo;t wait to live in New York or I can&rsquo;t wait to live in L.A., but yeah, I want to be on that next level where I have to be in those locations.<br /><br />What I think is if I keep doing this, really doing this and working hard, how can it just not happen? And obviously it couldn&rsquo;t, and I used to worry about that a lot. &hellip; But it&rsquo;s like, as long as I&rsquo;m able to make a living as a comedian, I guess that&rsquo;s making it &hellip; Sometimes I get bummed out about it and I&rsquo;ll just be &ndash; I used to really put so much pressure on myself: &#39;I don&rsquo;t know what I&rsquo;m doing, what am I doing, why would I ever go to New York, I&rsquo;m not funny enough.&#39; But &hellip; Phyllis Diller didn&rsquo;t start doing stand-up until she was 37 and she already had five kids. And I&rsquo;m 21. So if in 10 years or 16 years, how can I not be somewhere in like at least 16 years. &hellip; If you just work so hard, there just can&rsquo;t possibly be a way that you&rsquo;re not going to succeed, I feel.</p><p><em>The transcript above features an extended version of the interview.&nbsp;Explore more stories from Chicago&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/hungry-artists-100849">Hungry Artists</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Jul 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/comedian-whos-struggling-just-what-fame-means-100765 The puppeteer who loves food stamps http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/puppeteer-who-loves-food-stamps-100764 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mike alone.jpg" style="height: 345px; width: 600px; " title="Mike Oleon in his Logan Square apartment. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; "><em>Mike Oleon, a quirky guy who knows what he does can be considered weird, is focused. The puppeteer, 26 when we met, doesn&rsquo;t see much reason to stray from what he&rsquo;s doing, even though what he&rsquo;s doing is far from a quote-unquote &ldquo;regular&rdquo; career. (As <a href="http://www.mikeo.net/new.mikeo.net/">his website says</a>, &ldquo;web. graphics. puppets?!) Oleon knows what he likes and he&rsquo;s comfortable with it and it doesn&rsquo;t much matter that things can be hard. Originally an actor, Oleon got sick of competing for parts against so-called beautiful people, who he feels don&#39;t reflect reality, and ended up with puppets. Yet because he&#39;s so confident in his decision, Oleon is incredibly calm about existing at a basic level of survival (at least for now) because he gets to do this art. Oh, and if you&rsquo;re listening to the audio and wondering what this amazing performance you&rsquo;re hearing is and what it looks like, it&rsquo;s <a href="https://vimeo.com/user4962616/videos">this</a>.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div></div></div></div><p><em><strong>Being a weird kid</strong></em><br /><br />People still show me the scars (from when I bit them). They&rsquo;re like, &lsquo;Hey Mike, how&rsquo;s it going, remember that time when you were 8 and you bit me? So I was kind of a strange and rambunctious, spastic child. I don&rsquo;t know if I was artistic; I was pretty weird.<br /><br />My mom &hellip; was always nuturing of the weird and creative side of things. She didn&rsquo;t necessarily see my strange behavior as a bad thing. She kind of just wanted to foster it into something that was productive. So that turned into theater. And I found out that I enjoyed being on stage far more than doing more normal things. Not that stage is such a strange thing to be doing in high school, but my dad really wanted me to do sports, like baseball and cross-country, but the structure of them wasn&rsquo;t quite working for me. But playing pretend on stage for an hour and a half, two hours at a time, that seemed really appealing.<br /><br /><em><b>Cross-country</b></em><br /><br />I went to school in Los Angeles, and I went to UCLA and I studied musical theater there. &hellip; And I had a couple of friends who, they moved out here a year before I did, which was really helpful because they paved the way for a lot of things, for my coming here. But I knew I wanted to live in a city that had more theater. A lot more theater.&nbsp;<br /><br />We all came out, and we started a theater company together. We actually moved into a storefront space, we called it the Roughhouse., and it&#39;s still the name of our theater company, Roughhouse &hellip; which was great, because we had this big open space where we could throw parties, theater-oriented parties where we&rsquo;d have live performances and we&rsquo;d have music and we&rsquo;d have lots of cheap beer, and it was just a really ideal way to just, I guess sort of experiment and play around with stuff.<br /><br />They did all of the scoping for the space. They found it on Craigslist. Which was really convenient, because they called me up and they were like &lsquo;Hey Mike, want to move into a theater?!&rsquo; Which is really hard to say no to.<br /><br />So we lived in the space, a little freaked out about how illegal it was, because we&rsquo;d heard about so many places getting shutdown over time. But eventually we didn&rsquo;t even have to worry about that because we got flooded out before we had to worry about the law or us getting too big. It was like a year and a half ago. &hellip; Our rooms were in the basement, which were already starting to wear on us because there&rsquo;s no sunlight in the basement. Which you think you can do fine without, but after two years of it, you start to go a little bit crazy.<br /><br />We&rsquo;ve all sort of resigned ourselves to living pretty meager, unwealthy existences at this point.</p><p><em><strong>What&#39;s the point of a puppet</strong></em><br /><br />Actors talk about this all the time, but you go into, you&rsquo;re auditioning for a role and you walk into a room that has five other people who look exactly like you. And I had experienced that in L.A. and I was starting to experience that here and after awhile &hellip; that continued process, it just became less and less appealing.</p><p>Beautiful people are always getting cast in things, and it doesn&rsquo;t make any sense to me because you have plays and you have movies and you have things that are full of people that don&rsquo;t look like the folks that this story would be happening to. And yet you need to have those beautiful people to sell tickets. But with puppets, you don&rsquo;t have to.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mike montage 1.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 600px; " title="Oleon's variety of puppets. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div></div><p>When you have a puppet on stage (assuming that it&rsquo;s a well-made puppet) you look at it and you know exactly what it&rsquo;s about. And it matters very little who is operating it behind. Gender doesn&rsquo;t matter, color doesn&rsquo;t matter, because whoever is doing it, they get to be the puppet. And what&rsquo;s cool about the puppet is that that puppet can be anything.<br /><br />So &hellip; I took a couple of jobs that paid virtually nothing, but it was enough to cover my rent. As long as you have rent and food &ndash; and food stamps is an amazing thing, and I highly recommend it to anybody who has any stigma against it, and is not eating as well as they would like.<br /><br />Survival, bare bones survival is [a] pretty easy thing to do. &hellip; I live in a place where heat is covered, and that&rsquo;s sort of enough.<br /><br />So from taking very small odd jobs, or low-paying odd jobs and food stamps, I was able to make it through one winter and pretty much teach myself web design. And from that, just started building a portfolio. &hellip; So now I&rsquo;m able to get web gigs and whenever puppet stuff is busy enough, I can say no to the web gigs or I can stop seeking them out and spend all my time doing what I actually want to be doing.</p><p><em><strong>Working it out</strong></em><br /><br />I still think that I&rsquo;m in the pretty introductory stages of it working out. I have no idea how long I can keep on doing this for? But &hellip; hopefully things would steady out more than they are. &hellip;<br /><br />I very much want this to be my life. The two options are, me being able to sustain myself and maybe a family one day off of doing this, or I&rsquo;ll completely run myself into the ground and go bats**t crazy.<br /><br />I feel like if I give myself any other options, then that&rsquo;s the moment that you start to see people leaving theater. They find something else that they enjoy that&rsquo;s comfortable, it&rsquo;s easier and it provides them the things that they want, but then they start easing their way out of what their true passions are. &hellip; I&rsquo;ve talked to too many people in their 40s and 50s who say, &lsquo;I wish I had stuck with it a little longer&rsquo;&hellip; I&rsquo;ve heard a lot of people tell me that it&rsquo;s kind of a longevity game &hellip; I&rsquo;ve talked to so many performers who are like &lsquo;My career didn&rsquo;t start taking off until I was in my 30s.&rsquo; It&rsquo;s like, okay, so I guess I have to wait until I&rsquo;m in my 30s, that&rsquo;s fine. In the meantime, I&rsquo;m going to get as good as I possibly can at it and keep on playing with the kind of things and with the people I like to play with.</p><p><em>The transcript above features an extended version of the interview.</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em>Explore more stories from Chicago&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/hungry-artists-100849">Hungry Artists</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Jul 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/puppeteer-who-loves-food-stamps-100764 The Playwright who finally finds her way http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/playwright-who-finally-finds-her-way-100766 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/adelina montage 2.jpg" style="height: 310px; width: 620px; " title=" L. Adelina Treviño Bradshaw in her Lincoln Park home. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div></div><p><em>When you listen to <a href="http://www.ladelinabradshaw.com/">Adelina</a>&nbsp;Treviño Bradshaw&nbsp;speak so eloquently about her meandering path away from Chicago and the theater, and her hopeful return, you can just hear the hiss of the radiator in the background or the L train rumbling past the Irving Park Brown line stop. What you can&#39;t hear is her inability to sit still. (&ldquo;If you&rsquo;ve noticed, I&rsquo;ve been playing with everything,&rdquo; she tells me in the middle of our conversation. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve taken off an earring to play with it.&rdquo;) That&rsquo;s a pattern in her life: Since graduating from Columbia College in 2007, Bradshaw&#39;s been moving. She moved to New York, then home to Texas and finally back to Chicago again. She just finished up a Literary Fellowship at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and as such, the 26-year-old sees life as a playwright and dramaturg (someone, for those not in the know, who helps research and develop plays ) slightly differently than her peers -- for one thing, she really understands the value of health benefits. But that universal desire for benefits doesn&rsquo;t mean much, when weighed against Bradshaw&#39;s passion for her work.</em></p><p><strong><em>Born into (musical) theater</em></strong></p><p>My parents&rsquo; very first date was at a theater so they tried to take us when they could. We didn&rsquo;t have that much money so it wasn&rsquo;t like an everyday occurrence, but we did go. And my dad, he loves musical theater. And so he had all these records with these musicals, and to this day I haven&rsquo;t seen all of them but I remember just putting them on and dancing in the middle of the living room. &hellip;<br /><br />The first show I saw was <em>Cats</em>, and he took us to that and I was like 5. And I remember watching it and going, &lsquo;Grown-ups can do this?&rsquo;<br /><br /><em><b>Toby from </b></em><b>The&nbsp;</b><strong>West Wing</strong><br /><br />I got into Loyola Chicago. I went in there as a poli-sci major, and I think I probably had watched too many episodes of <em>The&nbsp;West Wing </em>or something like that, and had this idea of growing up and becoming Toby or something like that. (laughs) I was there for a year and in the second semester I took a theater design class and I was just like, &#39;Well who are you kidding?&#39; I&rsquo;d done theater for so long before then and to just give it up was like making me kind of miserable. And so I decided that I wanted to stay in Chicago &hellip; and so I was looking around and I found Columbia and I went in there as actually a costume-design major, oddly enough. And then ended up falling into play-writing programs.<br /><br /><em><b>A meandering path</b></em><br /><br />I graduated in December 2007. &hellip; And then I got a job in a box office just because I realized I need a job. I got a job and I got a roommate.<br /><br />But I was getting antsy. &hellip; I wanted to see more. And so I decided I was going to move &hellip; I wasn&rsquo;t sure what the next step should be? And so I just kind of tried to do the grown-up thing. You know, have a job, pay your bills. I don&rsquo;t know if it&rsquo;s grown-up to say &lsquo;grown-up thing.&rsquo;<br /><br />So I just moved out to New York. And I did nothing about theater when I was there. I was doing the survival thing. I mean I wrote, but that&rsquo;s about as far as it got.<br /><br />It was just, it was hard. &hellip; And I&rsquo;d also moved two weeks before the stock market crashed in 2008. And anybody who was in New York in 2008 kind of like, there was like this big shadow, this big cloud over everything, because you&rsquo;d pass bars, and they&rsquo;re like &lsquo;Show us your pink slips and drink for free all night!&rsquo; and things like that. But then I was lucky enough to get a job at the Intrepid&hellip; which is an aircraft carrier turned museum.<br /><br />&hellip; I just felt like the city was wearing me out. It just made me angry. I &nbsp;just couldn&rsquo;t deal with it anymore. People say leave New York before it makes you a hardened person. And I left. &hellip;<br />I moved back to Dallas. It wasn&rsquo;t really an option to do anything but to go back to Dallas. Because I needed a safety net and there was a safety net there &hellip; it was this idea that I was going to get back on track. Like, living in New York was just about staying with my head above water and I felt like people kept on pushing it down and so I was like, in Dallas, I can figure out if this is going to become a priority.<br /><br />I started sending out a play that I felt pretty strongly about &hellip; and by December it had gotten shortlisted for a contest in New York at <a href="http://www.repertorio.org/">Repertorio de Espanol</a>. And they actually did a staged reading of it in New York, so I got to go back like not even a year later, and I felt like, triumphant. Because I was having a staged reading. &hellip; And it felt like, well, this was a success, coming back. And restarting.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/adelina montage 1.jpg" style="height: 310px; width: 620px; " title="Books and inspiration. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div><p>I don&rsquo;t know if it was my own prejudices &hellip; but there&rsquo;s a level of like, well, it&rsquo;s hard to be a writer, period. Not just a playwright, a writer. It&rsquo;s hard to get things published, it&rsquo;s hard to make any money out of it. It is a lot of work, and a lot of people aren&rsquo;t successful. And then you can say the same thing about theater. And then you combine theater and writing and it just seems like this big vast hole of like, you will not be successful at this because only such a small percentage of people are successful &hellip; I don&rsquo;t really know when it changed, and I don&rsquo;t know that it did necessarily change. I just decided it was worth it. I think that was the change. I&rsquo;ve decided it&rsquo;s worth it.<br /><br />&hellip; I&rsquo;ve been out of college for awhile and I couldn&rsquo;t afford to do something for free. The thing is, with literary apprenticeships or internships or whatever you want to call them, is that they&rsquo;re not available in a lot of theaters, and then there&rsquo;s even fewer that are going to pay you. I just noticed that a lot of people who are successful have done these before. And so I applied to about 17 all across the country, this is the only one in Chicago.<br /><br /><em><strong>Sitting in the slingshot</strong></em><br /><br />I don&rsquo;t feel relaxed, but I feel like as opposed to before, even when I was living in Dallas, I felt a little bit behind. And now I feel like I&rsquo;m actually like on the slingshot, you know? &hellip; But it&rsquo;s just being pulled back and it hasn&rsquo;t been let go yet and so&hellip; it&rsquo;s like the first step, is what it feels like. And so there&rsquo;s a level of nervousness that comes with that, like it&rsquo;s one of those things where if someone is willing to give you this, you feel like you can&rsquo;t be complacent after this because this is so important. And you are so lucky to be here.<br /><br />I would say that I think I don&rsquo;t necessarily want to be famous. I want to have my plays produced. One of the reasons I love this apprenticeship so much in the literary department is because I want to be a literary manager of a theater. Partly because I love the job; reading plays all day is great &hellip; to actually get paid to read plays is pretty sweet. But also, I kind of like the stability. And I think that has something to do with I am 26, and I had a job that I had awesome benefits at. And now I don&rsquo;t have that. (laughs) Most of the other apprentices are younger than me, they&rsquo;re fresh out of college. When I say, &#39;One of the awesome things about working in an admin building is that you get real benefits,&#39; and they don&rsquo;t really understand how awesome that is; they&rsquo;re still on their parents&#39; insurance. I&rsquo;m not. (laughs)<br /><br />Being able to write, being able to dramaturg, but also being able to, to be in a position where you have your own safety net, that is definitely what I would consider success.</p><p><em>The transcript above features an extended version of the interview.</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em>Explore more stories from Chicago&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/hungry-artists-100849">Hungry Artists</a>.</em></p><p><em>Music buttons: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQewG24kiec">&quot;Las Golondrinas&quot; by Jose Garcia</a> and <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVAvFfXPL0Q">&quot;If You&#39;re Feeling Sinister&quot; by Belle and Sebastian</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 17 Jul 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/playwright-who-finally-finds-her-way-100766 The Video Designer who just wants to take a break http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/video-designer-who-just-wants-take-break-100761 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/davonte montage.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 600px; " title="Davonte Johnson in his Uptown apartment. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div></div><p><em>I met with Davonte Johnson twice within a span of five months. If you had asked me in the course of working on this project if he would be deviating much from his path of <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/RaseanDavonte">video design</a> domination in the Chicago theater scene, I would have most assuredly said no, especially given the increasing criticial praise he&rsquo;s received for his work. But 25-year-old Johnson&rsquo;s change in career path within less than half a year, in a field that most people don&rsquo;t even know exists, reflects a realism about the possibility of actual success in Chicago for artists, the sacrifices involved in doing what you love, and what it means to step away.</em></p><p><strong><em>What do you do, really?</em></strong></p><p>I am in the field of video design for theater, which is a very kind of new thing that&rsquo;s coming about. I got involved with it because of filmmaking in college. And the only reason I got involved in filmmaking in college was because I was still involved in and enjoyed theater.<br /><br />&hellip; Throughout college I also worked at a broadcast station, I was a student assistant there for PBS. And so I have a huge background in how to do multiple-camera setups and live video shooting.<br /><br />I came under the idea that I was just going to get a job in broadcasting &hellip; I had some leads on some jobs and stuff. I pursued those for about two months straight, and basically the first month here, which was about two years ago this month, that&rsquo;s all I did: I went out there and I went to every broadcast station and every production company I could, just trying to see if I could get a job there. And it didn&rsquo;t happen. And not only that, I couldn&rsquo;t get a job anywhere. I guess that just wasn&rsquo;t what was supposed to happen.<br /><br />For me, to be involved in the film industry, you either: A) Are a part of this kind-of band where you make your own short films and then you just kind of show them off but you don&rsquo;t really have a) an audience and b) a means of distribution. Or B) You attach yourself to some studio and you work as a PA until maybe you go up that ladder. The thing is, in either of those cases, you&rsquo;re not really telling the full story of who you are and what you&rsquo;re trying to do, which is what I did a lot in college. But it wasn&rsquo;t commercially viable &hellip;. Being here allows me the opportunity to tell those kinds of stories in a larger way that is connected to me.<br /><br /><em><strong>Why Chicago?</strong></em><br />I grew up in Columbus, Ohio&hellip;so technically this is like my first big move ever.<br /><br />There was just a bigger opportunity &ndash; in my mind &ndash; to come to Chicago rather than New York because I think New York &hellip; even though there&rsquo;s a lot more money there, it&rsquo;s very structured &hellip; I think here it&rsquo;s a little more relaxed and you just have a lot more opportunity to engage with other artists &hellip; Out of my class I was one of the few people who came to Chicago.<br /><br />I know a lot of artists who take these part-time jobs in lieu of the fact that they would get money from the artistic stuff that they do. For me &hellip; I work at the Museum of Science and Industry. And I work for a company called Photogenic, and they have very flexible hours and stuff like that &hellip; Sometimes I&rsquo;ll work really heavy there one week and then the next week not so many tourists will come in so they won&rsquo;t schedule so many people. And in that period of time I have to find something else that will kind of make up all of that stuff &hellip;</p><p>My day-to-day life is kind of like a lens into how I know for a fact that I can&rsquo;t support myself either way right now. I can&rsquo;t just take on a full-time job, mainly because I can&rsquo;t really find a full-time job right now.<br /><br />[When I first moved here] I had applied to a couple different theater jobs &hellip;. And there was one, it was a video assistant job and I applied to that &hellip; And then I also applied to intern at this theater company called Collaboraction &hellip; and was just like &lsquo;Peace out, Chicago, thanks a lot for not doing anything for me.&rsquo; And I lost all this money and it was just like, well this is not working out. (Then) it turned out I got the video assistant job and I got the internship at Collaboraction. Those two things basically allowed me to work in Chicago as an artist. Because if I hadn&rsquo;t done either of those things, I probably wouldn&rsquo;t be here and I probably wouldn&rsquo;t have the connections that I do now.<br /><br />Those jobs didn&rsquo;t pay. But they got me jobs that did pay.<br /><br /><em><strong>Five months after I first met with Johnson, we reconnected and he told me he was leaving Chicago.</strong></em><br /><br />What will be coming up for me which is leaving the city and going to Ohio. I don&rsquo;t know &hellip; whether I&rsquo;ll enjoy it or not. It&rsquo;s with Ohio State, and it&rsquo;s a contracted job with the Department of Defense, and it&rsquo;s not long term, which is great. It&rsquo;s actually a videography position, that I came up in college doing, which was working for broadcast stations.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s between one and two years. It&rsquo;s in Columbus. It&rsquo;s definitely cheaper because it&rsquo;s Columbus; you have a two bedroom that&rsquo;s like $500 that&rsquo;s close to downtown. The biggest thing is student loans.<br /><br />Why can&rsquo;t I just take a step back and do a job that requires a lot from me but will pay me correctly?<br /><br />I kind of looked at it and I was like, you know I&rsquo;m 25 years old and if I were to take a break, I could always come back. That&rsquo;s a very scary thing and I know &hellip; that a lot of people, when they say that, don&rsquo;t necessarily get back into it.<br /><br />I&rsquo;m sure somehow I will be just as busy as I am right now. The point is that I&rsquo;ll have a job which will sustain me. I think the biggest thing is that I wish I could have had an opportunity to do that here. But I do know that finding that kind of job where it&rsquo;s kind of peaceful outside of the job, where it&rsquo;s 9-to-5 but still video, is extremely hard to find here. And from the people that I know, it takes your whole life. And if that&rsquo;s what you want, that&rsquo;s fantastic. But if it&rsquo;s not, it kind of eats away at you.<br /><br />When it came down to me having to be at the theater at 12 o&rsquo;clock, and then leaving at like 2 a.m., only to be back there at 12 o&rsquo;clock and then leaving at 2 a.m. Like that over and over and over thing again, it&rsquo;s like you don&rsquo;t even have time for yourself &hellip; It&rsquo;s fine if I didn&rsquo;t have to worry about the next thing coming up after this is over. &hellip; I can&rsquo;t go from that to another thing the next week, to another thing the next week, and at the same time, say to myself that I&rsquo;m being an artist anymore.</p><p><em>Explore more stories from Chicago&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/hungry-artists-100849">Hungry Artists</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 16 Jul 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/video-designer-who-just-wants-take-break-100761 Hungry artists http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/hungry-artists-100849 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/full montage.jpg" style="height: 310px; width: 620px;" title="Clockwise from top left; Davonte Johnson, Adelina Trevino Bradshaw, Mike Oleon, Julia Solomon and Katy Albert. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)" /></div></div><p>At the end of last year, I was watching a late-night talk-show host interview a famous celebrity (don&rsquo;t ask me to remember which one) and something just clicked. The celebrity was charmingly discussing some terrible job he&#39;d had when he was just starting out in his career. Of course, there were anecdotes about how bad he was at it and how hilarity ensued.&nbsp;</p><p>I just thought, &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve heard this story before, and it&rsquo;s not interesting.&rdquo;</p><p>Sure, it was funny in a Jay Leno-appropriate way, and it&#39;s a never-ending interview question. Just check out <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/07/04/my-first-job-andrew-garfield-spider-man/">this recurring <em>Wall Street Journal</em> feature</a>, &ldquo;My First Job.&rdquo; But what I found myself wanting to hear about was the truth behind that first job. Who were these performers at 22? What were they doing? What did they want? What did they consider success, back before they had achieved it?</p><p>It was this insight that prompted me to talk to young Chicagoans in the arts and performance world. There are so many tropes about what it means to be a struggling artist &ndash; that life is difficult until you &ldquo;make it,&rdquo; that &ldquo;making it&rdquo; means fame and fortune, that there is one moment when you break out and your life becomes drastically different (think of all those tales of &quot;overnight success&quot;), that your life is different or less worthy than the life of someone not in a creative field. This is despite the fact that during the period of America&#39;s greatest economic distress, the&nbsp;Works Progress Administration was created, employing artists to beautify America <em>and </em>support the economy.</p><p>I&#39;ve experienced the reality of this lifestyle firsthand; I grew up with parents in creative fields. It was normal for me that they didn&#39;t have regular schedules or regular jobs, that they worked from home or would have a steady job for a few months and then do something different. I remember actually having a hard time when my mother did get a full-time job. At first, I was actually indignant because I was so used to having her around, I couldn&#39;t fathom the concept of a 9-to-5 job, at least for my family. Eventually, it dawned on me that this was the way most people lived.&nbsp;</p><p>What I&rsquo;ve seen from the people in my life is that an artistic life is one that is often full of just as many predictable and frustrating moments as that of someone who wants to be a doctor, a lawyer or an insurance salesman (or another job, any job your mother would prefer rather than you becoming an actress). It often requires an equal amount of dedication and no more delusion than so-called traditional employment.</p><p>These young Chicago artists profiled here aren&rsquo;t kidding themselves. They&rsquo;ve picked a career path that will be challenging. But so will life &mdash; it&#39;s been challenging for them already.</p><p>What their stories attempt to capture is what it&rsquo;s like to be a struggling artist, while you are still in the process of struggling, not later when you&#39;re looking back through the rosy haze of fame. What does it mean to be a 20-something artist before you are fully-formed?</p><p>This series is particularly timely, given that the recession has hit two groups particularly hard: young people and artists.<a href="http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/Unemployment.Final.update1.pdf">&nbsp;Studies show</a> the unemployment rate for recent college graduates in the arts hovers around 11 percent.&nbsp;</p><p>But the common thread I heard from all five individuals I talked to is this: They could imagine other realities, but this is the only one that is real now. And it&#39;s the one they really want.</p></p> Mon, 16 Jul 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/culture/hungry-artists-100849