It took me a long time to figure out the business of being a dance artist in the U.S. Outside of NYC, there is very little useful training for independent choreographers in the realms of professional development. Entities like Fractured Atlas and Kickstarter.com provide wonderful services, but “services” do not equal “training.” Training, in my mind, means education, mentorship, and direct human-to-human support.
Artists in Conversation:
In the 19th Century, the dominant form of theatrical production was the actor-manager system: A seasoned actor would form a company, play the leading roles, and take on the financial and organizational responsibilities as the troupe toured the country. The 20th century favored a model where business and art were handled by separate staff. Recently, though, the artist-manager system has experienced a resurgence via the rise of artist-driven “independent” or “storefront” theatre.
I have evolved as an artist by moving back and forth between what I might call "the forest and the trees"—or the big picture and the details. I tend to focus on the big picture in my art practice, especially in my installations, but I also try to embrace Mies van der Rohe's saying "God is in the details"—sometimes cited as "the devil is in the details"—as I create two-dimensional drawings and prints that shape the creation and execution of my installations.
I am a classical musician: a clarinetist. I’m also a writer, an actress, a visual designer, and an almost 30-year serial arts entrepreneur. If you Google my name or go to any of my websites, it might appear to you that I am more of a business owner than an artist.
I was pretty sure cows didn't bite, but when one came my way, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance, so I ran. My husband, Rick, was on a fast trot ten feet ahead of me—no help there. We got out of the barn alive and laughed our butts off. Rick is a firm believer in real estate as investment, and we were looking at property in the heart of Wisconsin's beautiful Kettle Morraine, with the hope of turning it into an artists’ retreat.
Molly Brennan is a singular performer—both in her animate, physical presence onstage and in the unique swath of Chicago theater experiences she has amassed. Though many know her name from her much-talked-about (and to some “controversial”) turn as Harpo in the Goodman’s staging of Animal Crackers,
The Moving Vessel is a project that explores several facets of pregnancy and motherhood in relation to maintaining a dance career. As I write this, there is a baby boom occurring in the Chicago dance community. I have an opportunity to work with a wide variety of pregnant dancers this year. In exploring this growing population of dancers, I hope to learn more about what drives us to continue to dance and how our families motivate our work.
My path with African-based dance began in Los Angeles at Occidental College when I studied Haitian and modern dance with Elizabeth Chin. I felt like the dances were speaking to me, saying things about respect, history, love, travel, study, and ultimately, fusion. My learning of African-based or diasporic dance from dance artists in Haiti, France, the U.S., and Africa has come from a deep respect both for, and of, the people I learned from and worked with.
I love artist networks and contributing to infrastructure that supports
artists to thrive. This is why I am CAR’s co-founder and artist-techie.
As an unexpected outcome, though, I have had the amazing
opportunity to grow my own art network like never before. In fact,
there have been several unexpected outcomes that have defined my own
As you might imagine, my understanding of professional practice has
deepened, affecting how I approach my work and my career.
As a songwriter, musician, and bandleader, I always feel a pull between being a responsible adult—washing dishes, answering emails, following up on shows, brushing my teeth—and wanting to burrow into those dark and difficult places where the best songs live. I enjoy much of the administrative stuff of being a musician, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but the necessities of self-promotion and daily living constantly get in the way of my creativity, which can be frustrating.
Chicago Art Machine came from the need to pool resources and help connect the local arts coverage scene. Right now three sites largely connect to it, but we’re (I say “we” because it’s a large team effort) beginning to connect more with other sites.
The first inklings of the Chicago Fringe Festival (CFF) started in the fall of 2008. I had just returned from the Minnesota and NYC Fringes with Tantalus Theatre Group. By November, I was incredibly enthused about starting one in Chicago.
It’s my five-year anniversary of self-employment as a documentary filmmaker and digital media artist—a time period during which I’ve worked the hardest I ever have in my professional life—and yet I don’t feel that I’ve worked a day. I excitedly stay in on weekend nights to tinker with a project.
studying French and music as an undergraduate, I became disillusioned with the
career path I was being encouraged to take Music Education. I knew I
wanted to perform, not teach, and I also wanted to see Europe.
Why do we artists
struggle to categorize our work and, by extension, ourselves? Am I an actress
or a theatre artist? For years, I have shamelessly called myself a “theatre
artist.” Perhaps I grew tired of saying “actor” and having to dodge the
question, “You mean ‘actress,’ right?” But what did I really mean?
I see my life as connected to my art, knowing that my
art is generated by my life. But recently, the divisions in my life could not
have seemed greater, even while in reality, the connection between my life and
art could not have been closer. It was extremely liberating to cut through these
A recent article in The Guardian about
why men dominate choreographic commissions when women dominate the field of
dance hypothesized that perhaps the career trajectory—performance in one’s twenties,
followed by choreography in one’s thirties—was one of the reasons for the disparity.
Collaboration is the ability to share a vision—to put aside your ego and
work toward a common idea. I have collaborated with Othello Anderson for the
past 30 years. We have worked individually on our own projects while
occupying the same studio, as well as collaboratively on joint projects.
Being a teaching artist in various venues profoundly influences and formulates my own art practice. In the past few years working in residency with different organizations not only opens doors for me to have an insightful experience of the communities where the school is situated, but also opens my inner-eye to see myself in relation to others. This journey of rediscovering and seeing myself betters my studio practice.