Interview with comedic pop dynamo Kat Leonard

imageKat Leonard is a multi-faceted, multi-talented ball of endless joy and positive energy. She performs her own brand of music, using a combo of comedic and poignant themes; is one-half of the music/comedy duo Musedy Tag Team (with Arlene Paculan); and also works with Paculan as the A.D. of Let’s Make Good (LMG) Productions to produce and present the WonderFest series of music, comedy and spoken word/poetry events. I had a chat with Kat over email about what’s been up with her lately, 2014 in general and upcoming events.

LWMC: So you’ve been a very busy lady lately. What’s been going on? What have you been up to?

KL: Oh man, that’s what I’d like to know! The year has whizzed by like bursting piss that’s been held in way too long! I started a new health and wellness business, and I’ve been doing some motivational speaking presentations and workshops (which I love), and of course still writing and performing my music and comedy, and being Artistic Director of Let’s Make Good Productions and WonderFest.

LWMC: I get the sense that 2014 has been a year of big changes. How would you sum up this past year – for you?

KL: Big changes. 2014 was the beginning of my detox, which continues into 2015. I’m detoxing my mind, my body and my world. Don’t worry. It’s not the end of cussing, beer and gyrating for me – in fact, it might mean even more! I’m just really scrutinizing what I let into me physically and emotionally. (That actually wasn’t supposed to sound dirty, BTW ;p)

LWMC: And what was your favourite gig of 2014?

KL: If I had to choose one favourite gig of 2014 it would be our Wonder Women LA showcase because we were in L-fuckin-A and I revel in the vibe there. I love the warmth of the people – and obviously the sunshine – I love the way they embrace art and take risks. We did a jam-packed four-hour show that was filled with soooo much talent and love – from music, comedy, spoken word, visual and multimedia artists. We had two stages at opposite ends of the venue so we could flip back and forth between artists, the sound was amazing, the food was amazing and the people were amazing. It was full of amaze! I made a lot of friends and felt that glorious buzz that lets you know you’re in the right place at the right time.

LWMC: I’ve always wanted to do this in an interview, and you’re my first. I’d like to give you James Lipton’s adapted Bernard Pivot/Proust questionnaire.

KL: I love it!

What’s your favourite word? I think it might be “fuck.” Maybe lowbrow, but it’s so totally versatile, eh? I like its sound and the different emphasis that can be put on it, and the effect it has on people.

What’s your least favourite word? Sometimes I don’t like the word “skin” even though it’s quite harmless and obviously I use it a lot. Just sometimes I hear it and get weird visuals of empty skin just lying around. In those moments, I don’t like it.

What turns you on? Low rumbling bass notes, a good beat, honesty, courage, strong hands, kind lips, boobs.

What turns you off? Complaining, arrogance, boredom.

What sound or noise do you love? People laughing, especially when it’s that erupting uncontrollable kind they can’t stop. Even better when they’re somewhere inappropriate and they gotta try to muffle it.

What sound or noise do you hate? Anything high-pitched, especially whining. And hockey game din. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by people watching hockey. Good lord, shut up!!! 😉

What is your favourite curse word? Fuck.

What profession other than your own would you like to pursue? International Spa Tester. I would be so good at this!

What profession would you not like to do? Ultimate Outdoor Survivalist. I would be so not good at this.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Surprise!

LWMC: You have a special gig coming up on January 8th at Flying Beaver Pubaret. What’s that about?

KL: THURSDAY, JANUARY 8 – 7pm SHE’S LISTENING: BENEFIT CONCERT FOR OVARIAN CANCER CANADA

This is a benefit concert for Ovarian Cancer Canada. There will be laughter and love, door prizes and other surprises! A spectacle of rock, pop and comedy mixed with the spirit of hope and help, this is an evening not to miss! However, if you must miss it and would still like to donate, please consider donating directly to Ovarian Cancer Canada.

$15 advance/$20 at the door: tix available at The Pubaret or online. Dinner available before, during and after the show. Dinner patrons get priority seating. E-mail heather@pubaret.com for rezzos or call 647.347.6567

Artists include:
Heather Hill
Kat Leonard
Angela Saini
Jessica Speziale
Kristine St. Pierre

This is the link to the Facebook Event should anyone wanna click!

LWMC: Anything else you want to shout out?

KL: Let’s Make Good Productions is partnering with SIPO Foundation and One Fire Movement for our next big WonderFest event in March 2015! We are also always looking for people to be featured in our weekly WonderFest series. More information on all of this at our website.

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?

KL: I’ve been maintaining my blog wherein I sometimes do People Profiles. Anyone who would like to be featured can contact me. Here is my latest one, on musician Marcus Walker, if you’d like to check it out. You should check him out too!

LWMC: Thanks, Kat! It’s been a pleasure.

KL: No, thank YOU!!! YOU’RE the pleasure! 😉

You can also keep up with Kat Leonard on her YouTube channel and on Twitter.

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Life As A Pomegranate – interview with playwright/actor Dawna J. Wightman

As promised, here’s my interview with Life As A Pomegranate playwright/actor Dawna J. Wightman

I sent Dawna some questions via email – here’s what she had to say:

Q: You’ve gone with a more linear, chronological narrative this time around, with no flashbacks into Rozyee’s past. How did you come to find/decide on this revised structure?

A: Embarassment.

Basically the answer is I don’t want pity, so I opted out.

After the first staging, people would come to me after the show crying and telling me how sorry they are to see what a hard life I’ve had and they’ve had a hard life too. “It’s a PLAY!” Yes, there are some elements of my own truths in it and I’m glad you got something out of it but don’t make me a victim. A playwright has to either borrow someone else’s story or strip mine their own life if there is to be a story, right? But the audience thought it was all me.

So Ginette (the director) and I decided to take out the tragic flashbacks and keep the one from the bingo night because it is happy to put a stop to the pity party.

Turns out even with the flashbacks removed people still come up to me crying after the show. Guess the play touches them somewhere deep.

Q: We see the same characters in this version of the play, but each is given a different weight. We’re seeing more of Arthur and less of Rozyee’s mom – and the witch in the mirror seems more predominant. And Arthur has gone from being a mildly supportive to actively discouraging Rozyee’s dream. Can you tell us a bit about the character shifts, and how this affects their roles and impacts on Rozyee?

A: When I’m on stage I have a set of boxes in my head. There’s a box for the lines, one for blocking, timing and emotion. When I am the playwright there’s also and a box that is observing the room.

My observer told me Rozyee has to struggle more to reach the audience on a deeper vein. It’s important to me that my audience feels the story either in the heart, the hips or the head…ultimately I’ll write a play that touches them in every spot.

After the preview I threw out the idea that my story was incomprehensible. I knew by the reactions of the audiences that the story had touched on some universal truths and they could understand it. (There’s nothing worse to me than going to theatre that is so cerebral that the audience doesn’t know what’s happening.)

I worked on developing the inner critic and Arthur and Sutton. In the preview you saw they were more cartoony. In the last version the witch is more depressing, Sutton more menacing and Arthur an ass.

It’s interesting that you say we see less of Rozyee’s mom; Ma was more a part of the show this time round. I wrote the play so that Rozyee and Ma never make contact, they’re always on the phone. I wanted to turn up the ache of loving a parent but never being close to them.

Haha….this answer is so long. Short answer: Rozyee is more of a hero if she struggles more so I wrote in more struggles.

Q: I wanted to ask you about the mean girl birthday party prank anecdote. This time, it’s Sutton’s story and I seem to recall that being Rozyee’s story in the earlier version of the play. Is that right? If so, what made you decide to make it Sutton’s story?

A: You are right. (Thank you for noticing.) I love playing Sutton. I am not a writer. I write to act. I ache to act. The acting community here won’t let me in so I write characters I want to play. To take Sutton deeper (for the actor me), and to make Rozyee less of a victim (for the playwright), I got Sutton to show a bit more humanity. I gave Sutton the story.

Q: The stakes are much higher for Rozyee this time around. She was already a heroine in the earlier version of the play – but this time, she has bigger obstacles and decisions to make. How did this shift in her journey come about?

A: After the preview Nika Rylski said: “Good, now make Rozyee struggle if you want this story to last.”

So I gave Rozyee more struggle and she also grew the courage to divorce Arthur.

Q: You performed the play in New York and will be returning there. Did you perform this version of the script there? What was it like performing for those audiences, in that city?

A: Yes, I perform the same script there.

When I act, I give all of me, every cell. No tricks. No shortcuts. No methods I show up and say the lines, I open my flap and show that through the words of the playwright and the channel of the character.

I fly, I fly, fly.

In NYC, I opened myself up even more. I thought: “If I am only here on Broadway once in my life I want to say that I gave every fiber of me so that it will have been a personal success.”

I had no idea I’d be asked back.

When I get to act I am so happy I truly believe the experience is a dream I conjured. Thoughts become things, right? I am free on a stage. Now. Now. Now. No inner critic.

It was so surreal to act in NYC. I lifted my arms and fell off the cliff willingly, freely. I do this: Here. Here’s my heart. Look. Take it. It’s yours.

I thought the producers would erase the Canadian bits of the show. They loved those bits. I only changed the place where Rozyee gets her treats from Loblaws to Price Chopper so they would understand it is a grocery store.

Q: Will you be making any further revisions to the script? Any other plans for a run or tour?

A: No more revisions. There were 16 drafts to get it where it is. Tempting, but no, that egg is cooked.

Life as a Pomegranate will be in the Midwinter Madness Short Play Festival, Times Square, February 2013.

We’ve applied to six fringe lotteries across Canada for summer 2013: PEI, Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal (didn’t get in), Vancouver, Victoria UNO Festival.

If you know of anyone who wants to see it, let me know…why wouldn’t I want to fly again?

Q: You’re working on a new play right now – Yellow Bird. Will that also be a one-woman show? What can you tell us about it?

A: Yellow Bird is the story of what happened to Ma from Life as a Pomegranate. If there is grant money I can write in three men to play Ron, but if not it will be a two-hander.

Plot: Ron forges his mother’s signature and goes to fight in WW2. He is 14.

Returning from the front injured, he meets Pat and they fall in love, but the two of them are in that war together until they die at a young age, within 10 months of each other.

PTSD, shame, no moral ground…this is their love story.

I will play Ron’s mother, then his wife then his daughter.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share with folks?

Thanks for seeing my work.

 

Thanks, Dawna! With special thanks for being my first blog interview. 🙂

Life As A Pomegranate redux – same adorable misfit heroine, much bigger stakes

My pal Ty and I were among the handful of lucky folks on the waiting list who got in to see Dawna J. Wightman’s one night only performance of her one-woman show Life As A Pomegranate at the Flying Beaver Pubaret last night. A redux version of its spring premiere at Lazy Daisy’s Café – written and performed by Wightman, and directed/dramaturged by Ginette Mohr – the show has since travelled to NYC and will be returning there soon.

Wightman and I had been chatting via blog comments and that’s how I learned about this recent performance; she also told me that the play was quite different from the version I saw back in the spring – and she wasn’t kidding. We still have our misfit heroine Rozyee (Rosy) Fudge, who dreams of being a professional actor as she struggles with family obligations after being transplanted to small-town B.C., trying to “keep under the radar” to avoid rocking the boat that is her husband Arthur’s conservative outlook and job, and doing her best to support her troubled, chain-smoking mother back in Montreal.

The structure of the storytelling is more linear and chronological this time, and the characters – all played by Wightman – are each given a different weight. We still have Rozyee’s stoner neighbour Mo and Arthur’s snobby, sophisticated employee Sutton, along with Arthur and mom – with altered levels of impact. Arthur is less supportive of Rozyee’s dream, going as far as actively discouraging it in this revised version of the play. And the wicked witch in the mirror – her own internal voice of negativity – seems to be even more predominant. The stakes are much higher for Rozyee this time: her obstacles are more challenging and, in the end, she is faced with some serious life-changing decisions.

Rozyee’s indomitable spirit is still very much in evidence and the tone of the storytelling is by turns playful and heart-wrenching – and always magical. Our heroine is a sweet, child-like soul, wishing she could have a flap in her upper chest that she could open and show us all her jumbled up insides and feelings, and that we’d then feel okay to do the same – and we see a flash of this with Sutton. Rozyee still has that turquoise ball of creativity inside her, generating light that shoots out her fingertips. She still believes in herself and in magic and in her dreams.

It’s a pleasure to watch Wightman perform. She is a marvelous actor/storyteller, transitioning from character to character with ease. And a real pro when there were temporary technical difficulties with her body mic, which forced her to pause the show momentarily as sound tech Liz came up to fix the problem. She backed up the scene a bit and started over – all as if it had never happened.

I’d like to do an interview with Wightman and ask her about the changes – and the process. In the meantime, keep an eye out for Life As A Pomegranate and pay Rozyee a visit sometime. It’s a delightful, inspirational, joyful journey. And check out the Flying Beaver sometime – great food and a cozy, relaxed atmosphere. With thanks to Heather for getting us on the waiting list.