We first met Elohim when he signed up to participate in TEASE 2014. In less than a year, we’ve seen him on stages all over the Twin Cities – from Freshwater Theatre and Candid to Coup D’Etat and Forgotten Goddess. We’re pretty sure with his talent and captivating personality, it will only be a matter of time before you can’t swing a stick in this town without hitting Elohim. This time he’s working with Frank Theatre on Love and Information. You can catch his performance at the Ritz Theatre in Northeast Minneapolis now through February 22nd.
Working on Love and Information has been an interesting project to say the least. At the audition – which I got thanks Joy Dolo – I was asked to do scenes with really funky, fun, and crazy direction. I was asked to do some scenes as a preacher, or a cheerleader, I walked out of the room feeling like I made a total fool of myself, which is always a good thing. Then when we started the rehearsal process we basically spent the first week at the table essentially re-auditioning. We read through it many times playing different scenes, or reversing scene rolls, then Wendy Knox our slick director began to incorporate circumstances and relationships and then we played around with those until we hit something that felt right for each scene.
The technical part of this show has been the biggest challenge; because of costume changes, scene changes, and the brevity of the scenes we as actors have to be ready to go at the top of the scene. It’s also challenging to have to prepare for your “moment before” when you have seconds between changing costume and getting back out on stage.
I saw Rehearsing Failure at the Southern Theatre and I was taken aback at how amazing non-traditional theatre can be. The cast was incredibly talented, mixing, live music, performance art, with theatre. That performance really made me want to go out and make something.
At the pentagon or in the oval office, I want to know all of America’s dirty laundry.
If you were stuck in a Lifeboat what would you need to have with you?
Last fall, Suzanne Victoria Cross was treading our boards and now she’s back on stage with Walking Shadow in their production of The Coward running through the 28th. Suzanne has a lot of energy: she managed to finish planning her wedding which happened just two weeks after we closed Raise Your Voice(Suzanne Cross): That F—king Harriet Tubman Play.
Walking Shadow is well known for their fine production of period pieces. This time, they’ve chosen to do a gender swap the cast, enabling them to take advantage of some serious female talent here in the Twin Cities. Ladies can duel with the best of them; we’re looking forward to see what other fresh perspectives this choice lends to the text. Their first weekend of shows sold out, so buy your tickets early!
What drew you to theatre, acting specifically?
AHH! Well, my mom started to bring me to shows since I was able to sit still for an hour at a time. I just loved it. Wanted to be a part of it. I just always knew I wanted to be an actor. I knew that was the service I wanted to provide. Over the last 5 years, I have also had a calling for theatre for social change and theatre as a form of therapy and healing. I have worked with many organizations helping individuals explore their lives and issues in their community and country through theatrical exercises and expressions.
Why do certain projects jump out as something you want to say yes to? What prompts you to audition for someone/something?
I would be lying if I didn’t say the first thing I actually look for is “Black female needed.” When you can work in this field, it’s a good day. Your eye has to be on booking the next job. In the beginning, focusing on quantity versus your own idea of quality can be necessary for survival as an actor. The goal and magic of this field comes when you book a job so you can eat and that job aligns with your skills, desires and passion as an actor. Then that’s a great day. I love roles that are thought-provoking and challenge the audience and myself to look at the world in a new way.
The Coward is a period piece that features an almost all male cast, but Walking Shadow has chosen to do a gender flip, how has it been rehearsing with a cast of almost exclusively women ?
Sorry to report no catfights in this cast. I get the pleasure of working with talented individuals who are taking names and risks left and right. This show has allowed me to become a sponge soaking up talent wherever I can. I am very lucky to be working with such a talented group of people. I also know this is said often when actors talk about cast members. In this case, Amy has done such a great job of casting. We all get to work and expand our wheelhouse, each character is evolving into (in my opinion) exactly who they are supposed to be. These actors, who happen to be women, have been great teachers.
Without spoilers, What character are you playing? What are the challenges of the role?
No spoilers? Ummmmmshoot. Ok. I am playing Egbert the Bartender and Sir Derek Lanley. My biggest challenge has been the accent. As my ex cast members from “Raise Your Voice” know, being British ain’t my thing. Until now! Ha! We have a fantastic dialect coach Keely Wolter, who is so much fun to work with. I have spent many nights falling asleep listening to her voice on my iPod.
Is there sword fighting? Please say there is. Does stage combat get you excited or nervous?
I can’t give any spoilers! But i can say we do have a great choreographer, the lovely Meredith Larson. This play is a beautiful balance of honor, nobility and grace juxtaposed with bloody, bloody violence. I do love doing fight scenes! But unfortunately, I will not be participating in any of them for this show.
Anything coming up after The Coward? Future projects?
I am currently the Operations Manager of Teatro del Pueblo, a non-profit Latino theatre located in St. Paul. I will be joining Penumbra’s Education & Outreach team as a Teaching Artist this spring.
You’re fairly new to the Twin Cities theatre community- what has surprised you about it?
I was born and raised in North Minneapolis and have been seeing theatre in this city since I was little. I love the wide range of theatre in this town. The most surprising thing to me is those wonderful fellowships that can take place between actors, if you’re open to it. The fellowship in the waiting room going into an audition, in the waiting room going into callbacks, coffee dates when you’re not cast and drinks at the bar when you are (sometimes that’s reversed) We all want the part! But when you find a great support group of actors, like I have found, we also all want each other to succeed. Both of these facts can exist in the same space. I love the friends I have made in the Twin Cities theatre community and the support they keep giving me.
If you could go back and give your younger self or someone else just starting out in theatre (specifically acting) some advice what would you tell them/yourself?
Do, see, read and breathe! Do! take any training, classes and workshops you can afford. use opportunities to work on your craft, even if it’s working on monologues in your living room in front of fellow performers. You’ll never be done learning and growing. This field isn’t finite. It’s constantly changing, and so should you. See! Support the theatre scene you love and want to be a part of so badly. Don’t just audition for a part and then never see a show from that theatre company if you did not get cast. You auditioned for a reason. Support them. Read! Keep expanding your knowledge of this art form and that includes new commentary, plays, poetry, novels, history, different genres of performance and films. Be a sponge! Breathe! if you’re not cast, it’s not personal! Walk into that audition room take a deep breath and know after you leave it’s not in your hands. They choose. If they didn’t choose you, someone will. It’s about who was best for that show determined by that director. Theatre is subjective…Also clean your room, it’s gross.
If you were stuck in a lifeboat what would you need to have with you? (you’ve got food and water)
AHHHH! Ummm my husband Zach, plays (Stoppard, Ionesco, Wilson, Ruhl) all of the Frasier episode scripts, ice cream (you said food but I was worried ice cream wouldn’t count), flare gun, Radio/Cd player with lots of batteries. NOW 90s Dance CD!
Performances at the Red Eye Theatre (15 West 14th Street, Minneapolis MN 55403) Febraury 6th- Febraury 28. Evening performances at 7:30pm and Sunday matinees at 3:00pm. For more ticket information visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/835993
We’re delighted to highlight Erin Denman. Not only has she been a driving force behind many of our artistic endeavors, but she’s currently working on a show with nimbus theatre. While rehearsing for several weeks with nimbus, she has also done so many Lifeboat activities – reading new scripts, baking delicious cannoli cupcakes and building a website to name a few. We seriously wonder when she has time to do all of these things.
This isn’t Erin’s first time with nimbus; she has previously worked with them on Emerald and the Love Song of the Dead Fisherman, The Balcony and The Golden Ass. The Balcony was the first show nimbus had in their space on Central Ave, which has since become a staple in the theatre community. Over the years, nimbus has tackled story telling from many different perspectives; company created devised pieces, published scripts, new translations of classics, and new works. We’re excited to see them tackle the intersection of art, expression, pre-history and storytelling in the devised work In the Age of Paint and Bone.
What drew you to acting (What’s your origin story)?
When I was in high school, I’d been doing tech for shows and I got recruited for the speech team by a teacher. Suddenly, I found myself onstage. I got to run off crying as the kid who doesn’t get into Fame in one show (FAME, obviously) and play a magical rhyming pirate in another. One of my first shows, Susan Lori-Parks’ Venus, exposed me to what theatre could do for me and how I could change an audience. I’ve never stopped seeking that feeling. Fun fact: Tim Daly, a fellow actor in In the Age of Paint and Bone, was also in FAME and Venus with me at DeLaSalle. Go Islanders?
This is the second devised piece you’ve worked on with nimbus and Liz Neerland. How has the process changed from the first one to the second piece?
This show involves a focus on movement that is entirely different from what we did for The Golden Ass. That show was riffing on tales similar to Aesop’s fables that form the basis of fairy tales we all know. In the Age of Paint and Bone features historical moments as well as speculation about why prehistoric people created art- the basis for the wordless movement pieces. It’s been a very different but rewarding process. The tech is going to be incredible. Brian Hesser deserves a lot of props for creating such integral character in the cave itself.
What gets you excited about creating devised work?
I love playing with other actors and discovering a story rather than being handed the story. There is a sense of comfort and danger about it: you take risks knowing that you’ve built a support structure with the artists you’re working with. You really get the chance to explore what interests the group before settling on a finished product.
What have you seen/read in the past year (or so) that’s inspired you?
I’ve been particularly artistically inspired by not theatrey things this year. Books, mostly. I’ve been reading a lot of feminist memoirs. Caitlin Moran inspires me quite a bit. Aimee Bender’s short stories. A book called Ask Me Why I Hurt about providing medical care to homeless youth. Julianne Moore in Still Alice and the National Theatre Live’s broadcast of Coriolanus both shook me. The Dick Van Dyke Show. Seriously. It’s on Netflix, watch it. The actors are so committed to the absurd happenings that it is all entirely grounded. It’s sort of a joy to watch.
After In the Age of Paint and Bone, is there anything you’ve got lined up?
Little Lifeboats business. TEASE takes up a good chunk of my spring. I’m excited to really get to work. This is the time of year I get ideas, so watch out Lifeboats! I may have some tricks up my sleeve yet!
What role have you been particularly proud of over the years?
That’s a difficult question. Each show/role teaches you so much about yourself and your art. There are a couple more I’d like another crack at though. I’d like to play Evelyn in The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute again. I was proud of what I did there, but I think I was too young to really do it justice. I’d love to play Titania and Emelia again. I’m pretty happy any time I get to do new work. How’s that for a non-answer?
Not a role, but I’m very proud of TEASE. I’m happy that a little idea became something people enjoy doing and that helps artists connect.
What question should I have asked you but didn’t?
Ahhh…. I don’t know. My favorite beverage is unsweetened ice tea. But not iced green tea. Because that’s super gross.
If you were stuck in a Lifeboat what do you need to have? (you’ve got water and food)
My kindle loaded with books (new overly complicated fiction to take up a lot of time, poetry, autobiographies of comedians, and dumb fantasy novels) and a solar powered charger. And an unlimited supply of sunscreen.
Performances of In the Age of Paint and Bone will be at the nimbus space (1517 Central Ave) February 7th, 2015- March 1 2015. Matinees at 3pm, Weekend evening at 8pm weeknight evening at 7:30pm. tickets and more information at www.nimbustheatre.com