All posts by alissandramichelle

A Sit Down With Casey Hartnett

Re: The Girl with the Red Hair, A play by Anthony Laura 

To sit and talk with Casey Hartnett about a character like Hayley Jones in a play like The Girl With The Red Hair is a complete breath of fresh air. Casey is casual but focused, soft yet stern and friendly but direct. All of which show exactly why Anthony Laura cast her as his lead in this play. The character of Hayley Jones is a delicate one; The scene is set in a psychiatric facility and Hayley is battling her inner demons the entire play between her personal trauma and mental illness while trying to maintain relationships. And she does all of this while on the brink of a manic episode. 

The show, The Girl With The Red Hair is getting its second run in December, after much praise for the first run. While I didn’t get to see the play for the first time, after sitting with Casey Hartnett and reading the script I will most definitely be there in December. 

Ali: Casey, this play is filled with difficult scenes, why were you drawn to this specific role? 

Casey: So Anthony called me after reading the script asking “Do you want to do it? It’s kind of a beast of a role…” And I was like “Yup.” I wasn’t thinking about the beast of a role, the script is very good, the flow is solid, I just felt a connection to the character right away. And I said, I’d love to see where this goes.  I really admired the script in general and I really loved Hayley. I really like misunderstood characters. And we were talking about how he was inspired by the women in his life and how his writing is very relatable, he writes very real women, very complex portrayals of female characters, which I think is such a gift. So that’s one thing I love about his writing and all of his projects that I’ve read or been a part of so far. A dream role of mine was to be Laura in The Glass Menagerie and when I played her in acting class I got very protective over her because she reminded me of someone I know and love. So now with Hayley I get very protective over her and of all of those types of characters. We were just talking about how long we hoped to be working on this play for and it was one of those things where no matter how long this show goes on I don’t want to think about anyone else playing this role. Not in a selfish way, but I am still learning about her in so many ways, It’s such a sensitive role and you feel like you just want to protect her and do her justice, and all of the girls in similar situations to Hayley. I want to protect these misunderstood characters and when you feel that in a script its very powerful.

A: Can you talk about your working relationship with Anthony? And why you would want to work with him again in the future.

C: I feel like we are very good collaborative partners. He’s very open to hearing the ideas from his actors.  It’s just a very trusting environment, like if we try something and we fall on our face, it’s fine – he doesn’t make it a scary environment. But a lot of times things work in ways that we didn’t even expect and its magical. Collaboratively it’s been really fun because there is a lot of trust and respect there. 

A: So, this show is a tougher subject, is that something you generally look for in a role? Or did you just find that you’re good at it jumping in? 

C: (laughing) I didn’t know I was good at this! When he called me and said he thought I could do this I was like, wow. I’m a very soft-spoken person, people say I’m like the best friend, girl next door, sweet innocent character. And I think because I am so soft spoken this isn’t something that I’m used to people being like “I think you’ll be good at this.” I had to work through to really be okay to express anger and rage on stage, I was very quiet and reserved growing up. So I guess this is the first time someone has said they feel like I can do something this emotionally diverse. Anthony clearly saw something, and that was just really nice.  Reading it I was like okay I think I can do this but there were parts that just scared me. I don’t always submit myself for roles where it’s like this badass woman but I think this has given me more confidence in that way.

A: The show is getting a new run, which is very exciting. What are you interested in or excited about exploring in this new run?

C: Well I think we just didn’t have enough time to dive into the bi-polar disorder and childhood sexual abuse, which are both very intense topics and so in depth. So really for me, I’ve been doing a lot more reading, for me it was always so important to try and do justice to those two things. Because they do correlate with one another really well. So working with the trauma and the mental illness, they correlate but diving deep into what that depression looks like, what that mania looks like. Last time we just didn’t have enough time.  We’re using this time to do research and workshop. I think for me the scariest thing as an actor is doing this and having someone coming to the show leaving feeling just as misunderstood as when they walked in. But at the same time I don’t want to think about it too much because I am going to do what I do… but I just want to be sensitive towards that. It’s gonna be great just to get the opportunity to dive in more than last time.

A: In the second run Anthony is adding the character of “Young Hayley.” How do you think the addition of young Hayley propels the play forward for the audience?

C: I think it’s definitely going to have a stronger effect, seeing the difference between someone pre trauma and the same person post trauma so many years later. Anthony was just talking about how people who were abused as young kids are always afraid they are going to become abusers. And I hadn’t thought about that. But when I’m Hayley and I recognize that that’s me, young Hayley, and knowing what’s going to happen to her and there’s nothing I can do about it… Having those moments was tough. You know you can’t go back and fix it, even though she’s right there.  I feel like there’s a point for most people where something happens and there’s a divide between when you were carefree and naive and then when you’re older. That divide that makes you more of a realist. I think that in itself will be more of a relatable thing. I think it will be a universal understanding of Hayley for the audience.

A: You’re obviously very passionate about Hayley as a character, what do you love about Hayley so much?

C: I think Hayley is an open minded person and a really caring person, especially towards the other people in the hospital. Because she is so smart and intelligent and she does have this open minded, I am not going to judge you and I’ll accept you for who you are mentality. And she doesn’t judge others illnesses because she doesn’t want that for herself. I think there is an underlying quality about her, it’s easier for her to distract herself by caring about other people than focusing on herself. It makes her feel normal in a world where she doesn’t always feel normal. That’s definitely something that I love about her. 

A: After revisiting the character, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced with Hayley?

C: The biggest challenge for me was braving the rage scenes, the violence and the mania. Because I am not a violent person, when I get angry I tend to just hold it in. I’m not as temperamental towards anger, that’s just not how I express myself. So when I read that in a character I don’t know if I can do that. So that is definitely a fear I had. For me, embracing and just letting myself go there and just really diving into the mental illness and making that as truthful and honest as possible. When I was a kid I had so many people tell me to do film and not theater because I didn’t have a big personality. 

A: What do you hope the audience gains from seeing this play?

C: I would hope that the play opens up the conversation about mental health a bit more. And the people who see it go home and are just more open to talking about it – whether it’s friends or their own self just being okay to talk about it and not being judgmental. Anyone can find themselves subconsciously judging another person and not doing it in a way of disrespect but making a snap judgment. When we started rehearsing I was working with the homeless and I think from doing that work and learning about very vulnerable people, it just completely changed my stigmas around homelessness. So I would hope that when someone sees Hayley and sees her struggling to like try to will it all away, that Hayley didn’t ask for this, so you just hope that people leave the theater open minded and understanding, less judgmental and continue learning and having conversations about it. Just not treating people like their crazy or anything like that. 

A: There are a lot of characters arcs for every character but Hayley can’t seem to connect with them. Throughout the play she loses a lot of friends and Tabitha is really the only one who can stay friends with her. What do you think of the significance of losing Cortney, and then gaining her back? 

C: I think Cortney is a great character honestly, I mean, they all are! But Cortney is just unique because with her there is always that, you can see it as a really close friend. You know everyone decided they were scared of Hayley and her mania, Tabitha put up with it and was there to console Hayley but Cortney is like; let me give her some space. She was scared of Hayley but for a different reason, because of a physical attraction.  I think also Cortney and Hayley might not understand everything they are going through but they have this level of I hear you, I see you – I may not understand, but I’m here for you. And I think there is just that love between the two of them. I think Cortney really wants Hayley to know that she is there and always will be there. I can’t talk about the last scene but there is a level of scary for Hayley that someone could care about her that much and for who she really is. 

A: So what was your favorite line of the play?

C: I was thinking about this, but I think my favorite is when Janice is telling Hayley about Dr. Watkins’ own personal situation. Because I loved Dr. Watkins character and how vulnerable but tough Vivien was with the role. It is wonderful to work off of. And then you hear Janice say this about Dr. Watkins: So if Dr. Watkins has her problems, and I have my problems, and your mom has her problems, you have your problems, God even has his own problems… Who is really going to be able to help you? Because we’re all going through our own stuff. It broadens the whole thing from just about the patients to no I’m your nurse and she’s your doctor and we all have our own stuff going on. Like when therapists see therapists.  You know everyone is just trying to figure it out. That line just stands out for me. It’s a powerful thing to just put that into perspective for people, you don’t know what someone else is going through and you don’t need to know but just understand that they’re human. But that’s probably why I love that line, if only we could all be doing that the world would be a different place. 

A: Is there anything specific you do before the opening act?

C: Well we do a pre-show. I’ll be sitting onstage in the space as Hayley, just there, before the show. When doing the pre-show for the July run and all of these people started walking in and of course they are looking at me but I didn’t want them to look at me. I got really self-conscious. You know I’m in Hayley’s mind frame and I didn’t want them to look at me like I was crazy. It brought out this self-consciousness in Hayley before the show and it probably helped me. And I always was wondering if that was why Anthony did it. But it felt like they were in my space, I started getting emotional with it and I had to turn away for a moment just to be like its okay that they are here. I think it was also knowing what I was going to do in front of these people, it got weird, but a good weird. I just felt emotionally connected and prepared for the role that I didn’t want people to judge me. 

A: So Anthony told me a little about your life outside of the theater, I want to talk about what you do volunteer-wise! 

C: So I volunteer with #HappyPeriod and its an organization that collects menstrual products from homeless and low income families. And we distribute them to shelters and on the street. It started in LA and the woman, Chelsea Vonchaz who started it would walk up and down skid row handing out these kits and I’ve been involved since the beginning of 2016! I’ve been mostly doing drives in NY. My friend and I had made a web series, a comedic sketch series about women on their periods in different time periods. Just a fun little quirky thing we wanted to do. From there we researched period positive organizations and my friend found #HappyPeriod and that they do donation drives, we got in touch with Chelsea and at our screening we did a donation drive for New York. After that we stayed in touch with Chelsea and became the New York chapter for #HappyPeriod. Now it’s a small group who organize drives and events and we all work together. It’s tough because it’s all volunteer based it’s hard to stay consistent with the volunteers. I don’t want it to stop, and if me and a few other people stopped the New York chapter would stop, so we don’t want that to happen. I also started working with Breaking Ground a homeless outreach program. They do street to home housing. And it really works. I felt like I could do it for a long time but then I got back involved with theater and had to stop working with the homeless. Now that the play is going on I really only have time to do #happyperiod and the show. 

 

Written and interviewed by Alissandra L’Hommedieu

For show dates/times visit: https://www.facetofacefilms.net/thegirlwiththeredhair

Hunter S. Thompson

The first time I had heard of Hunter S. Thompson was when I was living in San Francisco smoking pot on the sixth floor of an apartment building two blocks down from the famed intersection of Haight and Ashbury. You’d get offered a tab of E from a bum and an invitation to go sightseeing from a local hipster in the same two minutes. With so many fuck-ups around me it was hard to imagine that this Thompson guy was anyone of importance or just another martyr for the smoked out hippies of the generation. Committed to submersing myself in the American Dream of San Francisco I read up on the guy and learned his Gonzo style of writing and his complete disregard for the establishment. Although he wrote with the implication that he was constantly trying to prove he was a drug doing, fast car driving, I-fear-nothing, anti-establishment bad-ass, there was still something about his raw journalism that I was drawn to.

2013

Michael Moore

I’ve always kinda liked Michael Moore as a documentarian. In college I did a lot of research on his work and who he was. This is from when I was comparing his life written versus viewed. I found it interesting and wanted to save it, so now it’s on the blog. I hope someone besides me enjoys it!

Anyway, the chapter in Michael Moore, A Biography I read this week was called “Are you going to San Francisco?” I felt that when I watched the film Roger & Me the time that Moore spent in San Francisco was sort of skipped over, like it never even happened. This chapter opened my eyes a lot to what it must be like to work with a person like Michael Moore. His coworkers stated he was hard to work with and put down most ideas they came up with, even asking how they could ever think something like that was good. I’m sure I would have had a few rows with him if we ever were at odds working together. I also learned that he was bringing a girlfriend and her daughter to California alongside him. This came as a surprise because he tends to portray himself as a loner. When he began working for The Nation employees didn’t like working with him so much so that one worker would bring him donuts to hopefully instigate Moore’s demise. He was given a U-Haul truck and $52,000 as a settlement to him accusing Mother Jones of libel. He took the U-Haul back to flint and used the money to make Roger & Me, to great success. I’ve always admired his courage in taking on big corporations and big scandals but after this chapter it is quite obvious why he is still alone. He seems like a terrible person to be around as an equal.

Earth Day has passed, but that doesn’t mean we should stop talking about the planet.

Earth Day. The first Earth Day was held in 1970, credit of the idea goes to Gaylord Nelson. Nelson created the day in hopes of demonstrating political support for an environmental agenda. But, as I look at the current political agenda it seems the original idea of Earth Day has been lost along with the American government’s integrity.
Three and a half years ago I stood on the streets of San Francisco asking people to “Step into my office…” and talk about climate change. Three and a half years ago I got a lot of proverbial doors slammed in my face. Before the hurricanes, the droughts, the wild fires, the blizzards, and the mass melting of arctic ice the general public was not interested in climate change. I know this for a fact, I know this in ways most people don’t.
I spent a semester outside of college living in San Francisco and studying with Greenpeace. When people generally think of Greenpeace they imagine the show Whale Wars and crazy hippies. Greenpeace is actually the largest non-violent environmental activist group in the world.
Two years later tropical storm Irene hit New York, a historic storm that marked the first time Albany ever issued a tropical storm warning, and followed it with an alarmingly dry winter. Six months after that, parts of America and Australia (among others) saw massive wildfires spreading out of control. Then the ice around the arctic reached an all time low, many scientists said it had basically disappeared. This past summer, the droughts have affected crops for the coming year. Then, Hurricane Sandy, much of Long Island and New Jersey will never be the same after the massive super storm.
In 2013, 90% of scientists believe that humans are affecting the climate and the temperatures are rising. Four out of five Americans believe humans are a cause of climate change and that it needs to be addressed quickly. These statistics are staggering when you realize that a mere three years ago the public was vastly uninformed or just thought tree huggers had made it up.
New introductions like the Keystone XL pipeline and Fracking the Marcellus Shale are leading us into a scary future. According to Bill McKibben, an environmental activist who has written extensively on Global Warming, if the temperature of Earth raises 2 degrees Celsius there would be a massive change in the climate. It has already risen 0.8 degrees and we have seen drastic changes as mentioned above. The more informed everyone is on climate change and its direct correlation to the fossil fuel industry the better. This is where Earth Day should come in; across the planet 192 countries celebrate the holiday and we will see if any legislative attention is paid to the issues that threaten the future of the planet.
Margaret Mead best described the most important concept I learned from Greenpeace, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I am committed to making Earth a safe and clean place, starting with Earth Day. Fossil fuel companies may have the money but they cannot buy our voices.

The Road To Becoming Spartan Strong

 

June 8th 2014 I became a Spartan Warrior. And by that I mean I participated in the Spartan Sprint Race in Tuxedo, New York.

To prepare for the race I had been doing about three months of cardio and strength training; I had already been exercising regularly for months and in pretty decent shape. The training I did included hill training, crawling, burpees and tons of other work outs designed to build endurance and keep your heart rate up while incorporating strength training. The Spartan Race sends out emails with the WOD (work out of the day) and I completed a bunch of them and all of the skills I learned through those workouts really came in handy on race day!

Never having done an OCR (Obstacle course race) before I had no idea what to expect. I felt like I was prepared physically and mentally but was still a little nervous about testing my body’s limits in a new way. We were team No Pain No Gain and the five of us were absolutely amped as our 11:45 race time approached. Climbing over the first wall to get into the start pen was only the beginning of the next 2.5 hours.

“Who are you???” Boomed the Spartan about to send us into the course.

“WE ARE SPARTANS!” Resounded the crowd of warriors in the pen.

As a smoke bomb filled the start line we were off! Through the smoke and up the mountain in the 84 degree sunshine we all started out running like a pack of wolves. Reaching the top and realizing I had just run up a ski mountain (as a skier something about that seemed very backward) the adrenaline was pumping through my veins like a Bose speaker. We ran down the hill following the markers through the rocks and slate taking cautious yet quick steps and avoiding other runners. I could feel the dryness building up in my mouth from the runners kicking up dirt as I approached the first obstacle.

The first obstacle was the metal monkey bars, each bar of course a different height to increase intensity. I enthusiastically hopped up onto the bars and after two bars I fell. …What? If I was going to be a Spartan I had to try again and this time I incorporated my legs. Jumping up and grabbing on using momentum to swing my feet into the bars I wove my way like a lemur to the other side of the bars. SUCCESS. No burpees for me… yet.

Now at the bottom of the mountain it only made sense that we had to head right back up it. Taking off at a run I headed uphill towards the next set of obstacles. Thankfully at the top I found the first water station and relieved the dusty throat sensation. Each obstacle that I overcame a new wave of adrenaline washed over me and I was always ready to continue running up and down the mountain. Keeping in my head the mantra “One foot in front of the other.” 

The first obstacle that would force me into thirty muddy burpees was the netted monkey bars – no leg climbing allowed. Two hands in and I fell into a pond of muddy water, completely submerged. This was about the time I realized its time to start lifting heavier at the gym. But what I lacked in upper body strength I made up for in endurance. Springing up after the burpees then headed up the muddy path back up the mountain, extra cautious due to the slippery mud.

Further down the race I came up to my new favorite obstacle – the 200-meter barbed wire crawl. I don’t know what I expected this to be but the gravel, rocks and slate that we had to crawl over wasn’t it. I started off behind someone who was moving incredibly slow, once I realized I could man handle this hurdle I wove around her and finished rather quickly, I rolled, crawled, spider-crawled, and limbo-ed my way under the barbed wire and to the end, dodging more than one kick to the head by Spartans ahead of me. When I got out I once again felt that wave of victory and adrenaline.

Victory only lasted until the top of the mountain where the spear throwing sent me back into the mud for 30 more burpees. Although I got closer than I thought I would it looks like I need to practice throwing a spear… any target volunteers?

After the burpees, we were back up the mountain, now running over large rocks. Growing up on Long Island where a jetty is common at just about every beach this felt like child’s play to me. I enthusiastically hopped from one to the next eagerly awaiting the next obstacle. Climbing over walls, under walls, through walls, traversing walls, inverted walls (thanks again Eric for that leg-up) I didn’t have an issue getting by, constantly feeling more and more excited about my success.

Then came the carrying obstacles. I carried a 65-pound boulder 30 feet then did 10 burpees and carried it back no problem. Next up pick up a log and carry it around the woods, done. Then the sand bag disks, feeling energetic I began running uphill with my bag once at the top I held back vomit as I came around the corer, into the blistering sun and started running downhill with it. Success. The carrying obstacles would not slow me down. 

Hopping between tires on the way down we came up to the rope climb. Which unfortunately sent me back to burpees, thirty more burpees in the mud for this Spartan Chick. Challenge accepted rope climb, next Spartan race you will become mine.

Back up the mountain for the final climb. At this point I was so excited to have almost finished my first OCR I sprinted ahead of my team. Up the mountain and down coming up to the final wall which I leapt over with surprising ease. In the distance I see the sweltering heat of the fire pit and beyond that, the finish line. Head down I ran, knowing this was a photo opp I looked up at the camera as I reached the apex of the jump and didn’t look down quick enough to nail my landing. Instead I nailed a rock with the soft part of my knee. Suddenly the world was in slow motion, I looked up and around and without a second thought sprang up from the ground and ran across the finish line.

I got my finisher medal and headed to the medical tent where I was told that the EMT could see the bone in my knee through the wound and that I needed medical attention immediately. A few hours later still wearing my medal and finisher shirt the No Pain No Gain team left the hospital, me with nine stitches, one of which internal, but all of us as Spartans. AROO! AROO! AROO!!!!!