In Between @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 6.25.19 PM.png

The In Between is a film about three Palestinian Israeli women who navigate the oppressive and tumultuous waters of a patriarchal culture in predominantly Jewish Israel. In their navigation, each woman offers support to the other even in the knowledge that her support could have dire consequences. Written and directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, the In Between is a strong filmic pulse for the issues addressed by women across lines of race and ethnicity in today’s socio-cultural political climate.

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 6.26.25 PM.png

Hamoud takes a hard line in his story, being sure to tap into the interior lives of each woman. Laila, played by Mouna Hawa, is a lawyer, who is no stranger to a party. She drinks and smokes and lets her thick curly hair run wild. Salma, played by Sana Jammelieh, adorns tattoos; she loves to deejay and to bartend. Then Nour, played by Shaden Kanboura, arrives at their apartment dressed in a hajib, ready to continue her studies in computer science. Laila and Salma baffle and intrigue her at the same time. She is the character walking across the bridge between her Muslim traditions and the free-style of her roommates. To the consternation of her fiancé, Wissam, played by Henry Andrawes, Nour finds herself caught between her promise to marry Wissam and her desire to stay with these two bold and brash women and practice her independence. The results of her decision are devastating but the bond between the women releases her to wholeness.

There is more, however. Salma reveals to her parents that she is a lesbian. They are livid and question how this could have happened to the family. Salma has to negotiate her love for family, her independence, and her sexual preference. Laila finds out, much to her disappointment, that her lover, Ziad, played by Mahmoud Shalaby, is more conservative in his beliefs about women than she had anticipated.

In Between is well cast, and each actress brings to her character a verisimilitude that strikes an honest chord with her character’s dilemma. Hamoud also is careful to depict a wave of parental emotion from disquietude to embarrassment to love and acceptance.

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 6.27.40 PM.png

What Hamoud manages to bring out in his film is that female independence is complicated by myriad factors. It does not come as easy as one would expect. You either take it and accept the consequences or abandon it in lost hope. Even the decisions we make to ensure independence do not mean a life of euphoria and dances in a field of wildflowers; there can be honest misgivings, confusion, and ambivalence. What he gives each woman, though, is the gift of each other that does not waver as she walks in between.


Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 6.30.01 PM

The In Between plays through March 15 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Also playing through March 15 at the Ross is Fantastic Woman, Sebastian Lelio film about a woman who struggles to safeguard her chosen life after the death of her lover.



Faces Places @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 10.59.18 PM

JR and Agnés Varda

Do you remember that trusty old photo album? You know that book with plastic pockets wherein you placed the photos you waited about a week for them to be developed? Do you remember the anticipation of driving up to the photomat or walking up to the counter in the drugstore and going through every photo all while the cashier waited patiently for you to pay for them? You didn’t care because as you leaned on the counter perusing each photo, certain emotions came over you. Those 3×5 cards bore witness to particular moments in your life. Those photos told a story.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 10.57.30 PM

The Town’s Postman

Street Artist JR and Agnés Varda feature the art of taking photos of faces and places and developing them on gigantic sheets of photo paper for all of their subjects to see in the moment. In their documentary entitled Faces and Places, Varda, a co-founder of French New Wave Cinema of the late 50s, and JR travel around the French countryside together in a van equipped with a camera seeking out the everyday ordinary. Daily life of working class people is the main aspect of this documentary, and Varda and JR invite audiences into the lively conversations each one has with them before the photo is taken. Why? Because these dialogues lay bare the histories of faces and places.

In the film, ordinary places and things such as crates in an industrial yard, fish at the market, feet and eyes and trains and water towers capture the attention of Varda and JR. One of the most amazing scenes are those of an area of abandoned row houses wherein the coal-mining families lived. These row houses are to be demolished but one lone resident on the row, Jeanne, refuses to leave. The retired miners come out to the area and tell of the dangers and hazards they endured as they worked the daily grind in the mines. Pictures are taken, then JR and his crew plaster these larger-than-life visuals of the miners and Jeanne, on the frontice piece of the brick homes. Autobiography along with the visual coalesce to offer testimony to a community once teeming with families, relatives, and friends. People once lived here.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 11.05.28 PM

The Coal Miners on Brick

I enjoyed seeing this young man and octogenarian finding solace in each other’s company and in their art. The strolls on the cold windy beaches, the conversations in the café, and the interactions with ordinary people, the patience, the comfort level JR and Agnés have with each other are refreshing, especially in this pop culture that is saturated with and salivates over youth.

Faces Places reminds us that the everyday ordinary of working-class people—from the postman to the truck driver to the goat farmer to the miner–all have stories to tell us if we take time to listen. But JR and Agnés privilege particular faces their documentary. No people of color are interviewed. The extent of JR’s and Agnés’s curiosity begins and ends, then, with French white citizens. On one excursion, an interracial couple is included in the project but the wife of African descent is silent. She sits without emotion as if to look into space as her husband chatters on and her children play around her. Why? Is there a political statement both filmmakers are trying to push to the viewing audience?

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime, catch a film, share the popcorn, feed your soul!


The Shape of Water @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 11.23.10 PM.png

The Asset (Doug Jones)

Guillermo del Toro’s newest cinematic endeavor, The Shape of Water, entices audiences to suspend its disbelief and nestle into his fairytale love story between … well, a beauty and a beast. Film goers will recognize other references to films such as Splash, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, E.T., and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I’d even go so far as to include Cinderella and The Elephant Man in the line-up of film references. In The Shape of Water, del Toro delves into the ‘what if’ of romance as he carefully dramatizes the fervent attraction of a lowly Cinderella-esque character to an amphibian creature called The Asset, played by Doug Jones. The Asset has been captured from the amazon in South America to be examined for its ability to endure extreme situations.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 11.25.54 PM.png

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) on her way to work

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a mute who lives alone above a movie theater and who is employed as a janitor at an underground science hub in Baltimore, Maryland. The time is 1962. Zelda, played by Octavia Spencer, is Elisa’s friend and confidante. Giles, played by Richard Jennings, is an unemployed gay advertising artist who also lives alone in the same apartment building as Elisa. He introduces us to our heroine as the princess without a voice. It is to Giles that Elisa reveals in sign language the reasons for her attraction to The Asset.

Elisa and Zelda labor in the isolated underground lab facility in chilly and bitter conditions. The scientists and lab technicians in their white coats shore up the echo as they walk the halls to their appointments. There is no joy in this environment; only a clipboard of statistics, computers spewing data, and, even more terrifying, creature hatred and abuse inhabit this world.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 11.28.09 PM.png

Elisa and her friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer)

The United States is in a race against the Russians to develop its space program. The creature, or The Asset, is the key to the space program’s advancement.

Yet in Elisa’s world, love intervenes. Not only romantic love but love for your friends and associates who believe in those time honored civil rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Shape of Water plays through February 8 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

78/52 Hitchcock’s Shower Scene @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 12.05.56 AM.png

I am sure you have a story to tell of the first time you saw Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. I am sure you have a story to tell of your response to the notorious shower scene in that film. My own experience is that it messed with my sense of safety in private spaces. Hitchcock warned me that no matter how secure is a door’s lock, privacy can be invaded and there would be nothing I could do about it.

Well, Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary 78/52 Hitchcock’s Shower Scene takes us behind the scenes of Marion Crane’s murder by Mother as she takes a shower before turning in for the evening at the infamous Bates Motel. Philippe has an impressive line-up of talking heads to facilitate the telling of his story: Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Torro, Ilyanna Douglas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Lee’s daughter, and Osgood Perkins, the son of Tony Perkins. Archival footage of Janet Leigh, the star of Psycho, as well as Alfred Hitchcock generates insight on the man behind the curtain.

One striking element to 78/52 is Philippe’s contextualization of the film. Points of reference include the civil rights and women’s liberation movements, the in cold blood murder of the Clutter family in 1959, and how the outbreak of juvenile delinquency cast an exhaustive eye on mothers. Even more important, Philippe notes a tear in the seams of 1950s idealism, in particular the changing roles of women. Something was about to give; it had to, and Philippe delivers a remarkable and incisive analysis of Hitchcock’s move into the space of that breach.

Hitchcock announced to the world of filmmaking: It is time for a change and here it is 78 camera set-ups and 52 cuts later: Psycho, the murder of the movie’s female star early in the film by a cross-dresser. Enter the era of the modern film. Filmmaker Karyn Kusama notes that Marion Crane’s brutal murder is “the first modern expression of the female body under assault”, and Alfred Hitchcock left no stone unturned to render shock to the assault.

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 12.13.47 AM

Marli Renfro, Janet Leigh’s body double

As did Hitchcock dismember the body of Marion Crane, so do the interviewees cut apart the shower scene in the film. The shot-by-shot analysis by each of them feeds audience hunger to know more about its composition. Each analysis is remarkable, and this documentary will serve as an informative introduction to film analysis and film review. The attention to detail is astonishing. Did you know that Hitchcock ordered a horde of melons—yes, as in watermelon, honeydew, casaba, crenshaw, cantaloupe–to get the perfect sound of a knife stabbing flesh? The casaba won! Bernard Hermann, the motion picture conductor who composed the unforgettable shrieks, appears in raw footage. Yet, one of the delights in the documentary is the interview with Marli Renfro, Janet Lee’s body double. Now 79 years old, Renfro gently claims her historical significant in playing Lee’s body double. It is a joy to hear her behind-the-scenes story.

The Ross logo

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More Reviews & Commentary.

In the meantime,

Catch a film …

Share the Popcorn …

Feed Your Soul!



Brigsby Bear @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 12.26.37 AM

Kyle Mooney as Brigsby Bear (James Pope)

Kidnapped as a baby from the hospital by a two science kooks, James Pope, played by Saturday Night Live regular Kyle Mooney, has lived in isolation underground somewhere USA since then. His parents, Ted, played by Mark Hamil, and April, played by Jane Adams, have assembled an animated outside world where animals and foliage appear real. Installed in the compound are secret codes that open and close doors; they wear gas masks when going outside. James’s only means of entertainment is a television show called the Brigsby Bear Adventures, and new episodes are delivered on VHS tape to him by his parents. Do you remember the 1970s television series called Spectreman and more recent Smallville? Well, add Teletubbies, Barney, and Power Rangers into the mix, hoist the moon from George Milies’s 1902 film Trip to the Moon, and you have Brigsby Bear.

Directed by Dave McCrary and written by Kevin Costello and Mooney, Brigsby Bear is a quirky offbeat film, and it envisions a world of acceptance no matter your circumstance. The FBI locate Ted and April, rescue James, and return him to his birth parents. The adventures begin as James, now 25 years old, finds friends who have an emotional and psychological investment in his project to turn Brigsby Bear into a film. For him, it is his only means of closing out his former world in isolation and embracing his new life.

Costello’s and Mooney’s story really is about using what you have in your own house to create happiness. James has memorized every Brigsby Bear episode, but with his return to his birth family, no more episodes are delivered to him. Since Brigsby Bear’s world is all James has known, Brigsby Bear is the dross material he utilizes to keep him from the brink of insanity. Strangely enough, we can credit James’s steady emotional and psychological course to the advice from his kidnapper father.

The Ross logo

All of Brigsby Bear’s adventures rest inside of James. This element in the story works, and sidesteps our expectation for a complete nervous breakdown by James after his capture and entry into his new life. Mooney is perfect in Brigsby Bear, playing him walking a very fine line between sanity and complete madness.



Maudie @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 6.13.21 PM

Sally Hawkins as Maudie

What is YOUR version of happiness?

Ushling Walsh’s newest film Maudie for certain will inspire you ask that question. Sally Hawkins plays Maud Lewis, the reclusive Canadian folk artist who rose to fame for her paintings of everyday ordinary life in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia. Ethan Hawke plays her husband, Everett Lewis, a fish peddler. Everett meets Maud after she arrives at his place in answer to a handwritten ad he placed in the local grocery store for a live-in housekeeper. She keeps the 9 ft by 10 ft 6 house in spite of her debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her grump of her employer, Everett.

Everett and Maud, nevertheless, dwell in the house without the usual amenities … uhm … no running water, no indoor plumbing, no electricity – none of these — out in the middle of nowhere where the winters are ferocious. Uh uh … there is no heat. The couple live in these conditions until Maud’s death in 1970.

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 6.17.09 PM

Ethan Hawke as Everett

Painting gives Maude solace, and no wall, door, cabinet, window, appliance nor activity escapes the stroke of her brush.

Walsh’s interpretation of Maud brings to audiences a woman, who, in spite of her circumstances, yearns only for her paint, paintbrushes, and a seat by the window to create.

The fame her artistry brings is of no consequence to her.  Sally Hawkins plays Maud as an artist who just happens to sell her work. Fame is nothing she seeks but Ethan Hawke’s Everett finds the discovery of Maud’s work by the outside world discomfiting. The couple, nevertheless, endure each other. Hawkins and Hawke interpret Maud and Everett as a couple wrapped up in a blanket of a rugged and weathered primitive kind of love. If either one of us could have asked Maud, or Everett for that matter, how could they have lived in such a way. Maud would have answered this is MY version of happiness.

The Ross logo


Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More Reviews & Commentary.


In the meantime,

Catch a film …

Share the Popcorn …

Feed Your Soul!

Brittani Minnieweather McElveen ~ The Interview

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 2.05.44 PM.png

Brittani Minnieweather McElveen. Her name stirs up the rhythm of a hip hop dance step, and a sense of distinction travels through its sound. Indeed, Brittani or “Britt” as she is called affectionately, is movingmovingmoving to the beat of her own drum—a beat that has led her from the basketball court to the center stage of the theatre.

It’s a curious progression for two reasons. First, Brittani enjoyed the thrill of the game of basketball for eight years. As an athlete, she learned strategy and how to be a team player. Curious also because as did I, Brittani comes from the same über-supportive southern community in Columbia, South Carolina. Youth were expected to excel in the vocational arts and/or go to college and, thereafter, expected to get the job with medical and dental insurance, one-week vacation (two after five years) – you know those tried and true benefits. Theatre and/or entertainment? Pshaw! No communal Elder anointed that occupation. Too unstable. Where are the benefits? Her mother, Sharon, even admitted, “All jokes aside, I was hoping she would see the light and go find a real job, and start building something of a future.”

These are tough sentiments but Brittani, with her mother’s support, managed her life stages well through discipline, focus, and training to step into her passion for theatre with a confidence grounded in her faith and, more important, love.

Want to know more about Brittani Minnieweather McElveen? Read The Interview.

What drew you to the game of basketball?

My height! Really, it all started when I was about nine years old. I played at the park, and my friends would tell me I should play basketball because of my height. So, in seventh grade, I tried out for and made the team. I played basketball year round from then until high school. When I played — from about when I was 10 years old to 18 —basketball was part of my identity as a person.

What do you like the most about the sport?

Whenever I watch a game, I always enjoy the competitive nature of it. I really appreciate how the players work as a team.The cheers, the applause, and just feeling the energy on the court … I think all of these tie into me being a team player. Plus, I see the game as a performance. Coaches push their team as a theatre director would teach me during rehearsal.

How did you grow into your own as an athlete?

As I developed on the court, I came to realize that I was a very good team player. I also felt comfortable in my own lane playing defense; I did not need to be the star because I matured into a good solid player—not a great one–but I honed my strength in the game. It worked out well.

Did you have any aspirations to play professional basketball?

No. I never thought I would play professional. By the time of my junior year in high school, I was through with basketball. In all honesty, I grew weary of it. We won some games; we lost a lot.

What were your plans after basketball?

I knew I was going to college; my mother made sure of it. I strategized how to earn a scholarship. In eighth grade, I took a couple of high school courses to get credit. Those advanced classes created in me the desire to be smart—to really go for the academics. I understood that a high GPA resulted in being in a certain percentage of your class. Also, at graduation, with a high GPA, I could wear a chord signaling academic excellence. I wanted all of those for me. So, I just did my work. I studied. My hard work paid off. I graduated from high school with a 4.1 GPA and earned a full scholarship at Wofford College [in Spartanburg, South Carolina].

Why Wofford College?

I applied to some out-of-state art schools but they offered no scholarships to cover tuition. I was happy to be accepted to Wofford because out of all of the schools I applied, Wofford stood out as one of the best schools in the southeast for academics.

Briefly sketch your first experiences/thoughts on being a college student.

I chose marketing because I wanted a practical major I believed could ensure employment after college. I have to admit, though, academics at Wofford were tough for me. I am a wiz at memorizing facts but writing papers were a challenge—it was very difficult for me my freshman year. In fact, I was put on probation and had to bring up my grades in order to keep my scholarship.

How did you turn that around?

I became good friends with Derek McElveen, a very studious guy whom I met during freshman orientation. He did not play around. We would meet and talk to each other about our dreams and goals—you know, the serious stuff. We helped each other to hone in on what we wanted to do. Sophomore year he started helping me with my papers; we studied and did homework together. College became a little easier for me because we were a focused pair.

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 2.47.30 PM

Brittani in Red Noses

At Wofford, you won the James R. Gross Award for Excellence in Theatre. When did theatre become your primary focus of study?

A professor by the name of Dr. Mark Ferguson, the director of Wofford Theatre, from whom I credit gaining a lot of my confidence, suggested that I double major in Theatre and Business. When I told Derek of my aspirations for acting, he encouraged me to go for them. I listened. At the end of my freshman year I joined the theatre department after audition. Needless to say, I enjoyed my time at Wofford after my freshman year. I am so fond of my junior and senior years because of my decision to change my major. My relationship with Derek was a plus. We have been married now for 5 years!

I’d rather be known as a great team player than to be known as the best one on the stage. The best one can always get a job but I want a lifetime of jobs.

You were very popular at Wofford so much that your peers voted you Homecoming Queen in 2010. What accounted for your popularity?

Well, not so much as ‘popular’ but more an acknowledgement of what I stood for. I participated in the Association for Multi-Cultural Students and Wofford Women of Color. I joined the gospel choir. I was one of twelve black young women in a class of 300. My classmates came to know me through my activist work in those groups I joined, and I joined them to address on-campus racism.

Talk more about your on-campus activism.

It was not activism in the sense of organizing protests, but activism in terms of being part of an ongoing dialogue about current issues students of color faced at Wofford. General Robert E. Lee’s portrait hangs high in a campus frat house. My freshman year, someone or a group of people hung a noose outside of a dorm. I lived in a residence hall managed by a resident assistant who is Jewish; someone painted a swastika in the hallway. Certain fraternities didn’t allow black people to come into their frat houses—stuff like that. I engaged these issues with my classmates.

What did Homecoming Queen mean for you?

I earned my crown from the student body. After my crowning, I took the crown off and thrust it at the student section. In the past, young women who belonged to a sorority or who were president of a thousand clubs won the homecoming crown. I was none of those; so my win was an important one because it signaled that the student body of Wofford voted for me. Also, being the only black young woman on the field … I represented women of color at Wofford! I cried. It meant so much to me.

When did you become interested in theatre?

It all goes back to middle school. In the eighth grade, I auditioned for and won entry into the theatre program in the Palmetto Center for the Arts, a program for gifted students. In ninth grade, I played Miss Hannigan in the musical Annie. I loved the theatre. I wanted it to be my focus at the time but had to put it to the side for sundry reasons.

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 2.11.19 PM

Brittani and Derek McElveen after being crowned Miss Homecoming at Wofford College 2010

Sports and Theatre carry equal weight in terms of discipline and focus for a middle/high schooler. How did you balance the two?

Well, the first year Annie ran into basketball season. I had to sit on the bench because I missed a couple of practices. After that, I worked theatre around basketball so neither one would interrupt the other. At the same time, I made sure that theatre and sports would not interfere with my studies.

What is it that you enjoy about performing?

I love the storytelling aspect. I find pleasure in moving people while I tell a story through a character who can inspire an audience as she sings and/or dances. I enjoy seeing the immediate reaction from the audience to what is being told onstage. I love the applause. Every aspect about theatre is powerful—very powerful.

How do you get into character?

I have a process. I research my character—even the play–then I determine who I’m basing the character off of. I give them mannerisms and a voice. Then I’ll conduct some research if it pertains to a show, especially a musical because musicals have to do with past performances and shows.

Is there a time when you don’t want to go onstage?

Of course. Just recently I was so tired and worn out during a performance. An actor can even get tired of doing the same show for weeks at a time—sometimes twice in one day.

Do you have a ritual or habit for taking care of your body or instrument?

Dance class is my go to for exercise; I’m trying to pick up yoga. I like to power walk on my days off. I make sure I get my rest—to not party so much. I go home.

A person aspiring for the arts does not have to go to college but I am a firm believer in education; it is vital. … Training teaches you the real world of this business.

The industry is rife with competition. How do you handle that aspect of it?

I try to go into any audition or rehearsal being very kind. I do not backstab. I do my best to not make anything negative so I have to check myself when I feel negative vibrations coming from a group or even in an audition. I don’t throw shade at other actors. I strongly believe good experiences and behaviors reap good relationships with theatres and other actors. My attitude towards my chosen profession is this: I’d rather be known as a great team player than to be known as the best one on the stage. The best one can always get a job but I want a lifetime of jobs.

Every actor has to deal with rejection no matter how talented or even well-connected she is. What are your strategies for managing rejection?

When I have what I believe to be a bad audition, I have to check myself. So one Monday, for example, I had submitted for an audition. I was sent all of this stuff having to do with the play; I felt overwhelmed because I had to find time to read it all even though I was performing and working. I didn’t get a callback and was not asked to read anything else. I was disappointed. That next day, though, I had to get it back together because I had another performance. I prayed the whole afternoon because I knew I had to keep pushing forward or I would not have been able to give my best to Tuesday night’s performance.

What keeps you motivated? Grounded?

My faith. In this field a good number of people do not believe in God but I want people to see me as a Christian. I want God’s light to shine through me and in my performances. I attend church and Bible study to strengthen my spiritual life. I listen to my gospel music; it encourages me. In life there are so many disappointments. I call on my faith and Christian principles when I experience those times.

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 3.46.21 PM.png

Brittani in ‘Thought’

What have you learned about the business of theatre?

It is the hardest of businesses because an audition and performance requires the actor to be so open and vulnerable. I am so sensitive – like super sensitive — so I have to take care of that part of myself.

Your job requires you to be there at certain hours. Does this pose a problem when it comes to auditions?

I have made so many sacrifices for my art because I had jobs that had nothing to do with my art. Now, any job I take needs to be one where personnel understands that I am a performer first and everything else second. Right now I work with other aspiring actors; so, when I have an audition, they can cover for me as can I for them.

Does your profession interfere with your marriage and vice versa?

No. Not at all. Derek and I uplifted each other during college, and we continue to do the same during this journey. I am so blessed to have him on my team. I have to say he is satisfied in his own career as a pharmacist so he’s not like ‘you’re not paying attention to me’. Some people assume that I just can do what I want to without responsibility because of Derek’s profession. That is so not true. I make sure to make my own contributions to our household; I work. After the death of my father, my mother raised me as a single parent. I witnessed her strong work ethic; I take after her. I am not one to depend on anyone to provide for me no matter the situation. We had planned to move to Atlanta after graduation because Derek had been admitted to Mercer University. Our plans changed after his early admission into the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. So, I worked in a bridal shop in Charleston while he finished up his studies. Derek and I desire for the both of us to achieve and to meet our goals.

In your opinion, is it necessary for one who aspires to work in the entertainment industry to have a formal degree in theatre? Should she enroll in a theatre program?

A person aspiring for the arts does not have to go to college but I am a firm believer in education; it is vital. It doesn’t necessarily have to be college but you need some kind of training in the field. Training teaches you the real world of this business. There is a time commitment and a way to think about your participation in theatre. Then, an aspiring artist must realize that Broadway or film may not come as soon as s/he gets out there in the field; you may find you are practicing your craft in regional theatre or as a guest on television here and there.

You are forging a theatrical career in Atlanta and not Los Angeles or New York. Why?

We moved to Los Angeles for about a month and found out we are southern babies! We love the south. Atlanta always was on our radar. By the time we moved here, Atlanta had grown into a vibrant artistic hub for theatre and film. The Alliance Theatre originated The Color Purple, and Bring It On went to Broadway. Other theatres stepped up their game.

It has been the last few years that I understand. She is an artist; this is her passion. I have to support her. I do.

~ Sharon Dreher Minnieweather, mother

What advice would you give to someone who wants to venture into a career in theatre?

Well, I look to Taraji P. Henson as a role model … as a light … She got started in the late 1990s and had her break out role in 2001 in the film Baby Boy at the age of 31. If you keep at it and you keep trying it will come to you. Stick with it. Go through the ups and downs. My advice goes for anyone at any age who wants to venture into this territory. You have to really want it because it is not a pretty business. It has more downs than up so have to really want to do it.

What is the first step?

Your first step is to go to the audition of a show you don’t really know that well but have a character where you think you can relate. The second step is to take classes and learn all you can about your craft.

 How are you feeling now … right now?

Well today I feel good because I had a good audition and I had so much going on. I had workshop of new play and web series. I feel good and accomplished next week might be different but today, right now, is a good day.

 Brittani lives in Atlanta with her husband Derek. She is currently in rehearsals for play Little Shop of Horrors with Actor’s Express to open July 15. She just wrapped Thought, a film short about a woman who becomes disillusioned after the 2016 presidential election. Thought is directed by Alfred Robbins of Bottom of the Net Filmworks. Brittani also wrote Sundays at 4, a play about the dynamics of Sunday dinner with her family after church.


A Quiet Passion @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 7.29.53 PM.png

Cynthia Nixon as poet Emily Dickinson

Miss Emily Dickinson composed almost 2000 poems from her room with a view of Amherst, Massachusetts. Her mother, Mrs. Emily Norcross Dickinson, inspired in her a love for gardening, and Miss Emily, along with her sister Lavinia, tended a host of plants in the conservatory her father Edward had built on the Homestead. She avidly read newspapers and periodicals; she waited with anticipation for the newest publications of poetry and fiction. Her favorite women writers were, among others, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Brontës, and the writings by her best friend Helen Hunt Jackson. The poems she wrote she enfolded into letters written to relatives and friends along with pressed flowers from her garden. As for her health, she experienced visual difficulties that required two six month trips to see Henry V. Williams a well-respected ophthalmic surgeon and Harvard professor. It is believed by some scholars her eye problems accounted for her desire to stay home until her death in 1886.


Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 7.31.10 PM.png

Emily Dickinson and her sister Vinnie (Jennifer Ehle)

None of these activities, however, are dramatized in A Quiet Passion, Terence Davies’s bio-pic on the life of American poet Emily Dickinson. Played with exquisite self-possession by Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame, Davies imagines Miss Emily as a woman encased within the boundaries of the Dickinson family Homestead—a kind of self-inflicted imprisonment. Keith Carradine plays her father Edward who grants Emily’s request to write at night. From that moment on, Emily wrote her poetry between the hours of 3 a.m. and noon, times she believed the world itself was still and silent.

In A Quiet Passion, Emily eventually avoided the social life of Amherst—that of picnics, church socials, weddings and funerals, among other social activities; instead, the poet turned to a solitary reclusive existence. She enjoyed the company of her family, and, on occasion, witty exchange of banter with her friend Vryling Buffam, played with uncompromising joie de vivre by Catherine Bailey. The bio-pic, however, fails to portray Emily’s joy for nature nor is there an impression of any pleasure emanating from Emily’s writing of her poetry nor a portrayal of her excitement over receiving the latest news.

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 7.35.17 PM

Catherine Bailey, Emily’s best friend played by Vryling Buffam

Nixon, nevertheless, brings forth the strength of Emily’s independent spirit as well as her drive to nurture her own sense of self.

She doesn’t unravel Miss Emily; rather, Nixon delivers with a quiet passion how the poet navigates the socio-cultural restrictions of women living in the nineteenth century in the United States. Carradine interprets Mr. Dickinson as a father who didn’t see his daughter coming. Always a bit surprised by his daughter’s display of her intellect but, underneath, Carradine’s Mr. Dickinson curries a sliver of pride for his daughter’s courage. And Jennifer Ehle is delightful as Emily’s constant and loyal sister Lavinia.

The Ross logo


A Quiet Passion plays through Sunday, June 4 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime, watch tv. Catch a film. Share the Popcorn.

Feed Your Soul!



My Life as a Zucchini @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 9.52.21 PM.png

“No one is coming to your rescue!” an acquaintance said to me once in a strident tone. This, after a personal lament over a situation that I believed held me under a spell. Needless to say, over time that acquaintance and I have uhm … ahem … lost touch, but if we still were in contact, I would gift her with Claude Barras’s film My Life as a Zucchini as soon as it was available on DVD or to stream. I’d scribble a note: Dear Acquaintance, View & Weep! There are those who do come to our rescue!”

Based on the young adult novel by Gilles Paris, My Life as a Zucchini is filmed in stop-motion animation. It is a darling of a film, and Barris breathes life into the poignant stories of round-headed owl-eyed orphaned children living in a group home.

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 10.01.51 PM.png

Raymond visits Zucchini

The main character 9-year-old Icare voiced by Erick Abbate, is called Zucchini by his mother. She deals with the abandonment of Zucchini’s father by drinking beer and watching television day in and day out. Zucchini busies himself in the attic building towers with his mother’s beer cans. One day in a drunken rage, his mother climbs the stairs to give the boy the spanking of his life after she hears noises. Then. The accident. Raymond, voiced by Nick Offerman, is a compassionate policeman who processes Icare into the foster care system.

Zucchini’s answers to Raymond’s questions uncover a boy who, in spite of his circumstances, still finds a kernel of something happy. Even though her broken family has depressed his mother, Icare loves her mashed potatoes. Sometimes, he reveals, they even have fun.

Puppeteer Gregory Beaussart and his crew have fashioned a most adorable ensemble of kids, and Barras allows them to grieve, smile & laugh, question, and even fall in love.

We all have heard horror stories about the foster care system but My Life as a Zucchini makes plain that in spite of personal trauma and no matter the chaos, some adults keep their promises; some adults really care; some friends keep watch over us; and, if we find ourselves dangling over the pit of despair, some friends will even come to our rescue.

The Ross logo

My Life as a Zucchini plays through March 30th at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Also playing through April 6 at the Ross is A Sense of an Ending, Ruh-tesch Batra’s film about reconnecting with a lost love.

Toni Erdmann @ The Ross

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 6.55.33 PM

Meet Toni Erdmann (Peter Simonischek)

The lengths a father will go just to spend time with his daughter are explored in German director Mauren Ade’s film Toni Erdmann. The title of the film is not about a person by the name of Toni Erdmann and all of her or his adventures. Toni Erdmann is an alias. Winfried Conradi, a music teacher with no students, assumes the personality Toni Erdmann with the sole purpose of crashing in on the world of his daughter, Ines. After the death of his dog, Winfried, played by Peter Simonischek, longs to be more present in his daughter’s life. So, he shows up unannounced at her home in Bucharest.

Ines, played by Sandra Hahlur, has no patience for nor the inclination to grant her father’s wishes. She is a young strategist who successfully has climbed the corporate ladder; of course she is busy—always taking calls, going to meetings, giving presentations – sigh – to her father’s disappointment. What is worse she complains to her friends during lunch about how her father’s visit made for the worst weekend. So Winfried, feeling unwelcomed and unappreciated, packs up and returns home–or so Ines thinks.

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 7.12.08 PM

Toni Erdmann in costume

As soon as Ines turns around in a restaurant in the company of her girlfriends or looks around on the rooftop talking to her superior or at her naked-only birthday party, there he is – Toni Erdmann, bumbling around as an ex-con, a style consultant, or a German Ambassador made up with buck teeth and a shabby wig or in a bizarre costume that would scare bigfoot back to its cave. Where will Toni Erdmann appear next?

Peter Simonischek brings Toni Erdmann to a kind of crazy loopy peculiar life, and you can’t get mad at him. Every person in Ines’s life takes to him. Simonischek deftly manages his unpredictable character, and you can’t help but give over your heart to him. In fact, he is a kind of insufferable huggable lovable poppa.

When you see the film Toni Erdmann, be sure to pack a lunch or dinner; it is a long movie—almost 3 hours. And don’t count on a music score to guide your feelings—no—no violins or drum rolls here. Peter Orth, the cinematographer, lingers his camera on people; the camera outwears its welcome at parties and business meetings–even the goodbye between father and daughter is long in the tooth. Ade, however, refuses to pick up the cinematic pace; she makes you wait. The wait is well worth it.

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 7.16.27 PM

Erdmann with daughter, Ines

Winfried’s own reflection to his daughter on life uncovers the bright and shining gem in Toni Erdmann. What is worth living in life? Ines asked her father during one of his personality performances. In the backyard of his late mother’s house, father, without costume and daughter with no cellphone come together and alone and without distractions. Winfried finally gets the chance to answer her question. He begins, “The problem is it’s so much about getting things done … you do this or that but in the meanwhile life is just passing by. How are we supposed to The Ross logohang on to moments?  Now I just sit sometimes and remember how you learned to ride your bike. … but you only realize that afterwards … in the moment itself … it’s not possible.”

Toni Erdmann in German with English subtitles.

%d bloggers like this: