Glitter to Gore – A Passion for the Human Canvas

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by Christy Grace  | Photography by Peter F. Castro   

     Glitter to Gore is a makeup and body art company run by two passionate artists, Dawn Marie Svanoe and Michelle Soltis. Svanoe is self-taught in many different makeup forms and her work has been featured in multiple publications and events. Soltis brings planning and management experience along with her artistic talents. Together, they have created Glitter to Gore and offer a wide array of services including airbrush tattoos, bridal makeup, body painting, face painting, fashion/runway makeup, glitter tattoos, henna, special fx, and theatrical makeup.

Christy Grace: What started your interest in makeup and body art? How did you get into the field?

Michelle Soltis: I was a model for many years plus my favorite holiday has always been Halloween. I wanted to learn how things were done. I like a good challenge.

Dawn Marie Svanoe: I started working as a costumer for a costume shop that was owned by the same people that own a local makeup manufacturing company. I loved playing with the makeup and started attending trade shows to help others learn how to use the products. While at those conventions, I started learning about other art forms and got the bug. I started playing with body painting and the rest is history.

CG: How did you two start working together and what led you to starting Glitter to Gore?

MS: Glitter to Gore started after Dawn Marie and I worked together at a couple of events. My husband and I were models at the Transworld Halloween Show in Chicago when Dawn Marie was working in the Graftobian booth.

DMS: Ditto! I have pictures, wanna see? (winks)

CG: What do you like best about working with each other?

DMS: We complement each other. Without me, Michelle would have a lot more hair (pauses mischievously), but it’s a symbiotic relationship. I like that she and I can bounce ideas off of each other.

CG: Do you each have different artistic strengths or preferences such as kinds of gigs, projects, or mediums?

MS: My favorite is henna gigs and projects. I also like planning our events. My favorite medium is also henna.

DMS: I have a slight performance anxiety, but I love doing events despite it. Once I’m at the event and get going, it’s like a switch is flipped and I’m fine. If it’s an artistic medium, it’s my favorite. Seriously though, I love it all but, if I had to choose, it would probably be latex and glitter; sponge and brush coming in a close second. Some of my favorite projects involve large headpieces, as is evidenced by the shoot for this article. (laughs)

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CG: You are each a wife and a mother. What does family life look like while holding such a creative job?

MS: The same as any other. The biggest challenge has been setting a schedule and sticking to it.

DMS: I tend to be less likely to schedule, which needs to change. I find myself working for the school district and then coming home to work on Glitter to Gore stuff. So the kids and hubby don’t see me much which leaves me guilt ridden. That needs to change. That said, I have some pretty awesomely creative kiddos.

CG: What and/or who inspires you?

MS: Anyone who thinks outside of the box or is doing something in the art and/or business world that no one else is doing.

DMS: Everything! You know that meme that says: “If you ever wanna know what a creative person’s mind feels like, imagine a browser with 2,857 tabs open. All. The. Time.” Yeah… THAT!

CG: Desert island gig – What are three products you can’t live without?

MS: Henna, silver dust glitter and 3M scotch tape.

DMS: Sunscreen, pro adhesive and glitter.

CG: What advice would you give someone interested in joining the body art world?

MS: It’s not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and practice. Even the people who are great at art still have to work hard at marketing themselves to be discovered by their fans and paying clients. Work doesn’t find you. If you’re not the one who found it or booked it, you were referred by someone. Most clients don’t book you because they found you on Google.

DMS: Be tenacious. Get out there and market the heck out of yourself. DON’T rely 100% on social media sites; if you want to make sure your work is always available to be seen, get your work out on a website of your own that you can refer people to. And ALWAYS have business cards in your pocket.

CG: What has been the biggest challenge or learning experience for your business?

MS: The biggest challenge is successfully managing our growth. We have grown exponentially, and with it has come more responsibility and time commitments.

DMS: Balancing what we WANT to do with what we CAN do. Oh, and trying to get people to understand that we mean business, that our events AREN’T something they’ll be happy about missing.

CG: What is one of your favorite accomplishments or successes from the last few years?

MS: The overwhelming success of our last event “My Dark Valentine.”

DMS: Ditto.

CG: Last year you created The Greater Midwest Body Painting Competition themed “My Dark Valentine” in which you both mentioned as one of your favorite accomplishments for the business. What were your experiences with this competition? Any funny stories, things you would change or repeat?

DMS: The flat tire incident!! That is part of the reason we’re having it all in one place this year. We are utilizing the Minions [assistants during the event] to their full extent this year. That way Michelle and I can be more “present” with everything that is happening.

CG: What are some goals or aspirations for Glitter to Gore in the coming years?

MS: To open a storefront and continue producing The Greater Midwest Body Art Fest, turning it into one of the must-attend events of the year for artists and the general public.

DMS: Again, ditto. The ideas for future events are already bouncing around in our heads.

     This year, Glitter to Gore’s The Greater Midwest Body Art Fest is themed “Zombillies,” a combination of zombies and rockabilly style. The body painting competition and festival features three full days of face painting, airbrush, special fx, hd makeup and even some business classes, all with world-class instructors. There will also be musical entertainment, nightly paint jams, a zombie film fest, product vendors, body painting and special fx competitions, as wells as awards and prizes for competitors. The fest goes from March 20-22, with some pre and post classes, at the Sheraton Hotel in Madison, WI.

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CG: There are so many amazing things happening during the fest! Is there anything you are most excited about?

MS: Not having to travel someplace else to network and have fun with all our friends from around the globe.

DMS: It’s a secret… Just look out!

CG: Preparation for this event must be quite the undertaking! When did you start planning and how is it all coming together?

MS: Plans for “Zombillies” were already in full swing before we even wrapped up “My Dark Valentine.” Just like plans for The Greater Midwest Body Art Fest 2015 is already being drafted up with some announcements to be made at “Zombillies.” (winks)

DMS: It’s coming together great. We’re a bunch of working artists and getting a hold of each other can be quite the task. But believe me, it will be amazing! I mean, where else in the Midwest are you going to find this pool of talent to learn from in a smaller setting for the cost of a couple college textbooks?  [With] Internationally-recognized artists, world body painting champions, SPFX [special fx] artists, entertainment, a film fest, and so much more!?

CG: Once the fest is over, do you both have a recuperation plan in place? What do you do to unwind from such hard work?

MS: There is no recuperation when you run a small business. We’ll be hitting the ground running after “Zombillies” since we have other projects in April that will need our full attention ASAP, in addition to meetings with potential clients.

DMS: I’m going to Disneyland! Just kidding… If Disneyland were the studio and office, it would be true. (laughs)

     While brainstorming for something wonderful to go on the cover and to represent Glitter to Gore, Project Famous Magazine and Dawn Marie went back and forth with a few ideas until inspiration hit. “This idea rocks so hard!” Dawn shared excitedly. The time was set, the photographer and model were found, and a lot of hard work with a bit of magic happened. After the shoot, I got to ask Dawn Marie about her process and about body painting in general.

CG: What inspired you to create this look? Please explain the concept and how you expressed it.

DMS: WINTER!!! As we all know, winter still has a death grip on us. I needed to create something colorful, yet still a little dark to convey our company name, Glitter to Gore. While there really isn’t any “gore” per se, it has a dark side. The concept was the dead of winter being escaped by colorful, renewing spring escaping its clutches. Originally, I was going to have it more symmetrical but decided that I wanted the model to have one arm free so that she could “express” the emotion of breaking free of the dead of winter. We were going to have pictures of Michelle and I “pulling of the bark” off her shoulders to help spring escape but the change in the layout made that harder to do. I think it was still a good choice to do it the way it was done. Watching her pose made it worth it.

CG: Once you have a concept, what are the steps you go through to get a complete look?

DMS: Many times my concept starts with a headpiece. Oh who am I kidding? Almost 100% of the time! I then base my sketches on it. I feel like the body is the focus but a good headpiece and/or props add the WOW factor. Whether I’m working alone or with Michelle on a piece, the sketch helps make it go faster. My memory sucks so having a reference to go from keeps me on track and helps Michelle know what’s going on in my brain. Now I just need to get better at delegating. (laughs)

CG: What is your thought process behind the design of a good headpiece?

DMS: I usually start with a basic body paint idea in mind (which is inspired by something, ie: a silk flower, a sparkly thing… etc.) Then before I sketch out a design, I create the headpiece. I decide if I want it symmetrical or asymmetrical. I usually go for the latter. Then, I start adding things. Many “Aha” moments occur while I’m making them. For instance, the headpiece for this shoot was “done” when we started painting Paiton [the model]. But, then I remembered something I wanted to add to it. So during a break, I added mushrooms and more flowers. Very rarely do I sketch out my design first. They just kind of create themselves as I go.

CG: What gets you in the creative zone? Do you listen to any specific music while prepping or painting?

DMS: It kind of depends on what I’m painting. I tend to like either new age(ish) instrumental music like Enigma or driving dance mixes. The beat keeps me energized. Not that I don’t like vocalists, but I’m a singer and I end up singing along which isn’t conducive to good line work. There are usually always a few energy drinks involved but Michelle is trying to break me of that habit, which is a good thing.

CG: After the concept and preparation comes the application. When you and Michelle work together, as you did on this project, who is in charge of what? How do you work together to create one seamless look?

DMS: I usually outline the basic design with white paint. Then we both start by basing out the design. When that process gets far enough along, I start detailing. When Michelle gets done with applying the base, then it’s more communication. This time, I didn’t have time to show her the sketch much beforehand so there was more, “now do this” involved. But if we are doing a competition, we discuss the steps prior to the event so we know, more precisely, who’s doing what. I’m horrible at delegating; Michelle usually has to beat the next step out of me. She is really good working with me and at the end we both add finishing touches and check to see if anything was missed.

CG: An integral part of body painting is finding the right canvas. For this project, you chose the lovely Paiton Rae. What are some qualities of a great model for body art?

DMS: Patience. Takes instruction well, and on the flip side, doesn’t NEED much instruction. Expressive eyes… believe it or not, if a model doesn’t “emote” with his/her eyes, you might as well not paint them. Oh, and if you can dance or do Yoga you’re perfect. (laughs) Seriously, some of the strangest poses make for amazing photos. It was a long process, and even though Paiton seemed tired at the end of the process, she came ALIVE during the photos for Peter.

CG: Since a lot of the art you create is temporary and gets washed off by the end of the day, recording your creation is important. For this shoot, you chose to work with talented photographer, Peter Castro. What are some qualities you look for in a body art photographer?

DMS: It honestly depends on the theme. Peter always creates flawless, in-focus shots. But, if I’m going for a more gritty shoot, I’ll shoot with someone who loves dirtier, more dark shoots. There are others who love to add interest to the background with Photoshop. They all have different strengths. One of my basic rules for photographers is that they NOT change the artwork I painted. The only time I’m okay with a change is if something got rubbed off… or in the case of the Avatar shots I did years ago, that photographer enlarged the actual eye of the model. But I don’t ever want someone to think that my work looks good because a photographer tweaked it.

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CG: Society has tended to over-sexualize body painting, though the art has been around for a long time. Recently, views are starting to change. What is your view?

DMS: It has been my aim all along to change that perception. Most people’s exposure to body art is through popular magazines or highly sexualized events. And while work like that is perfectly acceptable, and in fact is many artist’s bread and butter, I wanted people to become more exposed to the fine art end of it. So that they would realize that body art can exist without “sex” being in the picture at all. We all have the same parts as body art models do… just in different proportions. I think people’s perception of painted bodies is skewed by their own insecurities about the naked body. I can’t change that. But I can change how people view MY art by choosing models and photographers and subjects, wisely. I’ve also gotten, “You mean you touch their naked ‘insert-body-part-here’?” Well yeah, I do. With my brushes. The human body, to me, is the most perfect canvas. It makes my art come alive!

CG: A lot of shows like Face Off and Naked Vegas are coming into popularity. How close are the shows in depicting the real-life experiences of a professional body painter?

DMS: Not really close. Much of those shows are edited for drama. Many of the “problems” are things that I KNOW the artists know how to handle… but the drama is played up for ratings. The time crunches on some of them are also, in some cases, manufactured. If you accept a huge makeup job, you are going to back your application time up enough that you will have time to finish it properly. Even if it means waking up at 3 or 4am to prep before the model arrives. Nothing bugs me more than to see gorgeous prosthetic work ruined by lack of time to paint it. I mean, you hear about mega makeup application times in the movie world all the time. They don’t only have four hours to apply, only to go on camera looking horrible. Are there times when you have a short-notice gig that causes problems? Yes of course. But not EVERY time. I do have to say, though, people are more aware of our industry because of these shows. That is definitely a good thing.

            Svanoe and Soltis are bringing body art into a positive light and are spreading the joy of their craft through Glitter to Gore. You can get connected with them or purchase makeup on the website or keep up with events on Facebook. 

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Life Drawing Tonite! Reboot

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by Paul Smith

For over a year now, artists of all skill levels have been meeting at Bright Red Studios on Ingersoll Street to hook up with three hours of life drawing experience. Sponsored by Artists and Craftsman Supply, a local art supply outlet in Madison, and Evan Bradbury, the owner and operator of BRS, the Life Drawing Tonite! sessions would feature a nude model, a facilitator (usually me) and a relaxed, dedicated atmosphere for artists to hone their life drawing skills.

Towards the end of last year, things began to get a little shaky for the LDT! sessions. As the facilitator, I had to back away due to some sincerely nasty lumbar issues in my back, and had to break off for a while. Evan was able to get some help maintaining the sessions, but the dynamic and consistency of the sessions had changed so much that they began to suffer from poor attendance.

Earlier this year, Evan, Jen Ahlstrom and I met at BRS to discuss what we needed to do to dial it back up. The idea was to re-launch the sessions on a new night, incorporate new characteristics, and create new energy. It seems to have worked. Recently Evan and I sat down and talked about the reboot of LDT!.

One of the biggest fears turned out to be the least of Evan’s worries. “The biggest improvement has already been the consistent turn-out,” he explained. “We took a month-long break, and I was nervous about it, especially since we decided to change it to a completely different day. But already in the first two sessions, we’ve had healthy turn-outs of artists attending.”

But there were other advances. “Another big success has been our partnering with Artists and Craftsman so that we are able to bring drawing materials to the space now that we can allow people to play with for free. In keeping with that spirit, the plan now is that, every other month or so, try and find some bulk priced materials like pastels, different drawing paper, things like that, and bring that stuff to the table as well.”

Evan also spoke about the environment that he wanted to develop in the sessions themselves. “I think that the big attraction for people is going to be the relaxed, freedom vibe that we work very hard to create, along with the new materials that we can provide to let the artists explore.”

Evan knows that this vibe is very important to attract artists of all levels. “My attitude about this comes from my understanding of the arts community in general, which is that there are very, very talented people and there are very, very inexperienced people, and there are hobbyists, and there are people who need to do this to satisfy the ‘addiction’ of drawing. The only way to accommodate everybody is to let them take it as they want it.”

Accommodating everyone is a daunting task, but Evan thinks he has the correct formula for the way Life Drawing Tonite! has been restructured. “In order to keep the price as low as it is, we’ve had to scale it back as far as structure, which actually really works. People just enjoy the ability to draw with others without feeling like it’s homework, or without feeling embarrassed about their skill levels, or even that they have to stick up for themselves and defend their efforts, like in a classroom setting. It’s all good, no matter what they produce.”

I asked Evan if he considered critique as part of the session’s agenda, and he laughed. “It happens anyway, but on a more casual basis. There’s a huge difference between saying to another artist ‘I really like your drawing’ or ‘Hey! Do you mind checking out my drawing; let me know what you think’ versus ‘Okay, for the next twenty minutes we’re going to sit here in silence until someone says something about these drawings!’ That’s a huge turn off, so we don’t do that. It happens on its own during the session breaks.”

One of the things I was curious about was what Evan’s vision for the future of LDT!. I asked him where he wanted to see the sessions go and what they were to achieve, and his response was fairly thought provoking. “We could do this every night!” he said, grinning. “I don’t want to try to extort hundreds of dollars from people to pay for ‘classes’; I want it to be affordable and easily accessible so that people will be able to fit the sessions into their lives. They will want to come rather than have to come.”

This led the conversation into the online payment methods that BRS has now established. Interested artists can now click on a link at the BRS website and pre-pay for as many session packages as they want, as far ahead of time as they choose. “This idea of people paying for packages is a good idea, and when it starts to take off, the consistency and the number of the classes offered will really start to rise. At least that’s the hope.”

For my own part, it has been an absolute delight working with the artists that come to Life Drawing Tonite! and a large part of that enjoyment has been working with Evan Bradbury. He has a sense of vision and energy about art and the Madison art scene in particular, and that is undeniably inspirational. We’re expecting this year to be an awesome year at LDT!, and I’m looking forward to a lot of fun with a lot of Madison artists.

Life Drawing Tonite! sessions currently happen every Tuesday night at Bright Red Studios, 9 Ingersoll Street, Madison. Each session is $20.00 at the door for a three-hour drawing session. You can go to the BRS website (http://brightredstudios.com/) and pre-pay for several different packages the BRS is now offering. Life Drawing Tonite! is sponsored by Artists and Craftsman Supply, 3 West Gorham Street, Suite 1, Madison. The sessions are facilitated by Paul Smith, a professional artist of over forty years’ experience in the art world. See you there! 

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An Inside Look At Blame

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by Bryan Royston | Photos by I’ve Seen Better Pictures

Saturday, February 15th, 2014. It’s 3:45 in the morning. An alarm is incessantly ringing on a cell phone, demanding to be silenced. It is. Five minutes later, a second cell phone starts in; making sure that the first had done its job. It had… unfortunately.

This was how my weekend began. While normally a very sound sleeper, on this particular evening, I had woken up several times throughout the night to check the time and make sure I hadn’t overslept. This was not your average, everyday Saturday. No, on this particular Saturday, I needed to be up early. Very early…

I was going to be assisting with a short film being shot in and around the Madison area. The film was called Blame and I was to be one of two script supervisors on the production. This particular production was an effort by a New York-based film production company named Loxley Pictures. Though currently calling New York home, the Loxley crew are composed primarily of four people, all of whom have spent significant time in southern Wisconsin; three of them born and raised. Caitlin Scherer wrote the screenplay for Blame and Brazilian-born Elen Santana directed the film. Both Scherer and Santana produced the project, along with their cohorts at Loxley Pictures, Sara Kelley and Joshua Fiene.

The film is about a smallish community, rocked by a shooting at the local high school. It focuses particularly on one mother/son pair. Perhaps the film’s tagline says it best: After a shooting at her son’s high school, a mother waits outside for news, fearful not that he is a victim… but the shooter. Shot over three consecutive days in three locations, Blame pulled together a large, disparate crew of experienced filmmakers, as well as those new to the effort. Assisting with the production were members of other local film production companies and students from both UW-Madison and Madison Media Institute, as well as countless actors and extras from the area. The filming even attracted the attention of a number of online newspapers, as well as local news stations WISC-3 and WMTV-15 out of Madison, who each sent reporters to the set.

To call this a labor of love for the cast and crew would be an understatement. What other explanation could there be? The long hours – from the wee hours of the morning until their waning evening counterparts – the long drive from home to the filming location, (45 minutes, in my case), the extended periods spent standing in subzero temperatures, capturing just the right shot. Three straight days of this? Why on earth would we donate our time to do it?! Because we can’t help ourselves… Because we have faith in the project… Because we love it!

For me and many others, the weekend actually started Friday afternoon, when we made the first trek out to Sauk Prairie High School in Prairie du Sac, WI. This would be the location where we would be spending roughly half of our weekend filming at the fictional school in which the “shooting” would take place.

Before filming could commence, however, many meetings had to occur. In this particular case, the producers were meeting with local law enforcement who had agreed to assist in the filming – adding an incredible degree of realism to the piece. Officers had even decided to kill two birds with one stone by turning this into a training opportunity for them: running through exercises as if an actual incident had occurred, swarming the school in calculated formation, with weapons drawn, barking orders to the “frightened” young extras that were evacuating the school single-file with their hands above their heads. Add to this the squad cars, the EMTs taking the “wounded” out on stretchers and ambulances that pulled up to the school when the cameras rolled; it was truly a remarkable sight to behold.

A film shoot such as this has its share of uptime and downtime. Early arrivals are a requirement for a project of this scope where you have a large number of cast and crew that need to be present. You must factor in extra time for unforeseen circumstances, setup work between scenes and many other variables. Lights must be adjusted, camera angles tweaked, microphones must be placed on the actors in such a way that it won’t be spotted by the camera and future viewers. While this is going on, some cast may be changing their wardrobe, getting their makeup refreshed, reviewing their lines, or even getting a bite to nosh. And then filming begins, meaning another group has done their job and earned a slight respite until the director finally calls “cut” for that scene, and it starts all over. Downtime on the set of Blame was filled with good food, good conversation, and thankfully, periods of warmth! Oh… and coffee.

After three straight days of shooting many, many hours of footage with the same group of enjoyable, talented people, it’s always a little difficult for me to go back to the “normal” career. The “9-to-5” puts food on the table, but I no longer have the passion for it that I do for more artistic endeavors such as filmmaking. I find comfort in the fact that my efforts will result in a quality film that viewers can watch and discuss afterwards. And if existing online comments are any indication, this film will garner much discussion.

Blame is a film that aims not only to entertain, but also to educate the viewer on what could possess someone to take such a horrible course of action (in this case, a shooting at a school). It considers the environment, the psychology and other factors that might prompt someone to take another person’s life. Focusing less on the longer-term aftermath of the shooting, the process by which we see law enforcement handle the situation is informative and dramatic, nonetheless. The concept of Blame, as interpreted through the eyes of one suspect’s mother, is also a different one. Instead of focusing on the community pointing fingers, condemning and placing blame on the shooter without a millisecond of hesitation, the film asks us to empathize with one particular mother, giving us pause and reminding us all that we’re all human – guilty or not. In a way, Blame is not only a film but also a textbook lesson on human nature.

Blame is currently in post-production, expected to be completed in April, 2014. Loxley Pictures is hoping to have a Wisconsin premiere of the film by early summer and submit it to film festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW) and the Wisconsin Film Festival in later months. Be sure to follow the progress of Blame online.  

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A Force to Be Reckoned With… Or Directed by Jan Levine thal

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by Simone LaPierre | Photo by Codi Shandel Photography

Jan Levine Thal made her theatrical debut at the tender age of 10 on the stages of Japan. Her claim to fame here, in Madison, has most often been her forward-thinking methods of directing.

Reflecting on her career, Levine Thal explains, “The amazing actor-director Sarah Whelan offered my first directing opportunities in Madison, for a group called Positive Aging Theater, operated in cooperation with the Madison Senior Center. The company had existed for a decade before I arrived and developed a core group of talented performers, some of whom had been professional actors in earlier years.

“We struggled to find decent plays that both had parts for senior citizens and depicted them respectfully. The experience was both gratifying and humbling, as I worked with people who had much more experience and talent than I.”

Levine Thal has served on the boards of many Madison-based companies, including Madison Theatre Guild, Mercury Players Theatre and Broom Street Theater. She is the artistic director and co-founder of the Kathie Rasmussen Women’s Theatre (KRASS). She is always doing her best to find roles for women both on and off stage. She approaches every production with a sense of collaboration, structure and ensemble – including, her most recent venture – the upcoming StageQ performances of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche.

“When StageQ‘s most recent artistic director, Audrey Wax, offered me 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, I jumped at the chance. I love directing comedy, especially plays that use humor to deliver thoughtful observations. Although it is set in the 1950s, the parallels with today are transparent as lesbians struggle to come out in a homophobic world rife with constraining gender roles and fear of international terrorism. In it, a group of ‘widows’ holds an annual quiche breakfast, where circumstances force them to reveal their deepest secrets. Scrambling together sexual innuendo, social commentary, and historical referents, the play is both absurd and moving,” she explains.

The team collaborating on the project consists of actors Stacy Garbarski, Simone LaPierre, Pushy Muldowney, Emily Popp, Clarice Lafayette, Caitlyn Robb and assistant director, Codi Shandel Kline. Ms. Levine Thal states, “The play is short [approximately 75 minutes with no intermission], hilarious and full of lovable characters. I expect audiences to embrace it as we have, with an appetite for more than just quiche (wink, wink).”

As someone who has worked with and been directed by Levine Thal several times now I can say that, without a doubt, she is the most intelligent and fun director I’ve worked with, as well as being thorough with character and exploring ensemble. She helps create a space where actors and designers can play and make discoveries about our characters, our surroundings and ourselves.

Levine Thal is excellent about creating community. Without the historical findings and thorough information from Dramaturg, James Clayton, and Autumn Shiley’s intense physical work in her Viewpoints’ workshops, the feel for our characters and the growth of the ensemble would not be nearly as present.

When viewing a show directed by Levine Thal, the audience is sure to have a great time because they are a mirror-image of the actors onstage. When Levine Thal is not directing, she is writing or performing. Her play Cassandra’s Gift was just produced and performed at Broom Street Theater and she will appear as an actor, doing something absurd, in KRASS’s Wrong for the Part (June 22nd at Broom Street Theater).

StageQ’s and Levine Thal’s production of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche can be seen beginning March 28th at the Bartell Theatre. For more info, call 608-661-9696, or purchase tickets online. 

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Catchin’ Up With Catch Kid

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by Karen Wheelock | Photo by Mark Ellis

In the basement of a dairy factory-turned-practice space on South Park Street on any given weeknight, one might hear the smooth vocals, steady drumbeat, driving guitar and keyboard melodies of Madison’s alt-rock band, Catch Kid. With each band member standing at or over six feet tall, the self-proclaimed “tallest band in Madison” is on the rise.

Self-taught keyboardist and lead vocalist Nate Rusch heads the band with his unique and soothing voice. Though he grew up with a piano in his house that his dad and sister frequently played, he never tried his hand on the instrument until after high school. “I was heading down a pretty dark path in my musical tastes… you know, Limp Bizkit, Creed… those were the kinds of artists in my playlist at the time,” Rusch admits. “But then, I had a friend that introduced me to the Coldplay song ‘The Scientist.’ I listened to it on repeat and decided to look up how to play the chords. That’s what really sparked my interest.”

Hints of the Coldplay influence can be heard in Catch Kid’s music, though Rusch says he’s not as much of a fan of the popular band’s newer material. Other bands that Catch Kid draws its sound from include The Fray, Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Folds, and Something Corporate.

Catch Kid was formerly a duo with Luke Osiecki delivering a rhythm with passion on drums and percussion. In March 2013, the two sought out the shredding talent of guitarist Jeremy Van Mill, thus adding an edgy sound with his electric guitar and pedal board. “We could tell right away that it was going to work [with Van Mill],” said Osiecki.

With a three-sectioned canvas painting of a faceless, cheering crowd hanging in their practice space, the members of Catch Kid jam out about twice a week to song ideas brought in by Rusch. They originally practiced in a larger room nearby – formerly a walk-in refrigerator – but it was not conducive to their musical needs.

“We shared an air vent with a ‘screamo’ band,” remembers Osiecki, “so it was hard to concentrate. It was kind of cool to walk in that part of the building and hear three different genres playing, but if it’s so blaringly loud that you can’t even hear each other talk when you’re trying to figure things out, it doesn’t work.”

The band’s lyrical content has taken a slight shift over time to fulfill a deeper meaning. Explains Rusch, “As far as inspiration goes, early on I used [music] as a way to vent, to express myself. It’s taken me a while to actually use real-life experiences. Our last project [an EP titled ‘Last Good Shot’] was a little more on the emotional side… but I think that actually helps people connect with us. My old stuff used to be more about words sounding good [together] and rhyming.”

The band recently released a music video for one of these more vulnerable songs off their EP titled “Land Mines.” The video was an initiative by Cinematographer Kyle Teal, who wanted to build his portfolio in the Madison area. The song and video concept are fairly simple, but the results are breathtaking. Teal filmed Rusch walking in an open field with local model Darcey Nett following him, eventually passing him by and gaining speed. The sky beamed a gorgeous sunrise. “With the lyrics, it felt right to be out in a field,” said Rusch. “The song is about a separation from a girl, and I think it was a good visual representation of it.”

When talking about future plans, the band hopes to put out a single that could get some radio airplay. They would also like to play more shows, but face some obstacles with that idea. “It’s hard when we are all working full-time and are in recording-mode. It’s difficult to go back and forth,” says Osiecki.

They haven’t completely ruled out the thought of a regional tour though. “In regards to a tour, I feel like we would do it; we just want to make sure it’s worth it, like playing with a more well-known band than us,” says Osiecki. “We don’t just want to go to bars and play for whoever happens to be there. There’s definitely a difference between being background music at a bar and playing at an actual music venue where people come specifically to hear your band.”

“Yeah,” pipes in Rusch. “Our music isn’t really bar-friendly. You can learn to play covers at bars, but to me, it’s not as rewarding.”

“It’s easy enough to throw a show together,” adds Osiecki, “but finding a place and another act that fits us well is a challenge.” They’d like to make sure they have a high quality show. “One show a month seems like we’d be consistently putting on a better show, than if we played once a week.”

This is not to say that they have low quality shows as it is – the trio shows great stage presence and can draw in their audience with each song they play.

Their practice space is on the smaller side, but is obviously a favorite spot for the band members. Though they have over 1,200 Facebook fans, they are humble about their progress as a band. “We’re like, really underground,” jokes Rusch. “We don’t even get reception!”

Make sure to check out their EP “Last Good Shot” and keep your eyes open for upcoming shows featuring the talents of Catch Kid. 

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Giving Back to the Music Community: Beth Kille

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by Karen Wheelock | Photo by Mark Ellis

We have money for kids, but not everyone takes advantage of it. If there’s a youth music program that needs funding, they should apply with us for a grant. – Beth Kille

Many people in the Madison music scene have heard of award-winning musician, Beth Kille, but her commitment to local music goes well beyond her performances. Heading up three different events that benefit local musicians of all ages, Kille is definitely driven to give back to the community.

The organization nearest to Kille’s heart is Girls Rock Camp (GRC). GRC, a national association, was started in Madison in 2010. “One of my husband’s colleagues had a daughter who wanted to get into a Girls Rock Camp and said ‘we need something like this in Madison, and I know you’re married to a female musician’,” Kille said. “So we contacted the alliance and they told us there was already someone trying to get it started up in Madison.” That person was Halle Pollay, now the Camp Director for the GRC in Madison.

GRC is a weeklong day camp for girls ages 8-18, focused on learning how to work as a group to learn instruments, write songs, record and then perform them. The campers don’t need to have any experience; the camp starts at a basic level. The lessons and band practices are led by various local female musicians and the entire experience not only gives the campers an opportunity they might not normally have, but it also builds their self-confidence.

“The things that create most drama [throughout the camp] are actually the things that are the most rewarding,” Kille says. “There’s usually one band that has a complete meltdown. But inevitably, there’s often a huge ‘emotional catharsis’ at the final show. They went through so much turmoil to get to that point that they just let it loose onstage and it’s great!”

Though Madison’s GRC has only been around for a handful of years, its popularity and growth has proven that it’s been successful. In the 2010 first camp, there were thirty two girls participating. Now, GRC boasts two camps with 45 girls and one camp with 26. On top of that, there are around 30 talented women who come throughout the course of the summer to help with the camps. “Our camp is unique in that we pay our instructors. A lot of the camps around the world are volunteer based,” Kille pointed out. “I totally get that, but I feel like that affects the quality of the program that’s provided and the loyalty of the staff and their ability to participate, honestly.”

Currently, the bands practice in schools and churches. Kille dreams of purchasing a facility for GRC that they can call their own – one that is built for music performance and recording. They hope to apply for grants to help fund this goal. In the meantime, GRC is funded by donations, fundraising events and camp fees.

Another event that Kille has recently helped taken charge of is the Madison Area Music Awards (MAMAs). As a board member and awards show director, Kille plays a major role in planning and executing the events. Conceived by Rick Tvedt in 2003, the MAMAs isn’t just an awards show, but a charity benefit as well. To date, the MAMAs has generated over $40,000 worth of cash and goods – like musical instruments and recording software – to Madison’s youth community.

“I feel like people are starting to know more about that,” Kille says. “We have money for kids, but not everyone takes advantage of it. If there’s a youth music program that needs funding, they should apply with us for a grant.”

Though the MAMAs has always focused on the local music scene, they have been considering expanding their reach. “We’ve been talking over the years about getting a national headliner to increase the draw, but obviously that’s controversial because it’s a Madison show featuring local talent,” Kille explains, continuing “but there could be some opportunities with that too that could be beneficial. If we put an act in there that can play a sold-out show, that’s a lot more money for the charitable mission. And frankly, that’s a lot more recognition for the other musicians. People would come who have never seen the local musicians play before. The fact that a national act wouldn’t necessarily be from Madison might be offset by the benefits that it brings the organization and the recognition it brings the local scene. But then, it’s hard because it’s not like we can pay Garbage $8,000 to play at our show.”

Whatever is decided, the MAMAs is always a fantastic event that helps bring some attention to the local music scene while helping the local youth music programs.  The 2014 show will be held on June 22nd.

The third event that Kille coordinates is Chick Singer Night (CSN). Like Girls Rock Camp, CSN is an organization that has events all over the country. Started in Chicago twenty-six years ago, the idea of CSN is to have local female singers submit a few of their songs (originals or covers) to a house band to learn and play with them for a night. Oftentimes, the singer doesn’t have her own band, so it’s a new experience for her.

Kille was invited in 2007 to play at a Milwaukee CSN for the first time. Not long after, Kille moved to Texas for a year, and when she came back to Madison, her own band wasn’t intact anymore. “I decided I wanted to rebrand myself and do things to build community,” she said. “There was so much support for the musicians on the [CSN] stage, I thought, ‘there’s no reason why we can’t we have that in Madison’.” With that driving her, she organized CSN.

CSN is also a great way for musicians to network with each other and cross-promote. Since there are usually about five or six different acts, it’s inevitable that the singers will be performing for a new audience.

Kille’s projects often tie into each other. “A lot of the performers at Chick Singer Night will become instructors at Girls Rock Camp,” she said. “Or, sometimes my campers will perform at Chick Singers Night.” The most recent example of this was at the February 12th show – “Kiley [Penn] has been a camper for the last four years and has recorded an album with me,” Kille says. “I think that there are so many opportunities that we can create in this town to support each other.”

It’s obvious that Kille is passionate about the music community and the local music scene is lucky to have her. She could be selfish and use her talents and skills to only benefit herself, but instead, she is helping people of all ages and musical skills to better themselves. “I love bringing people together around music.” 

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