An Interview with Mark Lamb – Artistic Director/Creator, Mark Lamb Dance Company

Background

“Mr. Lamb makes… dance an expression of communal joy.” – The New York Times

Mark Lamb Dance performs concerts and site-specific dances that combine choreography and improvisation. The company seeks to expand the definition of modern dance, to encompass the spoken word, thoughts, and the openness of improvisation, while ever striving toward the twin goals of beauty and honesty. Mark Lamb Dance also finds room for social commitment by engaging a variety of people and communities in a series of ongoing, cross-pollinating learning experiences.

One example of Mark Lamb Dance educational outreach is a workshop that brought law students together with artists and social activists, uniting them towards a joint path in the pursuit of social change.

 Interview

1.  Tell me a little more about your background. Where were you born and raised?

 I spent my childhood in Sturgis, KY, a small farming/mining town in Western KY. My interest in the performing arts started in church plays and 4-H talent shows.

 2.  How did you find the courage and strength to step out and create your own dance company?

Prior to living in New York I was a founding director of a community based dance company, Circle Modern Dance in Knoxville, TN. Circle was very much a training ground or the ins and outs of running a non-profit dance company. I think my experience with Circle gave me the strength to know I could endure just about any circumstance that may arise if I opened my own company elsewhere. Even New York City.

I love East Tennessee and it was hard for me to leave there, but even when I was a little boy back in Sturgis I dreamed of living in New York City. I felt like I had no choice but to give this dream a chance and start Mark Lamb Dance Group, Inc..

I also, have been very blessed to have so many people who believe in me and my talents. It is much easier to have the courage and strength to pursue your dreams when you have so many wonderful people who believe in you standing behind and beside you.

 3.  What advice would you give to someone who has the heart to dance but no talent?

I believe that everyone has talent. In my own pursuits I try and look for my own organic way in to making art. Keep your eyes and ears open to what the universe presents you. I would  also say to dream and work hard. Surround yourself with people that will believe and support your dreams, even if they may give you honest criticism. Listen, be open. There is a place for everyone.

 4.  At the end of the day, what do you do to make yourself happy?

I try not to put too much pressure on being “happy”. I strive more for balance. I find myself doing my best to see beauty and lessons in everything I experience.

 5.  What are three things that most people don’t know about you?

I never really wanted to go into dance.  I was a theater major in college who wanted to be a Soap Opera star.  Dance chose me.

 6.  When you don’t get what you want, how do you typically react?

If I didn’t get it it was probably not what I needed. I usually just keep moving. I also hear my Mother’s advice “well it will work out one way or another.” It always does.

7.   Do you mentor anyone?

I teach children and adults of all ages and abilities. I do not have one person that I mentor in an official capacity, but I find myself in and out of that role with many people. I also must say that the roles can be reversed very easily. In my own life I have an amazing mentor, Deborah Gladstein, that teaches me how to be the best mentor a person could ask for.

   

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An Interview with Rumi – the great Spiritual Master and Poetical Genius

I recently took notice of a fabulously exhaustive and highly readable new book on Afghanistan, “The Wars in Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts and the Failures of Great Power” by Peter Tomsen.

While thumbing through Tomsen’s inviting tomb of knowledge, I noticed a reference to the now-deceased Afghan poet Rumi, considered by many to be one of the greatest spiritual masters and poetical geniuses ever.  Well … I had to learn more. I’ve been so impressed with Rumi that I decided it would be fun to share some of his thoughts via an imaginary interview. Here goes … my imaginary interview with Rumi.

1.       Love is so powerful and important to our wellbeing and for the world. How do you bring love in your life? 

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

2.       How do you reconcile life’s contradictions?

“God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that you will have two wings to fly, not one”

3.       What advice would you give to someone going through a hard time?

“When you go through a hard period,
When everything seems to oppose you,
… When you feel you cannot even bear one more minute,
NEVER GIVE UP!
Because it is the time and place that the course will divert!”

4.       How do you deal with annoying distractions?

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”

5.       What do you think is one of the most important things for people to know about happiness?

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

6.       How do you release stress?

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

7.       What should we all know about experiences that hurt us?

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

8.       What do you say to people with big dreams and ideas?

“Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.”

An Interview with David Weatherly – Speech-Language Pathologist

Guest Background

I am a school based Speech Language Pathologist in Paris, Tennessee.  I grew up in Murray, Kentucky where I attended Murray State University along with the multi-talented Tiffany Cooper!  I have an amazing wife, Karen, who is also a school teacher, and two wonderful boys named Luke and James.  I continue to be active in my love of Theatre through coaching our middle school speech/drama team.  I also work for Murray State’s Public Radio affiliate, WKMS as an on-air personality and producer.

Interview

1. What inspired you to become a speech-language pathologist? My mother suffered a stroke in 1990, which took away her ability to speak for quite some time.  Watching her deal with this, with her being a community theatre actress and director, inspired me to help those in her situation to regain their voice.

2. What is a typical workday for you? I work with school children from preschool through 8th grade who have speech/language and communication issues.  Sometimes I pull them to work on sound production and sometimes I go into the classroom and collaborate with the classroom teachers to teach the whole class.  I also have parent meetings to put plans in place to serve the kids as best we can.

3. What keeps you motivated to give 100% every time?  The children’s (student’s) progress!  I also have an amazing group of administrators who understand special education and its unique challenges.

4. Do you have additional projects?  I am the Supervisor/Coach of our middle school Speech and Drama Team.  It kind of carries my job as SLP to the next level.

5. What is the best advice you have recieved?  Recognize your limitations, but never give up on what you love to do.                    

6. What is the most used appliance in your house? My iPad. I’m addicted!! Does that count as an appliance?  Otherwise, it’s the stove.  I cook all the time.

 7.  What two things are on your 2012 goal list? I want to continue to get our speech team in competitive shape and grow closer to The Lord.

 

An Interview with Daryl Reuben Hall – Artist and Arts Administrator

Guest Background

Darryl Reuben Hall, Founder/Executive Director and native of Jacksonville, FL, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Florida. He is a member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce North Council and serves as a panelist for the Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs. Additionally, Mr. Hall is a member of Actor’s Equity Association (Developing Theatre Committee and Committee for Equal Employment Opportunity), Screen Actor’s Guild, American Guild of Variety Artists, and the American Guild of Musical Artists.

AWARDS: Selected as PEOPLE TO WATCH IN 2010/ Florida Star; Helen Hayes Award Nomination/ The Civil War at the Ford’s Theatre; Individual Arts Award recipient presented by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, Onyx Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts and Music; Winner of the Judy Award: Best Actor in a Musical/Kiss Me, Kate (Rep. at St. Louis).

A veteran of the stage, some of his favorite credits include:

BROADWAY: GODSPELL (Producer); LINDA EDER: THE HOLIDAY CONCERT at The Palace, GERSHWIN’S PORGY AND BESS at Lincoln Center/ NYCO (PBS Live from Lincoln Center Telecast), CINDERELLA starring Eartha Kitt (Broadway National Tour).

OFF-BROADWAY/NEW YORK: TRAV’LIN (York Theatre Company); STORMY WEATHER with Leslie Uggams (Manhattan Theatre Club, Signature Theatre), STORMY WEATHER with Phylicia Rashad (AMAS Musical Theatre), RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR, CARNEGIE HALL with Linda Eder and the Broadway Gospel Choir, THREE MO’ TENORS (PBS Great Performances and original cast recording).

REGIONAL THEATRE: MISS SAIGON (Actor’s Playhouse); KISS ME, KATE (Rep of St. Louis (Judy Award Winner), Music Theatre of Wichita); 5 GUYS NAMED MOE (Geva Theatre Center and Studio Arena), CROWNS (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), THE MIKADO (North Shore Music Theatre and Huntington Theater), HIGH SPIRITS (Berkshire Theatre Festival).

Interview

1. Who or what inspired you to step out and create your own theater company in Jacksonville, Florida?  Simply put, I’ve been gifted by God to do what I do. This purpose for my life wasn’t clear in the beginning but as God has ordered my steps, the vision and purpose are much clearer now. Born and raised in Jacksonville, FL, there were no professional outlets in the city teaching African-American youngsters professional theatre. As time would allow, I unexpectedly entered the high school talent show. Unbeknownst to my family who didn’t know I could sing, I won the first prize and thus began the spark that lit my career. Thereafter, I’m thankful God intervened and became the head of my life and thus completing my understanding that we all have a purpose. I’m beginning to reach that which has been laid aside for my Blessing.

 2. In order for a non-profit arts company to run effectively, there should be a strong board of directors in place. What qualities did you consider when selecting your board? I’m actually on the fence regarding boards of directors.  I incorporated Stage Aurora Theatrical Company as a non-profit 501(c)(3) ten years ago. The founding board members were very trustworthy friends and family and a couple of recommendations from close family.  As Stage Aurora grew, awards were received and as a result, the community became more and more aware of our presence. The heightened attention attracted new board members. Some of the new members had no prior connection to the existing leaders and, unfortunately, may not have fully understood our mission. An effective board member is one who will follow in your vision, support you wholeheartedly, and will not strike out on an ego march. I’ve had troublesome board members who thankfully have resigned. Now, I’m extremely cautious. I’m not concerned about the size of the board, but rather they believe in my mission ‘to enlighten the mind by way of the arts through the African-American experience’.

3. What is the best part of being an executive director? Stage Aurora is my theatre company. I am the founder, visionary, developer, and minister of the Arts to underserved communities. I own the power to choose, produce and present works of quality as I desire and no one can tell me otherwise.

4. What do you do to have fun? Rest.

5. If you could have one extra hour today, what would you do with it? Of course, the given is I strive daily to keep God at the forefront of my life, to order my steps that I not go astray in decision making and daily responsibilities. Having said this, I would use the extra hour very wisely. I enjoy the Arts immensely and sometimes will visit the movie theatre to see three movies in one day. Who knows?

6. What is the best book you ever read and why?  The Bible. The Bible inspires, encourages, and teaches. There are so many examples of prosperity and overcoming the odds through faith. I also enjoy good books on History and Black History, Health and Healthy Eating, and Financial Strength, etc.

7. What is your favorite sport and why? Well, as I am not getting old but rather maturing, I don’t participate in my once lifetime favorite sport, figure skating. I still enjoy a good skate every now and then but to add to that, I attend the U. S. Open Tennis Tournament for an all day tennis affair. My dad and brothers are golfers, maybe one day I’ll join them.

 

An Interview with Erika Webber – Acupuncturist, New York, NY

Guest Background

Erika Weber is a New York State licensed Acupuncturist, and a nationally board certified NCCAOM Diplomat. She was trained at Tri-State College of Acupuncture (TSCA), the only college training in Acupuncture Physical Medicine (APM), Kiiko Matsumoto Style Acupuncture (KM―modern Japanese acupuncture), and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Erika has also studied in Japan with five    Master Practitioners including Master Kawaii, the first to use diode ion cords for stimulating points, enabling quicker recovery.

While at the TSCA clinic, Erika maintained health care and safety in a high-volume setting while treating patients for pain management, stress, chronic fatigue, allergies, infertility, IBS, menstrual dysfunction, and other disorders.

Erika’s practice is informed by over 20 years of using and understanding the body through dance. During her dancing career she sustained many injuries, and one of her quickest recoveries was the direct result of acupuncture treatment. Erika’s education and personal experience has been instrumental in helping and treating her own patients.

Erika was an intern with Master Practitioner Arya Nielsen, author of Gua Sha: A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, at Beth Israel’s Continuum Center for Health and Healing for one year. Ms. Nielsen is at the forefront of research on the effects of acupuncture and Gua Sha.

The expert training Erika has received from master practitioners enables her to utilize a range of treatment options tailored to the specific needs of each patient. This, combined with her compassionate spirit, facilitates the health and well-being of each person she treats.

Erika has a growing practice located in the Union Square/Gramercy area of Manhattan.

 Interview

 1. How do you describe what you do for a living ? I am an Acupuncturist. I have my own private practice in Union Square/Gramercy area. People say “you are a healer”.  But I like to regard myself as a facilitator of change, changing the way the body is able to heal itself.

2. Who were your influences? My early influences of course were my family. My father was the hard worker and my mother was the compassionate one.  I think the two attributes combined really help me in the field I chose. My sister also turned me on to life changing books and music that really opened up my mind to the way I look at things.

3. What are your go-to healthy foods? I eat avocado everyday! Also blueberries, almonds, and water, water, water (with some lemon)!  I also try to get a fresh green drink every day. That’s a no brainer for a healthy system.

4. How do you stay centered and balanced? When I feel out of balance, I do a series of breathing exercises.  Also I use mala beads and repeat positive mantras to get me back on track. Also, I meditate and journal.

5. What’s one thing no one knows about you? I don’t think any people know that I’m very sensitive in many areas of my life.

6. What advice would you give to a young person who’s given up on life? I would tell them that the universe supports them and that every day is a new beginning to change their life.

7. What do you do for fun? I play tennis, have dinners with friends, listen to music, go to the park and workout.

An Interview with James Yang – Ilustrator, New York, NY

Guest Background

Born and raised in Oklahoma, James Yang graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in communication arts and design.

Within a few years of entering the illustration marketplace, prestigious trade publications began to show or feature his work: Communication Arts Design & Illustration Annuals, 3×3 Magazine, Graphis, HOW, Print’s Regional Design Annual, Step x Step, and The Art Directors Club of New York Annual. Since 1983, James has won over 200 awards for design and illustration.

Top publishers and clients using his style include (a partial list): Amnesty International, Arab-American Bank, Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster, Bankers Trust, Bloomberg Magazine, BusinessWeek, Chase Manhattan Bank, IBM, Forbes, Fortune, HarperCollins, Herman Miller, Hewlett Packard, L.A. Times, Major League Baseball, Microsoft, Money Magazine, Nabisco, Newsweek, New York Times, The Robert F. Kennedy Foundation, Showtime Inc, Smithsonian Institution, Sony Records, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Xerox.

Mr. Yang most recently taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has also taught and lectured at the Maryland Institute College of Art, The Corcoran School of Art, and The University of Maryland. He continues to be in constant demand as a guest lecturer around the world, and most recently returned from a one week teaching engagement in Lebanon.

Yang moved to NYC in 1994 and now lives in Brooklyn where he lives happily married to acclaimed choreographer and dancer Abby Chan.

Interview

1. Please explain what you do? I am an illustrator. It means publications, design firms, books, ad agencies, animation studios, ect will pay me for artwork they haven’t seen yet. Since I try to break down ideas to their essence and put them back together, it usually works out well for everyone. Oh, and it has to be done on a deadline.

2. Where do you get your inspiration, and what keeps you inspired? Going to bookstores, movies, and especially tagging along with my art friends who are more plugged into the gallery world. Fortunately, a lot of my friends on Facebook are  creatives so they post a lot of stuff that might lead me to something interesting. At the moment, retro work from the mid century really influences my work like a lot of illustrators these days.

3. What is the most challenging thing about your work? Probably the ebbs and flows of a career. I’m probably one of the steadier illustrators as far as work for the last 20 years so you would think I would be relaxed. If the phone doesn’t ring for a couple of days I freak out just like every other creative I know that works for themselves.

4. What is your favorite website? The Big Picture. It may seem like a strange choice but everything is so politicized these days it is refreshing to read something that tries to be intellectually honest.  A lot of my clients are financial based and my family was into investing so the interest comes naturally.

5. What is the most important thing you would tell a younger person? It is important to be a sponge and expose yourself to whatever influences you need to pursue your dreams. Don’t be afraid to explore. You never know what experience you have that will click with you and help you find your  passion in life.

6. What item in your home do you treasure the most? My Bertoia Bird Chair. It is perfect for watching TV or reading and it looks like a modern sculpture. The fabric is now worn out so I’m going to reupholster it.

7. How do you take time out for yourself?  Heh. When do I not take time for myself? Golf, poker with friends, movies, dinner with friends and generally walking around the city or Brooklyn. Being an illustrator is like being a kid and you are allowed to go out to play when you finish your homework.

An Interview with Dr. Paul Stelzer – Heart Valve Surgeon, New York, NY

Guest Background

Dr. Paul Stelzer is an American cardiothoracic surgeon who is one of the few worldwide to routinelyperform the Ross procedure – a procedure Stelzer helped establish as thestandard for aortic valve replacement in young patients who want to avoid anticoagulation. Stelzer’s experience with the Rossprocedure is considered among the most extensive in the world. Stelzer iscurrently the Co-Director of the Heart Valve Center and a senior surgeon in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital, and a Professorof Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, both in New YorkCity.

Interview

1. What inspired you to become a heart surgeon? When I decided to be a doctor it was always surgery. I always liked to work with my hands building things like jigsaw puzzles, models, etc. When I had a chance to see a little boy who was a “blue baby” turned pink by heart surgery, which convinced me this was the specialty for me.

2. Who are the influences in your life? My wife has been the best influence of all. She is always supportive and always helpful. She made me aware of how other people have feelingsa long time ago and changed my whole perspective on dealing with people. Her whole family has been a wonderful part of my life for the last 45 years. Her dad was probably the best friend I’ve ever had. He had a profound influence on me as an example of leadership, encouragement, and striving to make the most of the gifts God has given you while sharing them with the folks around you. Dr. James Malm was the key person in cardiac surgery when I was a student that inspired me to follow in his footsteps as a creative, committed heart surgeon. I am continually inspired by the spirit of my patients who put themselves in my hands with hope and trust for better days ahead.

3. What is the best part of your job? I enjoy the technical challenges of really tough cases, but I also am thrilled by the grateful hugs of patients who come back after surgery with their lives turned around and ready to face the future with new hope and confidence. I also find it very rewarding to teach the younger generations of surgeons how to handle challenging situations and even just to learn some of the basics. It’s a privilege to help someone do something for the first time and then bringing them along to be really good at it. I know I can help them do this while making sure the patient gets the best possible outcome. Everybody wins.

4. What are you doing to improve yourself, physically, mentally, and spiritually? I must admit to not spending much time on exercise other than running up and down stairs in the hospital, but I do get a lot of walking done in the course of a day. I love to read but don’t have much time for it. The week just wouldn’t be right without church on Sunday. I love the time with my diverse church family and particularly love the music which has been a passion of mine for a long time. I enjoy singing in our various-sized choral groups and even writing some new music for us to sing. My other mental-healthbreak is singing in a quartet which is almost barber-shop but does a wide range of music.

5. If you were starting out again in your career, what would do differently? I would try to spend more time with my children. I missed a lot of school activities and other chances tospend time with them while they were younger. I’m making up for it with the grandchildren.

6. What are your ‘go-to’ healthy foods? I’m a bad one to ask this one. I eat a Kudo bar and Cherry Coke for breakfast and have pizza for lunch. I’m blessed with a metabolism that burns most anything, so I don’t tend to put on weight. Not everyone can get away with this.

7. At the end of the day, what do you do to make yourself happy? I sing and thank God for a chance to help others in very special ways.