Friday, May 26, 2017

Spotlight On...Jude Treder-Wolff

Name: Jude Treder-Wolff

Hometown: Berlin, WI

Education: Master of Social Work from Stonybrook University; Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Therapy and Vocal Performance from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; 2 years of Actor training as well as private coaching with Emma Walton and Stephen Hamilton at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor; Completed improvisation training program at The Pit-NYC, Completed Musical Improv training program at The Magnet Theater; Playwriting with John Augustine at 42nd Street Collective;

Favorite Credits: Playing Dr. Charlotte in the first ever Long Island production of Falsettos at Theatre Three; Performing my solo cabaret show Getting Over Myself...Because Nothing Else Seems To Be Working as a fundraiser for a downtown Houston community arts center that raised $30,000 in one night,, and prior to that event the show had a great run of fun performances at a club called Roses' Turn in the village; Writing and performing in Tapestry Of Hope a play with original songs inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt that toured Long Island and New York to raise money and consciousness about HIV/AIDS in 1994-1995;

Why theater?: Theater poses the possibility that we can look at anything in life - from the depths of feeling hidden in the most subtle, mundane moments of our lives to the wild, chaotic rides that change everything without notice - and try to understand it together. There is a kind of magic about becoming a character and telling a story that brings a group of people into the same emotional space. The experience of getting a big laugh that rolls through the room, or feeling the tension build in the audience as a story moves in unexpected ways is almost indescribably rewarding. And theater is the best way to learn about people we might not otherwise know about, people we might never meet in real life. I love being part of that.

Tell us about (Mostly) True Things?: (Mostly) True Things is a game wrapped in a storytelling show, with a side of songs inspired by storytelling. In the show, 4 storytellers tell true stories but 3 of them include subtle little lies woven into the narrative. After all the stories are told, the audience has an opportunity to ask questions of the storytellers, (who are not obligated to answer honestly - improvisation is recommended) then votes for the person they think told it straight. Audience members who vote correctly win a prize - a tote bag that says "my superpower is discernment." There are original songs written for the show that set up each stage of the game, and all but one of them gets the audience to sing. The song "Tell Me A Story" welcomes the storytellers to the stage, the song "That's Your Story And You Say That Its True" has an improvised verse for each story told in the show and sets up the audience interaction portion of the show, and "To Be Continued" Is the song that wraps it all up.

What inspired you to create (Mostly) True Things?: There was no storytelling show local to Long Island.  So in part because I was always pushing myself  to get to open mic shows in the city, or get my name in the bag at The Moth, or pitching stories to established shows, I thought hosting a show would be a way to tell stories onstage on a regular basis much closer to home, and promote the development of a storytelling scene on Long Island. It was tough getting audiences for the first few months because this kind of storytelling was an entirely new form of entertainment for most people, so I created the game which seemed to intrigue people. I wanted the stories to be true so we would be sharing the Moth-style storytelling form, so the lies are always very subtle (e.g. a song playing on a car radio that doesn't fit with the timeline of a story). I also wanted to use my songwriting skills and love of music to set the show apart and it seems to have worked. The songs make the show truly unique. After a few months of doing the show in the waiting room of my office - which we transformed into a performance space for the evening - Newsday wrote a feature article about it and that opened the doors to much bigger audiences and we discovered The Performing Arts Studio in Port Jefferson, NY, a black box theater that is ideal for storytelling. We do monthly shows in that space since 2014 and have branched out to 2 other venues on Long Island, The Pit in NYC and a teen version of the show at The Little Nook Cafe in Sayville, NY.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love everything Sondheim, maybe because I am a creative arts therapist and spent so many years helping people deal with difficult things and try to shape their lives, and Sondheim takes on those big psychological themes. I find theater that looks at complex realities in a really artistic way like Fun Home to be transformational and that inspires me. Hamilton is pure genius and of course speaks to everyone, because it upends conventions, entertains and enlightens. I am very inspired by artists who break boundaries and do independent projects, because it is so very difficult to keep going down an untried path. As a storyteller I continually find inspiration in Spalding Gray. I have read everything he wrote, including his journals, and have seen as much of his filmed work that I can find because he originated a narrative form, was driven to be authentic, and made magic out of the realities of day to day life. He wrote "I walk around the stage on all flaws." The recovering perfectionist in me needs to remember that the best stories and songs may dig into painful or dark things about myself that might be uncomfortable to face but can possibly translate into something that has value for other people. I am also inspired by Kevin Allison, who created RISK! himself, developed it into a platform for so many people to tell their stories to millions of listeners and audience members and is so genuinely supportive of others' work. Also improvisers. All of them.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I recommend the many quality improvisation shows that are available in NYC, TJ & Dave (when they are in town, usually at Town Hall or The Barrow Theater); The Armando Diaz Experience at The Magnet Theater; The Baldwins and Big Black Car at The Pit; Musical Megawatt every Tuesday at The Magnet Theater. Adam Wade from New Hampshire, a monthly show at The Kraine Theater;

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It would be called "Late Bloomer" with Terms Of Endearment-era Shirley MacLaine playing me.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Binge-watching episodes of Snapped and breaking it up with episodes of Comedy Bang! Bang!

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I am also a trainer and creative arts therapist, so without theater I would be doing even more theater techniques to help clients and students realize their goals.

What’s up next?: I'm working on 2 new projects: 1) writing a solo storytelling show called This Isn't Helping about bad therapy, 2) writing songs inspired by stories, some of my own stories and some told by storytellers in my and other shows for a show with a working title called Words and Music.