Its 12:43 pm
Hot in Topeka
Welcome to another edition of “8 Questions with……”
So I went back to the well and went looking for another bunch of talented and committed folks who wanted to share their stories with me. They say the third time is the charm and after getting the responses that I have received this go around,I am a total believer in that saying. Which is great considering all the flakes and posers (oh yeah,I do get those as well) I had to deal with in the past month or so.
What better way to get the ball rolling then getting the chance to chat with one of the most talented and skilled performers I have met,the incredible Carolyn Paine. This mazing hard working lady is dancer,stand-up comic,actress and is also highly sought after choreographer. She is a teacher,activist,runs a podcast and is most likely a member of some superhero group in her spare time.
Carolyn has reinvented one of the oldest Christmas traditions,taking “The Nutcracker” and turning it from old and stale into something beautiful,colorful and appealing to all ages. She also used dance as way to express how domestic violence is with us and in many states is back on the rise,its a reminder that we as a society still have a long way to go but we can get there by loving and respecting our partners. Please check out the video that I added to Carolyn’s interview.
Oh,did I mention that Carolyn is close friends with Prince Harry??? Its true and Carolyn was kind enough to share a couple of pictures of the Prince himself…you don’t meet too many people who personally know Royalty,even the cheetah was impressed by that…
Well come along with me as I adagio in and ask Carolyn 8 Questions……
Please introduce yourself and tell us what you are currently working on.
I am Carolyn Paine and I am a dancer, choreographer, actress, and comedian. Currently I just finished working on a short dance film called “Pulling” that I choreographed, directed, and danced.
In this 3 minute dance, I look at domestic violence through heart-wrenching and dynamic choreography. Statistics state 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. My work aims to inspire those affected by this issue, or anyone who thinks someone in their life is being affected, to know they are not alone and to consider speaking out and getting help because most cases of domestic abuse are never reported.
Making this video was emotionally and physically exhausting. The choreography was inspired by my personal experiences. I have sadly seen first hand and from close friends that abuse comes in many forms. And I felt that telling this kind of story through dance on film is such a beautiful, intimate, and powerful way to look at an abusive relationship because it offers a unique perspective in how you can show the emotional and physical struggle.
“Pulling” is my fourth short film and my third film done with social purpose. My comedic political musical short film “You Can’t Do That” recently was a winner at the Women in Comedy Festival and the International Comedy Festival in California.
You can watch the video online-see my website at www.carolynpaine.com.
Also, on the theme of domestic violence, I have recently been doing a podcast about the HBO show “Big Little Lies” called Big Little Podcast with two other friends that I are regular guest panelists on the same WNPR radio show I am on. We started this podcast because we are fans of the show and always needed to get together with wine to cope, watch, and discuss. So we figured why not record it and make it a podcast. It’s the closest I am probably ever getting to working on something with Meryl Streep. You can check it out on itunes and stitcher or at www.thebiglittlepodast.com.
What was it like growing up in your home? Is your family artistic?
My family is not artistic necessarily, but they certainly supported the arts and exposed my brother and me to them. I grew up in Boston, MA and we were very lucky to be able to get to experience all the culture there including museums, music, theatre, dance. So I got lots of inspiration from and education in the arts even at a young age. And growing up, my brother and I would engage in a lot of creative play together. We also loved watching movies-especially comedies and I gathered a lot of inspiration from that. And I totally pushed my creativity and love of performing on all around me. Several times I led my neighborhood friends into putting on full scale productions for our parents and other neighbors and friends. I was just a natural born performer and director who was lucky to be in a home environment that encouraged me, supported me, and let me dream big.
You are the definition of multi-talented- actor,dancer,stand-up comic…which came first to you growing up? How do you balance yourself as all three crafts have different demands?
So growing up I started studying dance young. I was in the professional training program at Boston Ballet starting at the age of 7 and was one of their select professional child performers. So that was an amazing experience to grow up backstage in professional productions. I always loved performing and knew from a young age that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started getting involved in theatre and studying acting more when I was in high school and my degree from college is in theatre. It is hard to balance life in multiple areas, but honestly I have always felt that it keeps me busy and energized to work in all three. The challenges with scheduling, rehearsals, physical demands and training as a dancer, and traveling for gigs can be a lot but in pursuing all three I am almost always busy which is better than being bored or not working! Plus I love when I get to combine all three-whether it be through short dance comedy videos I create or on stage in a show. I feel proud that I have accomplished so much in each area and that not just one thing defines me and my life.
What is CONNetic Dance?
CONNetic Dance is the professional contemporary dance company I founded in CT 10 years ago. I had been dancing professionally around the world with various choreographers and dance companies and I was inspired to create my own place to make dance collaboratively and evolve the possibilities of combining different genres of dance and art and theatre to make productions and works that changed the way people see dance. Making it fun and accessible. The company has grown a lot over time but it has been amazing to get to continue to work with many of the same artists I started it with. Funding for the arts is hard, so we don’t get to perform as much as I would like, but it has been a great experience to have this troupe to work with and create on. We also have gotten involved in communities in CT doing outreach programs, education, and inspiring the next generation of dancers who think outside the box. And I love that.
You have reinvented the holiday classic “The Nutcracker”,what did you do and how was it received?
My “Nutcracker Suite & Spicy” is my brain child. I am so proud of this show and still in awe that my vision became a reality and now is celebrating its 10th season! This show is unlike anything you have seen. It takes the classic holiday ballet that is so old-fashioned and not at all culturally woke and shakes it up and makes it wild and funny and relatable. I have an amazing cast of talented professional dancers filling the stage with hip hop, acrobatics, ballet, ballroom, jazz, and tap. The score is Tchaicovsky’s but some different versions including Duke Ellington’s as well as hip hop, rock, and techno remixes. The show packs in audiences and I love how the audiences just feed off the energy on stage and really appreciate this modern take. I knew that we for sure needed a reboot of this holiday dance show, and that’s what I set out to create, but I wasn’t sure early on if audiences would embrace it. But they have and it has been so fun to see the show grow and become a real part of the holiday season in CT and get recognition beyond. I would love to see this show tour nationally. It really is the most fun holiday dance show you could imagine. We have ugly Christmas sweaters, tap dancing soldiers, a dizzying snowball scene with ballet dancers doing acrobatic dancing while floating on giant pearly white snowballs, and a sassy hip hop Sugar Rum. What else could you want?
What do you draw upon for your stand-up sets? Can you walk us through your process?
I think that with writing stand up, it’s like with anything you write, you should write about what you know. So for me I focus on personal experiences, struggles, anecdotes, weird observations…..I find that the things that I am so embarrassed about or worrying about are the things that I can make the funniest. And those things are also so relatable-it’s just that most people don’t get up on stage and talk about them. As a comedian you have this great power because you can help people feel less isolated and laugh at themselves by allowing them to enjoy laughing at you and your struggles-that are often the same problems that a lot of us have. I love when people come up to me and say that they totally related to what I was saying-especially when it is something absolutely ridiculous like eating moldy bread thinking it was multigrain or a bit about moving a lightbulb from one room to another because I don’t have my life together enough to remember to buy more lightbulbs. So my process is about finding those things that are awful, annoying, or stressful in daily life and making them funny.
Why do you think comedians can effortlessly do drama but dramatic actors can’t do comedy? (I’m always amazed at how great comedians can do this…)
I think it is because a lot of comedians, including myself, draw some of their comedy from the darker sides of life, experiences, and feelings. I have often found that when I am struggling or going through a lot of stuff, I am funnier. Or when I have close friends or family struggling, it has always been my instinct to be the clown to get them laughing again, even if for a moment. It is my coping mechanism. And I have read that several great comedians feel the same way. So I think that the fact that a lot of comics may actually kind of live in this darker place that they aim to bring light to makes it in some ways easier for comedians to go dark in their performances and embody dramatic roles. Also, comics are used to putting themselves out there- fully exposing themselves and taking risks so they apply that same approach to drama. That’s my theory anyway.
What were the three best pieces of advice given to you professionally and how have you applied them to your career?
Well, I think for sure the best advice I was ever given was from some agent I met with early on who was helping me get started in commercial acting and said “no matter what make sure you show up looking like your headshot” So true.
But also, my college theatre professor, Sally Porterfield, was an amazing influence who gifted me so much inspiration and influenced me a lot. One of the things she taught me that really helped me to drop inhibitions and approach all performing without fear was telling me that everyone is so worried about themselves that they aren’t even thinking about you. That’s good advice in life too. Sometimes we do or say something and we are so mortified and dwell on it, but chances are the other person or people who were there didn’t even realize it as they were probably freaking out in their own heads. This kind of freedom from judgement helped me not worry about looking pretty, or being silly, or getting dirty and allowed me to just open myself up to risks and just be more me. I really think I would never have had as much courage to pursue comedy without her having helped me get past myself.
Also, I had some amazing dance teachers along the way. I was so lucky to get to study ballet from the Ballet Academy in Monte Carlo with ballet great Nureyev’s teacher, Marika Bresobrasova. She was both terrifying and loving. Sometimes she would sit there and watch you dance and you could feel her eyes going through your body into your soul. She once said that she could see I “needed to dance.” And she was right. I do. Dancing is so hard that you have to need to do it. I carry that with me, even on days where I have to dance but I don’t want to do be doing anything but sitting at home on my couch.
What does “creative” mean to you?
Creative to me means pushing past your own comfort zone and finding something that challenges you to produce thoughts and art that excites you. Maybe even scares you because of how much work it will take to get to the end result you envision. But, in the end, I find those are the creative projects and risks that are most worth it.
What challenges you the most?
Getting up and being somewhere before 10am.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a performing career?
Go. Try lots of things. Be on time. Don’t be afraid. Know that you are being judged constantly but try not to let it get to you too much. And show up looking like your headshot.
Which do you prefer as an actress- live theater or film and why?
Theatre. Because I for sure love the feeling of that high from a live audience and applause.
The cheetah and I are flying in to watch you dance but we are a day early and you’re now our tour guide,what are we doing?
Ok, so let’s say you are coming to Hartford, CT to see The Nutcracker Suite & Spicy where it is performing at the beautiful and historic Aetna Theatre at the Wadsworth Atheneum. I would say for starters, you have to check out the Wadsworth-it is the oldest art museum in the country and houses amazing classic and contemporary works of art. Then you should go get a delicious and ridiculous instagram worthy milkshake from The Place 2 Be restaurant also in Hartford. Next, because it is Christmas time, go see the Victorian decorations at the historic home of the great author/humorist Mark Twain. And if you are lucky you may also see a ghost there. I hear it is haunted and I for sure love a good mystery and ghost story. And then I’ll go grab a delicious cocktail with you at this bar called Tisane.