Monday, February 9, 2015

Using local talent for creative projects

"Buy local" seems to be the buzz word these days, promoting a sort of micro-patriotism.  As a resident of Southern Connecticut, I am fortunate to be very close to the New York City modeling and acting talent pool. There are many budding actors and models in CT who would appreciate an opportunity to participate in a creative project that would help them build their portfolios and gain exposure. I also realize that the projects that pay are not necessarily the most exciting projects from the artistic standpoint. Being an extra in a toothpaste commercial pays well, but it's not what makes most actors' hearts sing. This isn't why people take acting lessons.  There are people who are willing to take a train from Hartford to New York to do cattle call auditions. They endure so much inconvenience for the sake of what they love.  Understandably, they have their eye set on the Big Apple, on Broadway.  But there are opportunities for them here in CT as well.  In 2008 and 2009 I wrote and produced two historical plays, using local talent almost exclusively.  Some young actors traveled from northern parts of the state.  Their dedication moved me deeply, to the point where I expanded their parts, giving them more time on stage.  

As a writer, I love real people with real faces, not the static airbrushed masks you see in fashion magazines.  I love studying features and expressions, pairing them with the characters in my books. When it comes to visual arts, I have two left hands, unfortunately.  My maternal grandfather, an accomplished watercolor painter, must be flipping in his grave.  I use words instead of pencils and brushes.

A few years ago I started writing a series of historical novels exploring the Anglo-Irish conflict form the early 20th century, namely the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. Two of the novels were published by All Things That Matter Press, a small Maine-based publisher specializing in transformative fiction.  One of the benefits of working with a small publisher is that they are more likely to take your opinion into consideration when it comes to cover design.  (And I am not bashing big publishers by any means.)  The editors gave me the green light to design my own covers.  My idea was to recreate the ambiance of the era as black and white photos, using local actors wearing authentic costumes.

For Brendan Malone: the Last Fenian, I chose a local actor Joel Vetsch to impersonate an Irish revolutionary. The two younger actors portraying his sons are Alex Mair and Benjamin Freedman.  The composition was choreographed to communicate the subtle rift in the family. The younger child looks different from his father and older brother, and he stands a little apart from the rest of the family, clutching a book to his chest.

 Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916 was shot at the studio of James Thomas, a local PBS director. He was kind enough to use his space for the shoot. The couple is portrayed by Edgar Harding, a local musician and film director, and Angessa Hughmanick, a classically trained dancer.  The man with the rifle silhouetted against the white window is none other but my very own husband Walt Neary, a character actor whose angular features typecast him as a tormented villain. 

I would like to express special gratitude to the editorial team of All Things That Matter Press who have always supported my creative endeavors.


  1. I enjoyed reading your stories and want to read more. I don't know much about the part of the world you describe but I want to...

  2. Hey Patricia, thank you so much for following my works. There is a third novel in the Irish series, "Never Be at Peace". I will do a post on getting a cover done by a professional artist from scratch.