Author Archive

Meet Your New Bestie: Jessie Mae from THE TRIP TO BOUTIFUL

“I told her I was plain spoken and said exactly what I felt and people will just have to take me as I am or leave me alone…” -Jessie Mae


Every character in The Trip to Bountiful is searching for something better. Some are just more vocal than others. Jessie Mae is definitely not shy about what she wants in life.


“I didn’t start livin’ until I moved to the city. Who but a fool would want to live in the country?”


Jessie Mae is like your favorite girlfriend. She’s always game for a laugh at the soda fountain. To the infamous “does this dress make me look fat?” question, she’ll reliably answer: “You look wonderful,” but if you look for it, you’ll see the telltale eye twitch that belies her true opinion. She wears her emotions on her sleeve, her fashionable, perfectly-pressed sleeve. Jessie Mae is a go-getter, an ambitious woman, if she was the breadwinner of the family, she’d be running the whole town after a month. As it is, Texas in the 1940s, she sends her husband off to work and then splits their tiny apartment with her mother-in-law Mrs. Watts. The tension builds between the two strong-willed women, Jessie Mae trying to assert her claim over the household, while her mother-in-law Mrs. Watts tries to figure out how to find her place in a house that is not her own.


Yolanda Franklin plays Jessie Mae in THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL // previews are February 1-8 // don’t miss Horton Foote’s excellent play running February 9-March 3 at NVA.



A Step-by-Step Guide to Making New Stuff Look Old by Janell Cannon

Janell Cannon is the scenic designer for THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL. The play is set in the 1940′s, and so therefore, is the set. The play’s main character visits her hometown of Bountiful, Texas many years past its prime. Janell takes us through the step-by-step process of weathering boards for the Texas Farmhouse that has seen better days.


From here on, you’re reading Janell’s notes on her process:


We are pretty much recycling everything from stuff in storage to build the Bountiful set.  Gathered these slats that will be the weathered siding of an old farm house…

…and put the base color on all of them. The plan is to add dark wood grain and then after the house is built, I’ll add weathered white paint.



Figured out that I could drag a raggedy brush along each plank with a dark concentrated pigment and get a basic wood grain.



Then I smoothed it out and got more gradation by polishing the pigments down with a damp smooth brush.

Finished the lot in 3 1/2 hours.

Add your comment below and tell us what you think!  THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL runs Feb 9 – March 3, and previews Feb 1-8.




Tell Us A Story and You Could Win Tickets to Opening Night!

Kelly posing at her grandma's house

The TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL is all about one woman’s quest to make it home before she dies. For Carrie Watts – the character in BOUNTIFUL – home is definitely a place, a specific stretch of land called Bountiful, in Texas. So it got me thinking about what Home means to me. Where would I call Home? I was born in Minnesota, moved to Nebraska, then Iowa, and now California (and yes, this week is cold in CA!) For people who’ve left the place they grew up, is Home a place, is it a feeling? Does everyone have a place they call home? Is it always happy, or can it have a different feeling? Is it always a place, or is it a person or group of people – an animal – a season, a possession?



For me Home is a couple of things. I immediately think of my grandma’s house in Minnesota, near Lake Johanna (a marker when we were little that told us we finally were “there yet”) it’s cozy with wood floors and weird blue carpet and life-size moose sock-puppets, and board games and puzzles, and the fancy living room and the comfy one. It has pictures of my mom and my aunts when they were teenagers, the memories of family Christmases and of course, it has that smell.


Leaving this house was really hard when we were little, but luckily my mom was an expert at creating traditions. Which leads to another piece of Home that I have: driving home from my grandma’s house with my mom, dad, older brother, and younger sister. The three of us kids were crammed in the back seat, alternately sleeping on, and elbowing each other throughout the 4-hour car ride from Minneapolis to Des Moines. Then finally, we’d take our exit off the freeway and round the corner on the home stretch to 2741 Lynner Drive, and my mom would magically – at the perfect moment – cue up this specific song on the cassette player, and turn the volume all the way up so the sound filled the car, and we’d all sing it, well the chorus at least, at the top of our lungs, and I was filled with this — energy – this feeling of sheer joy and power that I still can’t quite describe. It was like the final moments of the race in Chariots of Fire. And we’d know we were almost there… we were Home. It was practically a Pavlovian response. With one song, my mom turned this dismal stretch of strip-mall parking lots, coated with dirty melting snow, into something exhilarating! All of a sudden Home was an event, a celebration — I’ll never forget that feeling. So, what was the song? I have no idea. I just know that it felt awesome. I googled “epic power ballad” for hours, trying in vain to re-capture my youth. I texted my little sister to find out and she didn’t even know what I was talking about. I wrote it off thinking she could’ve been too young to remember. Was this my home? A synth-pop-ballad-infused stretch of road in an Aries K station wagon, sometime in the 80s, that no one else remembers? And if so, how am I supposed to get back there? If I found the song again, would it bring back the same feeling? Would I even recognize it?

It seems I’m back where I started, with a question: what is Home, and more importantly, where?


Now it’s your turn! Tell us your stories about Home. What gives you that feeling of familiarity or whatever the sensation is – that earns the title Home?  Leave a comment below with what Home means to you and we’ll choose one winner to receive 2 free tickets to Opening Night of THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL on February 9th at 8pm.


Learn more about THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, February 9 – March 3 // previews Feb 1 – Feb 8



5 Impertinent Questions with Jennie Olson Six by Kelly Iversen

Jennie Olson Six wrote a play called Welcome Home – it’s really good. Jennie was interviewed in the San Diego Union Tribune and they asked her smart questions. I also happen to know that Jennie is extra witty and pretty game, so I asked Jennie, “would you answer these 5 questions below?”  Luckily, Jennie is also straightforward: “I will answer those questions.”  So here goes, 5 Impertinent Questions with Jennie Olson Six:




Kelly Iversen: how many toasters could you fit in the room you’re sitting in right now?

Jennie Olson Six: How many toasters can I fit into the room I’m sitting in right now. 1 to make toast, 1 to make gluten free pizza, 1 to roast marsh mellows in and 1 to warm the place as we have no heat in our condo.


KI: Do you have complete control over your WELCOME HOME characters, or do they surprise you sometimes?

JOS: No. These people surprise me. I’ve been sitting with them too long. I expect them to be a certain way. Then give an actor the words and watch them show up in such a completely truthful way that shows you an aspect of the character that hasn’t been seen before. It’s beautiful.


KI: I imagine you to be a laptop person – am I right?

JOS: Laptop. Yes. Had a stand alone PC when this thing started though. So this play has evolved from a writing exercise at a workshop in a notebook, to scenes on a PC, to my old laptop that was replaced by this new laptop. And many backups. And edits.


KI: cats or dogs?

JOS: I like dogs and they like me, I just have no time for a dog, they need walking and more attention. Cats and their passive aggressive ‘I love you now leave me alone, feed me but don’t touch me’, I can deal with that better somehow.


KI: What’s the one thing (or the 100 things) you must have while writing?

JOS: The one thing I need when I’m writing is space. I can have the TV going, the radio, flip back and forth between websites and writing and still accomplish a lot, but add another person in the room, not such a good thing.


WELCOME HOME has its workshop production this weekend: Friday 8pm / Saturday 8pm / Sunday 2pm.  Tickets are $10 here / $15 at the door.



Approaching Bountiful: insight from the creative team

The Trip to Bountiful by Horton Foote has just begun rehearsals at NVA. Sometimes, in the process of producing a play you choose it, cast it, rehearse it, and perform it, and it’s great and that’s that… but sometimes, Sometimes a play rumbles and rocks your world weeks, months, years before you ever get the chance to work on it. Check out what director Kristianne & actor M’Lafi had to say about Bountiful before they ever set foot in the rehearsal room.


A Note from Director Kristianne Kurner:

“THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL has long been one of my favorite experiences – both as a film and a play.  I remember watching the film in high school and being completely transported by Geraldine Page’s performance.  I was then fortunate enough to see Lois Smith perform the role on Broadway, and it was again an experience I will never forget.  Originally, I had planned to direct the show with the great Sandra Ellis-Troy portraying Carrie Watts, but when Sandy passed away, I put the play aside.  It wasn’t until seeing Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson in A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Moxie Theatre that I realized I found another great actor to bring this role to life, and asked her to become involved.  THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL is a beautiful play about what you choose to do when your life doesn’t turn out the way you expect.  And that intense desire to find your way home.  I can’t wait to share it in our intimate space in Carlsbad Village.”


A Note From Actor Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson:

“I am immersed in a deep abiding love affair with Horton Foote’s magical ability to timelessly speak to each of our hearts in THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL. There is simply too much to say about how much Carrie Watts reverence of the past and her spiritual faith resonate within me. I know there are things I know about her and things she knows about me. It is the nuances. It is as much what is not said that takes on this incredible journey of relentlessness, passion and courage. Carrie Watts paints a portrait with her every breath, her every movement, her every choice. I am riveted by her layers, by her sheer un-offensive guts. Memories, and for some an unquenchable thirst to hold on to them – keep the flame of them lit – for sometimes it is only the memories that affirm that our existence ever mattered. My heart beats faster every time I think about [beginning rehearsals.]”


THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL begins previews February 1, opens February 9, and runs through March 3



Meet Jinx from Plaid Tidings!

I think I’m getting a nosebleed… again”


Meet Jinx (you’ll have to do most of the talking)


The shy one.  He is terrified.  He doesn’t always remember what song comes next or what the next dance step is.  He occasionally gets a nose bleed when he sings above an A.  But boy when he hits those high notes, it’s beautiful!  He and Sparky are step-brothers and there’s a little competition between the siblings, but deep down they care about each other.  When he’s able to get past the butterflies in his stomach, Jinx is a stellar performer, and luckily the other boys look out for him when he can’t.  Oh, and just wait ’til you see his performance in BESAME MUCHO!


Conor Tibbs plays Jinx in PLAID TIDINGS – now EXTENDED through December 30!

Meet Sparky From Plaid Tidings!

“C’mon c’mon, we could make the biggest comeback since capri pants!”


Meet Sparky (but don’t get lost in those baby blues)


He’s the cut up, the class clown, the fast-talker with the sparkle in his eye who just wants to make you smile.  Always cracking jokes, Sparky is quick to lighten the mood and put everybody at ease.  If he has any nervous energy it just seems to propel his performance – like he was born to be on stage.  He really shines in his tailor-made solos, especially “Hey There.”  He and Jinx are step-brothers, and have a healthy sibling rivalry going on, but the charming Sparky has a soft spot for his brother, who suffers from an almost crippling shyness… but more on Jinx next week!


Charles Evans plays Sparky in PLAID TIDINGS through December 30!  Photo by Daren Scott.


Meet Jinx next week!



Meet Smudge From Plaid Tidings

“The choreography is too treacherous!”


Meet Smudge: (he’s the worrier)

You know those nasty little voices in your head that try to bring you down?  Well Smudge has a lot of those… and they give him butterflies to the point of not wanting to perform in PLAID TIDINGS.  He’s afraid you won’t like him, but of course when you hear him sing his charm and talent are irresistible.  His nickname is Smudge ’cause he’s left-handed and would smudge the page every time he wrote in class.  Because of his nerves, Smudge has a hard time appreciating what he has.  His ultimate dream is to perform a TV Christmas special with the Plaids -  like the ones Perry Como used to do.


Nathan Riley plays Smudge in PLAID TIDINGS, which runs through December 24.

Photo by Daren Scott.


Stay tuned to meet the rest of the Plaids!



Meet the Fearless Leader of Plaid Tidings

“Holy Canolli! It’s time to start… Check your flies!”


Meet Francis: (you can call him Frankie)
He’s the confident yet humble leader of the singing group Forever Plaid.  His asthma acts up whenever the musical numbers are too fast or the choreography is too energetic. He takes care of his fellow PLAIDS and is always saving the guys from embarrassment.  Frankie keeps the PLAIDS on task and tries his best to make sure you’re enjoying the show!


The boys of Forever Plaid hit the NVA stage on November 23 to spread some much-needed holiday cheer.


Stay tuned to meet the entire cast of PLAID TIDINGS







Bringing Plaid to Life / A Note From Director Jason Heil

For over 20 years, the Plaids have been one of the most popular singing groups in theatre.  Do they sing great songs? Yes.  Are the arrangements stunning?  Yes.  But I think the true secret to the Plaid’s success is the ability to tap into a pre-irony truthfulness.  When you think of today’s musical comedy, much of it is filled with the likes of AVENUE Q, BOOK OF MORMON, SPAMALOT, THE PRODUCERS, etc. where much of the storytelling is told with a wink and a nod.  But if the Plaids are played that way, it’s deadly to the show. They are just four good guys who love, love, LOVE to sing.  They may not have been popular or athletic or successful in love, but they did find joy in one activity – singing together.  That’s the premise of the the original show.  Our show takes it one step further.  Not only do they get to sing, but they get to perform one of their greatest dreams – a Christmas Television special, in the style of Milton Berle and Perry Como.


I’m fortunate that we have four amazing singers who are bringing these guys to life.  We have a wonderful team who are raising the bar of each of the elements of the production – from clean, crisp choreography to the tight musical chords to a simple, harmonious costume, scenic & lighting deisgn.  We are utilizing the Plaid history, but placing our own stamp on the production. With such a strong team behind me, I have been able to keep my focus on the Plaids’ story.  Why are these four guys here?  What is the journey required to send them back to the heavens?  We have focused on finding the truth of each song and not allowing the show to slip into merely singing with a big smile.  I think the audiences will like what we’ve found!




Plaid Tidings opens this Friday, November 23.  All ages. 


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