Denver Sonnets Project, No. 78: Erica Lee Johnson

By John Moore

CultureWest.Org is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections. The artistic intent is primarily to further CultureWest’s mission to spotlight the local theatre community and their current or upcoming productions. It’s also an attempt to promote Shakespeare education in a fun way. This is an entirely volunteer project with a proud budget of … zero dollars.

Jakarta SonnetWe are rolling out new Sonnet videos … well, as soon as they are completed and turned in. Here’s a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series.

For Sonnet 78, actor Erica Lee Johnson takes us all the way to West Java, Indonesia, where she serves as a Peace Corps volunteer. Here, in this enlightening and heartfelt video, Johnson shows us how she uses John Lennon, a ukulele and the universal language of Shakespeare to teach Sonnet 78.

Scholars believe that in this sonnet, Shakespeare has been hurt by the source of his poetic inspiration. That other contemporaries have adopted his poetic style and honed in on his muse. Here, Erica’s interpretation seems much more an ode from teacher to students and back again. For surely just as she has opened their eyes to new worlds, so too have they for her. Communally they allow the educated to soar even higher, and enhance the gracefulness of the already graceful. Unlike the narrator of Shakespeare’s sonnet, there is no shortage of inspiration in this small classroom outside of Jakarta.

Johnson’s remarkable DIY film includes contributions from a choreographer, three cinematographers and a cast of 24 Indonesian locals. It’s longer than our previous Sonnet film entries – and worth every second.

Johnson is a graduate of Littleton High School and Metro State University. Recent acting credits include Miners Alley Playhouse’s “Present Laughter” and “Wonder of the World,” as well as And Toto Too’s “The Greater Good.”

The Denver Sonnets Project is an ongoing public art project, open to a variety of actors and filmmakers.  Each new short sonnet film is posted here first. The project is an endeavor to call attention to the work of the Denver Actors Fund. Learn more at  www.DenverActorsFund.Org.

Video series by John Moore. For those of you who have signed up for a sonnet, please keep them coming!

The Denver Sonnets Project is a volunteer collaboration, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information on how to register for a future episode, email your interest to John Moore at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

 

erica

 

Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

Sonnet 1: Cast of “Cult Following”: “From fairest creatures we desire increase …”

Sonnet 2: Josh Robinson, “See thy blood warm …”

Sonnet 6, Joe Von Bokern: “Make worms thine heir!”

Sonnet 10, Augustus Truhn: “Thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate …”

Sonnets 11: Crystal Verdon Eisel: “Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.”

Sonnet 17: Anne Sandoe: “If I could write the beauty of your eyes …”

Sonnet 23: Gabra Zackman, “As an unperfect actor on a stage …”

Sonnet 31: Sean Scrutchins and Devon James: “Thou art the grave where buried love doth live …”

Sonnet 36: Rachel Fowler, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee …”

Sonnet 44: John Carroll Lynch, “Thought kills me that I am not thought …”

Sonnet 47: Adrian Egolf, “Thyself away are present still with me …”

Sonnet 55: Cajardo Rameer Lindsey: “You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes”

Sonnet 73: Jim Hunt: “Love that well which thou must leave ere long …”

Sonnet 74: Lowry Elementary School: “Thou hast but lost the dregs of life …”

Sonnet 78: Erica Lee Johnson: “So oft have I invoked thee for my muse” …

Sonnet 90: Adam Stone: “If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last …”

Sonnet No. 91: Sam Gregory: “Thy love is better than high birth to me”

Sonnet 94: James O’Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds …”

Sonnet 124: Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘The Tempest’

Sonnet 131: Josh Nelson, “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds …”

Sonnet 136: Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, “Make but my name thy love …”

Sonnet 144: Cailin Doran, “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair …”

 

Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

Brenda Billings named Denver Actors Fund President

Brenda Billings, Artistic Director at Miners Alley Playhouse and a longtime contributor to Colorado’s non-profit community, has been named President of The Denver Actors Fund, Executive Director John Moore announced today.

“I am honored and very enthused to join the Denver Actors Fund,” Billings said. “The founding of this unique and vital organization is making such an important difference in the lives of the Denver theatre community.”

Brenda Billings. Photo by Jonathan Scott-McKean.

Brenda Billings. Photo by Jonathan Scott-McKean.

Billings succeeds Denver Actors Fund co-founder Christopher Boeckx, who will remain active as the fund’s Legal Counsel.

“The Denver Actors Fund never would have gotten off the ground without the wit and wisdom of Chris Boeckx,” Moore said. “He took care of all the initial filings. He led painstaking efforts to secure our good standing as a fully fledged nonprofit in the eyes of the state of Colorado and the IRS – and in record time. He also spearheaded the launch of the ongoing Tap Shoe Initiative, which allows local theatre companies to take ownership of the organization by collecting funds at their shows.

“But Chris’ life circumstances have changed significantly, and so we are not only grateful to have his continuing legal guidance, but also to infuse our efforts with the energy,  clout and smarts that Brenda Billings brings to the Denver Actors Fund. She is without question a matriarch of one of Denver’s most accomplished and beloved theatre families.”

Moore pointed to Billings’ steadfast support for the Denver Actors Fund from the beginning. Not only does the Miners Alley Playhouse give free ad space to the fund in every show program, the company keeps an authentic miner’s lunch pail open in the lobby at all times to collect donations.

Billings grew up in a Kansas theatre founded by her father, the legendary PK Worley, who was a musician and director, most notably with the Evergreen Players. Brenda graduated with a degree in Speech and Drama from the University of Kansas and moved to Colorado in 1983 to marry Jim Billings of Wheat Ridge. Her brother, drummer Tag Worley, came six months later, followed by their father in 1984. That began a long family association between the Worleys and with the Evergreen Players, Evergreen Chorale, Colorado Childrens Chorale and more.

“From stage management and directing to acting, dancing and singing – I am most at home in the theatre,” said Billings, whose recent directing credits include “Godspell,” “The Fantasticks” and “Songs for a New World” at Miners Alley Playhouse, as well as the critically acclaimed and award-winning “Hairspray” for the Evergreen Players. She will next direct “Pump Boys and Dinettes” this summer for the Miners Alley Playhouse.

Billings has served on the Board of Directors for many nonprofits in the Denver area. Her longest tenure was with the Colorado Children’s Chorale. She spearheaded their fundraising efforts for more than 10 years and was instrumental in their overall financial success. She also has been active in fundraising for the Denver School of the Arts and The Evergreen Players.

Brenda and Jim Billings have four children: Jacqui Jo, Jamie, Jessica and Brady. Jacqui Jo Billings won a 2014 True West Award for her performance in her mother’s “The Fantasticks.” Jamie Billings performed in the national touring production of “Spring Awakening” and went on to study direction in London. Billings’ brother, Tag, remains a highly sought drummer in the local theatre community. He is married to choreographer Alann Worley.

“I am so enthused to be a part of furthering and growing the success of Denver Actors Fund,” Billings said. “I am looking forward to working with John and the ‘army of angels’ who  have taken the charge of caring for our fellow theatre colleagues.”

The Denver Actors Fund, founded in June 2013, is a modest source of  financial and other immediate relief for members of the Denver theater community who find themselves in situational medical need. In two years, The Denver Actors Fund has raised about $45,000 and distributed about $16,000 to help recipients with medical bills, insurance, co-payments, supplies and more.

(Click here to read stories about some of the actors, directors, stage managers and more who have been helped to date)

The Denver Actors Fund “Action Teams,” an army of more than 60 volunteers, run errands, provide rides, meals, child care, pet-sitting, personal company and more. To date, volunteers have donated more than 200 hours of service, delivered nearly 50 meals and delivered about 15 bags of groceries.

When Moore and Boeckx started the Fund two years ago, Boeckx was a Peace Corps volunteer finishing up law school at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. Since graduating with honors as a member of the Order of St. Ives, he has taken a job with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, gotten married and last week became a first-time father.

“Chris and I said from the very beginning that we want helping the Denver Actors Fund to be a manageable volunteer task for everyone,” Moore said, “… including us.

“We are so grateful for Chris’ essential service, and we will always consider him a vital member of the Denver Actors Fund family.”

One Board position remains open. Anyone interested may inquire by emailing denveractorsfund@gmail.com

 

MORE INFORMATION ON THE DENVER ACTORS FUND:

To apply for aid: Click here

Web site: Click here

Email us: DenverActorsFund@gmail.com

Facebook: Click here

Twitter: @denveractorsfun

 

OUR NEXT EVENT: THE MILE-HIGH 24

Eight local playwrights are given just one night to write an original one-act piece – a lost scene from an assigned pop-classic film. The next morning, eight directors will gather their actors and scripts, and start rehearsing. The result will be performed later that same night. Performances will be held Saturday, June 27, with shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Vintage Theatre in Aurora. Tickets are $20 each and are available online now. A portion of the night’s proceeds will benefit the Denver Actors Fund. The Mile High 24 is the creation of local Producer Gene Kato. Read more about it here.