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The Unusual Creatures

The Unusual Creatures

By Thomas Dane and Jenny Gomez
A podcast about why creative "unusual creatures" stay - or stray - from the arts. Jenny Gomez and Thomas Dane co-host this illuminating podcast, where every Tuesday they talk to artists, creating in virtually every medium, about where the inflection point was that caused them to keep going - or quit. Just because a creative isn't mainstream, doesn't mean they haven't created impactful work that has a ripple effect on the world around them. More than ever, it's time to spotlight the voices you rarely get to hear.

Cover Art Photo Credit: Zack Wilson
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J. Holtham Turns Up the T.V.
This conversation was electric. J. Holtham is a former playwright turned T.V. writer - and comic book writer! - and he graciously shares the story of the windy path that led him from stage to small screen to comic book panels to more T.V. Currently a co-executive producer of The Handmaid's Tale, Mr. Holtham has a story about as untraditional as it gets. He's a self-proclaimed nerd and has found his way in L.A. - which we'll learn from him, was truly the unlikeliest of places where he thought he would find, dare we say, success?  In his words, he's a is a screenwriter, playwright, comic book writer and blogger. He's written for PITCH (Fox), MARVEL’S CLOAK & DAGGER (Freeform), MARVEL’S JESSICA JONES (Netflix), SUPERGIRL (CW), THE HANDMAID’S TALE (Hulu). His plays include stints short and long with the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Second Stage Theater, Bespoke Plays. Some of the essays and reporting he's proud of has appeared in American Theatre, Thrillist, and Slate, and his comics include Star Trek: The Mirror War, Marvel Voices: Legacy (2022), Spider-verse Unlimited. He's also shared his voice on previous podcasts; Marvel’s Wastelanders: Hawkeye, and he sits on the board of the 24 Hour Plays and Ojai Playwrights Conference. He is a proud product of public education. We loved every piece of how J.'s journey led up to every other path he's walked and we talk about some heady issues, like where we still need to make some improvements when it comes to diversity in Hollywood - but we're making progress. There's no regrets here, just an appreciation for the hard rights that can set you on the straight and narrow and make sure you find exactly where you need to be. Keep being unusual creatures, fam. 
58:02
May 17, 2022
Monique Carter is Using Art to Heal
This week's Unusual Creature is the epitome of how art and creativity can change lives. Monique Carter is a dancer, ex-model and former actress specializing in the gift of Middle Eastern and Arabic dance. But most importantly she is a fierce and loving mother to two young sons who through their artistic expression are finding ways to thrive. Monique is a single California mom raising Sol and Micah and life has been an uneasy road for this family, as both boys were born with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD. Recently they've been given a MASSIVE opportunity that we felt deserved to shown given a spotlight. So we had to invite her on for a chat. Monique grew up loving all genres of music. Her grandma would have her AM radio blaring Aretha, The Stones, Otis and Al Green. Monique had a young mother so she’d bop around to Madonna, Wham!, The Culture Club, and Tears for Fear. Her mom’s older brother was also a DJ, so he mixed everything from Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire to The Go-Go’s and the Beastie Boys… as she says... she was born at a time when real rap was coming on the scene. After she fell in love with a boy of Arabic descent she learned and became inspired by Arabic music. She found something that truly moved her and wanted more. So she went to her local community college to sign up for a class. The instructor had a traveling dance ensemble that she immediately became a part of. They toured the country, and throughout Egypt, performing folk dances from countries such as India to Iran. Upon return from Egypt she packed her car and traveled East… to New York to be exact. Lived, worked, performed and traveled with another dance company until she got knocked up by a musician five years later. She gave birth to the twins and moved back home to California. By age two her kids were receiving intervention services and by five they were officially diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other diagnoses. She has given her children the gift of appreciation for music and a love for the arts. Her youngest son taught himself piano and the violin. He recently auditioned for a youth orchestra in which he landed second chair. The orchestra will be playing in Spain this coming June. She will do everything in her power to continue to nurture the beautiful gift he possesses, because she can’t wait to see where it will continue to take him. Please, find out more on his Indiegogo page “Oh, the Places Sol Will Go!"  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/oh-the-places-sol-will-go?fbclid=IwAR3620jUvbbxEjsdzl86FXL2NApeC0VBDvrSI-_3fRa6v2IKPaEuFkX8xYA#/ Music has the power to heal and empower. So please take a listen to this extraordinary story. If you can spare a penny, a dollar, twenty and so on, it would be greatly appreciated. If all you can do is listen and share this episode and send good vibes that is amazing as well. Let's get this family to Spain. But also take in this particular show and truly discover how art and creativity can make a significant difference for everyone.  #OhtheplacesSolwillgo #LetsgoSol #TheUnusualCreatures
01:02:13
May 10, 2022
Charles Sullivan is the KING of Staten Island (Theater)
This week come and join us for a chat with a master of all trades. Charlie Sullivan, the actual king of Staten Island (Sorry Pete... ok, co-King) sits down and has a cozy and riveting chat with us about how his pursuit of being a creative took him all over the world. Charlie gives a nuanced look into how art and creativity bleeds into careers beyond the field and how it can change the lives of so many. It all starts at home. On a simple island, that is one quick ferry ride from the center of the Universe.  Charlie was an attorney in Manhattan for 30 years, working as a litigator for Sullivan & Cromwell, Arkin, Kaplan & Rice, Gold, Farrell & Marks, and his own firm, Sullivan & Gallion, and as General Counsel to the consulting firm Kazenbach Partners. Along the way, he represented Exxon, Goldman Sachs, Roger Daltrey and John Entwhistle, DMX, Price Waterhouse, Biggie Smalls and Prince. He graduated with a BA in English and Theatre Studies from Yale University in 1978, where he was a member of the Yale Whiffenpoofs, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from New York Law School in 1986. Upon retirement from lawyering, Charlie settled back into his home turf of Staten Island and resumed acting in community theatre productions, including portraying Satan in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Big Daddy in Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons, Eli Whitney in Anything Goes, Chef Louie in The Little Mermaid, Pozzo in Waiting for Godot and the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father in Hamlet. With Gary Bradley, he co-founded the theatre company Ghostlight Players, Inc., for which he directed Five Women Wearing the Same Dress and Pride and Prejudice and appeared as Ben Franklin in 1776, Herr Schultz in Cabaret and Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner. Pull up a couch or take us on your travels, and listen as Charlie regales us with tales of the mafia, how to be a good Catholic school boy and the early days of a budding actress we have come to know as one... Meryl Streep. Find out how you can support his building of the local community theater scene. And take a crash course in how the law and being a lawyer is more creative than you ever thought possible. Art is a ripple effect and this episode is proof. 
57:02
May 03, 2022
Megan Tusing Unleashes Her Voice
Have you ever wanted to know the humans behind the voices reading your audiobooks? Us too! Well, look no further than Episode Ten of The Unusual Creatures as we interview the absolutely delightful voice over artist, Megan Tusing. Megan has recorded over 250 beloved audio books and also happens to be an award winner in the craft. We dig into her journey from Chinatown bus to professional whisper booth and everything in between.  In her own words, Ms. Tusing is a West Virginia native now based in Brooklyn and is an actor and award-winning audiobook narrator. She developed a love of storytelling and a passion for language at a young age when first introduced to William Shakespeare, which eventually led her to pursue a career in acting.  She has recorded hundreds of audiobooks from her home studio with such publishers as Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Harper Collins, and more.  Additionally, she has numerous credits in stage, film, and television. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from James Madison University.  She also is the host and creator of The Joyful Toolkit Podcast.  When not on stage or in the booth, she can be found knitting in the company of good friends.  We loved this episode because it's as actionable as it is inspiring. Megan is gracious enough to let us dip into her own professional toolkit as she spills some tricks of her trade, as well as some of the reasons and regrets she has for not going "all in" sooner than she did. Listen and fall in love with Megan Tusing. And, keep being unusual creatures. 
58:26
April 26, 2022
Creatively Centering with Dank
Episode 9 is truly unique. We talk to Dank, a spiritually-driven creative coach (and avid filmmaker, comic book writer and YouTube creator) about what stops us - or keeps us going - as we aim to create work that will make an impact in the world - for the right reasons. This episode gets much more philosophical and metaphysical than episodes past and because of Dank's work as a coach, left us feeling enlightened and inspired to keep going. Dank also talks about his personal experiences and struggles, his close brushes with death and the challenges of being a Korean artist that was woke in the 90s.  In his own words, Dank is a filmmaker, comic book creator, YouTuber, dancer, spiritual counselor, and media coach specializing in helping artists and entrepreneurs manifest a purpose-driven dream into reality. He uses his spiritual and storytelling skills to help individuals reshape the story of themselves, in order to powerfully expose their own destiny to attain their greatest visions. Whether you are looking for a new job, or trying to figure out how to manage relationships, he can offer advice on many topics using principles of Christ Consciousness, Loving Compassion, and Existentialism. He has helped many clients ranging from spiritual leaders, artists, activists, institutional leaders and even life coaches themselves. Listen carefully to this episode, as it feels like a manifestation of Dank's coaching work gifted as a podcast episode. You'll be challenged to think differently, reframe your perspective, and learn why sacrifice is the only path forward when you want to put your most honest work into the... multiverse. We're so grateful we got to spend some time with Dank. It was an exercise in expansion and filled the creative cup in the most awesome ways. As always, keep being unusual creatures. 
48:45
April 19, 2022
Liz Clayman Shoots the Delicious Truth
Liz Clayman is a real treat. A hospitality and culinary photographer by trade (and our first pure photographer on the pod), she sparkles with honesty about what happens when you DO make it as a photog. We delve into Liz's journey from fine art photographer to culinary photographer and what the inspiration was for making the jump from one muse to another. Spoiler, it involves a passionate stint at one of New York City's most beloved restaurants. She teaches us what it takes to make it in the visual arts and sets the story straight about the real day-to-day of a working artist.  Liz Clayman is a commercial and editorial photographer. With over a decade of experience, she specializes in the aforementioned hospitality industry, shooting food and beverage, portraits and interiors. She loves finding the texture and the spirit in the spaces she shoots and the chefs she visually profiles. Not to mention all that delicious food. She's been featured in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Eater, Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler and Edible - to name a few. Her home is in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter, where a lot of cooking, eating, talking about eating and talking about cooking happens.  Tom and Jenny loved this conversation because it got to the real meat of why they started this pod - what makes an artist? How is it truly defined? And when you're making your living reaching the dream you spent so long pursuing, can you separate the commercial from the art itself? Liz's candor and steadfast belief is how she defines her artistic endeavors (and full-time job), will no doubt inspire a discussion on the topic amongst many of you. Not to mention the fact that it's just down right entertaining and educational to listen to a human like Liz who's a real pro. Learn and fall in love with Liz like we did. And, as always, keep being unusual creatures. 
49:03
April 12, 2022
Jack MacCarthy Evolves as More Than a Writer
Talking to Jack MacCarthy is a master class in what it takes to evolve as a writer. He has one of the most fascinating back stories you'll probably hear on this pod. Jack started his career in theater, kicking around in New York City, writing and producing original works. Dig into this episode and hear about their evolution from playwright to critically-acclaimed YA novelist and why he has since relocated to Los Angeles where he's mixing up his career and starting they're path to TV and film.  Jack MacCarthy (he/they) is a non-binary writer and creatrix; they write funny, devastating stories about women and/or queer and/or trans people, all of whom are simultaneously sympathetic and destructive. The New York Times called his work "a lot of fun," and Kate Bornstein said it was "f*cking brilliant." Jack's plays have been performed everywhere from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to the New York City subway and beyond. For eight years, Jack ran Caps Lock Theatre, an award-winning, often site-specific, scrappy af theater company in New York. Jack is a critically acclaimed YA novelist with Squad (published by FSG, 2019), which was a Washington Blade Springs Arts 2019 Book List Pick and Barnes & Noble Most Anticipated LGBTQAP YA Book of 2019 ("won me over" -NPR). He is also a proud birth mother; his true story of giving birth to a child he placed for adoption was the subject of an Amazon Original commission, "My Boy, Their Son," which was #1 in Adoption, as well as the award-winning solo show Baby Mama (“★★★★★” -Broadway Baby). They moved to Los Angeles just before the pandemic hit, where he lives with his cat Sophie. They are Communications Manager of The Outwords Archive, an LGBTQ+ storytelling nonprofit, and he performs comedy on the internet with his Ruby sketch team, Sleepless. Join their Patreon or visit jackmaccarthy.com! Ascending to the next level takes a special kind of commitment to a craft and Jack has never given up on his talent. They know why they need to keep writing and fighting to get to the next stage. Learn about why you should be picky about your feedback, why laziness doesn't really exist, and the importance of listening to your own heart to discover what's next. And stick around to the end for a special musical surprise! We bow to Jack. As always, keep being unusual creatures. 
59:00
April 05, 2022
Playing Along with Bree O'Connor
Bree O'Connor is a Wonder Woman of the arts. She has seen and done it all, from every angle, and she plans to never stop. A lover of creation and an inquisitive student of life, Bree is always examining the human experience, and trying to find ways to magnify its brilliance and pain. She is an artist but also one of the best champions of other's art; all while wearing many hats, including wife, mother and activist. Want to know what the future of creation could look like for everyone... then listen up, Bree has some things to explain.  Bree O’Connor is a co-founder and Artistic Director of Playful Substance, a New York based theater company focused on the development of conscientious collaborators, new works, and substantive productions approached with a sense of fun. Bree is equally at home onstage, backstage, behind the computer or in the box office. As a playwright, director, and writing coach, Bree has fostered over 30 works from page to stage including her own works, Pull, SAHM’s Club and her solo show, Gee, I Hope You Have Fun…., as well as new plays by Raphael Perahia, Grant Harris and Lauren Lindsey White. Bree’s design work includes conjuring 1880’s New York through costumes for Infinite Variety Production’s award winning immersive project Nellie and the Women of Blackwell, costume, set and prop design for Playful Substance’s productions of Frank, by Grant Harris, Tell Me by Lauren Lindsey White, Still We Grow (A benefit for LifeWay Network) and for Bree’s own SAHM’s Club that won Staff Favorite at FRIGID 2017. Bree’s most recent acting credits include Still, Birth. By Coley Campany and Robyne Parrish, her aforementioned solo show and her comedic monologue The Ballad of Roddy Rod Johnson. For more information on Bree’s work and Playful Substance, visit playfulsubstance.com. Art has never been more important than it is right now, and not just the Goliath of the artistic money machine, but all creation. Yes everyone loves the bright lights of Broadway and the marquees of the Cinema, but there is a world of artists out there who deserve notice as well. Their stories are our stories and Bree is one of the best conduits to find them. So take a few minutes with us this week and be... "Breevigorated." 
52:06
March 29, 2022
The Clowns Burn Down the Town
This week we have… clowns. That’s right, real-life clowns. And not just one - two of em! If you’re like, oh hell no, trust us when we say that this episode will 100% change your mind on all things clowns. Isn’t defying preconceived notions fun? The chat gets philosophical and deep and frankly flies delightfully in the face of what you would expect a conversation with two clowns to delve into. We talk at length about finding the beauty and the fun in doing it for yourself and how that’s been a wonderful through line in a lot of our episodes. We dig into mental health and the ups and downs of choosing a creative path. We discern that even though the pandemic was a dumpster fire, it was also a time for the Clowns to get to know themselves - and create things that filled their cup. Mike Smith Rivera and Kelly Anne Burns (aka Mister & Missus Clown) co-run Burning Clown Productions (www.burning clown.tv). Mister went to a fancy clown school (Dell’Arte International) while Missus is a certified natural - but they are both comedians, actors, writers, directors and producers. Burning Clown Productions’ mission focuses on developing and producing original works of film and theater (16 projects since 2020 with 3 Austin Sketch Fest premieres in 2021) and as actors they both work in TV, film, commercials and voice-overs. Mike (UCB, Blacklist, Church’s Chicken English/Spanish spokesman for 2 years) and Kelly (30 Rock, ANTM, Law & Order: SVU) are currently writing and producing the digital series Call Sheet and recently produced a reality docu-series (Space To Create) starring Anita Durst which is being pitched to networks.  In their spare time, they perform site-specific work at events and galas and conduct performance workshops (live and on Zoom). Additional BCP credits include Cold April (Best Int’l Short Black Film Festival of Nashville, Best Political Drama Chicago Reel Shorts Film Fest, Best Narrative short Great Lakes International Film Festival, Best of Fest New Orleans Film Fest), The Deal Breaker (Winner Best Commercial Burbank International Film Festival & BE FILM Underground Film Festival), Find Your Beach (HollyShorts VFX Showcase Award). Listen now and let your imagination run wild and your fear of clowns melt wonderfully away (if that’s your thing). As always, Keep Being Unusual Creatures. 
51:28
March 22, 2022
Writing and Fighting with Alan Herrera
Alan Herrera does not mince words. This episode is probably our most political to date (be warned) because Alan is a journalist, and being a journalist - a writer essentially under contract to tell the truth - has been a challenge these days to say the least. Alan Herrera is an editor and reporter who has worked on interviews with such individuals as former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci; Maria Fernanda Espinosa, the former President of the United Nations General Assembly; and Mariangela Zappia, the Permanent Representative to Italy for the U.N. He has written about politics and LGBTQ issues for such publications as Salon and The Huffington Post and began his career working as an editor on the actor and activist George Takei’s social media team, specializing in breaking news and pushing progressive policy initiatives. Join us this week for the scintillating conversation about the landscape of journalism in the digital age and learn where the fight and sweat should be pointed as we move to create better experiences for all of us.
43:49
March 15, 2022
Doing it All with Allyson Morgan
This week on The Unusual Creatures, everyone gets to unwrap the gift of talented actress, writer, superstar and fantastic creature... Allyson Morgan.  Allyson Morgan is a performer, writer, producer, and the founder of award-winning film and theatre collective F*It Club. TV appearances include: "Law and Order: SVU," "The Americans," "Inside Amy Schumer," and "Divorce." Her short film “Need For Speed (Dating)” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. She has twice been selected for the iTV/Catalyst Content Festival pitch competition, and also twice been a top ten Finalist for Cinequest, a Semi-Finalist at Austin Film Festival, and has three times been awarded a Juno Leadership Residency through the Omega Institute. Her short film, “Sitting,” made its world premiere at SCAD Savannah Film Festival and won "Outstanding Narrative Short" at Tallgrass Film Festival. “First Date,” her newest short, commissioned by 20th Digital Studio, is currently airing on Hulu in their "Bite Size Halloween" series and is being developed as a feature film by Fox/Disney. Allyson’s debut novel, “Don’t Want To Remember You,” is currently available through Tapas Media. Allyson was a part of the Webby Award-winning team for Dave Holstein and Alan Schmuckler's “Wait, Wait, Don't Kill Me.” She also co-created and produced “Ghosted,” an AR experience, which was awarded “Most Innovative Immersive Experience” at the North Bend Film Festival. Chatting with Allyson is a life lesson in learning how to embrace your most confident self, through your art and your spirit. From an early age, as a wise and soulful young lady she embraced her talents and gifts, realising that through creative freedom any one of us could change the world. Follow along on her journey to New York where she found her gaggle of weirdos, who would inspire her to dream even bigger. And be inspired by her no nonsense approach on how we can all dream it and be it, even in the worst of times.  Allyson has done it all and is ready to do so much more. So find a comfy spot and take a listen to the fabulous... Allyson Morgan. 
47:14
March 08, 2022
Katie Florez Dances Through It
In episode two of The Unusual Creatures, you get to meet the incredible contemporary dancer, Kathryn Florez. Katie trained at the SF Conservatory of Dance beginning in 2010 under Summer Lee Rhatigan. Florez founded Fullstop Dance in 2015 and has since presented work at ODC Theater, Palace of Fine Arts, Cowell Theater, and others. Her choreography has been commissioned by The Merde Project (SF), TWObigsteps (Vancouver), as well as SALT Danceís LINK program (SLC), and is currently participating in a residency at SAFEhouse Arts. Fullstop is a repertory company that has commissioned work from international artists, in addition to performing Florez's work, and regularly hosts out-of-town artists for open workshops for the Bay Area dance community. Over the years, Florez has also worked professionally with David Herrera Performance Company, Amy Seiwert, Robert Moses, Lindsey Renee Derry, ZiRu Dance, and others. Katie is an absolute hoot, and a total wealth of knowledge when it comes to the world of dance. She shares insights into why she chose this “non-competitive team sport” and why she never busts out her best moves at weddings. Listen now and be inspired by this incredible physical artist and learn about how the entire industry could be undergoing a seismic shift.
01:11:42
March 01, 2022
Albert Beniada Directs with Delight
In the inaugural episode of The Unusual Creatures, you get to meet brilliant screenwriter and film director Albert Beniada.  Albert grew up in Miami, encouraged by his family to cultivate his deepest creative interests. He writes and makes films to explore life in all its complexity and to satisfy his relentless desire to create. As executive director of Filmshop, he relishes the role of supporting a talented and ambitious community of filmmakers and colleagues who continually inspire him. He has a number of projects in development, including a feature film about rebirth, titled "SHOUT!" Talking to Albert is like audible yoga. An inspirational and measured creative, we dig into his past, his present and all the things that keep him shooting and writing - even if it's just taking a moment to look out the window and take a deep breath into the present. 
01:04:06
February 22, 2022
Meet Your Hosts, Thomas Dane and Jenny Gomez
Thomas Dane and Jenny Gomez have been dear friends and art partners for a looooong time. Hungry for their next creative outlet, in the midst of a violently changing world, they decided to reach out to artists they love to delve into what it really takes to fall in love, stay, stray and hold on to art against all odds.  In this bonus episode, we meet Tom and Jenny and get to know a little bit about them as a pair and what inspired them to embark on this funny little journey into a whole new medium. When you decide to start a new podcast, it's important you trust the hosts guiding you through the experience. This is just the beginning. 
27:15
February 21, 2022