We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie Anne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks is an essential part of creating art and being an artist. Simply putting any type of creative work into the world is risky, but it is rewarding and absolutely necessary. I knew that taking risks was going to be the groundwork for me entering the professional word as my first project out of grad school was touring my own one woman show across Los Angeles and New York City. Every time I performed I had no idea where my audiences were coming from (my friends rule and always made sure people were there) and no idea if it would be a worthwhile investment (it was/is.) I’ve learned that everything we do as artists involve risks, and that is what makes it so exciting. This past year has been hard in so many ways and a lot of times I thought the only risky thing I was doing or would ever do again would be going to the grocery store. But in this solitude I found new passions and more ways to stay creative. For the first time in my life, my creativity came through music. This is something that I’ve always done in the shower but never something I thought I would take seriously. My guitar sat idly in my room for 11 years before I ever picked her up and learned how to play. It took a certain amount of acknowledgment that I could fail at it, in order to push to a place where I was good at it. A year later and I’ve got a song out on Spotify, I’ve collaborated with artists who have taught me so much, and I’ve invested in my own recording equipment. This year has reaffirmed for me that if I’m feeling stuck creatively, it might be time to do something risky. I’ve been reminded that it’s always worth it to pursue something you’re interested in even if you might be bad at it at first. Especially then. Not everything I create is good. In fact, a lot of things I create are bad. But they always teach me something about myself and I’m happy that I’ve learned to accept the risk so that I can see the good things, the bad things, and everything in between come to life.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I was in high school my family had me go to the school that all my siblings went to. The only problem was that this school had no theater program. I begged and begged to be transferred somewhere where I had friends and where I could do theater. When I finally transferred, I didn’t make it into any of the mainstage plays. Because I wasn’t getting any roles in the traditional theater program, I auditioned for Central Touring Theater – which was our schools social justice program. In this class we wrote our own poetry, music and plays and we toured our performances around the state of Minnesota. Not getting cast in any mainstage productions ended up being my biggest blessing because it led me down the path I’m on today. I was a part of this class for two years and it taught me how to express myself and truly be an artist. It prepared me to have my own voice and equipped me with the skills I needed to share my ideas in an effective way. It taught me how to stand for something. I continued to study theater as I went to college and graduate school and now I tour my own show called Nothing Special. This is centered around the concepts of fame, capitalism, and what we give up in the pursuit of recognition. Without this background in learning how to express myself I don’t think I would have spent quarantine allowing that expression to manifest in ways I’d never explored before. This class set me up to be reminded that even though I spent my time studying theater doesn’t mean I’m not also a poet and a musician and a painter. I don’t belong in a box, I am an artist. Everything worth pursuing has challenges – like never getting cast in a high school play – but looking back I feel like everything that I thought was a “set back” has actually lead me closer to the truest version of myself.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
LA is such a beautiful city. One of my first stops would have to be The Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibits are always changing and always interesting. I once went when an artist had built a ping pong table with a pond in the middle. You could actually play on it and if you weren’t very good (me) your ball would land in the water. I have a fascination with all things old and beautiful so I would have to take them to The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for a drink by the pool. I’m obsessed with old architecture and I can spend hours in that hotel staring at everything around me. Then we’d head to the Dresden to pretend we were old Hollywood movie stars and drink martinis and listen to Marty and Elayne. I would have to take them to 3 Clubs which has the most classic hollywood feeling to me. It’s dear to my heart as one of the venue hosts for the LA Fringe Festival as well as a residency location for Nothing Special. I might throw another hotel destination on our map – my obsession with hotels is very real – as The Standard is such a cool spot. They used to have a girl in the lobby in a glass box you could watch do nothing! I think this is the coolest thing ever. We’d also have to hike Solstice Canyon in Malibu and spend a day at the beach – duh. Oh! And drink green smoothies and eat at visit the Vegan Street Fair in North Hollywood!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Everyone in my life is such an important part of my support system. Especially this year when support systems became extremely necessary.. Molly listens/watches/reads everything I make at every stage. Aparna encourages all of my ideas and helps me bring them to life. Raf, Berto and Connor all encouraged my music, helped me with my instruments and created art with me as the pandemic forced us into lockdown. ALLIN Los Angeles and my friends Mylesha, Carly, Raven and Francesca exercise my mind with our weekly bookclub meetings that keep me sane and inspired to work for change. These are just a few examples. I’m extremely lucky to be around such wonderful people who constantly hold me up and inspire me.
Aparna Brielle (first two) Alex Hackworth (third)