Our Interview with Jeanne Calvit, Interact Founder; Kevin Kling, Story Teller; & Mike Brindley, Poet.

Interviewed by our Different & Able President and Founder, Alexandra Nicklas, the team of Jeanne Calvit, Mike Brindley, and Kevin Kling share their admiration and affiliation to Interact, the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Jeanne discusses the story behind Interact and where it is today. She also talks about the Center’s successes and its mission to help adults with disabilities turn their passion for the arts into careers. Mike Berkson is one of those adults with a love for the arts; he is an Interact artist and performer. Mike tells his story about his years of experience teaching theater skills to other people with differences, as well as mentioning his copious works of poetry. In addition to Jeanne and Mike, the interview also features Kevin Kling, author, playwright, storyteller and narrator. Kevin has Contributed to  National Public Radio (NPR) and explains his view on how art promotes advocacy. Jeanne, Mike and Kevin have all experienced and encompass, in their own unique ways, the vision of Interact. As the Interact website states, “Artists might never have seen the arts as a life choice before, but now see the arts as essential to their humanity.”

Zoomtopia: A Virtual Exhibit accompanies Zoomtopia, a performance developed on Zoom by over sixty-five Interact performing and visual artists while in quarantine. Zoomtopia's alternate universe hurls us past the storms of isolation, uncertainty, and technical aggravation into a world of intergalactic adventure – all from the socially distanced safety of your sofa. The virtual performance runs from June 10 – July 11, 2021. Get your tickets at: interactcenter.org/calendar/zoomtopia

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Jeanne Calvit: Founder and Artistic/Executive Director, Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts 

Jeanne Calvit is the Founder and Artistic/Executive Director of Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. Interact was the first – and remains the only – multi-arts visual and performing arts organization, nationally or internationally, that creates professional theater productions and visual arts exhibitions by artists with disabilities. 

Jeanne spent a decade early in her life living in Europe where she toured with an international theater company and studied at the famed Jacques Lecoq International School of Theatre. Lecoq gives performers the chance to be creators and not just interpreters of someone else’s vision; it fosters an environment of radical inclusion, the concept that everyone has a distinctive voice, and every voice should be nurtured as part of the creative mix. It formed the basis for her life’s work. 

In the early 1980s, Jeanne was invited to create plays with people with disabilities at Camp New Hope in McGregor, MN, and this work inspired a whole new understanding of how people with disabilities could ignite the creative process. Jeanne started Interact Theater in 1992 and then Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in 1996. 

Jeanne lives in Minneapolis, MN and Interact is located in St. Paul, MN. 

Mike Brindley: Interact Artist and Performer

Mike identifies as a poet both on the written page and by using his body in his theatrical pursuits. Throughout his life, he has written around 5,000 poems on a variety of topics, mostly around nature, love, politics and family. He approaches each new work with grace and dignity, an outlook he has mastered since joining Interact in 1997. 

Mike feels particularly connected to the Interact shows that have traveled—stateside and internationally. He even had the chance to perform at the Louvre in Paris as a street performer during an Interact tour. Through his work at Interact, Mike gathers a local and international community together through storytelling. He resides in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. 

Kevin Kling: Author, Playwright, Storyteller, and Narrator of Interact's virtual performance, "Zoomtopia.”

Kevin Kling, best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and his storytelling of stage shows like Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log, delivers hilarious, often tender stories. Kling’s autobiographical tales are as enchanting as they are true to life: hopping freight trains, getting hit by lightning, performing his banned play in Czechoslovakia, growing up in Minnesota and eating things before knowing what they are.

His storytelling started when a friend from the now defunct Brass Tacks Theatre asked him to perform his stories. Since then, he has been awarded numerous arts grants and fellowships. 

Kevin was born with a congenital birth defect — his left arm is about three-quarters the size of his right arm, and his left hand has no wrist or thumb In 2001 Kevin was in a motorcycle accident and suffered brachial plexus injury (BPI). The brachial plexus nerves in his right arm were pulled completely out of their sockets. Currently, he has partial use of his left arm and cannot use his right arm at all. 

Kevin Kling continues to write plays and stories in a rigorous fashion, and travels around the globe to numerous storytelling festivals and residencies. He has released a number of compact disc collections of his stories and has published five books. Kevin resides in Minneapolis, MN.


Website Link: Interact Gallery (interactcenter.org)


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