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BWW Interview: Ann Kittredge of FLASH FORWARD FRIDAY VIRTUAL SHORTS

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Ann Kittredge is always looking to innovate, and she has.

BWW Interview: Ann Kittredge of FLASH FORWARD FRIDAY VIRTUAL SHORTSAnn Kittredge is a MAC Award winning performer whose elegant Patrician looks and sophisticated mode of dress might fool you from a distance -- she is also a very funny actor with a knack for the silly. When you get a person and performer with varying aspects to their personality and a complete devotion to their craft, you can pretty much count on the idea that they actively spend time at the drawing board, looking to create something new. This is a time of creating something new, isn't it? Well, that's what Ann Kittredge thought when she came up with the idea for VIRTUAL SHORTS, a new web series that will debut tomorrow night on her YouTube channel. When the press materials coming from her office used verbiage like "a new twist" and "moving the needle of expectation," I thought I should reach out to Ann and see what sort of intel I could get on the new project and, happily, Ann was quick to respond. It looks like everyone is in for a treat ... one that will fit nicely into all our schedules.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced in its entirety.

Ann Kittredge, hello! How's life for you and your family these days? Everyone safe and sound?

We are! And we took the time to reassess our lives (yeah, we got THAT heavy), and enjoy each other in new ways, and when necessary just be satisfied if we could keep things together. One thing we learned was, thank goodness we have a healthy family dynamic! Lol. But right now, both kids are dealing with the new realities in their education, my daughter as a sophomore at Canisius College and my son as a junior in a public school in Queens. Remote learning has not been a good experience for either of them. It's a bit heart wrenching to parent them through this, to be honest. They are dealing with the same issues as adults - what day is it? Can I do my work from bed? How daring am I willing to be to socialize with my friends? - But with younger minds, not always certain their answers are the best. It has also brought us closer together. And the protests have meant a lot to us since our family is multicultural. It's prompted thoughtful conversations and, to be honest, has really challenged me to build up the courage to be more outspoken as a parent.

There was a recent announcement about your new online entertainment VIRTUAL SHORTS and I'm wildly curious about the program. The advertising promises A New Twist In Virtual Performance. Are we allowed to know what it is? Or do we need to tune in to find out?

Oh, yes, happy to share what it's about! The one ingredient we have not been able to transfer to virtual performance is live collaboration, and yet, collaborating with musicians in real time is irreplaceable and our virtual audiences deserve to be a part of that experience. This is the first step in making live, remote collaboration at a professional level as common as coffee for breakfast!

The press for the series says you and Christopher Denny and Matt Berman are all working, via remote, to make the performance happen. That begs the question: which of the three of you had the idea for this, and how much sweet talk did it take to get the others involved?

Well, where does one idea start and the other end? It was my idea, actually, once I learned there was a platform that was developing to make remote, live collaboration possible. So I reached out to two people who are on the frontlines of making it happen. That said, my timetable was to get something up mid-November, but Chris had other ideas, so we are premiering Friday! Woohoo!

The program is described as being only ten minutes long - what is the thinking behind making a brief show like this?

We decided to keep it short for a few reasons: 1. This really is ground-breaking, so we wanted to keep it in a contained time to increase the chances of success (this is not without it's dangers); 2. I'm always a proponent of "less is more," and right now, I thought it might be a welcoming respite for people to check in for just a few minutes to be refreshed with music and storytelling, cleanse the week from their systems, a nice little break to take them into the weekend; and 3. I think people's attention spans have been affected by the isolation, and short might be really welcome.

And keep in mind, our 10 minute show has been 2 months in the making. It has been a gift to be able to create and develop a project that can benefit so many. We hope that more performers and musicians are inspired to do the same and we can all be a part of a new wave of home entertainment.

I understand that Virtual Shorts will feature music and storytelling. Will the shows be broken down per episode? One day music, one day prose? Or have you orchestrated each installment to fit both genres into ten minutes of airtime?

Oh, we will have both at each show! When thinking about this, keep in mind that a 60 minute cabaret act has about 16 songs. That means about 2-3 songs plus patter per 10 minutes. It's compact, but not rushed. And maybe the show time will go over by 2 minutes, we're not putting a timer on the screen!

Put a picture in my head of the rehearsal process when working from separate locations with a ten-minute time limit.

First, it was just Christopher and me getting comfortable with the many possibilities available to us on JamKazam. Luckily Chris knew a lot. Singing and playing together was an incomparable experience - just so cool and refreshing. And we've rehearsed for hours over the course of 2 months to prepare for our 10 minute program! LOL. On the peripheral Matt has been involved with both of us as well as other artists familiarizing himself with the possibilities of JamKazam. We invited Matt to join us and our recent tech rehearsals have made me realize that without Matt, we just couldn't be doing this. I've kind of been the giddy cheerleader about all of this, but I've been sobered by preparing for this debut. LOL!

When and where will Virtual Shorts play, and how often will new episodes be available? Where

The show will play on my YouTube channel HERE

Since it's called Flash Forward Friday, they will always be on a Friday, but not every Friday. We will pop up when we are ready. Next one will be sometime in November. We will do lots of social media posts about when in the future, but it's best if people sign onto my newsletter at annkittredge.com/contact/ to get notifications. We want to continue to push the envelope, so the next show will feature more artists performing remotely together, including a duet.

But hey, the ultimate objective is to entertain! So, these 10 minutes aren't a technical instruction seminar. Far from it. It's about experiencing live collaborative performance that we hope the audience feels is worthy to play in their homes.

Ann, there is a growing amount of online content available these days - why was it important for you to create something different, and what was the inspiration impulse that brought this ten-minute program to the foreground of your imagination?

It has been important to me to maintain a certain professional quality of performance as we transition to virtual. That said, lots of what has been going on has been inconsistent, quality-wise. So, the first thing I did was reach out to Matt Berman to help me set myself up in a cost-effective way at home, and I found in him a person of the same mind and goals. Chris Denny was recommended to me and turns out he has been an eager participant in providing valuable information to the developers of the online platform we will be using. The decision to launch this was, quite honestly, Chris. He said just last week, "Ann, let's do this. Let's get Matt. We're ready!"

Artists always want to be creating, and talk about spinning our brains around this unexpected wrench in our plans! Almost every performance medium has been altered forever, I think. So, time to step into the uncomfortable and be a part of the solution to bring quality live musical collaboration back into our world, and eventually, into our audiences homes. It's thrilling, isn't it?

While I've got you chatting with me - How did you keep your optimism up and your focus steady during the madness of 2020?

Huh? What did you say? Oh yeah, focus, right. Uh........

LOL. Ok, well, first and foremost, it has been invaluable to me that I am a Buddhist and a member of The Soka Gakkai International, an NGO of the United Nations. The philosophy of creating value from whatever presents itself certainly came in handy. We have had our emotional ups and downs just like everyone, but thankfully they are passing and part of our determination to continue to move forward and be grateful for so many lessons learned throughout all of this, new friendships, new perspectives, and finding creative ways to benefit others. It's been a gift in so many ways, and we have also been spared from the suffering of losing a loved one too early.

Do you have any news to share? Any other upcoming appearances or creations your fans and followers should look out for?

In addition to continuing to produce and grow our Virtual Shorts show, recording is ironically the other project high on my to-do list. Alex Rybeck, Mary Ann McSweeney, Dan Gross, Sean Harkness and I spent time in a recording studio in February at Second Story Studios. I haven't done any recording for quite a few years, so it was illuminating to me to experience how much deeper I came to understand the stories in the music we were recording from my cabaret shows, Movie Nite and An Evening of Ahrens & Flaherty. Recording is its own art form, and it really impacted me as an artist.

And then to take those recordings and create music videos -yes, I'm now a self-taught music video editor! It ended up being incredibly fulfilling using my extra time to learn about video editing and producing and directing. Which is why I am eagerly looking to get back into the studio to record a few more tunes. By the way, most of my music videos can be found in a playlist on my YouTube page.

Ann, thank you so much for chatting with me today. I am really excited to see what you good folks have created!

You always make it a pleasure, Stephen. Thank YOU!

See FLASH FORWARD FRIDAY VIRTUAL SHORTS on October 23rd at 5 pm ET (or any time thereafter) HERE

Visit the Ann Kittredge website HERE



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From This Author Stephen Mosher