Tag: Theatrical Outfit

Elise Witt Tackles Art and Activism

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018: Elise Witt

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am a self employed singer, composer, community song leader, teacher, activist. I serve as Artist-in-Residence at the Global Village Project (GVP), a school for teenage refugee girls from Afghanistan, Burma, Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Nepal, Somalia, Syria and Tanzania. At GVP I use singing to teach English and help the young women acclimate to this crazy new world in which they find themselves. We say that “every teacher is a student and every student is a teacher.” So we learn songs from the students’ cultures, write our own songs about they are learning, and dive into the International peace and justice repertoire of music.

My Impromptu Glorious Chorus™ workshops for adults take me around the country and abroad to get the world singing. And my Global, Local & Homemade Songs™ concerts showcase my love of world music as well as my passion for writing original poetry and music. I am a 40 year member of Alternate ROOTS, my artistic family, whose membership is made of artists at the intersection of arts and activism.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
My mother sang in a choir in Switzerland while she was carrying me, so I have been “making music” since before my birth. I always sang growing up, both with my family and in school choruses and ensembles.
I moved to Atlanta in 1977 to help found the Theatrical Outfit. We were a diverse group of performance artists who created original shows at our little black box theater on St. Charles Avenue.
From 1980-2000 I sang in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus under the superb conducting of Robert Shaw. I am a lifelong learner, and have studied with masters of improvisation Bobby McFerrin and Rhiannon, Pan-African vocal specialist Dr. Fred Onovwerosuoke, maverick cellist David Darling and his Music for People, and Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, all of whose pedagogy I incorporate into my own teaching, writing, and performing.
I am fortunate and proud to say that I have made my entire adult living as an independent artist!

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
Growing up, with a love of languages, I wanted to become a translator or interpreter. I speak 5 languages fluently and sing in at least a dozen more. I love languages both for the way that each language has its unique expressions that can’t be translated, and for the rich musicality and sound of each language. I didn’t become a translator or interpreter per se, but in a way I now use those skills in my musical work, so perhaps I did follow that path in a circuitous fashion.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? 
My parents supported everything my sister and I did. Even when we embarked on paths that were stupid or misguided, they let us make our own mistakes and learn from them. They came to every concert and performance I ever did. They were always curious and interested in what I was doing, and what my friends were doing. My friends often came to discuss their ideas with my parents because they really listened. I am forever grateful for the love and support of my family!

How is art a passion for you?
Singing is something we are all born with, but our society says that only certain people “have talent,” and the rest of us should be consumers. Music has become a commodity for sale. Humans for millennia used music to tell their stories and to connect as community. I use my music to find that place of community again. Music, and especially singing, vibrates us individually on a molecular level, and brings us together as community. Singing with others is one of the most powerful, passionate things I know.What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Yes!

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
Our Public, Free, Totally Improvised Sings are new and exciting! Every month or two we partner with a membership organization and sing for an hour and a half in a group led, continuous musical experience using only our voices and our bodies. So far we have partnered with Sevananda Food Coop, Mulberry Fields Community Garden (part of the Wylde Center), Woodland Gardens, the Atlanta Beltline, and the Clarkston Library. We all need to sing!

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I hope to help individuals discover, explore and expand their voices, especially those people who have been told at some point that they are “unmusical,” “tone deaf,” or shouldn’t sing. I enjoy to collaborating with artists in all genres – I have collaborated with dancers, theater and visual artists. I hope to make Atlanta a singing city! And because I travel a lot with my work, I also enjoy connecting Atlanta artists with artists around the country and abroad.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

My Work:

 

Collins Goss Talks About Raising Awareness for Atlanta Arts

As you may know, March is National Women’s History Month, and yesterday was International Women’s Day. Last year, C4 Atlanta shared the stories of women arts administrators in our city as part of a project with the National Women’s History Project called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”.

C4 Atlanta is excited to curate this blog series for the second year in a row! We will be highlighting women’s stories on our blog and on our social media throughout the month of March and into April. This year we have expanded the project to include the stories of more women and to share a diverse range of experiences, including women nationally as well as locally. Sharing women’s triumphs challenges stereotypes within today’s society and overturns social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.

Collins Goss, Development Manager of Horizon Theatre
Collins Goss, Development Manager of Horizon Theatre

With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Collins Goss.

Where do you work and what do you do? I work as the Development Manager for the Horizon Theatre Company. I am in charge of all of Horizon’s fundraising efforts, including the annual fund, major gifts, foundation grants, government contracts for services, and special events. I also work closely with our Board of Directors, and I do a chunk of the project management work for Horizon’s community-based projects.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? Honestly, I never really had a set goal. Most kids would list teacher, nurse, vet, doctor, but I never had a specific thing that I knew I wanted to do.

Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up? I loved to read growing up, so most of my favorite artists were writers. I could not get enough of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series as a teenager. I really, really loved classic lit like Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, Peter Pan, Little House on the Prairie, etc.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? I have been so lucky to have had several wonderful influencers and mentors. I had two teachers in high school who blew my world wide open: one was from South Africa and one was from Queens. They somehow ended up teaching in South Georgia where I grew up, and they exposed me to a world much larger than I had known. My biggest influences, though, are definitely my parents. In my completely unbiased opinion, they are the greatest people on earth who give and love unconditionally and who get up every day to make the world better even when it is really hard and no one says thank you. They taught (and still teach) me so many things, but “thank you” was a big one. Everyone is worthy of your attention and gratitude no matter who they are.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work? I took dance lessons from preschool through high school. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it and still enjoy being a dance patron. I got into theatre the way a lot of kids do: my friends in high school were in the one act play and spring musical. I wanted in on the fun too. The alternative was playing basketball or jumping hurdles, and no one wants me to do either one. Yikes. I think I started unofficially working in some aspect of arts admin in high school and just never stopped. I am still not quite sure how that happened.

How is art a passion for you? Art is something that you can enjoy all of your life, and there is always a new show, art form, or artist to discover. The ability to keep discovering is what makes art a passion for me.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts? I work in an office of all women, and this has been the norm in most of my jobs in arts admin. I don’t know if that is typical or not, but I think it is awesome. Working in the arts full time is not easy. The hours can be long and the days frustrating, but women get stuff done and totally defy the odds. 🙂

Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park
Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park

What in your profession has  given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again? The first thing that comes to mind is working on Theatre in the Park last summer. Horizon produced Avenue Q in Piedmont Park for a five night run in June 2015. That’s right. We produced a full scale Broadway musical outside in the middle of Atlanta in June with 28 puppets, a band, and 11 actors. Most of the tickets were given away for free, and we had more than 7700 people join us in the park that week. Moments like this are the reason I got into this business. All these people from all over the Atlanta area left their houses and Netflix to come outside, sit on a blanket, eat a picnic, and watch puppets sing about growing up and finding their purpose. Would I do it again? Heck yes.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta? Atlanta artists and administrators just make it happen in Atlanta, and their work is amazing. No one seems to take no for an answer, and I think that is pretty cool. There has been a lot of talk about Atlanta’s public art scene, and I am really excited to see what comes out of this. We have tons of space that could benefit from an art intervention: the Little Five Points plaza (Horizon is tackling this one starting in April, so stay tuned!), MARTA stations, and so many more.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community? I would really like to be a part of raising awareness of all the arts offerings in Atlanta and the impact the arts have on our communities. There are several individuals and arts organizations that are committed to advocating for the arts whether it is on the government level, among business leaders, or with individual patrons. I am really excited about an audience development project I am working on with the Atlanta Intown Theatre Partnership (AITP). AITP is made up of Horizon, 7 Stages, Actor’s Express, the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern and Theatrical Outfit, and we are committed to pooling resources and doing things together that we could not do as individual theatres. Currently we want to raise live theatre going as a top of mind thing to do among 20-40 year olds who live/work/play along the Atlanta Beltline. We are still in the very early stages of the project, but I see tremendous potential for success.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

www.horizontheatre.com

Twitter: @horizontheatre

Facebook: Horizon Theatre Company

Instagram: @horizontheatre

Little Five Arts Alive Program launching in April 2016: http://www.littlefiveartsalive.com/

Bio?

Collins Goss (Development Manager) joins the Horizon Theatre Company after working for the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance. At UA Theatre & Dance, she served as the digital communications, marketing, and patron services managers throughout her three years. She has also worked for the Texas Shakespeare Festival and Rose of Athens Theatre in Athens, GA. No matter the location, audience development and communication have been the focus of her work, and she is excited to be a part of the staff and community at the Horizon Theatre. Collins completed her MFA in Theatre Management from the University of Alabama in December and has BA degrees in English and Theatre from the University of Georgia.