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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grindlebone: Haven for the Arts

Artists are often depicted in movies and literature as an elite, unapproachable, enigmatic group of people- a club you often see and admire, but somehow can never become a part of. The Grindlebone Arts Collective, according to member Gem Oddfellow, is not this sort of group. Instantly, when you browse through their website, you realize that she's right. With branches involved in film, publishing, theatre, and even fashion, Grindlebone accepts all who are able to offer a unique perspective, who wish to get something more out of life- which, when you think about it, refers to everyone.

What exactly is the Grindlebone Arts Collective?

The Grindlebone Arts Collective was started by Dr Donald Elwell with the intent of spreading quality, new work theatre and art to the public. Dr Elwell was tired of seeing the same production of the same play over and over again- the nine thousandth version of some musical written in nineteen fifty-six when someone else had just written someone new and shocking and no one will produce it. Also, Dr Elwell wants to create a space where artists can create and be supported by their art without the distraction of a day to day job. We're not saying that already written and established works are bad, no, just over done.

You guys have just staged a theatre production called Cyberpunk Opera, of which a film will soon be made. What role do you play in the film? How exactly will the company be incorporating the online game Second Life into the making of the film?

In Cyberpunk Opera I'm now playing duel roles- Justine and DCX 2026. Justine is a teenage girl whose father catches her online with another woman and sends her to a cruel and abusive camp- almost like the one in But I'm a Cheerleader except much more like a concentration camp. Her story is about how she gets out of the camp and overcomes what should be a scarring experience. The character of DCX, who is one of the SecondLife avatars, is the program that runs the computer world that all of the other characters exist in. She knows she is not human and yet she knows she can think for herself, so she begins watching these people- almost narrating their stories- as she learns how to act among them. Half of the script takes place in Virtual Reality and we will be using SecondLife to animate that. We have built the avatars that the characters talk about seeing and being and are currently in the middle of filming that section of the movie. This has been a learning experience for myself and several actors who have never done animation and voice work before.

From the Grindlebone website, you get the idea that being part of the Collective is like being part of a warm, welcoming family. Do you feel that way?

Grindlebone welcomes everyone. If you are an artist, or wishing to become an artist, we welcome you into our lives. Writers, painters, actors- whatever your flavor is. We all learn from each other and we all grow from each other. I feel very close to the people involved in this idea, and I really think that all of our current plans are going very smoothly and are going to work out really well. We are the dreamers and the lovers and the thinkers and the outcasts who want something a little bit more, a little bit more edgy, and a little bit more exhilarating. We are a group of people who work hard at what we do and support each other when we need it- and we keep all drama on the stage. I love Grindlebone and everything it stands for, and I hope it will be around for a long, long time. As a sidenote, to become a "Grindleboner", contact Dr Donald Elwell at to see what you can do. From promoting us to sending us things to publish to watching what we do to being in what we're doing. Some of our most dedicated members we haven't even met... yet.

If you help advertise for us, we'll help advertise for you. That's how we work- we're a somewhat dysfunctional, fun family of artists who just want to take care of each other. It's all about the work, you see. The Art.

I think it's pretty interesting that you've made an attempt to incorporate a clothing line inspired by Cyberpunk Opera.

Paul Meyd and I came up with the idea during rehearsal to turn a stencil I'd done of him for the 2006 production of Cyberpunk into a way to contribute. We're both a little bit broke and wanted to contribute something since the film has almost entirely been out of Dr Elwell's pocket. Also, we want to see Dub For Babylon filmed as well and make sure that Grindlebone is taken care of. So we started the etsy shop and welcomed people to donate used T-shirts and clothing for us to stencil on. So far the reactions have been positive, but I don't think we'll start seeing any money until after the movie is released. A lot of artists have come to us, as broke as we are, and asked what they can do without spending money. We're working on a stencil that will be released to the public for free for people to make Cyberpunk shirts, pants, bags, posters- anything- with, in the hopes that it will spread the word about Grindlebone.

You also plan to record an album later this year with James Henrique, who wrote the music for the play.

Jim is a genius musician and pretty much a one man digital recording show. I've written the lyrics and will be singing, and Jim is writing the music for the album. Since we've only just started production on that project it is hard to say exactly what genre of music it fits into. There will be a lot of different styles of music, from the cyber styles heard in the play to a punkish song called "My Fuck You Song". I have released to certain members in our group the lyrics to that song and there has been a lot of positive feedback This album will be available late summer of 2007 online for download or hard copy. If you go to the Grindlebone website you can by pre-sale copies that will be autographed and you'll recieve your album when it comes out. The song list includes "Sadie" (inspired by Preaching to Angels), "Dysnomia the Lawless" (inspired by the story of St Mai Reynolds), "Mermaid's Ballad", "Should've had Her Kiss" (inspired by the story of Cyrano de Bergerac) and "Proscenium Nightmares". Some of it comes off as angry girl music, but for the most part they are just fun, whatever occurs to me kind of songs.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Grindlebone has made an important impact in my life and is sure to make a positive, important impact in the lives of anyone that is now or will be involved. Never have I felt so good about myself and my friends and my art. I feel important and wanted and unique- and that's what Grindlebone wants everyone involved to feel. That- and loved. We are an on the level, take us or leave us, all or nothing group striving to make it in a country where corporate headquarters rule and art is slowly dying. At least, that's how we felt when we started this company. This is our slice of hope. Help us build our dream.

Check out for more information. Be sure to take a look at Gem's site @ as well, or support Grindlebone by purchasing merch available here.


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