We live in wonderful times when actors can take their careers in their own hands by creating content and getting it in front of people thanks to social media. I’ve decided to create a series of interviews featuring creators whose work I admire and from whom actors can learn how it’s done.
My first guest is Charissa J. Adams, whom I discovered a few years ago. Her 100 days of Fractured Shakespeare caught my attention and I loved it so much I’ve seen all of the clips and looked forward to a new one every day. Her project inspired me to create one of my own, The Double Agent Diaries, for Bonnie Gillespie’s Self-Tape Challenge which got me a video presenting gig that led to a job offer at a digital agency which was the inception of my social media career. The lesson here? Work leads to work and you just never know where it’s going to take your career.
I’m so happy Charissa agreed to be the first creator to be interviewed and I hope you enjoy her story and content as much as I do.
What inspired you to create Fractured Shakespeare?
I have always loved Shakespeare. When I was a child, my parents would go the the Oregon Shakespeare Festival every year. I’m told that I attended a performance as a 3 year old and was literally on the edge of my seat the whole time. The first play I performed in was The Taming of the Shrew, playing the Widow at 9 years old and about 3 feet tall. I was fortunate to have my first exposure to Shakespeare be performances and not a reading assignment in high school. The language never felt like a barrier to me. Even if I didn’t understand every word, by seeing the characters interact on stage, I connected to the stories and the characters and always wanted to play them.
As an adult, I performed as much Shakespeare as I could, but it was never enough. Eventually, I came to realize that I was not only hungry to play Beatrice and Juliet, but I wanted to be able to speak the words of Hamlet, Macbeth and all the other male roles too. Shakespeare’s text is universal to the human experience, whether male of female. About five years ago, I started a mission of reading the whole of Shakespeare’s canon in a year. I originally set out to do a monologue from each play, but then I had a conversation with a friend that blew that idea apart in the best way. He suggested that I create a new, modern character who would speak each of these monologues to camera, and tape them like a vlog. From that birthed a feature length film, using Shakespeare’s text, all cut-up and rearranged; a project which is still in progress.
Then a year or so later, I participated in #The100DayProject on Instagram. The goal of the 100 day project is to create something every day for one hundred days, to practice your art, and not get so caught up in the end results. Each person posts their work on Instagram on a daily basis and comes up with their own unique hashtag to categorize their work. The previous year I had participated and done #100daysofselftaping, simply practicing performing on-camera. This time I wanted to step it up and be more specific to my passion, so I decide to combine two lines or passages of Shakespeare into one excerpt or monologue and perform it on camera. Thus I created #100daysofFracturedShakespeare. It was a lot to do on a daily basis for 100 consecutive days. Towards day 90, I started to get a little behind, but with the help of some friends I was able to cram a few days worth in, catch up, and finish strong.
What was the goal behind the project?
(See above, and…) The goal was to be creating something of my own while I waited for other auditions and projects to come along. This was something in my control. It started out as just a daily practice of being creative, but the work that I did during those 100 days gave birth to much more. After doing those 100 days, someone challenged me to create a monologue for Cabaret Consensual which is hosted by More Than No, a nonprofit organization aimed at championing consent-culture through artistic activism. I used text I had discovered during those 100 days to create this monologue on the subject of consent, which then a group of extremely supportive friends helped me turn into “Was it Rape, Then?“ We released that short film online in 2017 and it was featured in Huffington Post, Bustle, Stage Raw and Shakespeare Magazine. I never would have imagined that any of that was possible, but it was the eventual result of first taking out my phone and taping myself for a few seconds of speaking Shakespeare. Well, the result of that and a lot of hard work and very supportive friends.
What social media platforms did you use and how did you use them to promote Fractured Shakespeare? Did you have any strategy or you used you went by instinct?
For #the100dayproject I used Instagram. Occasionally I would share those videos to Facebook. I didn’t have a strategy other than posting every day, which is a byproduct of making daily content. But the goal was not the content, the goal was the daily practice. I needed the accountability of the internet to keep me producing those videos. It worked really well for me.To promote “Was it Rape, Then?” we used Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For that project, we had a PR person on board, Casey Cates who is a badass filmmaker of Lady Brain Films and promoter in the industry. I learned a lot from her about contacting publications who might be interested in your content. We would not have gotten features in those outlets without her hard work.
How did you manage to create the videos consistently?
For the #100daysofFracturedShakespeare, I had to have a plan. I didn’t always use the plan, but it helped me think ahead to what I was going to do next and work within a structure that took some of the pressure off. I knew I needed content for 100 days, so I divided them up in sections of 25 and focused on a broad subject for each 25 days. Then I started filling in text that I knew I wanted to cover. This way I didn’t have to work from scratch every single day.
What would you recommend to actors that want to start creating their own content?
Start small. Sometimes thinking about producing a film or series can be overwhelming. I think that held me up for a while. But by doing a daily video, I didn’t have to rely on other people initially. Once I did need to rely on other people, I had some content that not only spoke for what I do, but built my own confidence in my ability to create, perform and produce.
Did buyers discover you thanks to Fractured Shakespeare? Any auditions or straight offers coming as a result of someone seeing your videos?
The first time I got a job, which I think was largely thanks to Fractured Shakespeare, was playing Prospera in The Tempest last year. I still auditioned, but I think I got the audition because of my other work with Shakespeare. The director, Riley Shanahan, ended up binge watching a lot of my 100 days videos and was enthusiastically excited to work with me as a result. It was so satisfying to realize that all the work had paid off and spoke for what I can do. Now, even people who don’t really know me, know that I love Shakespeare and always connect me with Shakespeare related projects. That is incredibly valuable.
What are your plans with Fractured Shakespeare? I noticed you are taking it to stage.
Right now I am developing a Fractured Shakespeare project for Hollywood Fringe 2019. “Speak I Will” is a series of monologues which I am co-creating with an ensemble of actors on the subject of speaking up, speaking out, speaking truth.About a month ago, I got the US trademark certificate for “Fractured Shakespeare” so that I own the rights to using that phrase. Now I am working with a friend to create a logo which will go on the website which will come next. In addition, there are a couple short film ideas in development and a feature film script that I am co-writing. What started as a daily practice is turning into a brand and “the thing” that I do. I’m incredibly proud of it!
CHARISSA J. ADAMS
Actor | Director | Creator of Fractured Shakespeare
Charissa J. Adams is an LA and Seattle based actor, known for Grimm, Leverage, and Fractured Shakespeare.
Born in the house where she grew up just outside of Seattle, WA; she graduated from high school in Madrid, Spain; met her husband while living in Prague, Czech Republic; and although she’s never lived in Colorado, she is a huge Broncos fan, thanks to her college roommate.
In Seattle, Charissa has performed regionally for Taproot Theatre Company and Seattle Shakespeare Company in Seattle, as well as in each of the NYC, Seattle, and Los Angeles Fringe Festivals. One of the highlights of her professional career was touring internationally with educational theatre companies; one in Prague, Czech Republic, and the other around the Pacific Northwest. Her TV credits include Grimm and Leverage, as well as many short and feature length films. Following a life-long passion for Shakespeare, Charissa has created Fractured Shakespeare, which recontextualizes the words of the bard to find new meaning by producing new works from the age-old text.