We had the good fortune of connecting with Aleta Barthell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aleta, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
When I was a kid. I got a part as a bunny in a play at our community college. I was so excited! I had it all figured out what this bunny would do and say. However, when I arrived for the first rehearsal, I learned that the bunny wasn’t supposed to talk…in fact it wasn’t going to really be seen much. Talk about disappointment! When I decided to start my own youth education program, Kids Act, I remembered this experience. I decided to build a program where students could manifest their talents and abilities through the joy of creative expression—and create their own characters!
I used my own training and education as an actor to create the program. I also used techniques that I learned from working one-on-one with youth-at-risk in a program called, The Haven Project. My skills as a playwright also certainly come into use to help students form their original plays.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have my life as a teaching artist and founder of Kids Act. I also have my life as a playwright and a screenwriter.
I started writing plays to provide more active roles for women. As I have continued to write, I seem to be drawn to pieces that are based on history.
A stage play that I have written is based on a New Orleans’ ghost story that I heard while on a ghost tour well over a decade ago; this play is now a finalist for the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. I started with a reading of the piece with actors at a theater in Carlsbad—New Village Arts Theater. An actor from that reading wanted to have a public reading of the piece up in LA. Since then, I’ve worked the piece at different spaces with different actors, refining the play.
I am also developing a television series based on the 12th century queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. I received a grant to research material in Paris for what I thought would be a play well over 20 years ago. The material never worked well as a play. I connected with a former classmate from Northwestern University, Carolyn Manetti, who is now a film producer and told her about the piece. It turned out that Eleanor of Aquitaine was a childhood heroine of hers. She thought it would make a terrific television series. We have been developing the piece together and have received recognition from HUMANITAS (New Voices Program) and also Austin Film Festival (Second Rounder).
I have just completed a project called SAVING STORIES: A Toolkit in the Age of Covid. When the pandemic hit and I heard that they were shutting down assisted and skilled nursing facilities to visitors, I wanted to do something to help. When I heard that funding in the first relief bill was earmarked to bring technology to these facilities (Zoom, FaceTime, etc.)—I saw a window for connection. In partnership with New Village Arts Theatre, I hired four other dramatists to interview individuals who were isolated due to Covid in these facilities and write monologues based on these interviews. We hired professional actors to perform these pieces from their own homes, via Zoom, and shared them with the community through New Village Arts Theatre’s Virtual Arts Program.
I feel like it is so important for us to stay curious about one another and hear each other’s stories—all different kinds of stories.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Go to the best beach—Moonlight Beach!
Then have lavender gelato from Gelato 101 on the Coast Highway and if it’s open…a movie at La Paloma.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
-Gretchen Corbett (Founder of Haven Project)
-David Downs/Craig Kinzer (Acting Teachers from Northwestern University)
-Frank Galati/Paul Edwards (Performance Studies professors from Northwestern University)
-Education Program at Shakespeare & Company
-Playwrights Project in San Diego
-New Village Arts Theatre (home for Kids Act)
-My friend Thelma Virata de Castro, fellow playwright in San Diego
-My friend Nancy Babin who encouraged me to start my own business🙂
The “green room” at the age of 10 for THE BAD CHILDREN.