Friday, October 19, 2018

Urbanite Theatre's Modern Works Festival: Stalking by Jayne Hannah

Stage manager Megan Ianero and playwright Jayne Hannah
Playwright Jayne Hannah is a ray of sunshine. Her email handle is literally "jayneofjoy." And yet she penned the darkest of the three plays in Urbanite's Modern Works Festival -- "Stalking."  It's a play that left me breathless. I loved it.

When the play opens, we meet Magda, a young woman who presents herself as a therapist, and George, a man recently released from prison after serving 27 years for a violent sexual assault. The two have been corresponding during his incarceration, and George is here to learn how to re-enter the world. But Magda has other ideas. As the story unfolds, we learn that Magda is the very damaged daughter of the woman George attacked.

Steven Sean Garland and Casey Wortmann
I don't want to say more about the story in case you have the opportunity to see this powerful play in the future. Suffice it to say that "Stalking" is frighteningly timely with the backdrop of the #MeToo movement and the Kavanaugh hearings. Chills ran down my spine during a scene in which Magda talks about her own rape and her attacker covering her mouth with his hand. Hadn't we just heard Dr. Christine Blasey Ford talk about being subdued in this very manner?

I had the pleasure of getting to know Jayne during her time in Sarasota. Where, I asked, did this story come from? Jayne told me she has lived with the character of Magda for nearly 20 years. She always knew the young woman was damaged and had a penchant for stealing. "Stalking" provided Jayne the opportunity to explore Magda's backstory.

Staged readings--which are rehearsed--give playwrights with the opportunity to receive feedback on their work from both theater professionals and audience members. Jayne is truly in the throes of this process. The presentation of "Stalking" at Urbanite is book-ended by readings of the play at two theaters in Jayne's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. It's been a complicated process, in part because the ending of the play has been hotly debated. Again, no spoilers. But the issue boils down to how much finality that last scene holds.

Jayne et al at post-reading talkback
Encouraged by Urbanite's artistic team to try an alternative ending, Jayne rapidly penned the changes while in Sarasota. Jayne, director Kim Crow and actors Steven Sean Garland and Casey Wortmann were literally incorporating changes just hours before the first reading. It only added to the intensity of the evening. Interestingly, the theater now working with Jayne on the show insisted on a return to the original ending. In art, as in life, there are few clear-cut answers.

Jayne's intention behind the play is consistent regardless of which ending she ultimately chooses. Her message is to be cognizant of how we treat others. A five minute interaction can have a significant impact on another person's life. Sure, the interaction in "Stalking" is an extreme example. But think about the consequences to a child of being told she's stupid or not good enough. Or the feeling a sharp comment from a friend or co-worker can leave. Or, more happily, the affirmation a lively encounter with a stranger can have.

Thanks to Jayne for sharing "Stalking" with Urbanite's audience and for being open to continuing to explore the story she's created.  Kudos go out to Urbanite as well for hosting the first of many exciting modern works festivals. Since its inception, Urbanite has presented plays with social relevance that challenge its audiences. The festival elevated this experience by enabling audiences to talk directly with playwrights about their work. Next year's festival can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Urbanite Theatre's Modern Works Festival: Chatting with Pulitzer Winner Martyna Majok

Martyna Majok
When Summer Dawn Wallace asked if I'd moderate the discussion with Martyna Majok for Urbanite's Modern Works Festival, I started to sweat -- and it wasn't just because we were in a 105 degree hot yoga studio. Sure, I've interviewed lots of people for Florida Weekly and The Partnership for the Arts' podcast. But never in front of an audience -- and never a Pulitzer Prize winner.

For those not in the know, the 33 year old Majok (pronounced MY-oak) won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Cost of Living. Locally, Majok was awarded the $30,000 Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat last April. At the Greenfield Awards Weekend, Urbanite's Brendan Ragan directed some excerpts from Majok's work. Their friendship was launched, paving the way for Majok's appearance at the Modern Works Festival.

Despite doing copious amounts of research, my nerves were jangling as the hour for the panel approached. My concerns abated the moment I met Majok. She is articulate and lively and funny and full of great stories. Our time together--both on and off the stage--was a blast.  Here are some of the stories she shared.

--The Pulitzer. Cost of Living tells the story of two mismatched pairs -- a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife and a young man suffering from cerebral palsy and his new caregiver. The play has been a bit controversial due to Majok's requirement that the disabled characters be played by disabled actors. To her, this just makes sense. But theaters have whined about not knowing any appropriate candidates to play the roles. (Majok is more than willing to make some introductions.)  She suspects theaters might see their way around this issue now that Cost of Living has received a Pulitzer.

Majok learned she was in the running for the Pulitzer when her agent called one morning to tell her she had won. Despite all the screaming in the background, she was sure he was making a joke at her expense. No, I didn't get that sequence of events wrong. The Pulitzer Committee doesn't inform people they're finalists for the coveted prize. (We now know that Cost of Living was up against The Minutes by Tracy Letts and Everybody by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins.)  Her agent found out she won because he was watching the live streaming broadcast announcing the winners. How crazy is that?

Majok said she was a bit disappointed to find out the Pulitzer isn't memorialized with a medal. She had envisioned wearing her new bling proudly at all times, flashing it at traffic cops if she happened to get stopped speeding. She has reconciled herself to receipt of the official Pulitzer certificate -- and the check for $10,000.

--Ironbound. Majok's breakout play was her 2016 Ironbound. The protagonist is a Polish cleaning woman who takes the audience on a ride through 20 years of her life as an immigrant struggling to make ends meet and to find love (in that order). The entire play is set at a bus stop in a gritty New Jersey town. It's based on the experiences of Majok's own mother.

Majok shared she was quite apprehensive when her mother accepted her invitation to come to Chicago to see the show. The last time her mother saw a play inspired by their lives they didn't speak for a year. The senior Majok felt violated to have the struggles she'd endured--including domestic violence--laid out on the stage for all to see.

Like the character in Ironbound, Majok's mother lives in New Jersey. She decided it would be just as easy to drive to Chicago as to fly. Majok told herself she'd disclose to her mother the play was based on her life as she drove west through Pennsylvania, then when she hit Ohio, then when they met in the lobby.

The conversation finally took place as they were settled into their seats and the lights were going down. "Oh, by the way, Mom, this play is based on you," Majok said with apprehension.

 When the lights went up, there was no look of concern on her mother's face. "That character wasn't me," she told her daughter. Whew!  Majok said with a laugh that her mother's position changed as the play got traction. "That's me up there," she'd declare to perfect strangers going to see the show.

--Chernobyl. Majok herself is an immigrant, having moved from Poland to New Jersey with her mother and sister when she was five years old. Bytom, the town in which they lived, is 500 miles from Chernobyl. While this might sound like a sizable distance, radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown caused Majok's teeth to fall out when she was two years old. They grew back, but she continues to have dental issues to this day.

Needless to say, these events had an impact on Majok's life and writing. One of her current projects is a musical with the working title Prypiat. Prypiat is a town near the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Site that was founded as a place where workers from the plant could live. It is a ghost town today. Majok told us some of the plant's former workers are moving back to Prypiat because they are treated as outcasts elsewhere. Her musical will tell these people's stories. She plans to go to the Ukraine as part of her research, but she's not sure whether she has the fortitude to travel to Chernobyl.

I feel so privileged to have met Majok and to have had the opportunity to facilitate her conversation with Urbanite's audience. She is a compelling voice in contemporary theater -- and she has a lot more to say. Majok is currently working on commissions for six plays and two musicals. Happily, Sarasota audiences will have a chance to see a staged "reading" in 2020 of the musical she's creating in connection with the Greenfield Prize. I hope I'll have a chance well before then to see some of Majok's work.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Urbanite Theatre's Modern Works Festival: The Space In Between by Mercedes White

Playwright Mercedes White
Mercedes White is a Chicago-based actor and playwright. Like many arts professionals, she doesn't have a lot of discretionary income. White told me she had $50 to her name when she heard about Urbanite Theatre's Modern Works Festival. The entry fee to have her play considered for inclusion in the Festival was $20. But her instincts told her that submitting her work was the right thing to do. And it was. The Space In Between was one of three plays selected for the Festival from over 100 submissions.

The Space In Between is a love story between Cameron, an Afro-Latina woman, and Samirah, a Muslim woman who moves in upstairs from Cameron. The title of the play might seem to refer to the physical space between the two women--complete with less than soundproof floorboards. But White's intention is of course deeper than that. "There's so much left unsaid in the space in between," she told me. "Someone might say 'cool' when they actually mean 'I'm uncomfortable with that' or 'yes, we're friends' when they want to say 'I love you.'"

Inspiration for the play struck when White was acting in a production of Lines, a cross-cultural show written collaboratively by five women of color. White, who is half Mexican, half African-American, shared a scene with a half Pakistani, half African-American woman.

"There was kind of a gay vibe going on between us," White recalled. She and her fellow actor mused about the significance of the scene in the show. As they discussed it, she realized the topic was worthy of an entire play.

The Space In Between Team -- absent Olivia
White sat down in May and wrote The Space In Between in two weeks. Before she arrived at Urbanite, she had never heard her play read out loud.

In addition to the couple-to-be, the characters include Cameron's niece Andrea, a sassy eleven year old who is wise beyond her years, and Shaheed, Samirah's mother.

White understands the inclusion of a child in the play might adversely affect its producibility. As one audience member pointed out in a talkback, you'd have to cast multiple young actors in the role for an eight show a week schedule.

But the young playwright is willing to role the dice on that potential issue. The intergenerational aspect of the play is a crucial part of the story she wanted to tell.

Olivia Luera appeared as Andrea
"I wanted there to be a space where women of all ages can see themselves in one play," she said. "It's important for people who don't usually come to the theater to be represented."

She also noted that Andrea brings a different energy into the room. She hasn't lived long enough to become jaded so can provide a voice of reason.

The play's subtitle is "For the fairy tale ending we thought never existed." Thanks to White for sharing her message that people can move beyond their differences if they're willing to take the time to get to know one another. Now if we could just figure out a way to get that message of acceptance out into the wider world....

Friday, September 28, 2018

Behind the Scenes of Between Riverside and Crazy at American Stage Theatre

"The role of live theater is to bring people together through the power of a story. It creates a connection...and opens our hearts and minds to other experiences." So said Stephanie Gularte, Producing Artistic Director of St. Pete's American Stage Theatre, at the behind the scenes talk about the theater's season opener -- Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis.

The 90 minute talk featured Gularte, Professor Emerita Dedee Aleccia, director Benjamin Ismail and production manager Jerid Fox. It was an educational whirlwind -- not to mention a lot of fun.

Stephanie Gularte -- and costumes for Lulu and Oswaldo
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play revolves around Pops, a former New York City policeman who retired due to an on-the-job injury. Thanks to rent control, he lives in an expansive four bedroom apartment on Riverside Drive with his son and some other quirky characters. They are facing eviction.

Aleccia shared some great tidbits with the group. We learned the play has an autobiographical element. Like Pops' son, Guirgis moved in with his ailing father to care for him. When he needed help, some of his friends pitched in. The character of the drug-dealing Oswaldo is based--loosely--on one of Guirgis' own buddies.

Guirgis' description of the set makes it clear the apartment is another character in the play. No "pre-war apartment on Upper West Side" for Giurgis. He tells readers of the play -- and the production team -- that the formerly beautiful apartment has fallen into disrepair since the death of Pops' wife. "Still, the place retains dignity and charm, "Guirgis wrote, "And the comforting aroma of decades of pot roasts and chicken dinners...It's a rent-controlled palace ruled by a grieving despot King."

Jarid Fox on the set
Needless to say, getting a peek at how American Stage is bringing the apartment to life was a real treat. Jarid Fox walked us through the challenge of converting a relatively small stage -- with no wings or fly space -- into an expansive apartment.

To say the team is making the best use of the available space is putting it mildly. The wall with the bookshelves will drop down and become Pops' bedroom. On the other side of the set a rooftop will be created where characters will go to dream about the future.

The topper, though, is a 20' revolving turntable with the kitchen on one side and the living room on the other. This portion of the set will revolve not mechanically, but through "apprentice power." With the assistance of a marine wench, Donovan Whitley will turn the 1200-1800 pound set by heaving on a thick rope. Somehow, Whitley is also playing Oswaldo.

Benjamin Ismail
And what would a behind the scenes session be without hearing from the director?  Ben Ismail is clearly thrilled to be at the helm of this production. He talked about Guirgis' ability to convert profane and mundane language into poetry. Yes, there will be some profanity, but it's a counterpoint to the heart and soul of the characters. The challenge will be for the actors to make the language their own.

Ismail has also taken on the role of sound designer for the show, which he calls "a nuanced part of the storytelling." The music will reflect Pops' point of view -- think 70s funk-- but Ismail also wants to tip his hat to today. So in the transitions between scenes, the audience will hear "Picking Up the Pieces" by Average White Band and "Have You Seen Her?" by The Chi-lites. (The latter is a song Guirgis requires to be included.) But we'll also hear current music like "I Like It" by Cardi B, a song Ismail suggested everyone has heard on the radio. (Obviously, he lost track of his demographics for a minute!)

The session was a great primer for Between Riverside and Crazy, which runs from October 3 -- November 4.  Each performance includes a prologue 30 minutes prior to showtime for those interested in hearing a bit more about the play. For information and tickets, click here. I can't wait.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Dog Days of Summer at The Ringling Museum of Art

The Madonna of the Dragonfly
 (Virgin and Child with Saints Sebastian and Roche) 
by Bernardino Luini (1520-22)
Although the first day of fall is this week-end, the temperature in Sarasota still regularly exceeds 90 degrees -- without taking the humidity into account. So a "Dog Days" Walk and Talk at the Ringling Museum sounded both clever and appropriate. Laura Steefel-Moore led us on our adventure.

I was surprised to learn the dog days tour was developed for The Ringling's partnership with Southeastern Guide Dogs. When a group of dogs graduate from the program, the dogs and their new owners are invited on a tour of the Museum. The docent leads the group through the galleries, stopping in front of a few paintings that include dogs. Detailed descriptions are given to allow the clients to visualize the paintings. Without fail, the dogs patiently wait for their owners while they listen and then guide them to their next stop. What an amazing collaboration!

The first stop on our tour was Bernardino Luini's The Madonna of the Dragonfly, a painting created for a chapel where sufferers of Black Plague would go to pray for relief and protection. Saints Sebastian and Roche flank the Virgin and Child. The Plague was said to feel like being pierced by arrows, so St. Sebastian seemed a natural inclusion. St. Roche has an even closer link to the Plague. The story goes Roche did some hands-on curing of the Plague until he contracted the disease himself. He went to the woods to die, but a dog from a neighboring estate brought him bread and licked his wounds until he healed. Roche has somewhat awkwardly rolled down one pant leg to show one of his scars. His finger draws the viewer's eye both to the scar and to the dog. Today, St. Roche is considered the Patron Saint of Dogs.

Concert with a Self-Portrait of the Artist
by Giovanni Battista Vanni (mid-1620s-30s)
We also discussed Giovanni Battista Vanni's Concert with a Self-Portrait of the Artist. I found this painting odd, not least of which because the artist bears a striking resemblance to Ross from "Friends."

You have to look closely to find the dog in this painting. The female figure in the foreground clutches the dog to her chest. To me it looks as if the woman and dog were transported from elsewhere and plopped into the picture. Despite the lack of interaction, many believe the artist and the woman were married.

Two other versions of this painting exist in which the connection between the couple is made more clear by a ribbon winding between the two figures. In one version the dog is white and thus becomes a more prominent player in the tableau. Whatever is happening among the people, the dog serves as a symbol of fidelity and loyalty.

Capitoline Wolf (20th c. reproduction)
One sculpture made the tour as well, although the figure is technically not a dog but a she-wolf. (As a genetic predecessor to man's best friend, it seems close enough.)

The original of the statue, which can be found in Rome, was originally thought to date back to 5th century B.C. Carbon dating and other tests revealed it only dates back to the 11th or 12th century.

Either way, Romulus and Remus were added to the sculpture in the 15th century. They seem a logical addition given the legend of the twins. When the children's grandfather was overthrown by their great-uncle, he ordered them thrown into the Tiber River to drown. A she-wolf rescued and suckled them until a herdsman found them and took them in. As adults, Romulus and Remus restored their grandfather to power and founded a city on the site where they had been saved. Romulus built a wall around the city (for whatever reason it is that rulers like to build walls). When Remus jumped over the wall, Romulus killed him. With only one twin standing, the new city was named Rome after its leader.

While this background is interesting, my favorite part of this stop was Laura's description of the guide dogs' reaction to the statue. They often see the she-wolf as a source of danger to their owners and growl and back away. Good dogs!

As always, it was both a fun and educational outing. Kudos to the Ringling for its continuing efforts to make its collection accessible to those of us who aren't aficionados of Renaissance and Baroque art.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Discoveries at Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery

"Untitled" by Josephine
Tota (1987)
A trip to Rochester wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Memorial Art Gallery. This outing yielded the discovery of two artists whose work was extremely personal: Josephine Tota and Esther Nisenthal Krinitz.

Like many people, Tota didn't begin to paint until she retired in her late 50s. Her life had not been a happy one. Tota suffered from a variety of medical ailments, including depression, for which she underwent electroshock therapy. Painting provided a means of escape. 

Tota took classes at the Creative Workshop at the very same Memorial Art Gallery where Maggie and I took in the exhibit. Tota's early work was standard fare, with landscapes and still lifes filling her canvases. It wasn't until she was in her 70s that her surrealistic bent emerged.

"The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota" included 90 vivid works created over an 11 year period. Most are untitled, and Tota rarely shared any information about them. She was an artist who truly painted for herself.

Her paintings, including the one shown above, often include women with a starlight pattern around her eyes. Art historians assume this is a reference to her own failed cataract surgery. The format of this painting, with its decorative gold-leaf border, likely was inspired by a medieval illuminated manuscript. (The Memorial Art Gallery library contains such manuscripts, and it is thought Tota saw them there.) In another nod to the past, Tota often used egg tempera as her medium.

Tota also created 3D works. This version of "Untitled" was painted on a dressmaker's dummy cast from Tota's body. 

Tota was 79 when she agreed to an exhibit of 20 paintings and sculptures at the Creative Workshop. I can imagine her reluctantly going to the opening, standing in a corner nursing a glass of wine rather than holding court. I wonder what her reaction would be to this full-blown exhibit and to the curator's summation of her work, which read, "After a life of impotence within dominant social and political power structures, Tota found her radical voice painting the vivid, fantastical world within her head." 

"September 1942: This was a prelude to the Final Solution
that followed. At dawn, the Gestapo made a surprise raid and 
in our nightshirts, lined us up by the river and terrorized us 
with their guns as our Polish neighbors looked on." 
While I enjoyed the Tota exhibit, it was Esther Nisenthal Krinitz' "Fabric of Survival" that will stay with me 

Krinitz was a girl of 12 living in the Polish village of Mniszek when the Nazis arrived in 1939. For the next hree years, the village Jews lived at home with their families while being used as slave labor.  In 1942, the Jewish population of the village was told to report the next day to a train station 20 miles away to be moved to a "relocation camp." The families were told only to bring their money and jewelry and that there would be plenty of food where they were going. Esther and her sister Mania were somehow able to stay behind with a neighbor. They never saw their family again. 

Detail from Maidanek.  "August 1944. After the liberation, I left 
Grabowka and returned to Mniszek. None of my family was there. 
I went to Maidenek to search for signs of them. I looked through
piles of worn shoes but they all looked the same. After seeing the 
showers and gas chambers, the crematorium and the giant
cabbages growing on human ashes, I joined the Polish and Russian
armies stationed there."
It was only days before Esther and her sister were forced to leave the shelter they'd found with their neighbor. The risk was just too great for the family to harbor them. They traveled to the nearby village of Grabowka where they hid in plain sight for two years, working as "Catholic" farmhands. When the village was liberated by the Russians, Esther returned to Mniszek in search of her family. Unable to find them, she joined the Polish army.

After the war ended, Esther returned to Grabowka and was reunited with her sister. Still unable to locate their family, Esther and Mania went to a Displaced Persons camp where Esther met her future husband Max. 

In 1949, Esther and Max emigrated to the United States with Mania and their young daughter Bernice. A second daughter, Helene, arrived later. Esther owned a clothing store in Brooklyn and, later, Maryland until her death.  

"The Way to Berlin:  March 1945. Along with the 5th Division 
of the Russian Army, my Polish Army unit crossed the Oder
River into Germany. We passed the site of an earlier battle. 
The Russians had hung Nazi officers on every tree along the 
road. They looked as though they were still alive. Many other
dead Nazis lay scattered across the field, at the edge of which
a young pretty Russian soldier stood, pointing the way to Berlin."
Over the course of her life, Krinitz created 36 fabric collages chronicling her personal experience with the Holocaust. It was her way of sharing the story--and her family--with her daughters. Each quilt is embroidered with captions detailing the events shown. They are incredibly moving, and their simplicity only accentuates the horrors depicted. 

The exhibit is supplemented by a film featuring Esther's daughters talking about their mother and her drive to preserve her history through the creation of her fabric art.  Click here to watch that video.

Acclaimed film director Lawrence Kasdan also created a documentary about Krinitz. Click here to watch the result of his three days of interviews with her.

Krinitz' fabric art is featured in a picture book entitled "Memories of Survival." Her work is supplemented with historical detail and context provided by her daughter Bernice. "Memories of Survival" is available on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

O Canada

My friend Maggie is the queen of spreadsheets. She has a record of every theater production she's seen in her adult life -- complete with the cover of the program and lead actors. She knows when and where she and her husband Charlie bought every piece of art in their impressive collection. So it shouldn't have come as a surprise to learn she has a precise record of visitors to their Rochester home. On the occasion of my fourth visit to an area that has a surprising (to me) amount of cultural offerings, we headed up to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a couple of shows at the Shaw Festival. It was great fun.

With Maggie
Niagara-on-the Lake is cuteness personified. Its streets are lined with gorgeously maintained flower beds and boxes. Stores selling everything from clothing to jam to Christmas tree ornaments invite tourists in. And of course there are plenty of restaurants and hotels.

Between plays Maggie and I wandered down to the waterfront where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. We could see Fort Niagara across the river in New York. It's a bit shocking to realize that American soldiers used Fort Niagara as a launching pad for a major battle against Canada in the War of 1812. The United States at war against Canada? As part of the British Empire, Canada became our enemy during the War. The U.S. objective was to gain control of Fort George, which it did for a few months. When the British retook the fort, American troops burned Niagara-on-the-Lake (then Newark) during their retreat. Happily, there don't seem to be any hard feelings today.

The Royal George Theater
History--and war--were also the themes in the Shaw Festival revival of Joan Littlewood's Oh What a Lovely War. Littlewood takes a hard--and often unflattering--look at Canada's participation in WWI.  The show is difficult to describe. While there's song and dance, it's definitely not a musical. It has skits, but I wouldn't exactly call it a revue. However you define it, the result was a powerful production we would never see at home.

Unfortunately, The Baroness and the Pig by Michael Mackensie was memorable for less positive reasons. The most enjoyable thing about the show was reading the reviews afterwards. "The Baroness and the Pig's education story should have been held back," wrote Carly Maga of the Toronto Star. "The Baroness and the Pig stuck in the muck," declared John Law in the Niagara Falls Review. I also liked his comment about the play's "ham-fisted" nod to Shaw's Pygmalian, which presumably is why it was included in the Festival line-up. 

Niagara Falls
Since we were in the area, a trip to Niagara Falls seemed in order. Maggie, of course, has been many times. But it was a first for me. I was overwhelmed by the Falls' beauty and power.

We took the obligatory ride on the Hornblower, the Canadian counterpart to the Maid of the Mist. Despite our complimentary ponchos, we got soaked. It was exhilarating. While I couldn't quite hear the audio guide, I believe we were told that water comes off the Falls at a rate of 600,000 gallons per second. That explains the mist and the noise level. We also learned the Falls have moved back approximately seven miles in the 12,000 odd years of its existence. A return visit is definitely in order during one of my future trips to Rochester. I am already looking forward to it.

Urbanite Theatre's Modern Works Festival: Stalking by Jayne Hannah

Stage manager Megan Ianero and playwright Jayne Hannah Playwright Jayne Hannah is a ray of sunshine. Her email handle is literally "...