Friday, May 18, 2018

Portrait Sessions with KCUR

David Wayne Reed Draws Artistic Inspiration From His Family's Kansas Farm 

As a kid growing up on his family’s farm in Louisburg, Kansas, David Wayne Reed just wanted to perform.
He wore his mom’s heels, a cinched-up shirt as a dress, and a wig to entertain visiting seed salesmen. He also choreographed dances for the hay crew.
“As kind of a slightly effeminate little kid, (farming) was hard, it was masculine, and I didn’t know that I really fit in. I kind of felt like a little bit of a square peg,” Reed told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard.
Once, his dad asked him if he wanted to be a farmer. Reed replied no, he wanted to be a backup singer, a stripper and an artist.
He grew up to be an actor, writer, playwright and a storytelling event producer.
And he can now add filmmaker to his resume. His first film, "Eternal Harvest," which premiered last weekend, has brought him back to his farming roots.
Those roots run deep. He described his great-great grandfather as the “original Rockefeller” of Louisburg. When a steamboat went down in the Mississippi River, the elder Reed got the engine, refurbished it and used it to run the first mill and grain elevator in town. He also started what became the first bank there.
Though his mother and father still live on the farm that's been in their family for generations, Reed was ready to leave Louisburg after graduating from high school.
He headed to Emporia State for a year, where he had a theater scholarship. He then transferred to Kansas State to study journalism. A friend suggested that he check out K-State’s theater department, and he changed his major junior year.
At K-State, he learned the technical aspects of acting. The theater program also allowed him to have a social life that he didn’t have before, he said.
“I just wanted to be in front of people. I just wanted to connect with people,” he said. “Growing up on the farm, it’s kind of lonely. Your only social outlets are going to church or going to the funeral home; that’s what it felt like to me.
“Becoming an actor, I wanted to empathize with other kinds of characters that I’d never really necessarily been around before, so it really opened up my view of the world.”
When he graduated from K-State, he wanted to go to Los Angeles to pursue acting. He ran out of money in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and he said he had to return home with his tail between his legs.
Back home, he’d go to the silo to sing and to shout out Shakespearian monologues.
“I would just sing my guts out in the silo every night because the acoustics were so good,” he said.
One day, he saw an audition notice for a play called “The Birds.” The group behind "The Birds" later became Late Night Theatre, a gender-bending theater troupe in Kansas City.
When Late Night Theatre started out, it was an all-male group that did send-ups of famous movies such as "The Stepford Wives" and "Valley of the Dolls."
Reed learned how playwriting and dramatic structure worked by studying these scripts. He then adapted his first play for the Late Night Theatre stage: “Come Back to the 9 to 5, Dolly Parton, Dolly Parton," his send-up of "9 to 5" and "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean."
From there, he turned his attention to writing original scripts. Tapping into the trucker-movie genre that resulted in films like "Smokey and the Bandit," he wrote “Mother Trucker” and its sequel, “Mother Trucker 2: Ride On.”
He also mined his personal history for the “Mother Trucker” plays. As a result, opening night was an emotional experience, he said.
“I remember the audience applauded and stood up,” he said. “And I went out to the back alley of the theater and I just wept. I couldn’t even go out for the encore.
“It’s your life you’re pouring into this, and to see it accepted and validated in such a warm, engaged way was really special to me.”
That marked a turning point for Reed. His work became even more personal.
He put together his one-man show, “Jolly Rancher,” while doing an artistic residency in Seaside, Florida. The show, which included stories from his life on the farm, made its debut to a community of strangers.
“People laughed and people cried, and people were into it,” he said. “It confounded me because I thought, ‘I’m just sharing who I am.’ It seemed so personal to me. It was the first time I realized that the personal is the universal. And I’ve carried that thread on since then.”
With "Eternal Harvest," he returned back to where it all started.
“It documents the cycle of life told through a farmer’s eyes,” he said.
Filmed on his family's farm, it features his father and shots of his grandmother's quilts in kaledoscopic patterns. Reed said he purposefully tied his writer’s hands behind his back to communicate solely through visual language.
Making the film on the farm felt like coming home, both literally and creatively.
“If I wasn’t performing on a hay bale wagon, dancing for the hay crew, or doing drag for the seed salesmen or performing monologues in the silo, it’s just part of me to create on that land.”

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Eternal Harvest Premieres

I gave birth on Mother's Day weekend.  My short film, Eternal Harvest premiered in my Dad's tractor shed in Louisburg, Kansas as part of the Miami County Farm Tour. What a labor of love it was. Over 300 people came to the farm to visit and to experience this sanctuary and film.  I'm overflowing with gratitude.  Eternal thanks, in fact.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Prodigal Son

They say you can’t go home again. But what if you bring drones, quilts and a marching band?
On a warm, sunny Saturday last October, David Wayne Reed was in a machine shed on his family’s farm near Louisburg, Kansas, giving instructions to about 60 people who were helping him film his movie “Eternal Harvest.” Reed had gathered friends, family members and the Louisburg High School Marching Band. He’d had asked the band to  leave their instruments at home and wear a specific type of clothing.
“Thank you for all wearing plaid!” he said. “Man, it feels like 1991 and everybody’s in grunge again – I love it!”
That’s appropriate, because Reed graduated from Louisburg High School in 1990. Now, almost three decades later, he’s asked his former band director, John Cisetti, who he still calls “Mr. Cisetti,” for help.
In addition to delivering the music-less marching band, Cisetti brought one of two drones that will be used in the filming.

David Wayne Reed, center, gives instructions to the Louisburg High School Marching band, along with Reed’s friends and family, who are helping film “Eternal Harvest.” 
“Eternal Harvest” was conceived as a performance installation series and short film about the cycle of life, shown through the landscape of the Reed family farm. The drones will shoot that landscape from on high, capturing the circles created by center-pivot irrigation, the long straight brown lines of country roads, the green square acres of corn and soybeans.
Those circles and squares will also appear up close, stitched into the heirloom quilts Reed inherited from his grandmother. It’s the marchers’ job to hold up these quilts, opening and closing them to create a kaleidoscope effect from above.
Reed moves his film crew out to the middle of a hay field, where a circle has been mowed into the grass, outlined with pumpkins, and six antique tractors parked in the center. From the drones flying above, it looks like a flower.
Mr. Cisetti choreographs the band members, who he has placed around the circle in teams of four, directing from a bullhorn.

David Wayne Reed talks to Brett Butler, assistant director of the Louisburg High School Band, who was one of the two drone operators helping Reed film “Eternal Harvest.” 
“You guys listen to this: open, two, three, four. Close, two three four,” he says, directing a weird waltz as the teams move apart to “open” the quilt and walk together to “close” it.
In addition to the landscape, the project was inspired by Reed’s study of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the effect is a Midwestern mandala.
“I wanted to trace the lifecycle,” Reed said later. “So, using kind of Eastern philosophies and themes, I chose a mandala, which is a Hindu or Buddhist representation of cycle of life.”
Reed’s ancestors were among Louisburg’s founding families. They built the first grain elevator, and their headstones are in the center of the town cemetery. He is the seventh generation to grow up on the farm.
“Eternal Harvest” was also inspired by a conversation Reed had with his father, George, a long time ago. Reed asked his dad if reincarnation was possible. His father replied that it might be.
“He offered the example of a volunteer crop of wheat or a perennial plant as seeming evidence for reincarnation,” Reed said. “Life is perpetual. It continues even after the harvest.”
Reed is returning to the farm after leaving years ago and making a name for himself in Kansas City as an actor. He was a founding member of Late Night Theatre, a drag-themed performance company. He also wrote and directed “Mother Trucker,” a 2004 “parody of the trucker movie adventures of yore,” as he wrote on his blog.
For “Eternal Harvest,” he won funding with a Rocket Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, along with the Charlotte Street Foundation, and the Spencer Museum of Art, along with nearly $7,000 he raised on his own.
“This is like my prodigal son project,” he said. “The idea of the prodigal son goes off and lives a wild life and then returns to the farm not to his father’s shame, but to his father’s welcome and pride.”
This summer, “Eternal Harvest” is part of the official line-up for Louisburg’s 150th anniversary celebration: projected onto the side of a building in town and broadcast over a local radio station, for a drive-in theater effect.
It's as if Mr. Cisetti’s old student, David Wayne Reed, is completing his own circle of life.