“We want to support diverse actors who have been waiting for someone to believe in them and help get them to their next level.”
Colleen, Hi. Tell us who you are and a little about how you got your start.
I’m Colleen Kahl, President of ActorsConnection NY, LA & ATL. I’m a Jersey Girl with a BFA in Acting from Montclair State. After graduating from MSU, I worked with several professional theaters including The New Jersey Theatre Alliance. I branched out and started my own creative arts education company, Enspirited Projects, working with young students all across the state of New Jersey. I helped curate acting programs and creative arts programs for their students.
What makes your role at the ActorsConnection different from work you’ve done in the past?
The ActorsConnection is a melting pot. We have artists from every country, color, and sensibility. We support many types of voices. We help actors figure out their mission so they can surround themselves with the people who support it. I’m a big believer in turning in towards your passion and leaning in. Artists are good about recognizing joy within themselves. Being able to support that knowing in artists, I couldn’t help but work with The ActorsConnection.
Diversity is such a hot topic in Hollywood and New York right now. It’s an important cultural shift in the types of voices and content that’s being created in entertainment.
We love supporting diversity. In the past, we’ve been able to help actress like Shahana Jan build their career with programs such as ActorsConnection Fast Track. Shahana is an amazingly talented Pakanstini actress. When she came to us she felt pigeonholed by the types of roles she was getting and wanted to stay true to herself. She knew she could do more. We knew she could do more. ActorsConnection got her plugged into the Fast Track Program to strategize, grow her social media, and help her sign with an extraordinary agent. It kicked off her career in a very powerful way. Shahana deserves every iota of her success.
What do you say to the diverse actor that needs more than a push off the edge?
In the past, we’ve had free diversity showcases. Right now we are encouraging actors of color to get plugged into ActorsConnection Free At Three. Every day at 3 PM (EST) on Zoom is a live, free Q&A with an industry guest. It’s a chance to experience who we are at ActorsConnection and how we support the community. Ultimately, we want actors to know our staff and our team is as diverse as the actors we support. We love our actors, they’re our people.
How has Black Lives Matter and the pandemic affected you?
The future of ActorsConnection is unclear. We’ve had to pivot our focus and be generous even though we’ve had to let go of most of our staff. There is no word on when Broadway will be back. While we wait, we have decided to help diverse artists stay connected to the industry. This month and July we are offering a weekly $100 Micro Scholarships for Actors of Color. We want to support artists as they fight stereotypes and break molds to create more impactful authentic stories.
Did Actor’s Connection go dark for Blackout Tuesday?
Awareness is great. Action is better. Money is best. Blackout Tuesday left us feeling behind. The Micro Scholarships came from the need to explore what else we could do. It’s not enough for ActorsConnection to say we love and stand by actors, we want to show it. The Micro Scholarships are for actors of color that need the outlet.
And now ActorsConnection is launching the ACtivate Your Voice Program.
Expanding out and into the community is the goal. Activate Your Voice is the latest initiative to find and support new voices. From now until early July, the is accepting project proposals and submissions. The top ten content creators will do a live pitch to our leadership team. ActorsConnection will back the winning project with $5000.
Check out ACTV on YouTube!
What kinds of submissions are you looking for?
Anything that promotes positive change in the world– short films, features, web series. We are selecting one winner and giving them $5,000. A number of submissions have already come in. It just goes to show how many actors have projects that need financing. Think of us as the production team to help you to your next level.
You’re on a mission, I love that!
This is all happening around the launch of Actor’s Connection’s YouTube Channel, acTV. We want it to be as diverse as our students, from short films to cooking shows, TV hosting and product reviews, you name it. acTV will be dedicated to fresh new content. We’re excited to support.
Anything else you want to leave with our readers?
ActorsConnection Round Table series is coming up later this month. We’re going to discuss how we as a community can bring more equity and equality to our industry. The panel will feature Erica Hart (Casting Professional/Producer), Traci Lynn Luthy (Agent, Bona Fide Artists), Diakeim Lyles (Casting Director, Commercial Improvisation), Lamar Richardson (Actor & ’s Host For The Evening), David J. Cork (Actor, Writer, and Creator) and O Tomas Bell (Find Your Voice NYC, life and communication coaching).