Prime Productions Adds Board of Directors

Prime Productions has taken the next step in its journey by forming a board of directors. The six-member board elected officers in July: Chair is Susanne Egli; vice chair, Anne Marie Gillen; secretary, Nancy Monroe; and treasurer is Kim Greene. Prime Co-founders Alison Edwards and Shelli Place are also on the board. Below are the bios for the four officers.

CHAIR Susanne Egli

Susanne Egli is the owner of Communication Navigation, a training company enhancing work environments through leadership development, communication effectiveness, presentation coaching and client/customer/patient satisfaction training.

Her clients are legal and medical professionals, high-talent executives, middle managers and technology leaders, serving 150 organizations nationwide, including more than 15 of the Fortune 500 companies, as well as medium and small companies and firms, partnerships and non-profit organizations.

Ms Egli is an associate professor at St. Mary’s University where she teaches several classes, including oral communication, communication strategies for executives and communications for the cultural manager. She is certified in business etiquette and international protocol from The Protocol School of Washington, D.C

VICE CHAIR Anne Marie Gillen

Anne Marie Gillen, CEO of Gillen Group, is an independent producer, consultant, lecturer and corporate/executive coach experienced in content development, financing and worldwide distribution. Her projects have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, New York Film Festival San Francisco International Film Festival and been nominated for Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, Independent Spirit Awards and DGA Awards. She is a member of the Producers Guild of America and serves on its education committee and Social Impact Entertainment Task Force.

Currently Ms. Gillen is in development with ABC Network for a limited TV series with Lionel Richie, and in winter 2019/2020 commences production on her next film, the sci-fi action adventure Persephone. In 2018/2019 Ms. Gillen executive produced and won an Emmy for the documentary, Charlie’s Place.

Ms. Gillen is the co-author of the 4th edition of The Producer’s Business Handbook, published by Focal Press and co-branded by American Film Market (AFM). The AFM is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance.

Gillen Group’s consulting division was established in July 2006, after purchasing Entertainment Business Group’s clientele and proprietary models and databases. The division’s motto is “Fusing Business and Creativity,” and offers business planning, script analysis, worldwide distribution consultation and internal greenlighting services to independent film producers and investors. 

SECRETARY Nancy Monroe

Nancy Weingartner Monroe has been a writer/editor for more than three decades, first in California as a news and features reporter for newspapers and then as an editor/writer for magazines. She was the editor for a series of magazines for Franchise Times Corp in Minneapolis, MN, including the one she currently edits, Foodservice News, which covers the restaurant and foodservice business in the tri-state area. Her expertise also extends to writing and designing the magazine’s house ads and campaigns.

In addition. Ms. Monroe is the producer of the Charlie Awards, a local People’s Choice Awards-style production, where she also writes the script and promotional materials.

She is in the third year of her board term at the Jungle Theater, where she serves as secretary. She is a volunteer for Prime Productions, and along with her husband supports a number of nonprofits in the Twin Cities, with the arts at the top of their list.

TREASURER Kim Greene

 After graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1981, Kim Greene worked as law clerk to Minnesota Supreme Court Justice John Simonett, as an associate attorney at Gray Plant Law Firm and as an assistant attorney general for the state of Minnesota.  

In 1996, Ms. Greene changed careers and spent the next 20 years as an innovation and creative process consultant with Ideas To Go and with the company she founded, Greenelight Consulting. She facilitated the development of new product and services ideas for Fortune 500 companies such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Amex, Procter & Gamble, and General Mills. She received the Deinard Award and the Hannah Solomon Award for distinguished and inspirational leadership and service for her community board work.

In 2016, Ms. Greene returned to her first love, acting, and has appeared in lead roles in local theaters and independent films. Ms. Greene brings her passion for theater—in particular for theater that illuminates the stories of woman over 50—to her work on the Prime Productions board.

When a Woman Gets That Coveted Role

BEFORE: Alison Edwards dressed for success.

BEFORE: Alison Edwards dressed for success.

AFTER: Alison Edwards as Lady Bracknell in Rochester.

AFTER: Alison Edwards as Lady Bracknell in Rochester.

Alison Edwards, one of three founders of Prime, has learned dozens of lessons over her decades in the theater, such as frustration is funnier than anger when your husband’s in love with a dog and if you’re the only one in your kindergarten class who can remember lines, the role of Mother Goose is all yours.

Now, a few years north of kindergarten, Edwards says it’s not quite as easy to memorize entire scripts. But the trade-off is that a woman of a certain age has more confidence, more experience and an innate quirkiness for the roles relegated to non-leading ladies.

Her last role was definitely quirky: “I come on stage with a bird on my head,” she says, referring to her character’s outrageous hat.

Finding meaty roles as a woman in her second act is a challenge. So when Edwards saw the role of Lady Bracknell in the Rochester production of The Importance of Being Ernest, Oscar Wilde’s parody of high society, advertised on Minnesota Playlist, she auditioned even though it was a long way from home. Lady Bracknell is a coveted role—although Edwards has always wanted to play the daughter, Gwendolyn. Actually, she confides, while she’s too old to play the daughter, she wasn’t entirely sure she was old enough to be her mother. Thus is the dilemma of women in theater. The play had nine performances in late June.

As a young girl growing up in an era where girls were raised to be good girls, Edwards has always gravitated toward the villains. Her parents were in community theater and she learned to entertain herself in dressing rooms and green rooms. Acting, she says, gives one a “magical sense of being someone you’re not…theoretically, someone more interesting. “I’d rather play Lady Macbeth than (Romeo’s) Juliet,” she points out.

Usually, auditions have an interesting dynamic. “The more I want the role, the more nervous I get,” she says. But because of the commute for rehearsals as well as performances, she was much more relaxed for this outing. And it worked in her favor.

“The director liked my take on the character,” she says, which was a little less strident, a little more accepting of the scheming Algernon.

Wilde’s iconic play has very specific language and odd phrasing. “You have to stay on script,” she says, which means no ad libbing if you forget a line.

Her routine is to arrive early, settle in, have a cup of tea or coffee and then start the process of transforming herself into the character. She does her own makeup because that’s when the character starts appearing in the mirror. “I like to have control,” she says. The wig is the final touch in the transformation. Her only superstition is to have the script at the theater—“even if I don’t look at it.”

Over the years, she’s played a variety of roles, including the wife in Sylvia ,a play about a husband who brings home a dog—played on stage by a human—he finds in the park. Her lines should have elicited laughs from the audience, but night after night, they weren’t laughing. The director kept saying it was OK, but Edwards wasn’t OK with OK. She finally asked her stage husband’s advice and he told her to act frustrated, not angry. She did, and the audience laughed.

An experience that was both a high and a disconnect was playing Judith Light’s understudy on a national tour. “Someone said it’s like going to a dance and not being able to dance,” she says. You’re always ready, but seldom called.

Conventional wisdom says that if you put something out to the universe, it comes back in spades. That may be what’s happening with Edwards and Prime, because right on the heels of Lady Bracknell, she was cast in Ripcord, a play about two women forced to share a room in a senior living facility who engage in a no-holds-bared competition to determine who goes and who gets the bed by the window. One of the women’s family owns a skydiving business, which contributes to the unlikely comedy. “There are parachutes on stage,” Edwards stresses. That play opens the end of September (2019) at the Sidekick Theater in Bloomington.

In addition, Prime is hosting a series of readings in the fall and producing their third play.

It would be nice to finally devote herself to theater full time, but there’s still work to be done on that front. And Edwards has to have  her own parachute—a “survival job.