DAKOTA STAR: saying goodbye to an imaginary friend

A young woman who grew up with an imaginary friend begins to live her life without one.

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Dakota Star
featuring Raina Silver
with Sydney Salter and Chelsea Renae

“I wrote Dakota Star last December and the monologue was featured in FACES.  I love dealing with friendships and relationships we create in our minds, which is a prominent theme in THE GIRL WITH THE RED HAIR,” said producer/director/writer, Anthony Laura, referencing his watershed moment play. As artistic director of the multi-media company, Face to Face Films, Laura has set about creating powerful works that deal with equally powerful problems. “It’s such a joy writing Dakota, especially with Raina in the lead now because Raina’s heart is huge and you can feel that with every word she utters.  I never have to worry about the words in her hands because they’re always delivered with the utmost empathy.” Laura’s own heart is huge considering – in an industry built on narcissism – he writes for his company and endeavors to include as many of this team as possible on each project.

Face to Face Films did not take the knockdown as a time of waiting. Laura, enhancing his team and making many partners in varied ways, he created The Julia Initiative, which has become a conduit for valuable mental health services to those – audience and artist – in need and Theatre Interrupted, a reading series exploring plays, screenplays and original works presented virtually on various platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Zoom, and Broadway-On-Demand.

A recent project is a webseries entitled Dakota Star, which Laura has been unabashed in his exuberance. “I think living in a fantasy is something that we all do, but it can get dangerous very quickly.  It creates expectations that the people in our real life are not able to live up to.  I wanted to dig in and deal with these conflicts in a different way than Dakota.  Introducing Eliza and Faith (expertly played by Sydney and Chelsea) allowed us to explore the first time Dakota makes her way into the world without her imaginary friend and immediately we get to see the knack she has for helping people.  It’s a beautiful journey in the pilot and I’m so excited to explore Dakota’s relationships with these women and her imaginary friend and how that causes a divide in her choices moving forward.”

Showtones spoke with Anthony Laura and his team about this vibrant webseries and the challenges it fosters.

What was your first reaction to reading the play?

RAINA SILVER: My first reaction to reading the script was utter excitement that I had the opportunity to work on this project. Dakota Star’s first scene is a monologue. I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the past looking for good contemporary monologues, and honestly I think they’re pretty rare. So when I read the opening monologue I was honestly floored by how much I adored it. Dakota’s depth and complexity of emotion moved me, her sense of humor delighted me, and I just loved her immediately. Once I got cast and read the other scenes, I was even more drawn to Dakota, her vulnerability and strength, and to the wonderful and interesting women she meets along her journey.

SYDNEY SALTER: When I first read the script I felt very excited. The relationship dynamic of stranger meeting stranger is one of my favorites to play with. 

CHELSEA RENAE: My first reaction was how dynamic the characters were and how much more there was to be discovered in the future. Only having part of a full script in front of me was very exciting and left room for a lot of my own interpretation and imagination.

What did you and Anthony work on in rehearsals?

RAINA SILVER: During rehearsals, Anthony worked with me to discover the incredible complexity and depth of Dakota. As humans we can feel myriad powerful emotions all at the same time, and with Anthony I explored Dakota’s hopes and fears, her self-defense mechanisms and her wonderful ability to connect with others. 

SYDNEY SALTER: In rehearsals Anthony and I worked on living in the moment fully and really connecting to my scene partner. Once I got in that place, everything just flowed organically. 

CHELSEA RENAE: We’ve been working on a lot of connection work, listening, tempo, and just the reality of being in these moments and sharing space with these people in real time. 

Is this the first time working with Anthony or his writing? Can you speak about what that has been like, as a writer and director?

RAINA SILVER: This is the first time I have worked with Anthony both as a writer and as a director, and it has been wonderful. Dakota Star includes women who are written to be incredibly multifaceted, and his writing style is a joy to explore as an actor. As a director, Anthony is insightful and creative. My opinions are valued, and he is exceptional at challenging me and helping me discover deeper meaning.

SYDNEY SALTER: This is my first time working with Anthony as a writer and director and it’s been such a fun process so far! Anthony’s writing is extremely truthful and because of that, it makes it so much easier for me to bring those words and that character to life. 

CHELSEA RENAE: This is not my first time working with Anthony as a Director, but it is my first time working with Anthony as a writer. I was so excited to receive the script that he wrote and upon reading it I was completely blown away by how seamless the writing was and how relatable and authentic the characters read. There is nothing like receiving a piece and connecting to it immediately. It was also awesome to step into Anthony’s world and be a part of something that he is so passionate about. 

What can you tell us about your character?

RAINA SILVER: Dakota Star is witty, caring, warm, and insightful. She struggles with loneliness, and is afraid of losing the one person she can talk to. Throughout her journey she wonders about the intersection between fantasy and reality, and the balance between what’s real physically and what’s real emotionally. No matter what she’s going through herself, Dakota is always ready to listen to someone else, and makes beautiful connections in unexpected ways. 

SYDNEY SALTER: My character is trying to deal with some big, life changing news and she is all alone. She desperately wants to talk to someone about it and it might have to be a stranger who she tells her story to. 

CHELSEA RENAE: All I can say is she is a character we can all relate to. She is just like you and me. We show the world what we want the world to see but underneath we all just want to be loved and accepted for who we really are when nobody’s around. We are all just mysterious waiting to be solved by someone who is willing to take the time to figure us out. 

Are there ways you relate to your character?

RAINA SILVER: Dakota and I are both drawn to fantasies, which can sometimes make reality feel disappointing. However, like Dakota begins to learn, I think reality has a wonderful way of surprising us if we’re open to it. We also both have a desire to be there for other people when they need it, and we have big hearts. 

SYDNEY SALTER: At the beginning of the scene, my character is extremely lonely and desperate for human connection. I can relate to this, as I am sure most people can, in that I have had times in my life where I have been just as lonely and felt like there was no one I could talk to.

CHELSEA RENAE: Ha, well I guess I pretty much answered that in the previous question but yes I do. I relate to her in all of those ways. 

What did you discover about the series while working on it?

RAINA SILVER: When I initially read the script, I don’t think I realized how funny and feisty Dakota can be, and it was really fun to discover that element of her while rehearsing.

SYDNEY SALTER: Throughout this process, I have discovered that pursuing the unknown might be the best thing we can do for ourselves, such we opening up to a stranger and coming out of it with a new friend. I have also been reminded in this series that there is more kindness in the world than evil and if we seek out help, more likely than not, we will receive the help and support we need.

CHELSEA RENAE: I discovered the beauty and impact that strangers can really have on your life. The people we walk by everyday …share a small conversation with …those people are all living lives just as wild and complex as our own. We can all learn something from each other if we remain open to those people and the messages they may be directly or indirectly sending us. 

What themes does the series touch on that are meaningful to you?

RAINA SILVER: Dakota Star touches on mental health in a really meaningful way. Mental health is often spoken about as if it’s shameful and it’s not. It is just as important as physical health, and in fact the two are so interconnected that they can’t even fully be separated. I love how Dakota’s mental health is explored in this script, and I can’t wait to share her journey with everyone.

SYDNEY SALTER: This series touches on multiple themes, but the one that is most meaningful to me is giving kindness to people we don’t know and owe nothing to.

CHELSEA RENAE: It touches on acceptance, on understanding, and most importantly on empathy. 

What do you want people to come away with after seeing this?

RAINA SILVER: I hope that after watching Dakota Star, people are inspired to genuinely connect with others, even if it can sometimes be scary. I hope that they realize that no matter what they’re struggling with they are not alone.

SYDNEY SALTER:  After watching this, I want people to leave knowing that they are never really alone. Sometimes our closest friend and supporter is someone we wouldn’t even think of confessing our deepest fears to. 

CHELSEA RENAE: I want people to see this show and remember that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I want them to remain open to new people, to new experiences, to learning about other cultures and things that might be foreign to them. To appreciate the moments they share with the people they love, and to always remember that everyone is fighting battles both seen and unseen. Be kind.

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