Memphians To Meet: Part Three
Every Thursday, I post photos and interviews with seven unique Memphians I’ve met that week. I chose most this week’s folks because each of them have some awesome performances and events happening very soon.
Here are Memphians numbers 15 – 21. Missed last week? Click here.
15. Doug Gillon
Doug is on the board of the Memphis Comedy Fest, hosts various open mic nights, and is the founder and co-host of the Tuesday Show, a monthly gathering of stand-up comics from Memphis and around the country. (The next show is next Tuesday. Details here.) A journalist by trade, Doug lived in Asia for four years after college. He’s a grad student at the University of Memphis and works at the Carter Malone Group.
How do you think Memphis has changed in the last 5 years? “There are so many more opportunities for people, especially for independent artists. Also, I see all the development and I hope that’s it’s sustainable ends in a population increase…so that Crosstown can be successful, so that Overton Square can continue to be successful, so that we can see the same kind of effort put into Orange Mound and Raleigh, and to all the other neighborhoods as well.”
What’s something you’re proud of? “I’m proud of Memphis comedy. Katrina Coleman, Josh McLane, Nathan Hiller, Richard Douglas Jones, Benny Elbows and others – those people who were doing it before me – they set up something really great and worked very hard for many years to make the Comedy Festival something that is important. Last year’s festival blew everything up and it allowed opportunities for people like Kyle and me. Now there’s a whole new crop of people coming up and telling jokes.”
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week? “I had a pasta jambalaya at The Bayou that was pretty great – and spicy. I kind of had to break up the process of eating it, you know, take it home and get a glass of milk. But it had alligator sausage and it was real good.”
You can follow Doug on Twitter at @douggillon or via Tuesday Show Comedy With Doug & Kyle on Facebook, or on Twitter at @tuesdayfunny. You can follow the Memphis Comedy Festival on Facebook or on Twitter at @MemComedyFest.
16. Kyle Kordsmeier
By day, Kyle is a longtime activist and organizer in Memphis who works for Enroll America. By night, he’s a standup comic and co-host of the Tuesday Show comedy night. (The next one is next Tuesday. Details here.) Though he’s originally from Arkansas, Kyle came to Memphis to attend Christian Brothers University. According to his Tuesday Show co-host Doug (see #15), Kyle is “the cool one”. I think they’re both pretty cool. But Kyle’s shoes might win in a shoe coolness contest.
How do you think Memphis has changed in the last 5 years? “We’ve had an influx of artists and creative people coming to our city; they bring different talents together and collaborate and put on awesome shows at awesome venues. We’ve also been very fortunate to see the emergence of different communities and neighborhood associations taking ownership of where they live. I like the changes I see in Memphis in the last five years. It’s refreshing.”
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week? “The salmon goulash at Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant. Absolutely delicious. I recommend it. The buffet is a hidden gem in Memphis, but also go at night – their menu is amazing.”
17. Noby Edwards
Originally from Chicago, Noby came to Memphis four years ago as an acting intern for Playhouse on the Square. She reports that she fell in love with Memphis, “specifically the people who make up the wonderful family here [at Playhouse].” She’s been the PR and Marketing Director at Playhouse for two years. Now, she helps spread the word about performances like American Idiot (which opens this weekend, Jan. 22 and runs until Feb. 14. Details here.)
How do you think Memphis has changed in the last 5 years? “The growth in the Overton Square. When I came here, there was nothing over there. And seeing this huge outpouring of life and development has been really cool.”
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week? “I ate BBQ nachos yesterday, because I had been craving them for an entire week. I devoured the whole order. No shame. No regrets.”
18. Jarred Baker
Five years ago, Jarred moved to Memphis from Louisiana to be a guest artist at Playhouse on the Square. He performed a lead role of Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime, an experience he describes as “epic”. Four months later, he moved to Memphis to attend cosmetology school. Now, he works at Dabbles salon and performs at Playhouse regularly, where he also helps out with hair cuts and color for shows. His next role is in the ensemble cast of American Idiot, which opens this weekend and goes through February 14.
How do you think Memphis has changed in the last 5 years? “When I moved here, Overton Square was like a run-down Western ghost strip. And in the last five years, it’s ridiculous how fast it’s grown up…even in the past year and a half. It’s only been beneficial to me, because my jobs are right here and so to see it now become something that’s not just a ghost town – that’s amazing.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week? “There’s this little Vietnamese restaurant called Phuong Long and it’s on Cleveland. They have the best pho there: any one of them, you can’t go wrong.”
19. Funlola Coker
A bacon tie clip, donut earrings, tiny pieces of pizza as rings: these are some of Funlola’s favorite things. I’d seen her work before at Five In One, but I had no idea the Lagos, Nigeria native moved to Memphis from Africa in 2007 to attend MCA and is an avid bike polo player. These are the things you learn when you walk up to people and say hello in Memphis, I suppose.
Her biggest culture shocks when moving to the U.S. were “that it’s really quiet in Memphis and doesn’t smell like car fumes” and the food. She admits she lived on Doritos and Coke for a week, because biscuits and gravy “sounded gross”. Obviously, she’s come around. Funlola’s love of tiny things, food, and sculpture led her to quit her day job nearly one year ago to focus on her art.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week? “I am on a burrito kick (also something I did not like when I first came here). I made a really delicious black bean and sweet potato burrito at home this week. Also, I sometimes follow Hot Mess Burritos around. I think that’s actually what made me start eating burritos, because of the Hot Mess food truck.”
What’s something you’re proud of? “I am proud of the fact that I can play bike polo. I think the first time I was exposed to it was 2011. I was at the Midnight Classic and they had a court set up, and I said “there’s no way I could do that”. I played that night, and it was horrible. For the first year it was horrible. But I stuck with it, and now I can play.”
20. Patsy Detroit
Patsy is a 17-year-old senior at Hutchison School who’s grown up in the Memphis theater scene. She’s already performed in Hairspray at Playhouse on the Square, Legally Blonde at Hutchison, and will play the lead role of Lola in Damn Yankees at Memphis University School in April. Her current role is in the ensemble in American Idiot (Jan. 22 – Feb. 14 at Playhouse). She is interested in film and plans to attend college in New York City next year. Patsy also does film work for the online magazine GrrlPunch.
How does Memphis make you feel? “Memphis makes me feel comfortable. I’m so connected here – I feel safe and it feels like home. Anywhere I go, I can run into someone I know. That’s cool.”
What’s something you’re proud of? “I’m proud of my dad [Michael Detroit, Associate Producer at Playhouse on the Square] because I think he makes the most out of his job here. He really loves it, and I think that’s cool. And he has made me love theatre and now it’s such a part of my life. It makes me proud that he’s so involved in the theatre.”
You can follow GrrlPunch via their blog, their Facebook page, YouTube channel, or on Twitter at @grrlpunch. These local young women are doing some neat stuff with this online feminist magazine: check it out.
21. Barbara Newman
I first met Barbara at the The Blues Foundation HQ on South Main (also home of the Blues Hall of Fame). We were there to discuss the upcoming International Blues Challenge, which takes place in Memphis next week from January 26 – 30 – when about 800 blues artists from a dozen countries will travel to Memphis for the annual music competition. Barbara grew up in Memphis, attended college in the northeast, and lived in New York for eight years before returning to Memphis in 1989. Barbara was named the new President of The Blues Foundation last fall.
How do you think Memphis has changed in the last 5 years? “It’s amazing how Memphis has changed. Just being down on South Main Street, there is such energy and activity happening. This is a city that was vibrant when it was younger, and I watched it go through, really, what was a depression for a time. Now it feels as if the city is back up and attracting energy, people, activity, and industry. We’re on a roll.”
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week? “Last night I had Gus’s Fried Chicken. My brother-in-law was in from out of town and we had to eat real Memphis food, so we went to Gus’s.”
That’s it for this week. Things we have learned so far: Memphians like to eat at Gus’s and Phuong Long, and they really like taking pictures in front of murals and graffiti. I’ll be back next week with seven more Memphians.