Perfect Pitch: Frances Pollock, Edwin Joseph, Keith Hamilton Cobb
Founders, Executives, Performers
FRANCES: New Haven, CT.
EDWIN: New York City.
KEITH: Tarrytown, NY.
Current Job and Entrepreneurial Focus:
FRANCES: CEO Midnight Oil Collective – the venture studio accelerating the creative economy.
EDWIN: Co-Founder and Director of Partnerships, Midnight Oil Collective (A venture studio for scalable arts and entertainment ventures).
KEITH: Director of The Untitled Othello Project at Sacred Heart, a hybrid theater-making and educational outreach project interrogating Shakespeare’s Othello currently in residence at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT.
Notable Prior Jobs:
FRANCES: I am a composer by trade and have been working as a professional composer for the past 10 years. I’ve been the composer-in-residence with the Chautauqua Opera Company, Composer-in-residence with Greenville Light Opera. I’ve been commissioned by Washington National Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Seattle Opera, PROTOTYPE, Opera Omaha, APEX Quartet, San Francisco Symphony, and Opera Grand Rapids.
I’ve taught music and theater at Columbia University, Yale University, Johns Hopkins University amongst others.
EDWIN: I work professionally as an actor, singer and writer. I taught voice at Yale in my time there at grad school. Non performing jobs include a brief stint at an international marketing firm in Delhi and as a cultural consultant to ad agencies and theatres in India.
KEITH: See Performing Arts Background.
When I Started Performing:
FRANCES: 3 years old. I was the cow in the nativity play at Centenary United Methodist Church.
EDWIN: I started performing at the age of 4. I sang “Mary had a Little Lamb” at school. My mother was convinced that I was cut out for this.
KEITH: Began performing professionally after graduating from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 1987.
Performing Arts Background:
FRANCES: I grew up singing in church. My parents signed me up for piano at 5. I started playing the cello in middle school and I started composing in highschool. I continued music through college and into my graduate degrees. It was my performing that led me to founding Midnight Oil Collective.
EDWIN: As a stage performer, my career began when I played the titular role of “Beast” in Disney India’s premiere production of Beauty and the Beast. Since then, I have appeared on various stages in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Selected American credits include Red Lion in The Lion and the Firebird (Dark Tower Films), Babayan in ¡Figaro! (90210) (Chautauqua Opera), Morald in Die Feen (Glimmerglass Festival), Dragon in How to Relearn Yourself (Yale Cabaret) and Riolobo in Florencia en el Amazonas (Yale Opera).
Prior to coming to the US, I worked as a singer and actor in Mumbai, India; where I collaborated with such artists as Naseeruddin Shah, Rehaan Engineer, AR Rehman, Amit Trivedi and Suzanne D’Mello. As a voice actor, I notably voiced Ernesto de la Cruz in the Hindi language dub of Disney’s Academy Award winning film, Coco.
My debut TV pilot script, Alien of Extraordinary Ability (developed with Midnight Oil Collective) was ranked 1st on the Red List Comedy Pilot category. Additionally, it won awards at competitions like Launchpad, Shore Scripts and WeScreenplay. Currently in development.
KEITH: Most widely known for the roles created for television, among those Noah Keefer for ABC’s All My Children, Tyr Anasazi for Gene Rodenberry’s Andromeda, Quincy Abrahms for Noah’s Arc and Damon Porter for CBS’s The Young and the Restless. Appeared at The Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Shakespeare Theatre, The Denver Theatre Center, The Huntington Theatre Company, The Orlando Shakespeare Festival, The Geva Theatre Center, The Pioneer Theatre, The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, and on many other regional stages performing both classical and contemporary roles including Laertes, Tybalt, Tullus Aufidius, Theseus, Oberon, Julius Caesar and other staples of the Shakespeare’s canon. Wrote, produced, and performed American Moor, (published by Methuen Drama), which ran off-Broadway at Cherry Lane Theatre in the fall of 2019. It is the recipient of an AUDELCO Award, an Elliot Norton Award, two IRNE Awards, and is part of the permanent collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
How did your performing arts background supercharge your entrepreneurship?
FRANCES: Performing has been a major part of my life for the last 20 years. Through performing I have cultivated my creative networks, learned how to collaborate, and practiced resilience and patience. My current occupation taps into these connections that I have created and I believe that artists and performers make visionary leaders capable of creating the world we want to be a part of, regardless of their occupation.
EDWIN: Being a performer taught me how to be comfortable with uncertainty. This has been my biggest superpower in getting MOC off the ground. We are always juggling hundreds of variables and I am capable of not being deterred by the unknown. Focusing on what I can control and preparing for several eventualities.
My arts background has also helped me be more creative and grand in my vision for the company, considering possibilities that go beyond the mundane.
Additionally, I’d say I have a bigger risk appetite than my colleagues that come from a traditional corporate background.
KEITH: Artists in America, particularly performing artists, unless they are extraordinarily lucky, will inevitably find that they need to create ways to support, promote, and showcase their own work. This is even more an acute reality for African American artists who are marginalized not only by profession but by American racial status as well. I have found ways to create and evolve my own artistic contributions by utilizing the tools of business to the best of my ability. This is not to say that I’ve always done it well. Business acumen and implementation are often by definition not the default of the creative mind. But I’ve learned that creativity is my greatest asset even in my business dealings, and that no business model need be a fixed structure. So as I work on my various creative projects, iterating various new processes of art-making, I am aware that the business structures that support them can, and in fact must be evolved as well. It is incumbent upon me to shape them to fit my creative needs.
FRANCES: Whitney Houston, Billy Joel, Dolly Parton, Missy Elliot.
EDWIN: Naseeruddin Shah, Cynthia Erivo, Kendrick Lamar, Olivia Colman.
KEITH:Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Sean Penn.
Follow These Performers:
Instagram - @theoperahick
LinkedIn - /in/FrancesPollock
Instagram - @edwin.joseph
LinkedIn - /in/edjosephv
Twitter - @KeithHamCobb
Instagram - @KeithHamCobb
LinkedIn - /in/keith-hamilton-cobb
Website - AmericanMoor.com
Website - UntitledOthello.com
Website - keithhamiltoncobb.com