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Brennan achieved minor regional success in film, television, music and radio as Mike Sortino before beginning a gender transition in the late 1980s.
Brennan's first media exposure came as early as 1977, when she was a regular guest on Phoenix's KARZ-960 radio's "Let's Talk" program hosted by Bob Reidy, as the self-appointed "Official Representative from Constitution School." She generally provided wide-ranging (often unsolicited) "little professor" commentary to the amusement of the host and listeners.
During high school and college, Brennan directed and starred in several short films including The Mike And Eric Movie, Spam Animals and The Man Called Bear: Hero At Large. A sporadic theatre, film and television acting career soon followed, including appearances in local commercials, independent features and bit parts in national productions such as Midnight Caller, The Doors, Northern Exposure and perhaps somewhat ironically, the 1985 feature Just One of the Guys.
Brennan began writing plays in high school, and several of her surreal one-act plays were produced in high school, college and community theatre productions. During the 1990s, challenged by the personal and societal difficulties inherent in gender transition, she made limited acting appearances, and while she remained a prolific writer, only a small portion of that material has been published or performed.
In 2000, Brennan resumed film work in earnest, directing Grandma Shoots, Grandma Scores, starring 99-year old basketball star (and Brennan's real-life great-grandmother) Mae Owen. In 2002, Brennan received the Arizona Commission on the Arts Screenwriting fellowship, and the following year, she won the Phoenix Film Festival's Best Screenplay award for "The People's Choice". In February 2006, Brennan filmed a brief appearance as a "lesbian Martha Stewart" in Jamie Babbit's feature film Itty Bitty Titty Committee. In September 2006, she was named a semifinalist in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition. In June 2007, Brennan was honored with the prestigious Outfest Screenwriting Lab Fellowship for her comic homage to 1980s John Hughes films, "Dramatis Personae". In September 2007, Brennan was again named a semifinalist in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition for "Dramatis Personae", and announced plans to direct the script as her feature directorial debut. In October 2007 the Rhode Island International Film Festival awarded first prize to Brennan and "Dramatis Personae" in their annual screenwriting honors.
Brennan's first locally acclaimed writing was a 1980 serialized adventure, "The Adventures of Ziggle and Zod", which incorporated elements of Science fiction, comedy, secret agent fiction and non sequitur comedy. The stories established Brennan's hallmark style of incorporating both subtle and overt rapid-fire comedic references to literature, comics, film, television, history and politics. Soon thereafter, Brennan created The Dastardly Communist Plot, a genre-busting "pulp spectacular" about a group of misfit heroes led by a rock singer/superscientist/teenage loser that predated The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai by several years. It also spoofed the James Bond / Derek Flint secret agent/supervillain archetypes (indestructible characters, bizarre weaponry, evil cats) and settings (volcanic island, moonbase, space station) eerily similar to those used 15 years later in the Austin Powers films. Brennan eventually wrote four books in the series, which also drew from Paul Ryan O'Connor's fictionalized adventures of friend and mentor James "Bear" Peters, a writer and role-playing game designer known in gaming circles as The Man Called Bear. In 1983, Brennan directed a short film based on this material, The Man Called Bear: Hero At Large!
In high school, Brennan won numerous state journalism awards from the Arizona Interscholastic Press Association, was a writer for the Phoenix Gazette's "Teen Gazette" section, and in 1986 won first place in the Journalism Education Association's national feature write-off. In 1988 Brennan became one of the inaugural music writers for the Zia Zine, the in-house music magazine of the Zia Records chain. Freelance writing jobs followed, as well as serialized novels, stage plays and other material.
In 2001, Brennan developed the "Comic Newsbriefs" news parody feature for Don Kahle's famed Comic News, based in Eugene, Oregon. During 2002 and 2003, she was also the sports columnist for Phoenix's ECHO magazine.
Music career Edit
Brennan's music career began in earnest in 1986 with the release of an independent cassette, Last Gasp. A peripheral character in the Phoenix and Tempe music scene that spawned Tone Set, Dead Hot Workshop and the Gin Blossoms, Brennan recorded several more independent cassettes during the 1980s.
For much of her career, Brennan's music was only available on cassette sold at shows, through "mail art" or cassette subculture zines, and she was often known to customize each cassette with unique performances and reworkings of her music, cover songs, commentary, sound collages and occasional pranks. Although titles and cover art are often uniform, virtually no two cassettes from the mail-order era are identical and no "master" was kept.
In the 1990s, she lived and performed in San Francisco and later Seattle, making folk-pop music in the vein of Townes Van Zandt, Elliot Smith, Harry Nilsson, Aimee Mann and early David Bowie, and recording the independent CDs M. C. Brennan (etc) in 1994, San Francisco Sessions (produced by former James Brown producer Susie Foot) in 1995 and Black Diamond in 1997.
A small amount of post-2000 material has appeared for download on Brennan's now-defunct MP3.com page. In June 2007, new demo tracks began to appear on her MySpace page.
The Loons and the Loon News Edit
The leader of a Phoenix DIY improv comedy/performance art collective called The Loons, Brennan began directing short films in 1982 and the following year, in collaboration with cartoonist Eric Paul Johnson, she founded a satirical "underground newspaper" called the Loon News, a forerunner of The Onion. The Loon News became popular among Arizona teens, and distribution expanded to several other cities including Boston, Massachusetts and Hawthorne, California. Many of the original Loons still remain in close contact, and the Loon News is still in production.
In 1985, she appeared on KPNX-TV's "Finn and Friends" program with Weird Al Yankovic.
In 2005, she posed for photographer Jana Marcus' acclaimed photojournalism project Transfigurations, documenting the lives and stories of transgendered men and women. In 2006 the touring show appeared in San Jose, San Francisco and Buffalo, New York, and opens at the I Gallery in New York City in early 2007.
Brennan is the daughter of noted session and touring musician Ron Dobbins, and the great-granddaughter of Ida Mae Bell Owen, a legendary seamstress who designed racing silks used in thoroughbred horse racing. Owen, her husband Bryan Wald Owen and daughter Parthenia were accomplished musicians who toured the midwest in the 1930s and 1940s. Bryan Wald Owen and his sister Mabel Owen were popular vaudevillians in the early 1900s.
- M. C. Brennan Biography/Homepage
- M. C. Brennan at the Internet Movie Database
- Grandma Shoots, Grandma Scores on Archive.org
- Jake Anderson-Minshall's September 2007 profile of M. C. Brennan
- "As Seen On TV" interview, Phoenix Magazine, June 2006
- M. C. Brennan on last.fm
- The Loon News Online
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