A Christmas Photo Story

This Christmas, we took a trip to Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. It was magical and reignited my creativity. Here is a snapshot of our life-changing journey.

img_4374
Malahide Castle, Dublin Co., Ireland

 

 

img_0451
Inch Abbey, Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, UK. An ancient church that served as a backdrop for several scenes in the season one finale of Game of Thrones.
img_0455
One of countless cute streets in the Grassmarket District, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.  Edinburgh is my new favorite city.
img_0453
This is the tower that Bran Stark was thrown off in Game of Thrones ūüôä
img_4449
A “candid” of me at¬†Hula Cafe in Edinburgh. Great food, super cute decor.
img_4435
Me and my baby sister at Holyrood House in Edinburgh. The queen’s residence when she visits Scotland’s capital.
img_4396
Newgrange, Ireland. A 5000 year-old ceremonial mound made of stone and earth. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. No pics allowed inside, but suffice to say it was humbling.
img_4416
Ancient Celtic Crosses, Louth, Ireland. 
img_4474
Salisbury Cathedral. Tallest spire in Britain.
img_4471
The Christmas tree at the Ritz in London, where we had high tea on December 26 ūüôā This is the day we went to Harrod’s, stopped at La Duree for macarons, and watched “The Phantom of the Opera.” Not a bad ending to a wonderful trip.¬†

 

That’s all for now dear readers! I hope you are enjoying your 2017.

Love and theatre,
-K

How to Fend Off A Dreary Mood

Guess who’s back? Back from a Christmas trip to Dublin, Edinburgh, and London (pics coming soon!), back to the swing of things, and back to blogging? This gal! Happy New Year, loyal readers, I’ve missed you. But I have to admit I’m in a bit of a funk. Does anyone else find January to be the absolute worst month of the year? It’s a 30-day crash after the frenetic sugar high of the holidays. To add insult to injury, it’s been raining non-stop for the past three days. Sure there’s a drought and rain is important or whatever, but¬†that won’t stop me from being as grumpy as I please.

The pouring rain suits Edinburgh. Cobblestoned streets, towering castles, and gothic cathedrals only grow more mystical shrouded in a stormy curtain. But pouring rain in Bay Area traffic? Nothing but glum.

However, that pesky optimism and can-do attitude of mine have got the better of my dour mood. What ambitious 21st-century woman has time to let the weather get in the way of her goals? Here are a few ways to kick the winter blues in the patootie and get on with your life, goshdarnit:

  1. Paint your nails coral, because sticking to seasonal color rules is so 2016.
  2. Look back proudly at your tastefully braggy IG posts from Europe. You are so cosmopolitan.
  3. Drink a big cup of tea. Cream and sugar too, if you must.
  4. Read an actual paper novel, infinite fictional worlds weighty in your hands.
  5. Listen to an irreverent and silly podcast.
  6. Make a big green salad that makes you grateful for the plant-growing powers of rain
  7. Cuddle with your dog and give thanks that the evidence of her recent bath has not been destroyed by the downpour.
  8. Wear your cutest, cuddliest socks.
  9. Put on cheap wedge booties to feel a little thrill of glamor without being too precious about it.
  10. Leave your Christmas lights up for just a couple more nights (or forever).

 

And would you look at that, it seems the sun has come out this morning.

Love and theatre,
-K

 

 

Retracing Our Theatrical Roots

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving, a time for gratitude, for feasting, for family. But is also a time to¬†relearn the myths we’ve been taught about the landing on Plymouth Rock. (They ain’t even eat turkey back then, y’all). It is in acknowledging every part of our past that helps us repair the damage erasure has wrought on marginalized communities. Today, we celebrate a holiday allegedly based on a friendship between Native Americans and colonizers, yet indigenous people are still being brutalized on their own land. Nothing is more American than contradiction.¬†(To learn more about the #NoDAPL movement in Standing Rock, ND, click here.¬†)

Art, music, dance, ritual, and performance are¬†about as old as recorded history. And just like a certain lost and murderous explorer didn’t discover America, performance on this land did not begin in¬†the colonies. For quite a while now, I’ve wanted to take a look at the history of North American performance. This is my first go-round on this topic, and the following is quite a broad overview. But a girl has to start somewhere.

As a mentioned in my post last month, ritual is a huge part of what constitutes civilization. This holds true for the hundreds of Native American nations that developed a rich cultural legacy of performance-based rituals. Just a few that survived the genocide and erasure of American colonialism include Navajo Chantways, Ojibway Bear Ceremonies, Zuni Rain Dance, and Plains Medicine Bundle Rituals. As Paula Gunn Allen writes in her book The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions:

The tribes seek ‚Äď through song, ceremony, legend, sacred stories (myths), and tales‚Äďto embody, articulate, and share reality, to bring the isolated, private self into harmony and balance with this reality, to ¬†verbalize the sense of majesty and reverent mystery of all things, and to actualize, in language, those truths that give to humanity its greatest significance and dignity.

These traditions have had a major impact on the development of modern Native American theatre. Early twentieth century playwrights¬†and performers like Te Ata Fisher, Will Rogers, and Lynn Riggs paved the way for the civil rights era Native theatre revolution. At the same time that a new generation of African-American, Asian, and Latinx theatre folks were creating radical works, Native American theatre-makers were forming new tools of their resistance. Programs and companies such as the Native American Theater Ensemble, Institute of¬†American Indian Arts, and Spiderwoman Theater aimed to bring¬†truthful representation of Native people to the stage; a stark contrast to the “Noble Savage/Barbaric Savage” myths perpetuated by white artists. Theatre is a necessary and vital part of any revolution¬†and can work in conjunction with film, music, and other media to reshape the national imagination. (Note: I learned a great deal about the history of Native American performance from this paper by Dr. Courtney Elkin Mohler).

The systematic erasure of Native Americans from their own history and lands was so complete that¬†in 1976 when the Wampanoags¬† of Mashpee filed a suit to reclaim lands taken over by the town in 1869, they lost the case on ‚Äúgrounds that the Wampanoag tribe had been exterminated in King Philip‚Äôs War three hundred years earlier. Even though anthropologists, ethnohistorians, and others testified to the contrary, the Mashpee Wampanoags were told that they did not exist.‚ÄĚ Ain’t that some shit?

Despite the fact U.S funding for public arts is more scarce than in Canada and elsewhere, Native theatre has expanded rapidly in the past twenty years, largely thanks to Native Voices, a theatre company formed at the University of Illinois and committed to producing new Native works.

A¬†common objection to putting more Native artists, stories, and creators onstage is that theatre directors simply don’t know any Native actors. In a sharply-written piece from Howlround’s “Instead Of Redface” series, Madeline Sayet responds to this easy out:

People are not born actors. They become them. Make space for them, invite them, and they will be there. But if there is no work and they are repeatedly told that they do not belong in the theatre, you will be responsible for creating an environment of hopelessness for Native artists, and telling the world that those voices do not matter.


Black people were taken from our home. Native people had their home taken from them. Our histories are parallel, intersecting, linked, and distinct. I stand with my Native sisters and brothers in the fight for sovereignty, justice, and decolonization. ¬†‚úäūüŹĺ


In future posts, I hope to continue to explore non-white theatre traditions all over the world. There is so much we are missing out on when we only read, watch, and learn theatre from a colonial worldview. In my college theatre program, there was one required class called “Global Theater” that attempted to crystallize the majority of the world’s performance traditions into one semester. Isn’t it odd that most of the world is brown but most of our education is white? I want to add my voice to the rising tide of artists of color who demand our stories be told. Of course, I¬†will still¬†tell you about the plays¬†I see and the adventures I go on and my random thoughts on everything from Fall TV to self care. ¬†I’m just sharpening this blog’s point-of-view, finding exactly where I stand in the ever-expanding world of online content.

Thanks for reading y’all, please share, and don’t forget to subscribe!

Love and theatre (and alllll the leftovers),
-K

It Happened Here

Yesterday, I had a plan to keep my mind off the election and find some perspective. It didn’t work.

I dropped off my absentee ballot, then went to Bikram Yoga to chill out and blow off some steam. I then started an hours-long cooking project, braised beef ragu, and left the succulent sauce cooking in the oven while I went to rehearsal for a murder mystery show later this week.

The ragu was delicious. But the day would not be salvaged. Yesterday, what many thought¬†impossible happened. The United States of America elected an openly racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, xenophobic man with no military or government experience to the highest office of the land. And with a Republican majority in the House and the Senate, many folks (who aren’t white, cis, heterosexual men) fear for their rights. Many folks fear for their lives.

If more than half the country voted for such a man, and won, who’s to say they won’t feel emboldened to intimidate the minorities and immigrants they perceive as a threat? To “take their country back?” After all, their candidate actively encouraged violence at his rallies.

It’s easy to feel hopeless. I felt hopeless. I had nightmares of dystopia last night. I cried last night. A lot of people cried last night. Immigrants and children of immigrants who fear their parents will be deported. Queer folks who fear¬†the loss of their rights, so hard won, so far still to go. People of color who fear increased racialized violence. So many of us are afraid and sad and unspeakably angry. Despair comes to mind.

But the sky is still above us, the sun is still shining. Take a breath, hug your loved ones, light a candle, drink water, pray. Today we mourn. Tomorrow we fight.

Love and theatre,
-K

It Can’t Happen Here…Can It?

Last weekend I saw a play at Berkeley Rep called “It Can’t Happen Here,” based on Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 satirical novel of the same name. The plot unfolds like so: fictional presidential candidate Buzz Windrip runs against FDR in the 1936 election. Windrip is a businessman with no political experience who runs a campaign based on fear, racism, and impossible promises. The people, who admire his “sense of humor,” his unfiltered speech, and his unabashed bigotry, elect him as president. In act 2, the country dissolves into chaos.

Sound familiar?

All orange-toned bluster and anti-everyone vitriol, the current Republican candidate is so startlingly similar to Windrip that it is hard to believe that Lewis’ novel was written 80 years ago. The tumultuous dissolution of American ideals under Windrip’s presidency eerily echoes our own fears about 2017. As Jacob Weisberg wrote earlier this year in Slate, “The conflict in the 2016 campaign is no longer Trump versus his Republican opponents; it is now Trump versus the American political system.” The man’s hot-aired and oft-nonsensical zealotry is meant to rouse the dissatisfied and disenfranchised. And it’s working; a reality star and businessman of dubious success is¬†breaths away from gaining access to the nuclear codes.

It’s worth mentioning that both Lewis’ novel and the new play adaptation drip with melodrama. Trump is not Windrip and Windrip is not real. The rapid descent into authoritarian dictatorship and the demise of American democracy as we know it – though good fodder for fiction – are probably unlikely. Still, it is art’s duty to imagine the world as it is and as it may be, “It Can’t Happen Here”¬†is a brilliant, well-acted cautionary tale. And after all, there is no precedent for this situation. We’ve never had a major party candidate quite like Trump. You can read more about the play in this excellent New Yorker review.

Despite the polls (all of them) that suggest Trump will lose, we won’t really know how the presidential election will turn out until November 8. And for many of us, a Drumpf presidency is the scariest horror story of all.¬†So go out and vote. Research the issues¬†and learn about the candidates running in your local elections. It’s up to us to guide the future of our country.

~

On a lighter note, yesterday was Halloween! It’s one of my favorite times of the¬†year, partially because people don’t look at me crazy for prancing about in costume (#actorproblems). I love seeing everyone dressing up, being playful, and embracing their inner child. It’s ok and good and important to have fun! Especially when so many things in the world are feeling bleak.

 

IMG_4201 2.JPG
I was feeling witchy this year

 

And now, on to Christmas music ūüėąūüéĄ

Love and theatre,
-K

 

 

October Rituals

Rituals are a hallmark of what makes us human. Whether they take the form of a tea ceremony, a coming-of-age dance, or a Sunday supper, they help us center on the things most important to us. And in times of stress, tumult, or change, they ground us.

Though spring and summer promise¬†lighthearted¬†celebrations¬†like¬†musical festivals and¬†fireworks, fall and winter rein supreme when it comes to rituals. The bounty of autumn harvest, the crisp weather that heralds in bittersweet¬†bursts of color and death, the luminous winter holidays from most major religions — these seasons¬†provide endless inspiration.

Most people learn their first rituals from their families and larger communities. These are the big, universal traditions: waking early on Christmas morning, praying over a meal, leaping into a pile of leaves. And then we begin to make our own, whether intentionally or by happenstance.  We eat an ice cream cone on the first day of summer because it seems like a nice thing to do, or we buy ourselves a fancy bottle of wine for our birthday, because it represents the kind of lady we want to be. And sometimes, like when a family matriarch dies or a relationship ends, we create traditions out of necessity. Because we need to hold on to something, anything.

As a fairly recent adult, I have just started creating my own rituals. Some of mine are habits I would like to solidify (unplug 30 minutes before bed),  and others are things I do simply to make myself feel happy (a glass of wine and music while cooking dinner). And then there are a few that are specific to fall:

  • Listen to¬†Sleepy Hollow¬†on Audible, as read by Tom Mison, the dapper star of the Fox TV series of the same name. Must be a rainy day.
  • Bake every weekend if possible (while listening to the¬†Waitress¬†soundtrack)
  • Attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
  • Do the MOST¬†for Halloween, which is pretty much a holiday created for theatre kids

I am often an anxiety-ridden bundle of emotions, running on fumes. This may sound dramatic, but I am who I am. Rituals help me focus, bring certainty¬†into my life. They give¬†me the mental bandwidth to be creative. They help me let go of worry thoughts. Most of all, they¬†make me feel human. I’m not just a random sequence of atoms floating aimlessly in our unfathomable universe. I’m a woman who drinks a glass of wine while cooking, who attends Bikram yoga three times a week, who listens to an 19th century novel on the first perfectly dreary day every fall. I live deliberately, thoughtfully, meaningfully.

“Purpose” comes to mind.

Love and theatre,
-K

Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2016

This weekend my dad and I went up to Ashland for their renowned Shakespeare festival Рone of the oldest and most revered in the country. It was started during the Fourth of July celebration in 1935, when eager theatre teacher Angus L. Bowmer asked the city if he could put up a play festival in the boxing arena during the times when there were no matches. The city agreed reluctantly, worrying the plays would end up costing them money. But the shows ended up being more successful than the boxing matches.

Fast forward to 2016 and you have a robust, Tony Award-winning regional theatre district in a small town in Southern Oregon. (This season runs through November and you can learn more about the plays here.) Ashland is delightfully quaint, its downtown peppered with Bard-themed shops and bars and nestled comfortably in the pine-shrouded Rogue Valley. After experiencing the beautiful (if dizzying) drive through the mountains the last time we visited, we decided to opt for the quick hour-long flight. We told everyone we met this was our yearly sojourn to the theatre Mecca, a bit of hopeful manifestation on our parts as it was technically only our second time there. Natural beauty, friendly locals, and world-class theatre make for a perfect daddy-daughter getaway. They have great food too, so you know I’m sold.

We were a little sleepier than the last time we went (when we saw The Tempest and Comedy of Errors) but still made it through the three-hour runtimes with only a couple accidental naps. We fit in three shows this time around: a sweeping, romantic adaptation of Great Expectations, a sumptuous, 1940s era Hollywood  Twelfth Night, and a bizarre, almost Brechtian Timon of Athens. 

In lieu of a review, have a listicle:

Part 1 –¬†Great Expectations
1. OSF clearly makes deliberate choices to both curate an artistically diverse season and to hire diverse casts
2. Seeing black and brown faces in traditional theatre spaces is quietly subversive
3. Resident Costume Designer Emerita Deborah M. Dryden made some STUNNING costumes for Estella (Neemuna Ceesay) in Great Expectations. I lowkey want to wear a bustle now.
4. The simplicity of a good old-fashioned Dickens drama still has a place in our modern theatre landscape

Great_Expectations_1_jg_0304.jpg
Estella (Nemuna Ceesay) finds Pip’s (Benjamin Bonenfant) fortunes much changed from their youth. Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Part 2 –¬†Twelfth Night
4. Perfectly choreographed physical¬†comedy takes one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays to the next level
5. Playing two twins is hard, but Sara Bruner (Viola/Sebastien) nails it
6.Everyone in this play is so skilled and specific that it’s hard to single anyone out but the slapstick trio of Maria (Kate Mulligan), Toby Belch (Daniel T. Parker), and Andrew Aguecheek (Danforth Comins) had me in absolute stitches
7.The artistic freedom granted by lack of copyright allowed the director to add in extratextual 1940s slang and a full fledged musical finale that make the show over-the-top in the best way
8. Back at it again with the gorgeous costumes: Susan Tsu’s glamorous getups for Gina Daniels’ Olivia were nothing short of magnificent

detail-animated-gif-twelfth-night-quotes-746x468.gif

Part 3 –¬†Timon of Athens
8. Not all Shakespeare is created equal
9. When a play has a fairly loose plot, the director has a lot of room for invention
10. Room for invention can make for a very odd show
11. Odd is not always good
12. It is possible to appreciate artistic merit and risk-taking while finding a show disturbing and unlikeable
13. It is possible to be both fascinated and repulsed by vibrant and graphic visual aesthetics
14. Much to my chagrin, Timon is pronounced like Simon with a “T”, not like the name of Pumba’s meerkat companion
15. Anthony¬†Heald was excellent, frightening, and disarmingly vulnerable as the shows’ lead. He is (maybe) worth the price of admission.

Timon_1_jg_0049.jpg
Timon’s guests (Ensemble) enjoy a sumptuous feast. Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This photo is the moment¬†before they EAT THE COW RAW. AND THEN HAVE AN ORGY WITH WOMAN PUPPETS.

So, I had vastly different experiences at each of the shows. I felt joy, fear, disgust, and sadness. And isn’t that what art is meant to do? Not only delight and entertain, but challenge you? Not everything is for me, and that’s just fine. I hope OSF keeps making wonderful, funny, weird, and beautiful theatre for years to come.

All told, what I appreciated most about the whirlwind theatrical weekend was spending time with my dad. We’re both so busy (aren’t we all?), so uninterrupted¬†time together is a gift. I can’t wait for our next trip up north, daddy ‚̧

Love and theatre,
-K