Sarah LaRose Holland

O Noble Readers of This Blog, I beseech thee, please extend your forgiveness to your most humble servant for my exgregious overuse of my laptop’s Copy-Paste function. Truly, I give far too easily into temptation, especially with a final performance due in Acting tomorrow and with Sarah LaRose Holland’s eloquent, editing-unnecessary responses to my e-mail interview sitting right within reach. Lo! I am weak, and offer less resistance than a fat kid doth to cake, or so 50 Cent would have us believe.

Anyhow, there shall be in the future another Kinetic Kitchen, and I swear on the soul of Gene Roddenberry, I will endeavor to actually write an article that time.

Behold, the fruits of my sin, the unedited e-mail interview:

1. What is it that you love most about the artistic work you do, and why?

 

As the presenter of the Kinetic Kitchen, I enjoy providing opportunity for choreographers to showcase their work. The series brings together artists that may or may not know each other and provides a vehicle for performing their work. It’s a great way for an artist to focus on the creation of their dances, and I take care of the nuts and bolts of helping them get their art onto the stage. This is very satisfying, helping choreographers get their work out in front of audiences.

2. How is performing at Patrick’s Cabaret different from doing so at other venues?

 

The Cabaret has a unique ambience and performance space. It’s very cozy and intimate. It’s not your typical black box performance space. The Cabaret has been a very good fit for the dance series. Interest in and support for the Kinetic Kitchen dance series has grown tremendously since relocating the dance series to Patrick’s Cabaret. The Cabaret also does a lot to help make presenting dance easier for me by allowing me to showcase the Kinetic Kitchen as a Guest Curator. The Cabaret allows me as a presenter to focus on presenting, similar to how the Kinetic Kitchen allows choreographers to focus on being choreographers. It’s a very good fit all around. Patrick Scully has also helped on a personal level to advise me as a presenter and has supported my dance series both personally and professionally. That personal connection with Patrick is also a very big reason why I so enjoy having the Kinetic Kitchen at Patrick’s Cabaret.

3. What would you say are the major influences on your work?

 

As a dance presenter, I’d say the big influences have been other venues that have allowed me opportunity to discover that I could start to showcase other people’s work. Christopher Watson has given me many opportunities over the years to help facilitate dance performances with multiple choreographers on the bill. He gave me the chance to organize some “2 Flights Up!” performances at his old dance school in the Calhoun Building in Uptown Minneapolis. Christopher also allowed me the chance to organize some of the outdoor “Dances at the Lakes Festival” held each summer in the Lake Harriet Rose Garden in Minneapolis. During my 7 year position as Artistic Director of Riverbend Dance Arts in Hastings, I also learned a lot about obtaining funding for performances and facilitating those events with the dance school and guest artists. Then I’ve also had the opportunity to realize the benefits of performing in shared performances through my professional career as a dancer and choreographer. When I first came up with the idea to start the Kinetic Kitchen, I contacted Laurie Van Wieren to find out if we could talk about her experiences as a Dance Presenter. She was very generous with sharing her ideas and experiences as Curator of “9 x 22: A Dance Lab”. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten the chance to collaborate and grow with the Dancers-Presenters Circle (DPC). Our most visible collaborations have been working together to compile a week of dance each year in celebration of National Dance Week in the twin cities.

4.What is one thing about yourself, your work, your philosophy, whatever, that you think should definitely make it into the blog post?

The Kinetic Kitchen is a dance series based in Minneapolis that showcases many styles of dance and movement. The series is based at Patrick’s Cabaret and performances are held about 3 times per year. There are usually 4 choreographers showcased in each Kinetic Kitchen. I also present a dance series for youth called the Kinetic Playground. This series takes place annually at the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley. Annual Playgrounds are held in January. For more information about either of these series, please visit http://www.mnartists.org/sarah_larose or contact Sarah LaRose-Holland at sarahlarose@hotmail.com Both the Kinetic Kitchen and Kinetic Playground were founded by Sarah in 2004. Kinetic Kitchen and Kinetic Playground events have been hosted at Patrick’s Cabaret, the Mounds Theatre, Varsity Theater, Old Arizona and the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

 

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From the Horse’s Mouth

Yo! Behold, for I returneth bearing a new post, and the post doth contain the transcript of an e-mail interview between me and Dean Seal (guest curator of the upcoming Spirit in the House). And I looked upon it and it was good. And I bade readers look upon it and deem it good as well, for the show described within soundeth pretty much kickass.

Me: What is it about theater that you feel you are most drawn to? What about the church?
DS: Theater brings people together in a communal way that is not based on everyone agreeing with each other; but instead, everyone is curious and has an open mind. They want to see new ideas, they want to be moved in compassion, and they want to be entertained.
Church is a means by which people can approach the sacred in their lives, slow down and have a time when they are not thinking about money. It is a means of forming a community with people who want to actually do something to help the world.
Both of them share this: The creation of meaningful moments. Theater comes from the church, and carries with it the expectation that something meaningful will happen. Lousy church and lousy theater shares this: bad ideas and meaningless rituals are not worth the time.                                                                                                                                                                                          
Me:Where did the idea for Spirit in the House come from?                                                                                                                           DS: There were several shows on the Fringe waiting list that dealt with spiritual issues, including a play by Holly Davis. It was called “The All You Can Eat Spiritual Buffet,” and I was helping her cut 30 minutes off the time. I used to run the Fringe Festival (1998-2001) and I knew this would work in a separate venue. When I saw there were other shows, I contacted Fringe producer Leah Cooper, and asked if she’s let us do a Spiritual Fringe and have it as a Bring Your Own Venue, and she agreed. Attendance was 1600 the first year, and 1800 the next. At that point, new director Robin Gillette and the Fringe Board decided it was too juried, and I agreed. We moved it out to Augsburg for one year as the Manna Fest, and then to Hennepin Methodist as Spirit in the House!
The current name comes from Patrick Scully of Patrick’s Cabaret, who asked me to guest curate a spiritual weekend annually. Now we do two. The name is much more open to all faith traditions; Native American playwrights especially appreciated the difference.
Me: Why do you think Spirit in the House has endured as an annual tradition? What about it appeals and/or speaks to the audience?
DS: Artists say, I have spiritual work, but I don’t know where I can perform it. Audience members say, this is a safe place to explore what other faith traditions are like. I say, there is no more important contribution we can make to mutual understanding and, frankly, world peace than to get more understanding about faith traditions besides our won.
Me: Do you have any stories about previous productions: any amusing anecdotes, or else moments that particularly moved you?
DS: The most powerful initial experience was in the first year. The first show to sign up was by Gail Anderson, who was just elected to our board. She is a savvy television producer, whose two-year-old daughter drowned. Her one person show, “Losing Nina Finding God” was a knockout, and when people hear it, they can move forward in their own healing process. There is now a track record of people who have done shows about how their spiritual life has helped build resilience in the face of trauma.
Me: Has the production transformed along the way in any way that you can think of? If so, how so?
DS: Shows are getting better and more diverse. We are also going to grow the movie part of it. John Gaspard, an independent filmmaker from Minneapolis is going to curate spiritual films; last year we had four, this year we will have at least twelve. We talked him into being on the board as well. We will also reduce the number of shows from thirty to twenty, to make it more curated and less Fringe-like. However, it will still basically resemble the Fringe system I developed when I was at the helm. It still works that way, and it’s a good basic system to enable audience members to see as many shows as possible.
Me: Please tell us a little about the Spirit in the House show that will soon be coming to Patrick’s Cabaret.
DS: There will be a film from a Persian filmmaker whose spirituality is rooted in place, and as she lives in the U.S. now there is a deep disconnect for her. There will be live music from a Persian instrument with 73 strings, played like a hammer dulcimer.
Kay Kirscht is a storyteller who has in the past addressed mystic Catholicism. Andrea Stern is a Jewish harpist playing sacred music of all types on an old Irish harp, which sounds astounding in Patrick’s, which has great acoustics. I will be staging pieces of my new Play,
The Rabbi of Capernaum, about Yeshua (Jesus) as a real human in his time; it’s very political. Nancy Donoval has a living and breathing story about her emerging personal theology that is updated at the end of every tell.
Me: What are some differences and similarities between the worlds of church and theater? Are there ever difficulties in bringing these two worlds together?
DS: I wrote a book about this called Church & Stage, but I will try to summarize. Theater per se is not always involved in ethical issues, but they are always involved in entertainment issues. Good theater, I contend, deals with ethical issues and spiritual issues whenever you get into themes like Life and Death, or choices of conscience, like All My Sons by Arthur Miller.
More and more churches are finding that doing theater in their youth programs and young adult programming is a superb way of teaching, of mixing kids and adults so they don’t get stuck in a demographic ghetto, and of reaching out to the community and inviting them in. It’s not so strictly denominational that you are putting up
Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s also good for fundraising.
In my case, I am writing a play from the viewpoint of a low-Christology theologian trying to immerse the historical elements of the time Jesus lived in, in a way that most people have never been clued in about. Jesus was an amazing teacher- for example, of all the founders of religions in this time, called the Axial Age, he was the only one who talked about women, talked to women, and ever probably had women disciples. Why is that? Because he saw them as human beings.
Theater is a way to introduce new ideas from archeology and academia to churches that wouldn’t normally address this information for fifty years after it came out.
Me: Could you please tell us about Church & Stage?
DS: I wrote it as a how-to about how to do original, Fringe-style theater in any church that has some people with some experience. If you’ve done high school theater, it’s easier than that. But is also has as a basic resource the Bible, which is sixty-seven different books–a whole library–of stories, quotes, love poetry, raging prayers when people are mad at God, etc. Even if you are an atheist, it is still the basic, founding document of Western civilization, and we all need to know more about it. I also included two plays, a Christmas comedy called “The Three Wise Men and One Wise Guy” and the more serious Herod and Pilate for Palm Sunday. Anyone can start with those.
My goal was to get more church people to do theater, and for them to hire theater people to help them do it. Also, they would go to more theater and learn from it. Also, it may get a few theater people interested in developing their spiritual side, whatever their faith tradition may be. The two communities have a rich world in common, and still more to teach each other.
Me: Why did you decide to become a hospital chaplain? Can you tell us what that experience was like?
DS: It is required training to complete a Master of Divinity degree, and I took an opportunity to do a nine-month residency at United Hospital in St. Paul. First, you have to learn a lot about yourself, and clear out a lot of junk in your own head, or you won’t be any good to anyone. Second, a lot of my work was with families as the patient was being treated. Third, I was working with all faith communities: Ethiopian Orthodox, Baptist, atheist, Hmong animist, Christian, agnostic, plus the traditional Lutheran and Catholic overloads. I helped people in the recovery process, I was chaplain to the Brain Tumor Support Group where almost all the patients are going to die; I presided over four infant mortalities, of which two were beautiful and two were awful; I worked in the Intensive Care Unit and the psych ward. Two of my patients were nurses who had tried to commit suicide, and that tells you a lot about how poorly we take care of nurses. I wanted to be a chaplain really bad, and if I had found some way to do that I would have left theater in the dust. But who funds chaplains? Hospitals are always building a new wing with some guy’s name on it, or buying new electronic gadgets. Churches are trying to pay for a new roof or a new marketing campaign. Government can’t support religion. Insurance companies? Please. It takes an enlightened administrator with power to make it happen. There is now evidence from California Blue Cross that having chaplains helps reduce hospital stays, and that means cash, so that might turn around, but not in time for me to make a living, and I found myself slipping back into show-biz through the requests of artists to help them do this kind of thing.
But helping people face death is one of the ancient cores of the practice of spirituality, and that is daily business in a hospital. I really felt like I was as accomplishing something.
Me: How long have you been teaching at Augsburg? Had you taught before? What is it about teaching that drew you to it?
DS: Three years. I have taught classes in producing our own Fringe show, and I was a teaching assistant theology at United Seminary. I also taught there occasionally in other classes dealing with the arts and the life of the church. I come from a family of teachers, so there is nothing alien about it. I really like having that ongoing contact with the academic approach to spirituality, and the contact with special, amazing students cannot be replicated elsewhere, except maybe with amazing young actors.
I also needed a job. Still do.
Me: Can you tell us about how your brain injury affected you, both professionally and spiritually? Do you feel this continues to influence your work, and if so, how?
DS: First, it made it very hard to remember names, titles and phone numbers, which is at the core of being effective as a producer or performer. I have a 5% permanent disability to my memory, which bothers me every hour of every day. It has kept me out of areas of competence in computers and other specific tasks, and forced me to find a way using my imagination, my sense of taste and my own nose for talent. I can brag about that; I know great artists when I see it, and I do what I can to facilitate them. I can look to some specific people I’ve worked with that I am proud to have given a nudge at the right time; the Scrimshaw Brothers, Miss Richfield 1981, Brian Kelly and “The Temp,” Walking Shadow Theater. Ask them. But I loved working with them because I would never be able to memorize anything and do any serious performing. I was now going to be a producer and playwright.
There was also a clear sense, after having migraines for a year and a half, that life is precious, each minute of each hour means something, and nothing is wasted if you are paying attention. And that means not just what you get done on the job; it means what you do in the personal encounters you have each day. If you can get some sourpuss to laugh at a stupid joke, that is an act of love, and therefore it is connected to the infinite. And I have a vast collection of stupid jokes.
Me: This article is mostly about Spirit in the House, but if you could tell us about your numerous other accomplishments that I left out–including Minnesota Fringe Festival, Visual Fringe, Comedy Central, HBO, Prairie Home Companion, Skyway News, mnartists.com, Mpls/St. Paul magazine, etc.–that would be fantastic.

DS: Well, you left out  the Bryant-Lake Bowl, where I was Managing Director of the Cabaret Theater. I tripled the business in my two years there. After doing shows for many years in Modern Entertainment and Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal, I took everything I knew and put it in a Producer/Performer Protocol. I sent it out with every contract, and when we learned something new from an artist, then we added it. This was before e-mail, ladies and gentlemen. My innovation in Minneapolis theater was to share that info, to the artists how to do their own marketing, and to hold the show people responsible for bringing in their own audience. I told them, if you are not going to try to bring in people you know, just go home and do it for yourself.
I had been a performer a the Bowl and in the Fringe, doing “solo cabaret” like
Authentic Replica 2.0 and Dropped On My Head! The True Story of an Industrial Accident. and I knew what had to happen to make the Bowl and the Festival work. Part One was training the artists to market. I moved the Protocol over the Fringe, where it remains today, continually being updated by the current practitioners.
The other aspect of the Fringe was to grow attendance to more than 20,000 in order to get corporate funding. That meant introducing people to the idea of Fringing, seeing a lot of shows instead of one. The Ultra pass, named after the Ultra Creative marketing company a friend owns, was one pass to as many shows as you could see. So see ten, or 20 or 30 instead of 1 or 2. That’s what build the numbers from 4400 before I got there to 28,000 when I left, making it the largest Fringe in the U.S. It still is.
But the core motivation of my work was still in the center of my spiritual philosophy; and that was I knew the Fringe could be an ongoing engine to build community, where strangers could meet and enjoy a conversation, and enrich their lives. It’s the artists in this town who have made it as amazing as it is. I set it up so it would work the way I wanted it to work for me as an artist. And now I’m too tired to do a Fringe show.
The Visible Fringe was an idea I had to dress up the lobbies in each of the Fringe venues with original art, but I did not know anyone who could handle the assignment. Then I met Yuri Arajis, who was famous for curating Outsider Art, that is art made by people with no training. MCAD people need not apply. He hung 12 shows in four days, amazing stuff that people could look at when they were waiting in line. People who had never exhibited were selling hundreds of dollars of art. It has changed now, into something that has no outsiders and is not in the venues. So I don’t have any idea what they are thinking.
In New York, I was in a band with Rob Elk and Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller) called “Bongos, Bass, and Bob.” We played original stuff, and practiced in Penn’s bedroom on Friday nights after his shows. We played “La Bamba” in Hebrew on MTV once, before the MTV awards (I can still do it in Hebrew, Norwegian and Japanese). That broke up when Penn went to make his big fat bomb of a movie
Penn and Teller Get Killed. Robbie and I had worked together in Modern Entertainment and we were tired of hauling instruments around, so we developed an a capella act called Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal. We did funny songs mostly at Catch a Rising Star at a time when comedy was cresting. The guys we worked with were about to break; Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Rosie O’Donnell, Jon Stewart, Blue Man Group, that crabby lady from The View that just called McCain a liar, Joyce Behar, Dennis Leary. Our guide was Lewis Black, who ran the West Bank Theater Bar, which was the model for the Bryant-Lake Bowl. Lew got us into Catch, got us a gig warming up for Ray Romano, etc. We got two more songs on MTV, Oral Hygiene and the Yahoo Resort, both of which dropped like stones. When the Comedy Channel Started, it started with us doing about twenty-four bumps for shows that ran as re-runs during the day. When the Comedy Channel merged with the Ha Channel, Joel Hodgeson got a chance to produce a new show. We’d been working with him on an avante variety show about a lodge in the great north woods, called the Thunderbird Lake Country Lodge. We go the gig, shot it at Paisley part for a quarter million, and HBO decided to go with Def Comedy jam.
At that point I was sick of TV. Rob went to L.A., and I stayed in Minneapolis to do theater.
When I decided to go to the seminary, I figured out I needed to find a part time job that paid $25 an hour, and I’d never made more than $10 an hour in my life. Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal had appeared with Mr. Keillor in NYC, so when I heard he was going to do a show at St. Olaf, my alma mater, I knew I could give him something he could use: a history of St. Olaf College and its pranks. He liked it enough to hire me for six months. Then I figured out I wasn’t able to do both, and I had found other work less demanding. He pays well, but it’s hard work. We still e-mail each other on occasion. I told him to book Bob Dylan before it’s too late so the two lumbering titans of the U of M could be on the same show, and he said that he heard Dylan was eally weird, “and I don’t do weird very well.” I wish he’d give it another thought. It would be a bitchin’ show to have Bobby on the PHC.
I’ve written for many publications, and my work with the Skyway news, mnartists.com and Mpls/St. Paul has been to try to raise the profile of Spiritual Performance. It’s hard to get paid what the time is worth, though, because there are so many people out there who will write for a nickel.

I have also covered the UN for Nippon Television, wrote for two Japanese trade magazines covering retail trends in the U.S., been mugged by a bird, and other incidents of little value in recounting.

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome…

Well, whaddayaknow, my very first blog! Hello, everyone! Welcome to Patrick’s Cabaret! Hopefully I won’t accidentally hit the self-destruct button on this before I’m done typing, but I think this computer is possessed by a malevolent demon intent on causing me harm. Also, it’s a Mac. Same thing, really.

Plus I’m horrible with technology. Once I borrowed a friend’s cell phone and tried to dial my home number, and somehow I ended up in her address book calling one of her old friends from elementary school.

My name is Gabby Santiago, and I’m a student at Macalester College. About me: my love for reading, writing, and the performing arts is such that it borders on the perverse. Unless you want me to transmogrify into an unstoppable fountain of trivia, never mention linguistics or Star Trek in my presence. I’m currently fulfilling my student employment through an off-campus job at Patrick’s Cabaret. Feel entirely free to slap me in the face with a hatchet if you find the following gushing too saccharine, but THIS IS SO FREAKING COOL!!!!! OH MY GOD! I’M GETTING PAID TO WORK IN A THEATRE!

The Betazoids among you may have sensed some subtle overtones of enthusiasm there.

Anyways, I have been assigned the project of creating a Patrick’s Cabaret blog, the better to spread information and news regarding this shining beacon of awesome. I’ll be interviewing staff and artists, advertising for upcoming shows, and posting information on various themes touched upon by past, current, and future performances.

In later posts you’ll learn more about Patrick’s Cabaret, but here are the basics, straight from our website, http://www.patrickscabaret.org:

“Patrick’s Cabaret supports artists in their growth and development by encouraging artists of all experience levels to try new things, take risks or present works in progress. We serve a diverse range of artists, from emerging to experienced, from teenagers to seniors. The Cabaret’s first commitment is to serve the needs of local performing artists, specifically reaching out to artists of color and GLBT/queer-identified artists and those with disabilities.

The Cabaret began in 1986 as a single evening where Patrick Scully invited other artists to join him in a show of works-in-progress. The evening proved so successful, and the need for a performing venue to support new work so great, that Patrick’s Cabaret grew rapidly into an essential community resource. Over the next two decades, we have maintained the original formula of presenting a shared evening with artists of mixed artistic disciplines and levels of experience, expanding to fill two weekends each month that have featured literally thousands of performances by local artists.

In the early 1990s, we expanded the concept of cabaret to include theme-specific cabarets and guest-curators, such as Heidi Eckwall’s Sappho Rigolo. The expansion drew new artists and audiences to Patrick’s Cabaret. The number of guest-curators and thematic cabarets grew slowly over the years, and has expanded rapidly since Patrick’s return in 2005.

Once the Cabaret acquired its own space, first on 24th Street, and even more so now on Minnehaha Avenue, the Cabaret proved to be of great value to the local community as an affordable space to rehearse, teach, perform, and hold events. The demand for space has grown, as has our capacity to provide the space while working to keep it cost-effective. Many of our renters are emerging artists.”

Well, that’s it for now! Stick around, and I’ll be posting more stuff soon. Live long and prosper!