Podcast interview with Jan Levine Thal, Artistic Director, Kathie Rasmussen Women’s Theatre (Krass), Madison, WI. Krass supports women playwrights and directors but welcomes people of all genders in all other aspects of its work. In this interview she discusses why women’s theater is the same and different from all other theater.
When regional Native American pow wows convene in Chattanooga’s First Tennessee Pavilion, you’ll find me there, too. This year, the gathering seemed larger and more energetic than ever. I come to admire the colorful dress, hear the drum circle, and watch the dancing. The booths full of Native American arts and crafts are irresistible and my drawers are full of jewelry purchased there. I also come for the honor guard, a promenade of Native American veterans, police, firemen, and war mothers.
There is much beauty to celebrate in Native American art, but that it’s a struggle to create given the devastating historical events surrounding Native Americans. The Cherokee Nation had a culture that thrived for almost 1,000 years in the Southeastern United States: in Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and parts of Kentucky and Alabama. Life of the traditional Cherokee changed drastically with European expansion and cession of Cherokee lands to the colonies in exchange for trade goods. Migration from the original Cherokee Nation began in the early 1800s as Cherokees wary of white encroachment moved west and settled in other areas of the country’s vast frontier. Their eventual removal by force prompts the question of whether there is any Cherokee cultural presence remaining in the Southeast.
There has been a great deal of media attention regarding the looting of antiquities and other cultural property. The sacking of Iraq’s National Museum and the heritage of the country soon after the fall of Baghdad in 2003 drew international headlines. The issue of looting came to the fore again in 2005 with the Italian Government’s indictment of Marion True, then chief Curator of Antiquities at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, for trafficking in looted Greek and Roman artifacts. True was put on trial for what was cultural theft.
Home is the place that cradles our souls and soothes our most primal needs. Yet, for most of us, the only place that is certain to be a home is a mother’s womb, for after we are born, we move through time and space sometimes by force, sometimes by will, and spend a lifetime searching for a way of return. My family relocated to the United States when I was just out of high school. It was a decision made by my father who as a young man had been brought to the Soviet Republic of Armenia in 1946. My father’s parents had survived the Genocide of the Armenians on western Armenian lands (Eastern Turkey) in 1915, and like thousands, had made a life for themselves in Aleppo, Syria after walking for days through the deserts of Der El Zor.
Neil Young is now in his sixties, with many great achievements and awards, including MusiCares Person of the Year. When Young received the honor given his decades of work with Farm Aid and Bridge School Concerts, some of the most famous musicians in the business serenaded Young with his own songs: Elton John, James Taylor, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow Leon Russel, and Keith Russell. Young was quoted as saying that he’d forgotten how many songs he’d written. When did cultural superstar Young hit retirement age? He’s at the point in his life when he either 1) created so many songs he lost count or 2) really can’t remember. Not to worry, Neil.
On a cold night in Sixties, my cousin Sam and I escaped our Harvard dorms and headed out for a small neighborhood theater in Boston. I had the homesick bug; Sam cheered me up with a concert by a relatively unknown Ravi Shankar. Shankar was a musician who would eventually attract the Beatles, and the West, to his music. He was more of a cult icon in those days. I was an early entry into the All-Things-Eastern craze, having squeezed myself into a course on Buddhism at Harvard Divinity School. Even so, I had never seen Shankar perform or heard his music.
Maria Tallchief, international ballet superstar, inspired the ballerina in those of my generation caught up in the Dance Fantasy. Like gambling fever, the Dance can be all-consuming, easily contracted and a life-long passion. I caught dancing fever at first sight, growing up in Bermuda. I stared, open-mouthed when the square dance caller yelled ‘allemande right’ and my older brother Joe and his friends flew around the circle formation. “Me, too!” begged my five-year-old self. “Can I, huh, Can I?” The caller looked pained when Mom asked permission. “Yeah, OK. But only if she can find someone who’ll dance with a kid that young.” The deck was stacked against me, but Joe paid a friend sixpence to dance with me. My love affair with dance was off and running.
We were in Paris for two weeks at a stretch and after hitting some of the fabulous tourist spots – The Sacre Coeur, The Palais Garnier, The Notre Dame Cathedral – thought, we would cover every arrondissement by metro, tram and bus. Why? You may well ask. I can only shrug and say it seemed like a good idea at the time.