Friday, May 31, 2013

You've never heard of the Trinity Matrix? She's the ship that made the Kesala run in less than 12 parsecs

[Originally published on Bloody Underrated]

One of the words most often used to describe me is "driven." I've always thought it was strange. Like, who's doing the driving here? It's right up there with "gifted." From whom am I receiving gifts? The implication is that it's somewhere inside of me: This drive, these gifts. Apparently I have the compulsion to go fast, passing others by, getting to places most people never reach, all in a vehicle presented to me by Fortune.

I imagine it with a huge red bow on top, like car commercials around the holidays.

In reality I do drive myself mostly, in my 2004 Toyota Matrix. Her name is Trinity. (She's a Matrix. She's very pretty. And I'm a SciFi nerd.) She's been my car for over 10 years and has taken me across the USA twice, up and down the West coast twice, and even to Forks and back once. (Because in addition to being a SciFi nerd, I also went through a Twihard stage. TEAM JACOB!!)

Trinity has been my runabout for lot of missions. I've driven her to Boise, where I toured a winter with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, playing Rat in The Wind in the Willows. After 115 shows in 85 days, lots of Super 8 Motels, and some extremely precarious driving in the snow, Trinity and I survived the cold. I bought her new tires as a reward.

I've also driven her to San Francisco, where I performed Medea Knows Best, a mash-up of the Greek tragedy and Leave It to Beaver­-esque television shows. I stayed above a porn shop on Castro and 18th, the heart of the gay neighborhood, where you could tell time by the multiple bars' nightly 2am ear-splitting dump of glass beer bottles into the recycling containers. My billets hosted a weekly Pesto Party for the polyamorous community at large to meet new people. I was once mistaken for a newbie and learned quickly to stay away from home until very late on Thursday nights, sometimes taking Trinity for a drive down San Francisco streets and hoping there'd be a parking space when I returned. I bought her a bejeweled pink crown sticker for her window to remind us that we were queens among queens.

My first Canadian Fringe with one of my solo shows (The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter) was the Victoria Fringe in 2011. I live in Seattle, so I just drove Trinity up the state of Washington and took a ferry to Victoria. I drove to my billet, introduced myself, and then threw on hot pink lipstick, gold eye shadow, and the awesomest retro prom dress ever.

What I didn't take into account was that my dress for the 80s prom themed party was tight. Very tight. Which looked killer standing up, but made driving... difficult. When a new friend walked me to Trinity at the end of the evening, he very pleasantly chatted with me outside my vehicle, fully expecting me to give him the cue that I was leaving by getting inside the car. About 20 minutes later I told him, "I actually can't get inside until you leave because I physically cannot sit down without hiking my skirt up around my waist." To commemorate that trip, I bought her an antenna topper of the Canadian flag.

Trinity is my Millennium Falcon. She's badass, dependable, and you wish you had one.

This tour I am Trinity-free. I first performed in Chicago, then Orlando. Now I'm off Montreal and Winnipeg: all very far away from Seattle. I left Trinity in the care of my boyfriend Mark, a great driver who loves that I have a Starfleet Academy sticker on my car window professing my dream alma mater to the world. Last week Mark called me in the middle of the day saying he had bad news. He'd been in a car accident.

All I cared about was that he was okay. It's a bit overwhelming how that was all I cared about, how I was so ready to drop it all and fly back to Seattle if need be. And he was totally okay, thank our lucky stars. The other driver was totally okay. Trinity, though, was not.

I know that Trinity is a car. It's a hunk of metal and burning fossil fuel and a few nerdy stickers. I completely understand that I am personifying it throughout this entire blog and that liking your car is not "cool" or "green." That said, my car's potential demise sent a lump into my throat. It has been a constant in my life for over 10 years. I care for it, I invest in it, I trust it to get me and my passengers where we are going safely.

Trinity did her duty. She protected her pilot. She sacrificed her hood, her headlights, her bumper, and her radiator. Trinity has kept me safe on my journeys for 10 years. Now she kept Mark safe in an accident. I couldn't ask for anything more from my trusty runabout. Thank you, Trinity.

You know, it was never complete when it was just her and me. With the addition of my co-pilot Mark, we are three—we are Trinity. She's in car hospital now, getting a little work done. She'll be in there for a few weeks, but she'll come out good as new and ready for our next mission. This baby's got a few surprises left in her, sweetheart.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Listening to the Nag Inside my Soul

(Originally published on The Charlebois Post)

Photo by Charlie Ainslie
I Think My Heart Needs Glasses is my second solo play—my sophomore effort at writing, directing, producing, and performing. If you've heard anything about sophomore efforts, you know that oftentimes they... well... slump. Especially when the freshman effort rocked. Which mine did.

The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter is an awesome solo show. It's charming and sweet, so sweet that you might even get a toothache and need a dentist (Get it? Get it?) That show, which I call TUDD in my head and amongst good friends, is based on my mother's life. I was inspired to write about her after making the decision that I was going to create a solo show for myself to star in and tour around the world. It seemed logical: one person to feed, house, pay—scheduling rehearsal was a breeze and golly, wasn't I just the ideal actress for the role! I had bounced around a lot of ideas in a little notebook about what I wanted my play to be about (An American gal's adventures in Australia? An actress' life on the road?) but settled on the stories that I always ended up telling people once they asked about my ethnic name, my peasant physique, and my uncanny ability to speak with a Slavic accent. Plus it didn't hurt that my parents' love story is so awesome that it almost seems made up.

And that decision was good. It was (and is!) a great show (you can see it at the Orlando Fringe this year if you're in that neck of the woods.) It surprised me how similar my mother's story and my story are—a woman trying to make her place in a world in which she doesn't easily fit. That story also seemed to resonate with many audience members. Not only did I receive heartfelt, loving messages from individuals, but I also won an award in each Festival in which I performed last year: Spirit of the Fringe in Montreal, Outstanding Female Performance in Winnipeg, and Audience Pick of Fringe in Seattle. Clearly I was doing something right.

The prize for the Spirit of the Fringe award in Montreal is a guaranteed spot in the next year's festival. So in June 2012 I knew that I would again be performing in June 2013. I had no intention of returning with TUDD, nor did I have any repertoire to pull from—so—it was back to the notebook of ideas for plays.

But deep down, I didn't need the notebook. I knew what I had to write about.

Photo by Charlie Ainslie
Nine months before my tour last year, the ground disappeared. The Earth continued to rotate normally while I was thrust into a stomach-turning spiral of sorrow where my good friend died and I questioned everything about how the world works—and whether it actually did work or just haphazardly went along, indiscriminately screwing good people along the way. Those events prompted me to edit and expand TUDD and tour it last year. Those events were the only thing in my mind about which I could write next.

My family and friends were supportive, but not thrilled. They were concerned it was too soon: did I really want to visit this pain again so quickly? One friend pointed out that writing about that time was asking everyone who was there to relive it: was that something I wanted to do to all of them? I asked myself: was I being completely selfish in even considering that this was appropriate material for a show? Would jumping back into the memories rip open the (slowly) healing wound? I didn't have answers to these questions. All I knew was that I needed a new show on its feet and ready to perform in the next 10 months, that my previous show had taken 2 years, and there was something nagging inside my soul that said that this was the next story to tell whether I liked it or not.

So I started writing. I thought about how I could keep myself safely distant from the material while still doing it justice. I wrote some more. In November 2012, eight months before the next Montreal Fringe, I had a rough draft. It told the story. I wrote it in the past tense so that I wouldn't be too close, so that I would be out of harm's way when I performed. I figured that was a logical compromise to all the concerns raised. 

Photo by Charlie Ainslie
But the script refused to go into my mouth and my brain. I had the worst time trying to memorize it, which was new since TUDD seemed to come out of me as if I'd, well, written it. Why was I having such a hard time learning this new piece since I'd written it as well?

Because I hadn't written it. My fear had.

Late March 2013, I showed the piece to a respected colleague of mine. It went badly. Really badly. I knew right away, like all performers know, when the audience isn't into it. It was just me up there. Performing my words. Sharing my story. And it was not being well received. I had the feeling that if I performed the script as it existed that day, I would not do justice to my subject matter, to my friend.

That was unacceptable to me.

So I rewrote it. Two and a half weeks before the world premiere in Seattle, I took my detached, past-tense, story-telling piece and removed the distance. I stuck myself back into the thick of it. I made it present tense. I took the vignettes and I went back to Acting 101: Show, don't tell. The trepidation that my friends, family, and I had about me going back to my pain—I looked it straight in the eye and said, "I am telling this story. Not you."

I surprised myself. The woman who confronted her fear (and 15 pages of rewrites) that day in March was not the woman of the summer before, too terrified to turn around and face the past. The summer before it was all I could do to tell my mother's story: close to me, but never really mine. Today I am strong enough (because of a path I elaborate upon in my show) to command my personal story—and to share it with an audience with nothing but the sincerest desire to connect with them over their own encounters with love, grief, and the search for peace.

Photo by Charlie Ainslie
So now, dear readers, I present my sophomore effort: I Think My Heart Needs Glasses. I look forward to sharing this tale with you.

 I Think My Heart Needs Glasses has its Canadian premiere at the Montreal Fringe June 13-23, 2013. It also plays at the Winnipeg Fringe June 18-28, 2013.

The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter performs at the Orlando Fringe May 17-26, 2013. 

Yana's solo performance company, Radiant Moxie, distills theater into essentials and inspires hope with courageous, spirited storytelling that embraces the radiance of each individual's journey.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Wonder Woman's Nephews are Jedi Knights

I'm in San Francisco, visiting my sister and my three nephews. It is the youngest's 4th birthday--he's turning 4. He's not 3 anymore. But he can't wait to be 5.

He's obsessed with BeyBlade, which says 8+ on the box, but he has two older brothers and doesn't want to play with baby games. It's this wind-up contraption where you insert a "key" that looks like a zip-tie with teeth into a piece of plastic and then attach what is essentially a glorified top. You wind the top a few times, pull the zip-tie key, and release it into a plastic stadium. If you were actually 8+ then you would play with a friend and battle your tops in the stadium, the last one left spinning being named the winner.

But he's just turned 4, so the appeal is in making the top spin really fast and light up. He instructs me that you must turn the top 3 times. I told him that since he's 4 now he should turn the top 4 times.

"And when I'm 5 I'll turn it 5 times! And when I'm 10 I'll turn it 10 times! I'm going to have this toy forever."

What is forever to a 4 year old? Probably the time between realizing that you're hungry and getting a snack. Forever to me? A little more complex.

After my meditation retreat, I decided to see my family more. I have a sister and 3 nephews in San Francisco, a sister in Sacramento, and parents in Chicago. Being Seattle-based, that makes seeing them complicated--but certainly not impossible. I'm seeing one sister now, just saw the other when she came to see my show at the Seattle Fringe, and I booked a trip to be in Chicago for a whole week over Christmas (the first time I've been back for the holidays in 5 years). I want to be a good sister, a good aunt, a good daughter. Because I know that people aren't around forever.

When did that realization come? I'm not sure. It's something that I've accepted over time, kinda like the knowledge that Santa Claus wasn't real: it wasn't some earth-shattering, childhood-innocence-smashing event. (I realize this is not the case for all, and I apologize if reading this blog just served as the medium for that experience.) I do know it now, though, and despite the fact that humans are blessed with the ability to forget their own and others' mortality for the majority of their waking hours, it does affect my encounters. Not to say that I spend my days fatalistically thinking that every interaction with my people may be the last--but it's just that every interaction with my people may be the last.

So I'm trying to make it count. Is every moment a Kodak moment? No. Have I taken a page from 12 step programs and gone back to apologize for all real (or perceived) wrongs? No. Do I conduct myself in a way that ensures that those around me right here and now know exactly how much they are loved? Yes.

Or at least I try. I know--Yoda says there is no try. Maybe I say I try because I'm sure there are times I fail. But I do my best to love.

Why? Because I've been on the receiving end. I know what it's like to be in the pitch black and have a familiar voice call my name and tell me it's okay, I can't see you but I am looking for you...and I'm going to find you no matter what, even if it takes forever.

Maybe that's it. Maybe for me forever is the time between feeling I'm lost and remembering I am sought out, I am missed, I am loved. So it varies, mimicking the human experience: some of our forevers are 37 years, some are 37 seconds. What matters is what fills that time.

In this moment I am filling my time playing with $1 glow swords from Target. Their glow may not last forever...but their short lives are filled with light.
My Jedi Knight Nephews!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Interview with

Thank you to Brad McEntire and his awesome site for this opportunity to talk about my process and work!
Photo by Charlie Ainslie
Q: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started
in theatre/performance?

Growing up in Chicago, my parents took me to a lot of theater. They had subscriptions to the Steppanwolf, the Goodman, and the Opera. I'm not sure why, but something about seeing Evelyn and the Polka King at the Steppanwolf in fourth grade just stuck with me--that show solidified my decision to be a performer. I can't remember the specifics but I do remember the feeling of watching it and knowing in my heart of hearts that I wanted to be on stage, doing what those performers were doing.

My first big play was A Midsummer Night's Dream my freshman year of high school. I continued to act and ended up studying Drama at Stanford University. In the summers I studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and at American Repertory Theater (ART) and Moscow Art Theater School (MXRT) in CambridgeMA. After college I completed the Classical Acting Course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and then moved to Seattle, which has served as the home base for my professional performing career.

Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of
solo performance?

I scored a 9 week touring gig to Australia in February 2010 with a Seattle company called theater simple. When it came time to go home, I knew that I couldn't leave Oz without knowing that I was someday going to come back. We were touring with a cast of 7 people--a logistical and financial challenge, to say the least. I knew it was more practical to have a smaller cast and most practical to have a cast of one: one person to accommodate, feed, and transport. So I thought, "I'll write and tour my own show." So I did! (And I'm heading back to Australia in February--not to perform, but to be an audience member at the Adelaide Fringe. The money I made touring my show this summer made my trip back a reality!)

Q: Could you tell us about some of your solo work?

The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter, the solo show I toured to the MontrealWinnipeg, and Seattle Fringes this year, is a romantic comedy based on my mother's life. She once said, "I'm not interesting enough that anyone would ever write a book about me." That stuck in my mind for a long time. When I was in Australia and batting around ideas for a solo show, her story rose to the top of the list. My mother has seen so much in her 69 years. It was a bit surreal to write the show and realize: her story is my story. Change the clothes and hair and names and you still have a young woman hopeful for love and recognition in a world that glorifies a different ideal.

I'm currently working on my sophomore piece, I Think My Heart Needs Glasses. It's about love and my relationship with my vision, both physical and perceptive. It's very much in a zygote state right now...but on track to begin touring in Spring 2013.

Q: How would you describe your particular kind of solo performance?
My solo performance is based in story. I'm not a huge fan of elaborate props, costume, or set--in The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter I don't even have water for myself on stage. I have a theory that props always want to play themselves, just like an actor who may only have one line so they do something odd with it to make it stand out. I've had too many fans drop or glasses break or hats go akilter to trust props. :)

I strive to make shows that I would personally want to see and I usually gauge a show by how much I care about the characters. If the character dies, the audience should have a reaction. If the character gets super close to getting their heart's desire and it eludes them at the last minute, I want the audience to feel that goal slipping through their own fingers.

Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?
By far my favorite thing is the feeling of having the audience in the palm of my hand, safely transporting them to a different world and back again, leaving them wondering where the past 50 minutes have gone. When you're the only performer on stage, the audience becomes your scene partner; each audience in their unique way is going to ebb and flow as the story progresses. It is terrifyingly thrilling to be at the reins for the ride.

Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself
Never before in my training or career have I felt so connected to a piece or received such positive feedback from audiences as I have performing my own work. Knowing that I am successfully reaching individuals who see my show keeps me on track to continue to create. It can be lonely at times, especially during the rehearsal process. But the joy of putting the piece up in front of excited people--that's the prize.

Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting
together a new project? Do you create a lot on stage, improvising? More on paper?
Tape or video record? Hold readings? Go to a mountain top?
I brainstorm and write a lot before I get up on my feet. I don't necessarily know where I'm going to end up when I begin my development process, but I have a rough idea of what I want to achieve with the work. With The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter I interviewed my mother and transcribed the interviews. It turned out to be 68 pages. I read and re-read and re-read the pages until I got an idea as to what could serve as the anchor for the play--in this case it turned out to be my mother's wedding day. There are a lot of ideas that swim through my head for seemingly ages before something tells me to write. It comes in bursts--I'll write 5 pages in one sitting and then not write for a week. When I have a rough script I push the dining room furniture to the side and start playing with it on my feet, editing as I rehearse. Once the play has a nice shape I perform it for a select number of colleagues. I ask them to tell me what they see--as a solo performer who self-directs, it's invaluable to get someone in there to tell me if what I think I'm doing is actually what I'm doing! More edits and rehearsal follow until the show is ready for an audience.

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire/embolden
I'm endlessly inspired by the women in my life. Obviously my mother, but also my friends--they are the most wonderful, talented, driven, gorgeous, intelligent, and fun people on the planet. Sometimes I get overwhelmed at my fortune to be surrounded by such grace and love. My family and friends listen to every new idea and potential project with open hearts and have no doubt that I'll do whatever I set my mind to. It's wonderful to strike out boldly into the world knowing that you have this army of supporters rallying behind you.

Q: How do you bridge the gap of the business side of theatre?
Creating that bridge is one of my big projects this year. I'm launching my production company, Radiant Moxie. It's been quite a learning experience this past summer, taking my show on the road and paying for it essentially out of pocket. I'm seeking out help in the business side of things and ultimately hope to make my living creating and performing my own theatrical work.

Q: Any advice for some aspiring artist just starting out in solo
Henry Ford said it best: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." Solo work distills the performance experience down to essentials--there is nowhere to hide. Embrace that bravely. For me, once I did that, it was the best time ever.

Q: Share with us something funny that has happened to you recently.
At the end of my Canadian tour this summer, I flew into Vancouver from Winnipeg and LaChrista, my friend from Seattle, came to pick me up. We hadn't seen each other in months and painted Vancouver red our first night out. There is a giant buffalo sculpture downtown (at least I think it's a buffalo!) and we decided it was a brilliant idea to climb it. It was hard to get a good grip and a lovely lady passing by gave me the foothold I needed to shimmy up in my strapless dress. It was a moment of triumph after many hysterical and loud attempts to mount the sculpture (my sweaty hands kept squeaking down its metal side.) Moral of the story: I owe much of my success to the kindness of strangers. And short skirts and riding buffalos don't mix.

Q: What do you see for the future of solo performance and for you
personally as an artist?
I think solo performance is going to continue to grow in popularity. Overhead costs are low, which makes it very appealing to producers. And audiences never tire of hearing a deeply personal story, which is at the heart of much solo performance. For myself I see more work in the vein of The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter: a woman's story told frankly and openly. If I touch the hearts of audience members and remind them of the beauty and hope in all of our stories, then I consider myself successful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

When I performed "The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter" in Chicago last Spring, the room at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art was filled with people from my past: friends of my parents who hadn't seen me since I was missing all my front teeth and in my Easter dress at Church, high school friends who hadn't seen me perform for a decade, and my fourth-grade grammar school teacher who also happens to be Ukrainian.

Everyone wanted to be in Mrs. Kosyk's class because she taught how to cross-stitch a pillow. We got to pick the colors of the thread we used and when we were done with the pattern, she took them all home and turned them into pillows. One might wonder why she taught this craft to a bunch of 10 year olds; at the time, I just thought it was fun. In retrospect, now being a teacher myself, it was an amazing way to get frenetic kids to sit still, focus, and have tangible evidence of their work at the end. Eighteen years later, I still have the pillow--and the ability to sit down, focus, and get the job done.

So it was a big deal to show Mrs. Kosyk what I had done with my play, my life's-work-so-far cross-stitch pillow, so to say. She's a soft-spoken woman and she expressed how much she enjoyed the show. She also said to me, "I'm just very surprised that you turned out to be an actress. You were always so quiet in class."

Expectations are some of the most powerful forces I've ever encountered. Those put upon me by my family have always been high and, frankly, I never had any desire to find out what would happen if I didn't fulfill them, so I made a habit of exceeding them and calling it a day. As I've gotten older, the intentions behind my parents' goals for me have become more and more clear; security and stability with a heaping spoonful of happiness is nothing to be scoffed at. What's also become clear as I've gotten older is that there are a lot of ways to skin a cat--and me becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or marrying one of the three are not the only ways to reach the expectations had of me and those I have of myself.

It's a challenge though. Not being able to carve myself into this mold has been frustrating. It's like meeting someone who is just fabulous on paper (educated, driven, employed, good-looking) but then meeting them and the, well, je ne sais quoi just isn't there. I would love to wake up one morning and be thrilled at the idea of going to law school and becoming a well-paid lawyer in America who defends corporations and their rights in the marketplace. But I don't want to do that. I want to teach kids how to write plays and I want to get up on stage and tell people a story and I want to spend 3 hours pressing repeat on a YouTube tutorial on how to play the introductory riff to a country song that I love on the guitar.

I don't know when this happened--me turning into a West-Coast-dwelling, meditation-retreat-attending, organic-chocolate-hawking guitar-playing artist. But it did, and I am. So...okay. I guess that's the way it is.

I might have started as a studious, quiet, cross-stitching daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, expected to...well, I don't really know anymore.

But now...I'm the internationally-acclaimed-Montreal-spirited-CBC-best-Seattle-audience-pick-Star-Trek-obsessed-bee-tattooed-loudest-laugh-in-the-room.

And if it's cool with Mrs.'s cool with me.
Exceeded my own expectations by winning Best of Seattle Fringe. This little ostrich was my prize. I named him Mervyn...because any being with eyebrows like that is, of course, named Mervyn.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hello Class, I'm Yana, it's like Donna with a Y

Today I did something terrifying. I've never done it before, though I've thought about it a lot. And imagined in my head how it would go. My friends have done it, some of them a bunch of times. I wanted to try. I thought--this might be fun. Or it might be the end of me.

Today I began a 10 week, twice-a-week session of teaching 7th graders how to write plays.

Excuse me? Am I actually in a place where I can TEACH this stuff? And--gasp--get PAID to teach this stuff? Apparently so. And teach it well, even--I got an email from the classroom teacher that I had done a fabulous job. So despite my initial fear...I succeeded.

I've been doing a lot of things lately that scare me a little. Well...scare me a lot. I switched departments in my day job, reducing my hours to next to nothing but staying with a company I respect (translation: living on savings for a bit) and leaving me lots of time for writing. Which I'm going to need since I'm currently writing my next play, "I Think My Heart Needs Glasses." It took me 2 years total to create "The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter" that toured this summer. I have 7.5 months left for this next one to be audience worthy for Montreal (holy kites!).
I think my heart needs glittered glasses.

"I Think My Heart Needs Glasses" is the product of a lot of different ideas that came together when I did a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat at the end of August. I'll tell you this much: keeping quiet is the easiest part. It's like after a show, when an audience member comes up to you in awe and says, "Gosh, how do you remember all of those lines?" and you just smile kindly and say, "A lot of practice." The biggest challenge of the retreat isn't silence: it is living in your head with absolutely no distractions--no talking, no books, no music, no journal, no internet. It's a trip. If you want to know more, check out my play next year.

I also: decided to apply to graduate school, started taking guitar lessons, got set up on 2 blind dates, and cut bangs into my hair. I've been busy since I last wrote a blog.

In addition to all that, "The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter" opens in the Seattle Fringe on Wednesday. Which shouldn't phase me at all--I've performed my show countless times (okay, 16 times) this summer. I'm fairly certain that I've got it down--but I also feel like every time I put this show down for a bit it feels completely different when I pick it back up again. And maybe those differences are only visible to me (or to my friends here in Seattle who have seen my show 2-3 times already--bless your souls!). But they are unnerving, every time.

However, perhaps that nervous feeling about my show is a testament to my connection to the piece. I'm not on autopilot for it. Yes, I feel I could recite it in my sleep, but acting it--that's a different story. Every time I start it up again I get the same feeling I did today in front of my 7th graders: that there is a very strong possibility I am going to fall on my face.

I hope that feeling never goes away. The day it does is the day I stop performing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So, this Priest Walks into a Theater...

As Shane would say, "Holy kites." I can't believe my Canadian tour is over. This journey, the planning and realization of which saved me from the chaos that was raining on my life, has reached its conclusion.

Now what?

I'm having one of those typical 20-something moments (although whenever I mention it to someone older than me, they say it happens pretty much your entire life--AWESOME) where I'm standing at a fork in the road. Except it's one of those really fancy forks with lots of tongs. Do I keep acting and producing my own work? Do I go back to school and pursue a Master's in Psychology, or maybe even Creative Writing? Do I expand this play into a film--or a novel? Do I apply for a Fulbright to Ukraine to study my ancestry? All of the above?

I had the craziest experience yesterday hanging out with a priest. His name is Walter Klimchuk and he baptized me in Chicago 28 years ago. He was the head priest of the church I grew up going to and he's originally from Winnipeg. Fr. Walter moved back home when his mother got sick. He heard about my show from my parents and other Chicago friends and he came to see it. He found me afterwards and invited me to come take a tour of Winnipeg with him.

It was a beautiful day, my favorite part of which was the lovely conversation we shared about spirituality, the power of crystals, and the importance of finding your soul purpose in life. Fr. Walter is unlike any priest I've ever met. He said that he believes real miracles happen when you create an environment of positivity and that he strives to create that environment with his parish and in all his encounters.

I expressed to him my nervousness to return to Seattle and be faced with the decision of which path to take, especially since it had seemed so clear before I left. The plan was to do the tour, then go back to school and become a drama therapist. But it's hard to go back to that plan after performing my show 16 times and realizing, deep in my bones, that telling stories is my calling.

I got asked on 3 separate occasions in Winnipeg if Yana Kesala is my real name. I was really confused at first because, if anywhere, it should be in Ukrainian-rich Winnipeg that people understand my name. But then it dawned on me--when you pronounce my name as written in English, it kinda sounds like the Ukrainian phrase, "I didn't tell." In the Cyrillic alphabet this wouldn't be the case, but all of my publicity materials are in English. I got a little peeved at this--I mean, what storytelling performer would choose a stage name implying that they don't?

But looking at my name again, it could also be "Yana told." Perhaps the direction I'm supposed to take is plainly written on my notepad, my email address, my driver's license. Yana is supposed to tell--and perhaps the miracle of this discovery was only realized in the positive tour environment that I've been steeped in for 8 weeks.

Plus, Fr. Walter told me that he sees me in Hollywood. And when a Catholic priest who calls out the rose quartz on your necklace as the love stone and expresses his desire to return to Sedona for more singing bowls tells you he's had an insight about your future, you listen.

I'm never going to get to "Yana told" tomorrow if Yana doesn't tell today. So here goes.
The sun sets on my Canadian tour...good thing I'm a star!