Artists Talking to Artists: Ryan Casey & Karen Krolak PART TWO

Here's the second half of Ryan's chat with Karen!  Don't miss them both TONIGHT at Against the Odds!

RC:  As we know, you have faced some terrific odds in recent months grappling with the loss of several family members, and the festival itself has struggled to get its footing since it was initially scheduled for last fall. How has all of this informed your sense of the festival and of your work?
kK:  Well, that is the million dollar question, isn't it? The week of the accident, I had been working intensely on Back Going No Going Back, my collaboration with Master Palindromist, Barry Duncan. The piece looks at the small moments where you made a decision that seemed trivial but changed your life. It also grapples with the very human desire to want to go back in time to change those decisions for a better outcome. Working on all the reversibility withBack Going No Going Back, can really cause my brain to freeze up sometimes because it is so easy to become disoriented without a clear beginning and ending.

Standing on Nicole's porch talking to the police who came to tell me that my mother, father, and brother were killed when an SUV swerved into their lane, I could feel myself starting to spiral down the rabbit hole of "If I had..." It reminded me of my rehearsals with Barry and I viscerally felt that following that line of thought would only lead me to further disorientation at a time when I desperately needed a mental compass. It is not an exaggeration to say that the lessons I learned from that collaboration helped me to stay sane as I began that awful task of arranging for the bodies to be transported from New York, planned funerals in Boston and Chicago, and faced the reality of a world that no longer contained the three people who were the very foundation of my identity. Naturally, I never anticipated any of this when I embarked on this piece but I think it demonstrates how a seemingly esoteric choreographic idea, juxtaposing retrograde dance phrases with palindromes, can have practical applications in our daily life.

Now, of course, I do not expect that the festival will have the same impact on anyone else's life. This experience, however, has renewed my investment in Against the Odds. It is important to point out that during the last six months, in addition to losing three family members,  I have lived on friends' couches with my husband and dog for months while grieving because we were moving when the accident happened and the deal took much longer to go through, Springstep announced they were selling the building where Monkeyhouse rehearses, performs, and has our office, my husband changed his career, and the nurse practitioner who was overseeing the complex management of my medical condition left her practice. Trust me, if I did not think that learning to face imperfection and adapting around less than ideal circumstances were important topics, I would never be producing a festival like this now. Everyone faces some form of adversity in their life. Seeing all these artists find physical poetry from imperfect bodies with grace and sometimes humor, reminds me that we can choose how we handle these moments.

When I posted something on Facebook about needing help raising money for the festival a few weeks ago, I was stunned that people from all over the country helped up us blow past our goal of $5000. So far we have received over $9000 and people keep sending in more donations. It was really uplifting to realize how many other people believed this was a worthwhile idea. Unlike many artists, I was very fortunate to have a family that really supported my creative endeavours. The last time that I saw my parents, the night before they left, they scurried around looking for a checkbook to give me a donation for Against the Odds. I said over and over, that they could always do it after they got back. How foolish I was to take for granted a safe return. Mom was insistent, though, and they gave Jason a check as we were leaving. When I felt so lost that following week, I kept thinking that Mom and Dad would want me to see this project through. Sure enough when we returned from Chicago, I found another smaller donation from Mom in memory of my Grandma Moffat in the mail at Monkeyhouse's office. It is a though they knew that I was going to need a big reminder that they believed in me.

RC:  What can we look forward to seeing from Monkeyhouse in the festival? 
kK:  Monkeyhouse will be presenting 7 premieres and one Boston premiere. Two of them are from our Outside Voices project to collaborate with other local artists. Back Going No Going Back is solo set on Nikki Sao Pedro-Welch, choreographed by me in collaboration with palindromes by Barry Duncan, and typographical projections by Cynthia Roberts. The Name of the Wind is a quintet set on Monkeyhouse by Mariah Steele. Monkeyhouse choreographers, Nicole Harris, Caitlin Meehan, Nikki Sao Pedro-Welch, and Sarah Feinberg, have created two comedic duets that sprang out of a series of Musings I led on physical attachments. Another duet is performed by Caitlin Meehan with Courtney Wagner blindfolded and shaped by Jason Ries's lighting design. Nicole Harris has built a new group piece that will feature several young dancers from Impulse Dance Center in one performance. Oh, and as a group we were so inspired by Eva Dean's workshop at the 2011 Against the Odds festival, that I built two pieces using exercise balls.

RC:  What are you anticipating the most about "Against the Odds," and what do you hope audiences will take away from the experience?
kK:  Honestly, I love the post show SPORKS, where we fork out questions and stir up conversation. After months of working on a piece, I hunger to hear what it sparks in audience members. Those comments stick with me and often inspire new directions for future creations. Artistically, I am really eager to see what Jason has discovered as more environmentally friendly and interactive lighting options. He is playing with wireless instruments and potentially hand held par lamps. It should be very cool.

Personally, the best moment for me will be dancing with Nicole on Thursday night. Regardless of what happens on stage, I know it is a major miracle that 18 months after her strokes and almost 7 months after the accident, she and I will be able to be together on stage supporting each other's weight.

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