Regarding Today’s Decision of the Supreme Court of Italy

I am tremendously relieved and grateful for the decision of the Supreme Court of Italy.

The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this

ordeal.  And throughout this ordeal, I have received invaluable support from family,

friends, and strangers.  To them, I say:  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Your

kindness has sustained me.  I only wish that I could thank each and every one of you in

person.

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West Seattle Herald – 12

West Seattle Herald

ArtsWest’s Chinglish is funny and refreshing

By Amanda Knox

Annie Lareau was right; David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish is not an easy play to put on.

There’s the fact that the script suggests multiple and various settings that the small, ArtsWest stage must somehow accommodate. Scenic designer Carey Wong accomplishes this with minimalism: the barest necessities as far as furniture, slight variations to the arrangement of bamboo screens, and a small decorative hanging to provide character and reference to familiar locations. The only hitch in this otherwise successful display is the armoire that lies down to become a bed. It might not have been so noticeably heavy and distractingly clunky had the script not necessitated that it be dropped down and picked up again multiple times throughout the show.

But the scenic design is a familiar obstacle. Chinglish also presents a unique problem where the audience will most likely not understand the dominant language being spoken. The script requires the use of sub- or super-titles. It milks the advantages of this requirement for sure—innuendo run rampant—but all the jokes require the comedic timing not only onstage, but also above-stage onscreen. The timing of the supertitles in this production could have been tighter.

Then there are the casting difficulties. Where does one find a middle-aged, British-accented, fluent-Chinese-speaking actor in the greater Seattle area these days? Or even a full Chinese American cast of fluent-Chinese-speakers? Director Annie Lareau makes the point in her interview on the production that, for lack of opportunity, actors of ethnic minority are driven away from theatre.

This is where the ArtsWest production shines. Lareau ultimately assembled a cast of character-driven actors who convince, compel, entertain, and yes, speak Chinese. Hing Lam as Cai was natural, dignified, and tragic in his believable loyalty and stoicism. Serin Ngai succeeded on putting on many hats throughout the show, bringing her characters to life with subtle, believable, and hilarious physical traits—from the slumping shoulders and insolent shuffle of the burnt-out waitress, to the bulging eyes and gawking, rounded mouth of the flustered and flabbergasted interpreter.

Kathy Hsieh as the lead female role, Xi Yan, steals the show. Hwang wrote her to be a complex and compelling character whose motivations and speech the audience is constantly trying to understand. Hsieh embodies all of her mysterious ferocity, wistfulness, passion, independence, and idealism.

Evan Whitfield plays her counterpart in the lead male role, Daniel Cavanaugh, a American businessman who, although clueless and pitiful as a puppy, is nevertheless is the key to the audience’s understanding of what is actually happening. Whitfield embodies him best when he’s pant-less and vulnerable, chasing Xi Yan around the bed with his tail between his legs and his heart on his sleeve.

Chinglish is about difference, and the chaos that arises from misunderstanding, even when both sides to a message are trying their best to give and receive what is truly meant. The perhaps unsurprising revelation is that Chinglish immediately lays bear is that language difference is secondary to cultural difference when it comes to understanding between Chinese and American people. Through Daniel, the audience is introduced to a world where yes means no, no means yes, and, “A curse upon your family for 18 generations!” means, “Meet me in your hotel room.” The perhaps surprising revelation is that Chinglish makes an even further revelation: that even recognizing cultural difference is an over-simplification of the chaos that arises when what is really meant and what is really at stake is misunderstood.

A small spoiler as to how the upside-down and backwards mess that arises all winds down comes with Daniel’s consulting presentation back in the United States, where he advises other businessmen to “know your place in their picture.” It is a lesson with deceptively straight-forward implications which Chinglish encourages the audience to pause and consider carefully, perhaps in all of our human interactions. After all, if you’re going to slip and fall, as we all inevitably do sometimes, you might as well “Slip And Fall Down Carefully.”

Chinglish is appearing at ArtsWest Theater in the West Seattle Junction through March 29.

Tickets are available at this link.

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Ballard News Tribune – 3

BallardNewsTribune

Kidney disease survivor Marcia Wold advocates for National Kidney Month

By Amanda Knox

We all know—by the green going up—that St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. But did you also know that March is National Kidney Month? Maybe not, and perhaps that’s because a lot of us don’t give our kidneys much thought.

To get you reacquainted, the kidneys are two fist-sized organs in your lower back beneath your rib cage. Their main function is to filter metabolic waste (like urea, creatinine and uric acid), excess water and impurities (like drugs) from your bloodstream. They also regulate your body’s salt, potassium and acid content, release hormones that regulate blood pressure and control the production of red blood cells and produce an active form of vitamin D that allows your body to absorb calcium.

Those guys. It’s very important that they function. Otherwise, water and waste build up in your build stream (a condition called edema), calcium is drained from your bones, and the rest of your tissues and organs are denied access to oxygen because your red blood count drops (anemia). We cannot survive without our kidneys, which is why it may trouble you to know that the majority of Americans who suffer from kidney disease—the lowered or loss of kidney function—don’t even know it yet.

That’s where patient advocates like Marcia Wold come in. Wold has been given a second chance at life thanks to a kidney transplant, and her means of giving back is to share the story of her experience with kidney disease so that others might be spared her fate, or worse.

Wold survived the full gauntlet, and lives with the consequences. The recipient of a kidney transplant, Wold has to be extremely careful to protect herself against any kind of infection. She can no longer garden. She has to avoid physical contact with her cats—much less their litter box— and other people. She must take three kinds of anti-rejection medication every day for the rest of her life.

Before the gift of a new kidney, Wold, like most kidney disease patients, had to undergo dialysis three times a week for five hours at a time. Dialysis is a process where a patient is hooked up to an artificial kidney, a machine. It requires a patient to be permanently installed with a fistula called the Scribner Shunt—a U-shaped tube between an artery and a vein of the arm—from which their blood can be drawn out, filtered through the artificial kidney and returned to the body. A part from being an inconvenience to schedule so much time around a full time job, the process of removing and returning blood causes painful cramping. Wold’s toes would curl in under her feet and she often heard whimpering from the other patients. “I wish it were possible for people to just come in to view the dialysis clinic,” Wold says. “It would help people realize that they need to take their health into their own hands before it’s too late.”

But the tragic twist to Wold’s story is that much of this could have been put off, or even prevented. It is a regular part of one’s yearly physical for creatinine levels to be tested through lab work. Creatinine is one of the metabolic wastes filtered out of the blood through the kidney. If creatinine levels are above a certain amount, it is a sign of kidney malfunction. For years, Wold’s creatinine levels were slowly but surely rising, but she didn’t know what that meant or what she could do about it. Wold explains, “We don’t know what we don’t know. There’s a need to ask questions. If a doctor says to you, ‘Marcia, if your creatinine level goes up again next year, I’m going to refer you to a nephrologist,’ my questions should have been, ‘What is creatinine? What does it tell me? What do I need to do? How much at risk am I? What is a nephrologist?’ I didn’t ask any of those questions.”

At the Northwest Kidney Center dialysis clinic, Wold was notorious for her positive attitude. She “went to a happy place” via visualization during her treatments and made every effort to not let dialysis prevent her from living a full life in between those sessions. Eventually, a Center representative encouraged her to become a patient advocate—an ambassador for the over 26 million Americans who knowingly or unknowingly are struggling with kidney disease. Her main message to the public at large is encouragement to be one’s own advocate, to be informed and to partner with physicians who will answer your questions and discuss your options.

In light of National Kidney Month, the National Kidney Foundation is offering health activities—like free screenings and interactive Q&A with the Foundation’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, via Twitter on March 14, World Kidney Day, from 12 to 2pm ET—to promote awareness of kidney health, disease and the risk factors in between. For more information, visitwww.kidney.org.

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West Seattle Herald – 11

Annie Lareau - Chinglish

ArtsWest: Ex-interim Artistic Director Annie Lareau on her direction of the theatre’s latest production, Chinglish

Article and photo by Amanda Knox

In the wake of Chinese New Year, ArtsWest Theatre has welcomed home ex interim Artistic Director Annie Lareau to direct the theatre’s latest production, Chinglish, by Tony award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang. Lareau—tall, warm, and full of energy—shared some time prior to rehearsal to discuss her vision and mission.

Let’s get right to it. What is your connection to this play?

I chose this play for a couple of reasons. One, I’m really interested in seeing more diverse casts onstage. It’s sort of a passion of mine. Then, David Henry Hwang is a seminal Asian-American writer in our country and he’s not done often enough. This is his newest piece, and when I heard that other theatres were passing it up because it’s challenging, I took up the gauntlet. It’s an important piece, it’s a comedy, and it’s fun. It’s also just doing his work and bringing more Asian-American actors to the stage. All those things combined led me to choose this piece, even if it’s a big challenge.

Can you talk to me a bit about the specific challenges?

The big challenge is that about a third, if not more, is spoken in Mandarin Chinese. It’s a really difficult language, because it’s tonal. When you see the play, you’ll see a lot of supertitles, which allows for the comedy and tension of mistranslation. It’s in the timing of the lines, because, for a non-Mandarin speaker, you have to read it to get the joke. I also found that directing was difficult, because the tonality of the language affects the rhythm and cadence of the lines. There’s the added challenge of coaching actors through not only new lines, but a whole new language.

How are you playing up the role of language?

David Henry Hwang wrote it into his play, about how things are misinterpreted or misunderstood. We’re certainly playing up the comedic element of how you can say things in Mandarin to an English-speaking person because you can get away with things you normally wouldn’t get to say. There’s comedy and tension in the translation of the lines, and in the conflict between what a character is saying and what they’re really saying.

Is your production of Chinglish grounded in real-world current events, or does it stand alone?

It has larger implication to the community in terms of our ability to understand each other and our place in the world. It’s not just about language. It’s about culture. It’s about what’s important to all of us. It’s a play about business, but also about love, so it has larger implications about both cultural relations and human relations. But it’s a very fun look at that. It’s not heavy-handed.

Can you talk to me a little bit more about your passion to get diversity onstage?

I think there’s a real lack in American theatre in the equity of color on our stages. And diverse stories told by diverse voices. It’s also a problem in movies. I mean, look at the Oscars. But when we live in a city and community whose population is diverse, we have a responsibility in arts to show what our community is really like in terms of who lives here and what stories are told. This particular story is written for five Asian actors and two American actors, and that’s one way of getting at it. There are other ways too. There’s color-blind casting. It’s something everyone’s aware of now, but this awareness still needs to lead to concrete action.

When did it first occur to you that there needed to be more diversity onstage?

I’ve been aware of it for a while. I’ve been in the theatre community for over twenty-five years, and while I didn’t think a lot about it at the beginning of my career, it’s become important to me, especially when I’m directing and responsible for putting the actors and the story onstage. There are not many people in the city who get to do that. And it’s hard. It’s hard to find actors of color because there is not enough work for them to stay here. They don’t get the same experience. They don’t get to build their chops and become stronger actors. It’s become important for me to change that as much as I have the opportunity.

In directing this play, have you been surprised by anything?

I was telling my cast the other night that I started dreaming in Mandarin. Of course I didn’t understand it, but I was amazed at how it’s infiltrating my world. You start to pick it up. You realize you actually recognize what someone is saying. It’s surprising because at first it sounded like gibberish and I thought, “How am I going to do this?” It’s also been great to see the actors find the intensity in the moments.

What is the intensity of this play?

The intensity comes in the scenes between our two leads, a Chinese woman and an American businessman who fall in love, but they’re married to other people. It’s an intensity of finding love even if you don’t speak the same language and how it’s complicated.

That seems like a more universal concept, because even when two people speak the same language, it’s not necessarily that they’re speaking the same language.

Right.

How is the audience going to go into this play versus how are they going to come out?

I think they’ll go in through the comedy of mistranslation that we’re all familiar with. The background of the set will be plastered with all these mistranslated signs like, “Deformed Man’s Toilet” instead of, “Handicap Toilet.” And it goes both ways, like all these people in American wearing Chinese characters that they think means one thing but actually means something offensive. You go in through that lens, but you come out with a deeper understanding of the differences and similarities in the cultures. I don’t want to blow it, but there’s a whole crux of the plot that turns on what it means to be successful in business and what you deem as impressive. It’s both very funny and very telling, what success looks like.

Any parting thoughts?

I hope people come! And I hope people are able to come away having found the underlying truth through the process of being lost in translation.

Chinglish will be playing at ArtsWest Theatre (4711 California Ave SW) from March 5th-29th, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15-$34.50 and may be purchased at the Box Office, online at https://artswest.secure.force.com/ticket, or by phone at (206) 938-0339.

West Seattle Herald

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West Seattle Herald – 10

West Seattle Herald

Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles premieres in the Northwest at ArtsWest theatre

By Amanda Knox

The modern, character-driven 4000 Miles by the young playwright Amy Herzog is artistic director Mathew Wright’s latest contribution to the ArtsWest stage. It stands out as a change in direction from the musicals of 2014’s autumn and winter in terms of genre, but keeps in line with the themes of connection, communication, and the weight of mortality featured in Dogfight and Judy’s Scary Little Christmas.

In this particular story, Wright sets a focused lens upon the importance of metaphor and experience that Herzog establishes in the text. Through the counterparts of the aged Vera, played by Susan Corzatte, and the youthful Leo, played by Adam Standley, the audience is introduced to a counter-balanced perspective of such epic themes as death, grief, and their weight upon a person’s psyche. Grounded in the plausible and realistic situation of a bike trip and convalescence in a family setting, death is both a sudden tragedy and a sad routine, the weight of years is set against the weight of feathers, and the convention of moving on as opposed to holding on is called into question.

Wright put together a strong cast, especially Corzatte and Sara Porkalob as Amanda. Their vocal intonations and facial expressions are both subtle and distinct, their gestures both natural and highly characteristic. They give off a sense of fully embodying the history of their characters up until the moment of the present on the stage, and their charismatic enjoyment of their comedic moments in contagious.

While you’d have to be lucky to live in an apartment in New York’s West Village with as much floor space as the ArtsWest stage, the design of the set is well-researched and consistent, from the oriental rug, to the leather-bound books and the paisley pillows, to the exposed brickwork around the windows. As usual, the ArtsWest stage comes across as a well-played character all its own, with subtle details that pull the
setting together and allow the actors to interact more realistically with the space. So it is when Vera turns her back on Leo to riffle through a drawer in search of her missing checkbook; or when Amanda leans over conspiratorially to whisper into the Buddha statue’s ear; or when Becca tenderly touches her fingertips to the radiator just before breaking some bad news to Leo.

The emotional gravity of the play hinges around center stage, where Leo and Vera share three beautifully-rendered, intimate moments that echo each other. Wide-eyed, marijuana-laced couch confessions give way t dark, narrative confession that elicit the audience’s imagination and imitate the feeling of suffocation, which gives way to the writing a of eulogy, where truth-telling is an ultimate expression of love because it means caring enough to know.

The audience comes away from the production with a sense of having had the privilege to glimpse a real unfolding of tension in the lives of the characters. Just as the characters come to experience ease and closeness, so do we.

ArtsWest’s production of 4000 Miles runs from January 22nd through February 15th, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15-$34.50 and may be purchased at the box office or online http://www.artswest.org/theatre-plays/4000-miles/. ArtsWest theatre is located at 4711 California Ave SW.

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West Seattle Herald – 9

West Seattle Herald

Delridge Grocery Co-op: $25K more to permitting, less than 300 more members to open

By Amanda Knox

Last we heard from them http://www.westseattleherald.com/2014/02/28/features/delridge-sustaining…, Delridge Co-op, the grassroots grocery mission for the Delridge corridor, was hosting music events at Skylark Café in order to inform the local public of their activity and attract potential members. Now, almost a year later, the Co-op is so close to finally opening it hurts. The board members, however committed, are weary. “They’ve been at it so long and it’s been completely volunteer,” explains Ranette Iding, a member of the board.

They’ve had some set backs—six years of them in fact, where it usually takes a new co-op only three years to come together. A big part of that delay had to do with the fact that for the first three years, the board had proceeded with a mind towards a different business model: a produce stand instead of a grocery store. Then the acting president of the board, Galena White, moved away to be closer to family. Most recently, a mailer wasn’t sent out as scheduled, so it was only by mid-January that the community received word that Delridge Co-op was soliciting a membership count of at least 300 by December 31st. “We’ve had some bad luck,” says Iding. But these greater and lesser setbacks have also taught the board a great deal towards constructing an ultimately successful business.

They’ve also made a lot of progress. Despite the late arrival of the mailer, they met their goal of 300+ members by the end of this year. They have secured a location below Cottage Grove Commons off Delridge Way, as well as the moral and financial support of their landlords, the DESC. They’ve updated their business model from produce stand to grocery store, which they hope will be more useful and profitable to the community. In addition to that, they’re also determined to be a multi-stakeholder company, extending ownership and management of the company to all interested parties. “It’s the idea that not just the consumers own the co-op and have a voting arm and it recognizes their needs and their wants, but the producers, like the farmers and small item producers, can also option to be owners of the co-op, as well as the workers,” Iding explains. The board hopes this will guarantee fair prices for consumers as well as fair wages for workers and farmers providing the store’s service and product.

The grocery store is yet to be built, but the construction is expected to take only three months to complete and can begin as soon as the co-op can scrape up another $25,000. They hope to receive this investment through member loans. The timing of this campaign, immediately post the holiday season, isn’t ideal, but the board is confident that existing members will step up to support this latest financial push, especially when they understand what it’s all going to. “One of the questions we get from the community is, ‘Why do we need so much money?’ The main reason is industry standards. We’ve researched what we need, but on top of that, it’s money to keep our business solvent without necessarily expecting a profit for a period of time,” Iding explains.

Despite their bad luck, Delridge Co-op has had the good fortune to rely on the talent and passion of its community members, who for six years have volunteered their time and talents to the fresh food mission. The board also knows that there’s even more talent out there in the community, and they are working to better communicate and reach out to the resources that are hidden in plain sight across the corridor. Even when the ball hasn’t bounced the way they planned, Delridge Co-op has somehow survived. “We know what we’re doing,” Iding explains. “We just need to keep trudging along.”

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West Seattle Herald – 8

West Seattle Herald

The Advocate’s Dilemma: the humanitarian outreach of West Seattle resident John Murphy benefitting the Yezidi

By Amanda Knox

Charly McCreary fumbles with an encrypted text message app on her phone as we sit down at a table by the window inside the Uptown Espresso on Delridge. “He’s getting a little more cautious about protecting his communications just because there’s allegedly a five million dollar bounty for the capture of an American where he is right now,” she explains.

He is John Murphy, McCreary’s ex-husband, business partner, and best friend, who left West Seattle on December 15th to provide humanitarian relief to the Yezidi, an ethnic and religious minority in Northern Iraq facing forced conversion, slavery, and extermination by the jihadist group, I.S.

The existence of the Yezidi, much less their current plight, is not common knowledge to the average United States citizen. However, they were noted by President Obama in August last year, when I.S. jihadists ambushed Yezidi villages and forced roughly 40,000 Yezidi to flee up nearby Mount Sinjar, where they were trapped until Syrian Kurdish fighters could carve out an avenue of escape into Kurdistan. Yezidi refugees are there accommodated in N.G.O. (non-governmental organization) camps, which seek to meet their most basic needs. The U.N., Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have documented and reported of the horrors suffered by the Yezidi who can’t manage to escape: males over the age of ten rounded up and gunned down; males under the age of ten abducted, abused, and forced to convert to Sunni Islam; females raped, enslaved, and murdered.

I.S. (Islamic State), also known in the Western world as I.S.I.S. (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or I.S.I.L. (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), in the Middle East as D.A.E.S.H., in June of last year proclaimed itself to be the religious, political, and military authority over all Muslims worldwide . Territory they lay claim to is subjected to their interpretation of Sunni Islamic creed and law, and Iraqi citizens of ethnic and religious minorities are forcibly either “cleansed” or exterminated.

Murphy and McCreary are cofounders of The Cabiri, an acrobatic theatre company that is “the theatrical emissary of the Anunnaki Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to preserve the mythologies of cultures that have passed into antiquity.” For Murphy and McCreary, the ethnic cleansing of the Iraqi people is particularly tragic.

But Murphy takes the Yezidi’s plight even more personally, enough to risk his life to provide direct support to individuals he’s never before come into contact with. “When he left, it was, ‘I may never see you again,’ but it was never a question of ‘Should I go?’ It was something he really felt called to do,” McCreary explains.

Murphy is approaching the plight of the Yezidi on his own terms, sans affiliation with any aid organization, and sans informing, even, the U.S. government. “He was afraid they wouldn’t let him go,” McCreary explains. As for aid organizations, Murphy writes on his GoFundMe page, “The N.G.O.’s have been doing excellent work, but they have been overwhelmed, and at least a fifth of the refugees are being cared for in homes and by local town community organizations. Heroic efforts are everywhere, but they are not getting their needs met at this time.”

Since August, Murphy has been responding to all sides of the problem. He’s raised his own funds, lobbied congress, and founded the Yezidi Alliance , a nonprofit organization seeking to support the Yezidi abroad and connect the few Yezidi here in the U.S. “We’re looking into refugee Visas, medical Visas…” says McCreary. “Reaching out to elected officials and letting them know that we support military support of the effort over there in terms of shutting down terrorist operations. …We do think the U.S. has a role in helping out over there, whether it’s aid or helping make the terrorists’ job a lot harder to do.” These, of course, are efforts Murphy can do from the security of West Seattle.

The next step that Murphy took, with all the risk it entails and passion it required, is harder to empathize with by anyone less than advocate. McCreary’s phone pings with an encrypted message from Murphy, who’s stayed up past midnight in Şirnak, Turkey in order to join our conversation. “I came here to be with the Yezidi,” he writes. “They took me in and my life is to defend them.”

“A part of the reason for him being there,” McCreary explains, “is so he can be among them, listen, and then come back able to speak on their behalf as best as a Western person can.”

For Murphy, it’s not just about having a heart and feeling for someone else. It’s also not just about recognizing your neighbor as your brother. It’s about recognizing yourself in the other and responding as fully as if you were defending your own freedom and your own life. The leap, then, from advocating from a place of security to advocating from a place of insecurity was not so great an emotional distance after all.

But not everyone who may potentially empathize with the Yezidi will necessarily identify with them in the same way Murphy does. There is an uncomfortable abyss between knowing the facts of a reality and feeling moved by those facts. While we all begin as casual observers to most everything, something must happen inside of us to react as self-sacrificingly and passionately as the advocate. This is the advocate’s dilemma in relation to the rest of society when attempting to reach out for support.

There’s tension on the other side as well. “There’s been some concern and suspicion,” McCreary explains. “He’s been accused of being C.I.A. [by a …There has been suspicion around his motives. I also think it’s just hard for [the to believe an American would come there by himself to volunteer and just hang out and listen. I think he’s had to prove himself.”

Murphy will have to prove himself again and again. The next challenge in his journey will be to translate his direct experience with the Yezidi into meaningful indirect experience for the rest us. Murphy knows that he alone, despite everything he’s willing to sacrifice, can’t save the Yezidi, and “his priority to let them know that they are not alone and that the world does want them to survive,” requires the support of the Western world he calls home.

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West Seattle Herald – 7

Callan Barth

Life of an artist: Callan Barth

Article and photo by Amanda Knox

Callan Barth, ensemble member in this year’s 5th Avenue production of A Christmas Story, is wasting no time in assimilating as much as he can toward his professional life as an artist. Acting, singing, dancing, writing—Barth has been honing his talents and passions for the last three years—since he was seven years old.

It all started when his class went to see Broadway Bound’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was his first glimpse of theater, and what he saw as a tangible, legitimate step towards his ultimate goal: film.

Much more than a fan, Barth is a film connoisseur. He studies them, every aspect of them, from the dramatic arc to the acting to the directing. He studies the careers of the artists behind the art, and has favorites who he treats as models: Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese (even if he’s still not allowed to watch the majority of his films), Will Farrell…

…Leonardo DiCaprio, “because he plays a lot of characters in a lot of different ways and started off as a child,”

…and Ray Harryhausen, “because he watched something and said, ‘I want to do that,’ like I did.”

That is, upon seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Barth went home and told his mother, Thy Huynh, that he wanted to audition, never mind that he still needed to learn how to act, sing, and dance. Huynh, an art appreciator but stage- and camera-shy herself, didn’t know where Barth’s drive was coming from, but did everything to encourage him. She was his first music teacher, singing along with him to Disney tunes in the car and offering constructive criticism about his interpretation (not enough energy or emotion?). To this day she taxis him to all auditions, rehearsals, performances, dance lessons, and now, interviews.

Before A Christmas Story, Barth performed in the ensemble of other professional productions such as The Ring of the Nibelung at Seattle Opera and Oliver at the 5th Avenue. From these experiences he’s gleaned and centered himself on some deceptively simple and profound insights. A highlight from our conversation:

Q: What do you have to do to be an artist?

A: You don’t have to be good at art to be an artist. You just have to feel something and then try to make it.

His only regret? That there isn’t more activity and opportunity for child actors in even this highly active theater town.

West Seattle Herald

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Ballard News Tribune – 2

BallardNewsTribune

It’s not an invasion: on the spike in coyote sightings this Autumn

By Amanda Knox

When asked about what sort of services have been provided in response to reports of coyote sightings in Ballard urban areas, Chris Anderson, District 12 (King County) wildlife biologist, responds, “What do you mean, services?”

Clearly we hadn’t started out on the same page.

Since September, local news sources have reported the accounts of Ballard residents who sighted coyotes stalking the streets and even attacking pets. The various sightings added up, raising public concern. Who else to call for professional assistance than Seattle Animal Control?

It turns out that SAC is concerned with domestic animals, not wildlife, and they don’t respond in the case of a wild animal unless it happens to be injured or dead. Rather, living, roaming wildlife are the concern of a distinct branch called the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. And their prescription for human-wildlife relations? Educate the humans on how behave properly.

It also turns out that recent increased coyote sightings in urban areas are not a sign of invasion. Those same coyotes have been there all along, tucked quietly away in the greenbelts threaded throughout the city. Autumn is the time of year that all wildlife populations (coyote, raccoon, bird…) are at their peak and most mobile. Coyote pups in particular have grown up and into their winter coats, and naturally seek out their own patches of territory in other greenbelts, requiring migration through our urban areas. The winter months then thin out their population again. It happens every year in the same way, in our vicinity, mostly without our notice. These are urban wildlife.

The trick is keeping them wild, and any hiccups in this endeavor are not the fault of the coyotes. According to the WDFW website, “Humans increase the likelihood of conflicts with coyotes by deliberately or inadvertently feeding the animals, whether by handouts or by providing access to food sources such as garbage, pet food, or livestock carcasses. When people provide food, coyotes quickly lose their natural fear of humans and become increasingly aggressive. They also become dependent on the easy food source people provide. Once a coyote stops hunting on its own and loses its fear of people, it becomes dangerous and may attack without warning.”

WDFW provides follow-up instructions for how to avoid inadvertently attracting coyote conflict:
• Don’t leave children unattended where coyotes are frequently seen or heard.
• Prevent access to garbage and compost by tightly securing receptacles or keeping receptacles in enclosed locations.
• Feed pets indoors and keep them indoors overnight.
• If you should encounter an aggressive coyote, pick up small children immediately and act big and aggressively. Convince the coyote you are not prey, but a potential danger.

Coyotes are an integral part of our ecosystem, and an invaluable asset in controlling the non-native rodent population. Rather than an invader, they are actually our neighbors, and should be regarded respectfully, preferably from a distance.

For more information on the animal and how a human should respond to it, please visit http://wdfw.wa.gov.

 

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Ballard News Tribune – 1

BallardNewsTribune

The Inverse Opera encores its intimate and theatrical rendition of Handel’s Messiah

By Amanda Knox

Remember those kids in high school who took part in all the choir and theatre productions and sang show tunes and choral harmonies from classroom to classroom between periods? Ever wonder what happened to them? What they might be up to five, ten, or twenty years later if they were to trade those locker-lined hallways for, say, the local pub? That’s the Inverse Opera.

Last year, when the troupe of twelve singers and performers was only two years old, they coproduced with Taproot Theatre a theatrical version of Handel’s Messiah just in time for the holidays and were so successful in selling out seats and charming audiences that Taproot asked them to perform again this year.

Messiah (1742) is an oratorio by George Frideric Handel covering the whole story of Jesus, from the prophesy of his birth, through his crucifixion and ascension, to the prophesy of his second coming. It has been performed since the 19th Century as a grandiose choral piece, but was originally intended as a small, intimate performance. As written, its three-part structure resembles an opera, but it is not meant as a dramatic piece involving characters and choreography.

So the Inverse Opera’s rendition of Messiah does precisely the opposite of what any other modern production is doing: they’ve returned to Handel’s original scope, but dramatized it. Inverse Opera, indeed.

This both works and doesn’t work. The Isaac Studio at Taproot Theatre is a black box with seating rising away from a ground-level proscenium stage. From any seat in the house your going to be up close to the performers, privy to every gleeful smile and ghastly grimace that are sometimes perfectly measured to the distance between performer and viewer, and sometimes out of proportion on the side of too much.

The setting is abstract, relying only on the most basic of props: a chair, the curtain, the performers’ own music binders. The choreography within this simple space is truly magical and a strength of the production. You will be surprised and charmed by the ingenuity of how the entirety of the space is taken advantage of.

Four soloists (soprano Shirley Traverse, alto Hayley Baudrau Gaarde, tenor Ben Sasnett, and bass Eric Jensen) largely bear the burden of dramatizing the production. They portray characters who were never intended to be within or around the music and text, who take on specific pieces as opportunities at character development. However, except for the bass soloist, a kind of Scrooge-like character who goes from ornery to honest, it is unclear who the characters are, what their stakes are, and how they develop. It is clear that they’re all really stoked about Christmas.

What is lacking in narrative clarity is made up for by musical prowess and sheer entertainment value. Every soloist and ensemble member must and does hold their ground through an incredibly complex and challenging harmonic production in the Baroque style. Each performer has studied and practiced the material to the point of becoming the music’s symbiotic vessel. Those high school theatre kids have grown chops.

The Inverse Opera will perform Messiah from Dec 5-20 at The Isaac Studio at Taproot Theatre (208 N. 85th St.). Tickets cost $25-$30 ($20 for parties of 10 or more) and may be purchased online at http://inverseopera.brownpapertickets.com. There’s even a café in the lobby of the theatre so you can warm yourself up with food and drink before the show.

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