Keep fighting for your innocence

Originally published on 23 June 2015 by CNN Opinions here.


The first time I attended the Innocence Network Conference in 2014, I had to be coaxed into going. Greg Hampikian, director of the Idaho Innocence Project, informed me that not only was the conference going to be held in Portland, Oregon — a mere three-hour drive from where I lived in Seattle — but it was also about time that I met the crew. It’s all love! Hampikian promised. But I wasn’t sure.

The notoriety of my case made me feel claustrophobic. Could I handle walking into a room full of hundreds of people who might judge me? More importantly, I was not yet exonerated. I had, in fact, been very recently re-convicted. Did I even belong? At first glance, the conference was not only a nerve-wracking ride I had never been on, but I didn’t know if I met the height requirement.

The Innocence Network, it turned out, had a term for this: “still fighting.” That is, not “officially innocent.”

Unlike me, there are many innocent people who do not find the clear, satisfying justice of exoneration. Sometimes, a prosecutor can be made to see that there were deficiencies with a conviction, but may not believe — or want to admit — that the conviction was wrong.

In such cases, the Innocence Project can help people achieve freedom only by reaching an agreement with the prosecutor short of full exoneration, such as for “time served.” If the client agrees, she is freed, but she faces, as I was facing, the prospect of having to suffer indefinitely the disparity between a recognized, official verdict of guilt and the unrecognized, unofficial fact of one’s innocence.

Convinced by Hampikian’s optimism, I did attend. And I’m so glad I did because he was right: the people involved in the Innocence Project are incredible. They embraced me as a little sister. They assured me I was safe, that nothing was expected of me, that everyone was just pleased to finally get to know me.

I found a community brimming with love and understanding. That community has supported, and continues to support, me and countless others wrongfully convicted. The innocent individual who has not yet been exonerated — even more than the exoneree — is the symbol of the Innocence Project, because before the world can make your innocence official, someone must fight for it.

At the time of the case against Raffaele Sollecito and me in Italy, there was no Innocence Project in Italy. There was no organization that championed individual cases of actual innocence and advocated — through research, education and legislation — against the causes of wrongful conviction. The Italian Innocence Project exists as of 2015 and consists of just two legal experts, for now.

But the Innocence Network, the cooperative conglomeration of state-by-state Innocence Projects here in the United States, has existed since the first project was founded by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City in 1992. Since its founding, 329 people have been exonerated in the United States, 20 of whom were on death row. The Innocence Project was directly involved in 176 of those cases. Equally important, it has helped to find 140 real perpetrators, bringing justice to the victims.

The Innocence Project not only works to overturn wrongful convictions of individual innocents, but also analyzes the causes of convictions that have been proven wrongful. It works to implement best practices and legislation that would help prevent future wrongful convictions, including: allowing convicts to carry out post-conviction testing, such as DNA testing; preservation of evidence; reforming eyewitness practices; recording interrogations to protect against false confessions/admissions; and abolishing the death penalty.

Finally, the organization works to pass legislation that would provide financial compensation to the victims of wrongful conviction who, along with their freedom, lost their financial security to years of debt and inertia.

The victims of wrongful conviction are deserving of justice and help. The dedicated persons involved in Innocence Projects throughout the United States, and now throughout the world, provide the necessary resources for those wrongfully convicted to be set free.

They also provide the crucial network of support for those set free to reclaim their lives in freedom—something I was reminded of when I attended the recent Innocence Network conference in 2015, fully exonerated and eager to give back the support I have received to those who are still fighting.

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After War of the Encyclopeadists

Christopher Robinson & Gavin Kovite

Gavin Kovite (left) and Christopher Robinson (right) cuddling with a copy of War of the Encyclopeadists. Photo by Amanda Knox.

An interview with Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite about what comes next

I think there were four kinds of scotch. The reason I’m not completely certain about that number is because I am certain we each had a glass of each. Discussing characters, conclusions, and the measure of literary success degenerated into comparisons of Star Trek: The Next Generation to Moby Dick, a trip to QFC for roast chicken, a roof-top hang-out overlooking the Space Needle, and finally, a quiet meandering back to our respective Capitol Hill apartments in the wee hours of the next morning. This was the context of my interview with Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite about War of the Encyclopeadists, published May 19th. What follows is what fans can look forward to next:

Kovite: We’re going to write a book about Amazon in Detroit.

Why?

Kovite: Detroit because Detroit is super interesting. And also Amazon is super interesting. And Amazon is developing drones, right? And because of the plight of the economic issues in Detroit right now…The idea is that, in the near future, somehow Amazon gets the FAA of Detroit and Michigan to carve out a few blocks that so they can do a beta testing.

Robinson: They’re only like a year away from actual deliveries. It’s set near enough in the future that we’re going to have to be open to revising the concept as the future catches up. We want to be topical. We want to deal with race and class and the internet economy and the efflorescence of arts cultures. These things are combined in this complicated nexus in Detroit right now.

Who are the characters you’re grounding the reader in?

Robinson: We have a couple characters who are not based on anyone in particular. We’ve got one vet character who’s probably the closest hold over [from War of the Encyclopeadists] to this book, who’s just getting out of the army, who’s a Detroit native who comes back home and gets a job as an EMT and his wife just left him with a young baby and he has visitation with his kid. His best buddy from high school has been dabbling in petty crime. Nothing much has been happening for him and he’s competing in the local Mixed Martial Arts circuit. There’s a group of art hipster kids who move into a foreclosed house and start up an art colony. They have a rotating cast of artists and residents coming though. There will be some urban farmer types connected with them.

Kovite: There’s the Amazon drone nerds and the program head who comes over, who may or may not be based on my friend who works at Amazon. Which is cool because we live in Seattle and have access to people who work at Amazon. Although, Amazon is really secretive. My friend told me that there’s so much security in the company that people in one program don’t know what people in another program are doing and they’ll only find out from regular news, because there are these firewalls between the groups. It’s almost like the army.

Robinson: Our main Amazon character is this woman who’s a VP of some kind, and she’s responsible for spearheading this new Amazon program, Amazon Sports. They have their own TV network now, and they’ll have the NFL, but Amazon only.

Kovite: Well, it’s like lacrosse. Pingpong.

Robinson: It starts with a golf open. They pay a bunch of money to a bunch of golfers to do this four-day tournament and it’s broadcast only on this Amazon streaming service.

Kovite: And curling and arm-wrestling. Stuff that doesn’t have a big league already.

Robinson: And then they branch into MMA. The goal is maybe one day they’ve got MLB. So this MMA guy in Detroit is one of their first fighters in one of the fights they’re going to have at the Amazon Sports League. The Amazon VP moves from Seattle to Detroit to supervise this project. And there’s also someone doing the drone delivery program there. There will be some hacker kids in Detroit who capture a downed drone and reprogram it and use it. There’s a social activist, aspiring rapper girl who’s one of the black characters. There’s going to be a fair black-white divide, I think, between the Detroit natives and the immigrants.

Kovite: We’re going to Detroit for a month to get into the community.

Robinson: In Detroit, do you remember what the percentage is?

Kovite: It’s something like 80% African American.

Robinson: So most of our Detroit native characters are going to be black. And most of our arts colony kids and Amazon workers are going to be white and there are going to be tensions over that.

How are they going to come into contact?

Robinson: In a bunch of small ways. Things like the Amazon drone crashing and these kids finding it and reprograming it. Or like the aspiring rapper girl finds out that the arts colony kids have built a recording studio in their foreclosed house and they come together that way. Or this Detroit native guy who’s dabbling in crime who gets recruited to be part of the Amazon Sports League. So it will be…I don’t know if picaresque is the right word…It’s very grounded in characters, but not in plot. War of the Encyclopeadists was already a little like that, and this is pushed even more in that direction, where there’s even more characters and even less plot.

Robinson and Kovite spoke to me on the eve of their departure for a War of the Encyclopeadists reading tour across the country. The tour will come to end at the Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park on June 22nd at 7:00pm.

War of the Encyclopeadists is a thoughtful, touching, fun novel about two millennials coming of age via love triangles, grad school, and the Iraq war. You can purchase the novel on Amazon.

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West Seattle Herald – 16

War of the Encyclopeadists

War of the Encyclopeadists by Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite a hilarious and heartbreaking investigation of youth and truth

By Amanda Knox

Originally published in The West Seattle Herald 05/28/15

After reading Chris Robinson and Gavin Kovite’s debut novel, War of the Encyclopeadists, I find myself wishing I could write about it in their narrative voice. I too want to be clever and sensually-aware and write lines like, ‘he drifted back to a sort of mental hand-wringing,’ and, ‘she moved in an invisible cloud of woman-smell.’ I too want to be as insightful and eloquent as the line, ‘life is just a string of ends, none of them simple, all of them seeds,’ suggests about these two young writers/friends.

Here’s another: ‘They had no real artistic talent, but they had a knack for carrying stupid jokes to their absurd conclusions.’ This is page one, and comes across as an explanation for each successive page to come, a challenge to the legitimacy of their own literature. Except that this is a novel about Halifax Corderoy and Mickey Montauk, who are and are not Chris Robinson and Gavin Kovite. What’s true? None of it. All of it. It might as well be.

In the story, Corderoy and Montauk hit it off in the best way two bachelors with bachelor’s degrees can. But then Corderoy screws it up with an object of his affection he’s not ready for and ships off to grad school. Montauk does as he’s told and ships off to Baghdad. Psychological and emotional implosions. Physical explosions. Lives that intersect with and mirror each other.

Robinson and Kovite write with directness that is not arrogant, cleverness that is not boastful, honesty and insightfulness that promises that wisdom has been attained and life has progressed past the final pages of the written story. You can tell they are poets because of the way lines proceed rhythmically and the way ideas and actions are juxtaposed for exponentially more emotional impact. You can tell they are hipster-millennials because they relish ideas and moments of beauty-ugliness, irony, unconventional perfection, and meaningfully loose ends.

And then, in the end, the reader is ultimately reminded—through language like ‘he might have been saying’—that the story is not real. Or otherwise that it is more real, even, than what came before it, because the story takes on a life of its own, and ultimately belongs not to those who have had a privileged glimpse into it, but to those who created it.

What’s for certain is that War of the Encyclopeadists is not a stupid joke with an absurd conclusion. Rather, it’s a serious, both hilarious and heartbreaking, investigation of the truth of two lives through fiction. ‘We needed to know the truth, and no one would give it to us, so we made it up as we went. We authored our lives in real time.’

Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite are from Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington. Robinson went on to get his MFA from Hunter College. Kovite served in Iraq and became an army lawyer. War of the Encyclopeadists was published on May 19th.

Photo courtesy of GoodReads.com
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West Seattle Herald – 15

Originally published by The West Seattle Herald.

Russell Coronado

Lisa Coronado and Wonder Russell, lead actress and writer/director of the upcoming West Seattle-based short film, ‘See You On the Other Side.’ Photo by Amanda Knox.

 

West Seattle-based short film ‘See You On the Other Side’ by writer/director Wonder Russell seeks featured extras

By Amanda Knox

05/15/15

West Seattlite Wonder Russell’s new short film See You On the Other Side is about a depressed, reclusive, recently-widowed young woman who attempts to bring her dead husband back to this side of life by any means necessary.

Russell wrote the script in response to observing her mother after the death of her father. “It was world ending,” says Russell. “It was like living in an alternate reality that you don’t want so hard that you don’t want to be alive.”

Russell built a story featuring retreat, recreation, and redemption. The young widow retreats from the reality of life without her husband by altering that reality using living elements immediately around her. But at what expense? And are there better, more life-affirming alternatives to the young widow’s desperate and supernatural attempt to reshape life itself? These are the questions that the film promises to tackle.

Tackling the lead is Lisa Coronado. She’s West Seattle’s Zoey Deschanel, with bright blue eyes, pale complexion, dark hair, and overall perky pleasantness. Coronado will have to get in touch with a dark and desperate side of herself to play the part, but she says, “It’s written so well, it’s hard not to picture yourself as that person, experiencing that sense of loss.”

This is not Russell and Coronado’s first time working together. They bonded over the fact that they are both not only in the film industry, but also West Seattlites similar in age and family set-up. Both are moms—though Russell of two small, energetic, and affectionate dogs. They also both exhibit a bubbling-over passion and excitement for what they do. Coronado calls it, “crazy, awesome energy.” For example, when Russell finally envisioned the climactic scene of the story, which required a revamping of the entire script, instead of grumbling and shuffling papers she pounced on the opportunity and even called up Coronado to share in her enthusiasm.

For Russell, the outward expression of her innermost thoughts and feelings through storytelling is an experience of catharsis. It’s also this catharsis that she’s looking to portray in the film. “When writing, I just wanted it to be something to help people,” Russell says. “I want to portray how a tragedy makes you shut everyone out, but redemption turns your focus outward again.” So a resurrection story. Not of the deceased husband, but of the desperate widow.

Russell has scoped out a location near Alki beach and is poised to film the entire piece in three days, May 29th-31st. She has her male and female leads picked out, but is still in need of her featured extras. Featured meaning that each extra will have a significant close-up during the climactic scene of the film. She welcomes any West Seattlite who is interested in a part to contact her.

Besides that, the only other task Russell and Coronado need to wrap up before shooting is the crowdfunding effort that will pay for the film’s production. Russell is already about 85% of the way to her goal through the site Seed & Spark, and needs to earn another $1500 in less than 10 days. She hopes to make the final push at a “Join the Crowd” event hosted by the Northwest Film Forum on May 17th, where other filmmakers also undergoing crowdfunding efforts gather and present their projects to everyone’s cumulative supporters and investors.

No matter what, though, the film is going forward. Russell hopes to have it fully produced and ready by the fall, in time for submission to Sundance. Until then, you can search for Russell and Coronado’s previous collaborations, the short films Revelation and Ten Years Later, each featured at SIFF in the past years.

For more information and to offer support, visit Russell’s See You On the Other Side page at Seed & Spark here.

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West Seattle Herald – 14

Originally published by the West Seattle Herald on 04/23/15.

Shawn Belyea

Shawn Belyea directs ArtsWest revivial of Seattle cult classic, Angry Housewives

By Amanda Knox

Photo: Director Shawn Belyea is taking on the cult classic Angry Housewives at West Seattle’s ArtsWest Theater.

Tonight at 7:30pm ArtsWest Theatre will open its production of Angry Housewives. Written and originally produced by Seattleites A.M. Collins (book) and Chad Henry (music and lyrics) in 1983, the punk-rock musical was a cult phenomenon that ran over six years at the Pioneer Square Theatre until the theatre’s closure in 1989. While Angry Housewives has since been produced elsewhere, ArtsWest will be the first to revive the show in its original Seattle setting.

This will also be ArtsWest’s final show in its 2014-2015 season, so the desire to send out the season with a bang, coupled with the pressure to live up to the show’s legacy, means that the Angry Housewives production team is feeling the heat from multiple directions.

Yesterday, after the audience rollicked into the night after a pre-show fueled by $1 beers courtesy of Elliott Bay Brewery, director Shawn Belyea stayed late into the evening with his team giving copious notes. Artistic director Mathew Wright let me in the back for a privileged glance of Belyea’s team hard at work.

As it turns out, audiences may look forward to the type of show where the standard notes on light cues (“Bring the purple in during the transition.”) and line delivery (“Keep it tight. Don’t swallow it.”) are interspersed with observations like, “I missed the butt smack!” and suggestions like, “More Muppet arms!” Choreographer Troy Wageman posed voluptuously to emphasize that his heroines should, “Do the full drag.” Meanwhile, tech-dog Beezus (so read her bandana) meandered around the stage and up the rafters, finding cosy perches in actors’ laps.

Shawn Belyea has been an active in Seattle theatre as director and performer for many years and for many companies, such as the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Seattle Public Theatre, ACT, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and the Village Theatre, to name a few. He founded the 14/48 Project, which produces the World’s Quickest Theatre Festival (where 14 plays are produced and performed within 48 hours) and Theatre Anonymous (where performers first come into contact with each other on the opening night). Belyea’s mission is to foster a theatre community that trains and encourages new generations of theatre artists.

Angry Housewives fits into that mission because, above all else, Belyea’s direction aims to celebrate Seattle’s theatrical and musical heritage. Belyea says he acknowledges the other angles available within the script—the story of female empowerment, which he says is “relevant because there is still wage inequality and inequity in the arts for women,” and the entertainment value of 80’s nostalgia—but his primary focus is the celebration of that defining period of time where Seattle became a punk and grunge capital and center of counterculture.

“It’s a ton of fun,” Belyea promises. “We’ve done a really good job of bringing it home.”

Angry Housewives will be performed at ArtWest Theatre (4711 California Ave SW) April 23-May 24, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm. Tickets cost $17-$36.50 and may be bought at the box office or at this link.

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West Seattle Herald – 13

West Seattle Herald

The Do’s and Don’ts of Kimball Allen’s live talk/variety show “Triple Threat” at the Triple Door, featuring ArtsWest’s Mathrew Wright and Chelsea Le Valley

By Amanda Knox

Published in the West Seattle Herald on 04/05/2015

On Friday, April 3, the Triple Door hosted the inaugural performance of Kimball Allen’s talk and variety show, “Triple Threat,” directed by Emma Hassett. Allen confesses that his dream is to establish it as a “Seattle staple.” So how did it go? Well, it came across like the pilot of a new TV show: a good idea, entertaining, not yet fully formed. Here are the DO and DON’T suggestions on how to make Allen’s dream come true:

DO integrate emerging and established Pacific Northwest talent. Allen started off with an excellent balance: reknown author Dan Savage, entertainer Mama Tits, and the Captain Smartypants ensemble of the Seattle Men’s Chorus next to lesser known but emerging aerial artist Tanya Brno, storyteller Summer Waldron, comedian Wilfred Padua, and actress Chelsea Le Valley.

DON’T work against the guests’ talents through chunky time management and technical blunders. Taking a cue from other shows that feature a live band, Allen could have better integrated his musical guest, rock band Prom Queen, had he timed the performances of their songs throughout the show as opposed to leaving them for the end. It was also a shame that the sound mixing wasn’t more closely managed, allowing for awkward blunders – some microphones peaking over others and Mama Tit’s soundtrack coming in too early.

DO pick a theme and have confidence in it. While Allen didn’t originally set out to make “Queer” the theme of his inaugural show, when the run down of his guests made it look that way, he ran with it, inviting the audience to put on their “gay hats” for the evening and even integrating a special costume change – prom dress – for the occasion.

DON’T blame the audience when they chicken out and ruin a bit. When the audience talent show turned up no talent, Allen briefly betrayed his nervousness with the passive-aggressive poke at the audience, “You’re in trouble.” No, they weren’t. Not everyone is an entertainer.

DO promote the professional and personal work of the guests. Throughout the show, Allen was as much a grateful host as a gleeful groupie, ever-ready and willing to make his party as much fun for his guest talent as for the audience. Allen offered a welcoming atmosphere for his guests to talk about their personal passions and professional successes. He was particularly gracious in sharing the hosting spotlight with the glamorous Mama Tits, who strutted onstage in her pink, spike-heeled glory, powerfully performed Etta James’s “I’m Feeling Good,” was interviewed on her advocacy for HIV health awareness, and then proceeded to judge the talent contest.

DON’T have the only black talent to grace the stage be the sexy servant. Allen didn’t mean it that way, but that kind of misunderstanding is so avoidable. There’s plenty of talent in Seattle to choose from.

DO put together a well-rounded show that, as director Emma Hassett says, “puts the audience through the emotional gamut.” Hassett and Allen thoughtfully tempered glamour and theatrics with grounded storytelling and personal interaction. Each performer brought a different energy to the stage – Dan Savage’s casual brilliance, Wilfred Padua’s awkward assertiveness, Summer Waldron’s eager earnestness – that elicited here laughter, there compassion, here again embarrassment.

DON’T rely on the guest talent to structure the narrative arch of the show. As much as the themes of queer issues, bullying, and ultimate self-confidence and celebration successfully flowed throughout the acts, “Triple Threat” lacked a landing pad. If Allen wants his show to become a staple, “Triple Threat” endings need to be as strong, if not stronger, than their beginnings. Allen needs to provide the audience with a message to take away that lingers and makes the audience feel they should come back for more.

DO put on another show. The pilot is full of well-intentioned promise and legitimate value. Allen is a fun, refreshing host because he’s a fan, just like us.

 

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The Seattle Times / Oggi – 1

AMK 03:27:15

Moving Forward, With Gratitude and a Purpose

“Daro’ voce agli innocenti condannati ingiustamente”

By Amanda Knox

Photo by Reuters.
Published in The Seattle Times and Oggi 0n 04/03/2015

THROUGHOUT these past seven and a half years, knowledge of my innocence propelled me forward. Your kindness sustained me. I am, and forever will be, grateful to the many people who helped me survive when I was at my most vulnerable and almost entirely lost. To them I say, “Thank you.” Many times over, thank you.

After so many years of trial and uncertainty, I feel relieved and grateful for the decision of Italy’s highest court to find me innocent of Meredith Kercher’s murder. And I am equally grateful that Raffaele Sollecito can now also move past his own wrongful conviction. I am acutely aware, however, that this story does not have a happy ending. Unlike a wrongful conviction, which can be overturned, nothing will ever bring Meredith back to her family and loved ones.

Whatever the future holds for me, I know that I must give back. I survived because my dear family gave up their lives to be with me in Italy; because scores of friends donated their resources; because my lawyers worked tirelessly to bring attention to the evidence that exonerated me; because strangers — from world-renowned DNA experts to former FBI crime-scene investigators to everyday citizens — saw the injustice in my case and spoke out; and because kind residents of Seattle gave me jobs to help me financially while I tried to clear my name. I will do everything I can to pay forward all everyone has done for me.

I am all too aware of how lucky I am to have received such strong support. I am also aware that countless other wrongfully convicted people do not have such support. I will work to give a voice to those individuals. I will do this because I know how a wrongful conviction can destroy one’s life, and because we best honor crime victims by ensuring that the actual perpetrators are brought to justice.

To everyone who has spoken out on my behalf, from Seattle to Rome: Thank you. I look forward to making you proud for having supported me and my family.

Posted in Journalism, Meredith Kercher Murder | Tagged , , , | 101 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 361 Comments

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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