I got my start learning creative writing –specifically playwriting– from Naomi Iizuka at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She taught me how let ideas flow uncensored and how to refine them by playing with different set-ups or constraints which would yield something interesting. I was influenced in my creative and social justice pursuits by Elizabeth Robinson and Ted Coe through a radio program and an internship I had at the non-commercial community radio station, KCSB-FM. This blog takes its name from a show called The Dynamics of Groove that I started there with a good friend and co-host, Elizabeth Lovero. The idea for the show was to celebrate our eclectic taste in music linking our mixes together with good beats, warm basslines, and stuff that made us want to keep dancing. Through KCSB, I taught myself to DJ with the encouragement of friends. Suffice it to say I have a wide spectrum of musical knowledge and my record collection’s not too shabby either (though I am trying to whittle it down).
Moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area after college, I got connected with Sean San Jose, Margo Hall, Michael Torres and Luis Saguar with Campo Santo, a theater company committed to building powerful intimate theater pieces that explore social barriers and cultural interconnectedness. I worked with artists associated with Campo Santo like Philip Kan Gotanda, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Carlos Aguirre, Catherine Castellanos, Dan Wolf, Tommy James Shepherd Jr., and Donald Lacy, Jr. I’ve subsequently worked and supported Donald’s organization, the Lovelife Foundation, which he created after his daughter Loeshe was murdered. Her name means “love life” and that is truly her message. Out of this tragedy, Donald and the Lovelife Foundation have transformed the lives of thousands of people. The organization seeks to empower young people by using conversation and public speaking both in theater and radio forms. I’ve also supported Donald Lacy’s one man show, “Colorstruck” as the Stage Manager, as it toured across the country.
For a short stint, I was over in England studying screenwriting with Josephine Rose at the New York Film Academy, housed at St. Catherine’s College of Oxford University. It was a fantastic experience where, among other things, I got to see Patrick Stewart play Prospero in The Tempest in Shakespeare’s hometown, Strafford-Upon-Avon, got to travel with my brother and his friend to Scotland and Ireland, and took a train across England, France and Germany to see visit friends and watch the World Cup.
Once I returned, I developed my abilities as a grant writer, fund raiser, and advocate with Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. During my time there, my words and grant writing contributed to recieving $10M — or to put it another way, 20M meals to people in Silicon Valley who needed them. I connected with Octavio Solis after taking a workshop with him at the Playwrights Foundation. He influenced me to dig deep in my writing and to explore poetry and songwriting. Around this time is when I developed “i stole lance armstrong’s bike”, a play about two women who steal Lance Armstrong’s bike and document their crime and road trip on social media, rapidly becoming internet famous. They meet a busker who challenges the power dynamic between them and everything unravels out of control.
I attended La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club‘s Playwriting Retreat founded by Ellen Stewart in the summers of 2008 with Naomi Iizuka and 2009 with Chuck Mee. It was a great way to connect with other writers and artists in a space where you could enjoy nature and the beauty of the Umbria, Italy. La MaMa’s Galleria hosted a night featuring readings of what we developed in spring of 2009.
In 2011, after a series of things, I decided to seek out something to help me learn how to get my personal power back. I decided to try out a martial arts school and opted for one that taught Shaolin kung fu and tai chi. I’ve had years of dance so I figured something where you learn and practice forms might suit me well. I started training with Brent Kekoa Ramos at what is now 108 Heroes Kung Fu. It pushed me in so many ways beyond where I felt comfortable and through that I’ve discovered how much I’m capable. It radically shifted my thinking to understand that just because I think I may not be good at something doesn’t mean it’s true. I’ve trained there consistently since then and am now a second degree black belt and an assistant teacher under this system. What’s more is that I’ve had a huge part in the culture shift, marketing, business and curriculum by my involvement and passion for martial arts. When I was a little girl, I loved dance and especially ballet. It’s probably what pushed me to get into theater and one of the reasons that I tend to have a knack for kineosthetic learing. You can imagine my surprise when a day of trying on a different hat and being open to seeing myself differently lead to coming so far in martial arts. It was never something I thought I was.
I worked with Michael Torres and Fusion Theatre in Oakland, Laney College‘s theater company. I went with them to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011 as they performed Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories, a stunning adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
I met Stuart Bousel after seeing one of his plays and thinking this is awesome and something different than what I’d seen and associated with theater. I ended up working with the San Francisco Olympians Festival — which I have written plays for and supported over the years. One of my favorites was Hera (The Pregnant Man Play), when Hera impregnates a mortal man who crosses her and to get back at Zeus. It’s a comedy exploring gender expectations and societal roles. All the plays in the Olympians Festival are inspired by the stories of ancient gods and goddesses from Greece, Egypt, Sumeria, and across the Mediterranean. I began writing about theater and conducting interviews with theater artists for San Francisco Theater Pub. In the summer of 2012, I worked with Tracy Held Potter and All Terrain Theater to produce my play, “It’s All in the Mix”. The cool thing about this was partnering with friends who are djs in the Sweater Funk and Soul It’s the Real Thing crews. We produced it a record store in Oakland, VAMP – vintage art and music for the people, which was a fitting setting for a little coming-of-age love story about djs. They connect through songs and their love of music.
I was accepted into Carnegie Mellon University‘s Dramatic Writing MFA program under Rob Handel‘s direction where I learned from amazing artists and teachers, including Melissa Martin, Jed Harris, Larry Shea, and Joe Pino. I was a part of an amazing cohort of talented writers both years I was there. The program mainly focuses on playwriting and also exposes us to film and TV writing as well. Among many great lessons, one thing I learned from Rob was how to hold myself accountable in my writing with a level of specificity and yet flexibility for collaborators to be invited into the process. After all, theater is a collaborative art form.
At CMU, we were fortunate to work in a hands on and collaborative way. Guest artists like Mac Wellman, Anne Washburn, Madeleine George, Clark Perry, Aurorae Khoo, and so many more came to do workshops with us. Students across disciplines regularly supported each other with our artistic projects and development. I was fortunate enough to have a piece in Playground, the week long theater/art/performance festival in the School of Drama, called “Donut Erotica,” which is a comedy about stress release and my love of Bob’s Donuts.
We also worked with opera by collaborating with Roger Zahab and the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh on a series of comedic arias set in a bar (bar-ias). We teamed up with the School of Music graduate composition students on short opera pieces. My fellow classmate, Stephen Webb, and I created the libretto about a young man trying to understand love. He travels with his two lesbian friends who are having mixed feelings about getting married when their car breaks down in a ghost town and they meet a genderless, timeless being exiled here from another dimension. Daniel Arnoldos composed the score and this mini opera was performed in April 2015 at CMU.
I had the chance to develop two screenplays that incorporated science and technology and work with a field expert. I wrote a Victorian love story about Richard Carrington, who understood the relationship between solar flares and their effect on the earth and had the chance to work with a longtime friend, Michele Cash with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I also wrote a comedy about computer security and the competitions at DefCon with the support of David Brumley, a professor and director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute.
At CMU, I taught Intro to Screenwriting and Advanced Playwriting. My style is to focus on quantity over quality in terms of writing. Especially in the advanced playwriting class, the main emphasis was to write bad first drafts a lot. And then go back and make them better. Occasionally, I point out things I think are cool in terms of writing styles, skills/techniques, and stuff other cool artists do. But my bread and butter is to encourage lots and lots of writing and, ideally, finished products.
Around this time in my martial arts training, we began seeking out teachers and writers of various styles and disciplines. Ultimately our paths crossed with Scott Meredith who gave us a very different take on tai chi, xingyi, and internal arts. Since then, I haven’t looked back. And his whole approach is to help you understand, cultivate, and deploy internal energy as the masters of old wrote about and practiced. I consider this a beautiful thing and the results speak for themselves. It’s an endlessly interesting pursuit, which has opened my eyes to a lot.
For my thesis play, “The Imaginary Opponent”, I chose to explore the corruption, sexism, and hypocrisy in a martial arts school. It was also a way for me to think and explore violence, escalation vs. deescalation, and physical practice. I worked with a fantastic director, Quin Gordon, who pushed my boundaries as a writer and collaborator. Also, he made us run every rehearsal. One time I came in second and I’m not a runner so that was a big win for me.
I came back to the Bay and started working at The San Francisco Foundation in a variety of roles. I love the work there because it’s about making sure that this prosperity, creativity, and innovation our area is know for is available to people from all backgrounds regardless of their race or economic status. To me, that is a beautiful wonderful thing and I’m happy to be a part of it.
Since I’ve been back I’ve gotten involved with Just Theater‘s New Play Lab, which helped me to create a new play, “Punk as Fuck”, which is about the intersection between idealism and the different generations. It was further developed by Custom Made Theatre. I’ve written mini plays for the Playwright’s Foundation and most recently had a reading of “Thanatos”, and had the chance to work with a good friend and CMU alum, Julie Jigour.
In 2015, to enrich our martial arts training and not only look at the destructive cycle, but also the generative one, Brent and I embarked on a journey to upcountry in Maui to learn traditional Hawaiian healing and lomi lomi massage from Jeana Iwalani Naluai. Her way of bringing spirit, community, and looking beyond the physical has reignited my confidence in my intuitive self. Together with my martial arts training, I now see healing and even conflict as a part of a continuous cycle. In every moment we have the opportunity to heal trauma from the past.
These days I’m getting really into poetry. I love how it can express powerful feelings, experiences, and emotions without a lot. I also started Ashtanga yoga.