2016: year of the roller coaster

weeeee!

What a year eh?

While many feel 2016 went over about as well as receiving a flaming bag of poo every week, it was also the year of many good amazing things for me. My primary complaint is that it was all highs and lows (more highs at the beginning, more lows near the end.) Stability has become increasingly rare (more in the next post) so I ended up with lots of growth and huge interpersonal changes, but not a lot of ease. Even a fun good thing stops being a fun good thing when you can’t return to some sort of equilibrium. Add some not fun, not good things, and it gets exhausting.

Here’s a few of my 2016 highlights: the amazingly good, and near the end, a lot of WTF.

January – March: a new work is born

  • I opened “Ze”: queer as fuck! in Perth Australia, coming out in a very public way as genderqueer/non-binary. I met soul family here (the queers, the kinky, the poly, and my first interaction with other “out” NB’s.) I look forward to returning so so much. I was honored to meet kindred who housed me, fed me, helped me, promoted me, attended my show multiple times, and told all their friends. I was nominated for best comedy in Fringe. I cannot wait to return.
  • I toured to Adelaide Fringe and met wonderful fellow artists! (but didn’t make one dime or prove to be worthy of a single reviewer.)
  • I toured Dunedin and met beautiful people again, including a visit to my cousin whom I hadn’t seen in years.
  • I traveled South Island, NZ and had some truly spectacular adventures with my partner, S.

April – May: playing at home

  • I sold out a show in my adopted hometown in Whangarei, and found many sympathetic people to my unusual story. I began working with Whanagreinbows, a local queer youth organization that means a lot to me.
  • Auckland debut! in Tiny Theatre at Garnet Station. I gained some amazing reviews and made more friends nearby. I even reconnected with a university friend from Canada in Auckland.(small world indeed.)
  • I received a longer visa to stay in New Zealand with help from my partner, S.

June – July: confronting my past

  • I returned “home” to North America for the first time in a year and a half. I spent time with friends and family and framily. This was a very confirming time for me. Reverse culture shock hit me hard. It seemed like I had a lot of time, but after much running around to see as many people on my list as possible, I was pretty spent in two weeks. The highlight of this time was spent with my rainbow tribe in the NARAYA Dance for All People.
  • Toronto. I took “Ze” to Toronto Fringe and Toronto Pride under the shadow of the Orlando shootings. This was a beautiful and healing experience having Pride going on at the same time as the fringe. I met up with new-old uni friends, one of which remains one my most beautiful collaborators. I had my best night ever performing as “the rainbow androgyne” (my living statue character.)
  • I returned to New Zealand for one month, because 4 months away from my partner was going to be too much in one spell. I also spent time with dear friends in Newcastle, NSW, who have supported me the whole way. I was in 4 countries in a span of a week, and I felt differently about each of them after this experience. I live in a very large/small world.
  • My fairy godson Lucas was born near Vancouver. (I’m his Fairy Raccoon.) This isn’t my accomplishment but it’s a huge addition to my family and I love him so so much. I planned to be there for the birth but I missed it due to his hesitancy to join us face first requiring a little extra help.

August – Septemberish: feeling the love

  • I returned to Canada to meet Lucas and prepare for the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Vancouver is my home city and I fell in love with it, and its gluten free vegan doughnuts, all over again. I told a new story for local story-telling podcast “The Flame” and met up once again with artists I love and respect. I saw many friends and professors from university, some of whom validated me in new and beautiful ways. With extra rehearsal time at UBC, “Ze” leveled up and the reviews were glowing. So much of “Ze” happens in Vancouver, and no doubt I also had some local advantage even if I don’t live there anymore. I placed third for the “Artistic Risk Award” and felt tremendously grateful to be honored with a speech by the Fringe Board and the opportunity to make my own. This time was magickal. I’ve never felt so much appreciation and respect as an artist.
  • I penned an article for my uni newspaper coming out to them specifically and had mixed but strong responses. This led to more articles and the strongest community for queer students/alum that Trinity Western University has ever seen. The culture at this still discriminatory school will be under the eye of the press more over the next year. A huge change is coming and many of us are organizing to turn the tide to a diversity-affirming stance in policy.
  • I did one show in Seattle for my friends there and I had such a good time. They graciously made sure it was not a financial loss. Seattle is one of my strongest support bases since I lived there most recently before I left North America. I will always be grateful for them. Even though there is a lot of bitter-sweet there, there is also a hearty, grungy, entrenched solidarity in that town. They will be the heart of the revolt in Trump’s America. (outside of #noDAPL)
  • I was invited to be part of the first Sex & Culture Theatre Festival by Eleanor O’Brian’s Dancing Naked Productions in Portland, Oregon. I love Portland. If Seattle is the angst-ridden teenager, Portland is their sympathetic hippie aunt. I was truly honoured to be part of this small festival. There was not one performer I didn’t appreciate and enjoy. I also did a new smut slam story about dirty panties.

This represented the end of my touring for the year. January 25-October 5th. In the midst of this I was forced to make ALL my tour plans for 2017, without even a breath for contemplation. Knowing I hadn’t made enough money thus far to tour the world again next year (critical success is not financial success), and uncertain of my upcoming visa status and the costs that would involve, I planned smaller…opting to build my audience in New Zealand.

October: home again, home again…

  • I shaved my head, said goodbye to friends, and finally returned home to NZ and S. Certain now that I want to extend my stay in New Zealand for the foreseeable future, I shipped the rest of my belongings in storage to Auckland by boat, saying goodbye to the life I once had (Seattle/Vancouver), and the life I’ve most recently lived (traveler), for a new era of stability in Whangarei. S and I began our application for permanent residency.
  • On the way home I was reminded of a commitment to host a talent show for Halloween and in two weeks, pulled together an evening of frolic and folly to raise money and awareness for the Whangareinbows. It was my first time hosting an event as Rainbow Ren. I was probably terrible. But it was fun.

November – December: The weird catches up with me.

  • Trump was elected. I won’t lie. It was shocking, while at the same time not surprising. I made poetry about it. My good habits went out the window. I ate and drank like a crazy person. People I know will be personally affected by this. So will I to an extent. I forget sometimes, but I’m still a US citizen (and yes, I voted.) Friends were suicidal. I was depressed. Somehow I was going to have to find humor in all this because I’ve been writing my next show  I’m an Apache Attack Helicopter. Reality plays like a satire in real time. There is a new “normal” and I realize I’m out of touch with the previous “normal” that it is a reaction to. This informed and shifted I’m an Apache Attack Helicopter, as I delved more and more into the psychology of humor and what we find funny (or not) in a world of extremely polarized strong opinions about our differing realities. South Park was involved.

WTF….

  • Then a strange series of accidents and joyful moments: my partner rolled their vehicle in an auto accident (they are ok). Our landlords remodeled part of our house and when my shipment arrived, we were able to make it finally feel like our home. I broke and sprained my wrist in a bicycle accident  making it impossible for me to practice yoga. Then I injured my feet hiking, tossing that out. My aunt died suddenly in a car accident. After four years together, I proposed to my partner, and they said yes. We celebrated with a summer solstice party. Two friends have been diagnosed with the same brain tumor. One friend overdosed and died. A number of friends and I had a beautiful boxing day at the beach but I got 3rd degree burns on my leg that are still purple. Some of my favorite artists died right, left, and center.

Finally, we are done. I’m still in recovery emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially…and gearing up for the next tour season. Writing all of this makes me realize that my self-concept of productivity is unbelievable skewed…and yet I want to share more with you. More on that in the next post.

Thank you to all who survived 2016 and made it not suck for me.

For now, I want to express extreme sincere gratitude for all of you this year. If you’re reading this, your “click” statistic is keeping me afloat. I often say the greatest resource of our era in terms of power isn’t oil, or money, or water. It’s attention. Trump has proved me correct. If you have held onto me this year in any way, be it facebook, twitter, your thoughts, your love, your donated time and work, your ticket fee, your promotion, your conversations, your living room floor….thank you. I could not have done it without you.

I’m going to keep making stuff for you, for me, for us…the freaks and their freak defenders (who are all natural and normal). I’m going to keep doing my best to find new ways to get better at this, to make conversations about difficult things, and telling stories. I will not apologize for my heavy mixing of pathos and comedy, levity and tragedy. We need all these things, and as an artist, that’s my job.

I’m hoping 2017 will be the year of the inclining treadmill, and that the experiences will elevate me, even as I stay in the same place.

Ren

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