Meet our Earl of Gloucester: Charles Shaw Robinson

During the run of King Lear (Sep. 16–Oct. 11) we will be posting interviews with the cast to help our audiences get to know the men and women behind some of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters. What was the first role they ever played? What is their pre-show ritual? To find out, keep reading! 

Charles Shaw Robinson as the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear. Photo by Jay Yamada.

Charles Shaw Robinson as the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear. Photo by Jay Yamada.

Charles Shaw Robinson’s “clarity of language and thought make you wish he were in every Shakespeare play,” wrote Chad Jones in this Theater Dogs review of King Lear. The Juilliard-trained actor is close to granting his wish, having played Iago in Othello, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, and Brutus in Julius Caesar here at Cal Shakes, plus the title roles in Hamlet at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and Pericles at Center Stage. He also played an incarnation of Shakespeare himself called Shag in Equivocation at the Marin Theatre Company. Here, the superior Shakespearean actor talks about his favorite role he’s every played (It’s a Shakespeare character of course!) and how to get a seat on a busy BART ride…

Where are you from?

I’m a local boy. San Francisco.

What do you think your King Lear character’s best quality is? Worst?

Best: kindness. Worst: lack of insight.

Favorite line in King Lear:

‘Tis the time’s plague, when madmen lead the blind.

First experience at a play, or musical:

I saw my first professional play at A.C.T.

First acting gig:

I played the Troll in Three Billy Goats Gruff in first grade.

Favorite role you’ve ever played:

Iago

Favorite Shakespeare play:

Much Ado About Nothing

Do you have pets? If so, what are they?

Does a teenage son count?

What shows/movies/books/art have you seen/read lately that have really spoken to you?

The novel, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel; and the Keith Haring exhibit at the de Young.

What is your pre-show ritual?

Eat dinner early, take a brief nap, read the play again.

What is your line memorization technique?

Mumble my lines aloud on BART—it always gets me a seat.

The one performance you’ve seen that you’ll never forget:

Anthony Hopkins in Equus on Broadway; or Fiona Shaw in Machinal at the National, London; or Janet McTeer in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House on Broadway.

King Lear runs through October 11. For tickets click here.

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Meet our Goneril: Arwen Anderson

During the run of King Lear (Sep. 16–Oct. 11) we will be posting interviews with the cast to help our audiences get to know the men and women behind some of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters. What was the first role they ever played? What is their pre-show ritual? To find out, keep reading! 

(l-r) Anthony Heald as King Lear, Arwen Anderson as Goneril, and El Beh as Regan in King Lear. Photo by Kevin Berne.

(l-r) Anthony Heald as King Lear, Arwen Anderson as Goneril, and El Beh as Regan in King Lear. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Arwen Anderson’s ice blue eyes pierce through to the back row of the Bruns when she gives evil orders like, “Pluck out his eyes,” as Lear’s vindictive elder daughter Goneril. Having played Lady Capulet in our 2013 production of Romeo and Juliet, Anderson has become almost as good at sending a chill through Cal Shakes as these early October nights, but the actress has a warmer side too. In that same production she deftly balanced Juliet’s misguided mom with the peacekeeper Benvolio and she earned rave reviews for her role as the devoted Julia in The Verona ProjectKing Lear director, Amanda Dehnert’s 2011 musical adaptation of The Two Gentlemen of Verona–where not only did Anderson sing, but she also played multiple instruments. Pretty good for a girl who literally got her start at the Bottom…

Where are you from?

I was born in Staten Island, NY; raised in Bucks County, PA; and have lived in San Francisco for almost 19 years now.

What do you think your King Lear character’s best quality is? Worst?

Goneril is super smart and well spoken. Alas, she is also entitled and power hungry and will do ANYthing she needs to do to get what she wants.

Favorite line in King Lear:

Right now, I don’t know about a favorite line in the play, but I am always caught by Lear’s line towards the end, after Cordelia has died: “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life and thou no breath at all?” I find it terribly sad and moving.

First experience at a play, or musical:

When I was five, I saw Annie on Broadway. I was hooked. I came home and told my parents I wanted to be an orphan.

First acting gig:

I was Bottom in Midsummer in fourth or fifth grade. I was tall for my age and this was the start of many years of being given boys’ roles. I was devastated. I wanted to wear a dress, not an ass head.

Favorite role you’ve ever played:

That’s easy. It was here [at Cal Shakes] as Julia in The Verona Project, which was also with Amanda Dehnert. No question. :) (Although, my runner up is Stella in Streetcar [Named Desire].)

Favorite Shakespeare play:

I don’t really do favorites, but I did recently see Cymbeline and found it very strange and intriguing.

Do you have pets? If so, what are they?

Oh yes: an old man cat named Gato and two parakeets named Motleys and Mugwump.

What shows/movies/books/art have you seen/read lately that have really spoken to you?

Ha! I wish I had something brilliant to say here, but I had a baby a year and a half ago, and quite frankly I wasn’t able to see, read, or watch much at all during that time. Although I did carve out time to read Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I loved it.  He has an imagination the size of an ocean and it’s always a huge treat to dip into it.

What is your pre-show ritual?

Breathing. Deep breathing.

What is your line memorization technique?

I just repeat them as often as I can. While walking, biking, on the BART… Over and over and over…

The one performance you’ve seen that you’ll never forget:

Again, it’s so hard to pick one. There is an amazing group out of Montreal called Les 7 doigts de la main. They do a blend of acrobatics/aerial and theater and they never disappoint. But about 10 years ago they toured a show called Rain and it was the most beautiful and joyful and simple and astonishing and heartfelt night I can remember in the theater.

King Lear runs through October 11. For tickets click here.

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Meet our Earl of Kent: Aldo Billingslea

During the run of King Lear (Sep. 16–Oct. 11) we will be posting interviews with the cast to help our audiences get to know the men and women behind some of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters. What was the first role they ever played? What is their pre-show ritual? To find out, keep reading! 

Aldo Billingslea as the Earl of Kent in King Lear. Photo by Jay Yamada.

Aldo Billingslea as the Earl of Kent in King Lear. Photo by Jay Yamada.

“Aldo Billingslea brings down the house with a tour de force delivery of old Kent’s cavalcade of insults,” wrote Robert Hurwitt in his San Francisco Chronicle review of King Lear. Before Billingslea brought down the Bruns as the Earl of Kent, Lear’s closest advisor who epically hands Goneril’s servant his behind, he entertained Cal Shakes’ audiences in a wide-range of roles including, Sweet Back and Joe in 2012’s Spunk, and Polixenes and the Bear in The Winter’s Tale and Lord Windermere in Lady Windermere’s Fan during our 2013 season. Offstage he is a Professor of Theatre Arts at Santa Clara University where he teaches acting, directs plays, and is Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. Plus it appears he knows a thing or two about raising chickens…

Where are you from?

Born in San Bernadino; lived in Istanbul, Michigan, and got to Fort Worth, Texas by second grade.

What do you think your King Lear character’s best quality is? Worst?

Best: Loyalty

Worst: Lack of impulse control!

Favorite line in King Lear:

Calling someone an S.O.B.!

First experience at a play, or musical:

Third grade watching Hansel and Gretel as opera

First acting gig:

Pierre and the Lion in Carole King’s Really Rosie

Favorite role you’ve ever played:

Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man

Favorite Shakespeare play:

Othello

Do you have pets? If so, what are they?

Beckwourth the 16 ½-year-old Lab/Chow mix; Ramon the turtle; Benjamin the cat; Rose, Daisy, Tulip, Buttercup, and Chrysanthemum the chickens.

What shows/movies/books/art have you seen/read lately that have really spoken to you?

The New Jim Crow [Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander]

What is your pre-show ritual?

Driving

What is your line memorization technique?

I read the other actor’s part. A lot.

The one performance you’ve seen that you’ll never forget:

Mark Rucker’s The Taming of the Shrew at South Coast Rep with Marco Barricelli.  Perfect, witty, sexy, Rat Pack, and everything rooted in the text.  I saw it three times and PAID TWICE!

King Lear runs through October 11. For tickets click here.

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Meet our Cordelia (who also plays the Fool): Kjerstine Rose Anderson

During the run of King Lear (Sep. 16–Oct. 11) we will be posting interviews with the cast to help our audiences get to know the men and women behind some of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters. What was the first role they ever played? What is their pre-show ritual? To find out, keep reading! 

Kjerstine Rose Anderson as the Fool in King Lear. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival-regular Kjerstine Rose Anderson begins our production of King Lear with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “The rain it raineth every day” from Twelfth Night. This sentiment carries through her revelatory performance as both Lear’s youngest (and favorite) daughter Cordelia, and the lovingly pesky—imaginary?—Fool. In his Theater Dogs review Chad Jones wrote, “Anderson is terrific in both roles, crackling good chemistry with the marvelous Anthony Heald as Lear.” She makes her Cal Shakes debut in King Lear. With a performance like this, we hope she’ll be back every season!

Where are you from?

Seattle, Washington

What do you think your King Lear character’s best quality is? Worst?

Generosity. Pride.

Favorite line in King Lear:

“Sa, sa, sa, sa!”

First experience at a play, or musical:

I played Yum-Yum in The Mikado in seventh grade.

First acting gig:

An adaptation of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier at Book-It Rep in Seattle.

Favorite role you’ve ever played:

Elinor in Sense & Sensibility

Favorite Shakespeare play:

Much Ado About Nothing (Ed. Note: Much Ado just happens to be our 2016 Season opener!)

Do you have any pets? If so, what are they?

Jupiter the cat

What shows/movies/books/art have you seen/read lately that have really spoken to you?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

What is your pre-show ritual?

Coffee.

What is your line memorization technique?

Figure out what I mean…

The one performance you’ve seen that you’ll never forget:

Hamilton at the Public. BEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN—EVERYONE SHOULD SEE IT. [Ed. note: Hamilton is currently playing on Broadway.]

King Lear runs through October 11. For tickets click here.

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Ask Philippa! Lear Stories Edition

 

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Photo courtesy Philippa Kelly.

King Lear is about an elderly king who makes a fatal, capricious decision that wreaks havoc on his country. But it is his family that is the focus of this play—his blood relatives and their husbands and servants, as well as the “family” of loyal servants who try to comfort him in his bewilderment, suffering and rage. They remind Lear of who he was and is (“your Majesty”). But the true meaning of their love goes deeper than titles and entitlements—they are willing to suffer with him, to give themselves over to the service of love.

We are all in some sense servants when we love: the king has never known this, but he comes to discover what love can mean. The place where we first learn about love—and about how to misunderstand or abuse it—is in our families, those places of intense, chaotic, misdirected feeling.

In The King and I I wrote my own personal account of family love, which sought to illuminate, via King Lear, how I saw my own family within the larger networks of Australian society. I looked to King Lear to tell me more about my family, and I looked to my family and my society to afford a deeper and richer understanding of King Lear.

King Lear invites us to think of our families within a frame bigger than ourselves; deeper than ourselves; more varied than our own personal experience.

Kjerstine Rose Anderson as Cordelia and Anthony Heald as Lear in Cal Shakes' production of King Lear. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Loss, abandonment, entitlement, authority—these issues are all fundamental to King Lear, and, 400 years later, this play still resonates deeply within families all over the world. We all come from some kind of “family”—some two people generated us, and they had their own lines of descent. We may experience our families as absent, loving, broken, supportive, ungrateful, or even, as Lear does, destructive—but all of these experiences constitute some kind of family connection.  I don’t pretend to have the answers to complex family dynamics (although, being a Lear scholar, I have many thoughts about them). But if you have a response to King Lear that evokes your own family relationships, here are four things you can do:

 

  1. Show up at the Bruns on the evening of September 24th (6-7pm) or 25th (6:30-7:30pm), or at the Champion donor event on October 10th. At any of these three events (or at all—our stories often shift as we tell them) you can record your family story with Cal Shakes’ Rebecca Novick and her Triangle Lab team. The Cal Shakes Triangle Lab is partnering with communities to make a moving document of “Lear family stories,” of which your story can be a vital part.
  2. Email your thoughts to Rebecca (rnovick@calshakes.org) if they feel, as a whole, too personal to be shared in public circulation. There will be an opportunity to work out with Rebecca and her team whether you feel that any part of your story is suitable for the community art-making project in written form. You are the artist; Cal Shakes is your artistic collaborator.
  3. Blog your thoughts here on Ask Philippa! to be shared on this forum.
  4. Avail yourself of the email address available below, in which case I will receive your story directly and will treat your thoughts as personal. I’ll be delighted simply to read and respond.
Learn more from Rebecca and her team and sign up for or the project here.

Dr. Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at pkelly@calshakes.org, or post below to ask her a question or tell your family story.

Buy tickets for King Lear here; or, call the Box Office at 510.548.9666.

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Announcing our 2016 Season!

James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in the 1985 world premiere of Fences at Yale Rep.

2016 at Cal Shakes will be filled with sharp wit, “will they or won’t they” couples, tragic heroes, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, New York Times-heralded directors, and plenty of excitement, with our new Artistic Director, Eric Ting, starting this fall. Ting will choose the fourth show—a Shakespeare play as is our tradition—which will be announced later this year. Below are the first three titles of our 2016 Season, selected by our former artistic director Jonathan Moscone. To ensure premium seating, big savings, and flexible dates, subscribe or renew your subscription here. Single tickets will be available this spring. Until then, check out our production of King Lear, which runs through October 11th.

Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare/ Directed by Jackson Gay / May 25–June 19

She’s a witty, independent woman and he’s a pompous, misogynistic man, making Beatrice and Benedick a match made in entertainment heaven. This dynamic duo at the center of Shakespeare’s sharpest comedy about the thin line between love and hate, has become the archetype for “will they or won’t they” couples. Jackson Gay, who has been named one of the “power players of off-Broadway,” by the New York Times, directs.

Fences

By August Wilson/ Directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges/ July 6–July 31

This powerful drama about a middle-class family’s disillusion with the American dream marks two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson’s Cal Shakes’ debut. Set in the 1950s, Troy Maxson is a charismatic former baseball player-turned-sanitation worker. With his solid paycheck and lessons in tough love, he is the de facto captain of his own house, but when an affair is exposed and his son lashes out, this tragic hero fights to keep his family together and his strong beliefs intact.

You Never Can Tell

By George Bernard Shaw /Directed by Lisa Peterson/August 10–September 4

Let the battle of the sexes begin, in George Bernard Shaw’s sharply witty take on marriage and the modern woman. Mrs. Clandon, a famed feminist author and lecturer, fled, with her three children, to the island of Madeira to escape her unhappy marriage. When they return to England 18 years later, she is accidentally reunited with her husband at a seaside resort, while her daughter, raised in her mother’s mirror image, fights against falling in love with a devoted dentist. What will happen? As a wise waiter continuously, and hilariously, observes, “You never can tell.”

Fourth Show, TBD

By William Shakespeare/September 14–October 9

The final play of the Main Stage season—written by Shakespeare as is our Cal Shakes’ tradition—will be announced by Artistic Director Designate Eric Ting at a later date.

Renew your subscription online now or call the Box Office at 510.548.9666, and you’ll receive a complimentary box of gourmet cookies from Holly Baking Company, which will be available for you to pickup at the Welcome Center when you visit the Bruns for your scheduled performance of King Lear. The Welcome Center will also have forms ready to fill out if you’d rather renew or subscribe in person.

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Meet our King Lear: Anthony Heald

 

Anthony Heald as King Lear. Photo by Kevin Berne.

During the run of King Lear (Sep. 16–Oct. 11) we will be posting interviews with the cast to help our audiences get to know the men and women behind some of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters. What was the first role they ever played? What is their pre-show ritual? To find out, keep reading! 

First up is Anthony Heald, who plays King Lear. He is a two-time Tony nominee who has spent the past year playing the double role of Ross and Bishop How in the record-breaking Broadway and West End runs of The Elephant Man. The long-time Oregon Shakespeare Festival company member is also known for playing Hannibal Lecter’s arch-nemesis Dr. Frederick Chilton in The Silence of the Lambs and the Vice Principal Scott Guber in Boston Public. Heald makes his Cal Shakes debut in King Lear.

Where are you from?

Born and raised in the New York City area—Long Island (Massapequa).

What do you think your King Lear character’s best quality is? Worst?

Lear’s best quality, which is in slim supply as the play starts, but builds as the story unfolds, is the care he takes with those around him. Lear’s worst quality is his narcissism and his hot temper—his expectation that he deserves special treatment, and his sudden rages when he’s frustrated.

Favorite line in King Lear:

It’s so difficult to choose in a play so verbally rich and full of ideas. It would probably be, “Take physic, pomp, Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayst shake the superflux to them And show the heavens more just.”

First experience at a play, or musical:

The first play I remember seeing—I was probably eight or so—was You Can’t Take It With You. My mother and father were playing parts in our community theater’s first real production, after several years of play readings.

First acting gig:

My first professional acting job came the summer I turned 19 (1963), when I worked at the Houghton Lake Playhouse in Michigan. I used my first name (Phil) in the Children’s Theater programs, but when I got my first main stage show, I decided to use my middle name, Anthony. Weeks later an audience member praised my performance and said, with great sympathy, “I saw your brother Phil in the kiddy show—he’s nowhere near as good as you are!”

Favorite role you’ve ever played:

Lear is a very, very special role—one I’ve been dreaming of and preparing for over the years. Before that, Iago? Shylock? Tartuffe?

Favorite Shakespeare play:

I think A Midsummer Night’s Dream is practically a perfect play—which, of course, makes it terribly difficult to mount successfully. I also love Measure for Measure.

Do you have any pets? If so, what are they?

We have far too many pets in our home. My wife and I have three dogs, and our daughter has one. She also has three cats, and three horses, but they don’t live at home.

What shows/movies/books/art have you seen/read lately that have really spoken to you?

I confess to having been sort of locked in Lear land for the last year or so. I get enormous pleasure and satisfaction out of doing my research.

What is your pre-show ritual?

I try to always to get there at least an hour to an hour-and-a-­half before curtain. I check that my stage properties are where they need to be, I take a nice, slow, relaxed time with my makeup, and getting into my clothes. I try to do a 15-minute vocal/physical warm-­up. I try to speak with everyone in the cast.

What is your line memorization technique?

Long, hard work. Daily sessions with frequent drills. I need to know all my lines down cold before I even begin rehearsals. I don’t ever want to waste any valuable time, energy, and focus during rehearsals (and performances) feeling anxious over not being certain what I have been given to say.

The one performance you’ve seen that you’ll never forget:

Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd.

To read more about Heald’s experience preparing to play King Lear at Cal Shakes, pick up a program at a performance of King Lear which runs through October 11. For tickets click here.

 

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Coming Next: King Lear starring Anthony Heald

Anthony Heald as Shylock in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2010 production of The Merchant of Venice. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Capes are being fitted, swords ordered, and “blood meetings” are taking place. That can only mean one thing: Rehearsals for King Lear,  directed by Amanda Dehnert—the creative force behind our 2011 production of The Verona Projectare in full swing.

Making his Cal Shakes debut as King Lear will be Anthony Heald. He has appeared in hit films and TV shows like The Silence of the Lambs, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Boston Public, as well as on Broadway, where he has been nominated for two Tony Awards and was most recently seen alongside Bradley Cooper in a record-breaking revival of The Elephant Man. But as the long-time Oregon Shakespeare Festival company member said in a recent interview with Cal Shakes, he feels most at home when performing in a Shakespeare play at an organization like Cal Shakes or OSF. “I’ve done seven Broadway productions and it’s wonderful in terms of the exposure,” said Heald, “but the actual experience of performing on Broadway, for my money, doesn’t compare with performing on the stage of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival—and I’m certain the experience of performing at the California Shakespeare Theater.”

Joining Heald on the Bruns stage will be Arwen Anderson, El Beh, and Kjerstine Rose Anderson as his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, respectively. Aldo Billingslea, last seen at Cal Shakes in the 2013 productions of Lady Windermere’s Fan and A Winter’s Tale will play the Earl of Kent, and audiences may remember Charles Shaw Robinson, who recently appeared alongside El Beh in SF Playhouse’s Stupid F**cking Bird, from Cal Shakes’ 2010 world premiere of John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven by Octavio Solis. He will play the Earl of Gloucester. Dan Clegg (Romeo in 2013’s Romeo and Juliet), and Rafael Jordan (our upcoming tour of The Tempest) will play Gloucester’s sons, Edmund and Edgar.

To read our full interview with Heald pick up a program at a performance of King Lear, which begins previews on September 16th and runs through October 11th. For tickets click here.

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Listen to an Original Song from our Upcoming Tour of The Tempest

 

A student at Laney College works on writing an original song for The Tempest.

Building on the success of last year’s All the Bay’s a stage tour of Twelfth Night, we’re increasing the impact of this year’s tour of The Tempest, even further, by inviting community partners to collaborate. Over the summer, students from the jazz and theater programs at Oakland’s Laney College worked with tour director Rebecca Novick and composer Olive Mitra to write music and lyrics for an original song that will be performed during our production of The Tempest.

Here is a sample of the song, which has a working title of “Untamed and True,” performed a cappella. Enjoy!

Untamed and True Laney Cal Shakes Collaboration

Cal Shakes’ All the Bay’s a Stage program is funded by donations from community members like you. Seats for the public performances of The Tempest at OMCA, which will take place on Fridays at 7pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm from November 13-22, are extremely limited. Beginning September 1st, donors of $250 or more to this project can reserve two complimentary seats to one of the OMCA performances (while supplies last). To make a donation and reserve your seat for the Cal Shakes tour of The Tempest, click here or contact our Director of Development, Megan Barton at mbarton@calshakes.org.

 

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Artist-Investigator Elizabeth Gjelten on Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing

As part of our ongoing series about the Triangle Lab Artist-Investigator program, we have asked our AI’s to write about their projects. Here, our Artist-Investigator Elizabeth Gjelten gives a look inside her work with the Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing (D.I.S.H.) organization.

Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing (D.I.S.H.) provides high-quality, permanent housing to formerly homeless San Franciscans who suffer from serious health issues. Elizabeth Gjelten, a writer/arts educator, is working with D.I.S.H. to develop activities that will create more opportunities for beauty and creativity in the lives of residents. 

By Elizabeth Gjelten

Photographs by Audra Miller

For people who get into housing after living on the streets, it’s a huge relief to have a door they can close—to lock out the chaos and danger. But that door also presents its own danger: isolation. This is the main thing I heard over months of listening to tenants, caseworkers, and managers at D.I.S.H. (Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing), which provides supportive housing for people who were homeless and had serious health issues. After years on the streets, most lack the most basic tools needed to live side-by-side with neighbors and follow rules. They’ve often lost whatever semblance of community they may have had outside (folks who watched each other’s back or used together), and when they’re working on sobriety, it can be risky to spend time outside in the Tenderloin. Sometimes it feels easier to stay in their rooms and watch TV. This is D.I.S.H.’s challenge: not only to maintain safe, decent housing and give tenants the support they need to stay there, but also to help them rebuild their lives and build community.

Sometimes the first step in rebuilding your life is to value it. A beautiful, professional portrait can be a powerful tool to say to yourself and to anyone else who looks at it: This is who I am, what I’m worth. When I learned that a D.I.S.H. intern, Audra Miller, is a skilled photographer, it seemed obvious: Why not create a portrait gallery of willing tenants at the D.I.S.H. hotels? And why not strengthen the message of these photographs with the tenants’ own words? With the help of some list-making and other writing exercises, the tenants reveal what home means to them.

Aja

“Home is being part of a community that helps and lets me be me.” — Aja

 

Luis

 “I am at home when I am with my tools.” — Luis

For Luis, home means having a place where he can keep his tools safe and pursue his passion for woodworking.

 

Kolinio

“I feel at home when anybody says hello and smiles at me …” — Kolinio

 Home may mean the daily specifics of community, the celebrations, and greetings.

 

Patricia

“Home is a place where I feel uplifted.” — Patricia

 Or it may simply be the positive feelings of community. When I heard Patricia died a few weeks ago, I was saddened—but heartened to know that the picture of her words and hands (she was too shy to show her face) will be part of her legacy at her last home.

As we wrap up the portrait-and-writing sessions, we’ll frame the photos in groups, to go in the hotels’ community rooms, where they’ll be a beautiful conversation piece, a powerful record of tenants’ lives, a testament to what it takes to build community, and an excuse for a party! Also, D.I.S.H. administrators are already talking about how they can use these photos to convey their work and mission to the larger community.

 

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