On Facebook and here on the SITI Company blog, SITI has been spotlighting alumni of our many training programs. Today, we have the great pleasure of spotlighting Karron Graves who started training with us in 2004 and was back in the Peter Zeisler studio as recently as this fall. She has performed in several SITI Company productions, starting with Imitations for Saxophone in 2005. As a beloved member of the SITI family, she was kind enough to answer some questions for us!
1. When did you first train with SITI?
The summer of 2004, Intensive at Skidmore College. A bolt of lightening in my creative world!
2. What are you most excited that you’re doing or working on right now?
I’m most excited to be exploring theater again through SITI lenses and senses. I first trained with them in 2004, was lucky enough to continue through SITI productions the next few years, and continued to apply what I learned to my other work on and off Broadway, regionally, and in Film/TV. But I missed the SITI studio. The lab. The SITI rehearsal and performance. Currently, I’m preparing for a play that premieres at the Roundabout in February. It is a piece so close to my heart, I wanted to be work-ready in the way that only SITI can do so I enrolled in a 2-week Movement and Performance Intensive with Barney and Stephen. The play’s<span class=”s1″> lead character has Down syndrome, the actress playing her has Down syndrome, and I am to understudy the mother of this character as she stands at a crossroads. Preparing for the audition ripped me apart and called to surface an old dream I’d had to create a piece about my youngest sister. I grew up the big sister to my virtual living Buddha, love of my life, born with Down syndrome. She became one of two prime sources for all my acting work. Six years after her death and in the very month of her birth, my son was born with Down syndrome. Sheer coincidence. To embark on this upcoming play, a piece that explores the fabric of family dynamics as it intertwines with Down syndrome, jolts me. And reignites that old creative dream about my sister. Now inescapably to be fused with my son. The fire for this piece was reignited by this new play. And the tools to build it come from SITI.
3. What is the most important thing you learned from SITI?
There is so much I learn from SITI. I first trained with them 13 years ago, my last training was 4 weeks ago. It doesn’t end. My biggest take-away this time? How to navigate being and doing at the same time; and the litmus test that helped me gauge it was Stephen’s “The violence of making a choice” + Barney’s “Does it interest you?” Here’s how it happened for me: The Being part is very uncomfortable. At first. Uncomfortably naked because I felt uncomfortably lazy, uncomfortably inadequate, ungenerous, and self-serving…at first. What I discovered is that it’s just plain humble. To be, to just be there, to let it be. When that happens, the world opens up. And you see things, and hear things, and feel things, and respond to things. And you’re not creating them. They’re just there. And you’re with them. It’s euphoric, and simple as can be. And easy as can be, when you can just be. (Which is always just plain hard for us grown-ups, and there’s the rub!) Now the second component is part of the beauty for me: the doing. So we have the being, great. The doing is the giving part, the owning it part, the I’m-going-to-throw-myself-in-there-for-you-and-whatever-this-is-that’s-around-us part, the mature and responsible and brave part that makes a choice to do something. And here’s where the 2 pieces of wisdom come together so cogent for me—you make your choice, even when it may be the “wrong” choice, the seemingly naïve choice or self-indulgent or in-my-head choice, you make it, and make it decidedly (“the violence of making a choice”); and then: when that choice “doesn’t interest you” anymore, you leave it. Move on to another. Make/Do one that does interest you. And when you’re no longer interested in that one anymore, consciously or unconsciously (i.e something else catches your attention, or you need a new breath, or you’re bored or irritated, or working too hard, or it just doesn’t feel good for some reason), you move on. To something that does feel good, that honestly does interest your honest self. Not the thing you think should interest you, but the thing that honestly does. Be there. The violence of making the choice of being there. And the world opens up.
4. What in your creative life are you proudest of?
My kids. Cliché, yes. True, absolutely! How does a human being create another human being??? That’s mind-blowing. And the perfect poetry of it is, I’d return home from SITI training and watch my little creative teachers in action. Talk about being and doing simultaneously. That’s what kids are! That’s what they do! I had a teacher at Yale who was a new dad at the time (the venerable Chris Bayes) and blurted out one day when class was over, “Time to go home to my teacher!” Every day last month, I’d watch my own kids after SITI workshop and mesmerize how they could just be and do, so purely and joyfully and honestly, at the same time. The saying is true: the hardest players to share the stage with are kids and animals. Why? Because they synthesize being and doing so completely. It’s bold and humble, and it’s boundlessly creative. For me, the SITI training taps into this phenomenon like nothing else. To watch the kids that I created (!) create every day, and to hope to create artistically in such a way as they do, is a phenomenal feeling.
5. Tell us about a piece of art that has recently inspired you.
It was a Viewpoints improv during the SITI Intensive I recently took. We’d spent the 2 weeks exploring ideas that emerged organically and uniquely throughout the workshop. Some of these were: The effortlessness of submitting to gravity; The choreography of breathing; The violence of making a choice; To sensate = to have sensation = and to let it feel good; To be legible; To Be; To be Seen… And for me, some ideas that hit home hardest inhabit dualities and pluralities just this side of simultaneous. It’s the yin and the yang. Things like Being and Doing; Being just observer or just performer, or both; Transferring attention between Self and Other; Moving with effort and with release; Moving toward and away; Moving just skeletally, just muscularly, both; Let it take you or you take it; Be, Be Seen, and Do. On and on. We threw our hats in for each VP improv. So many of these in class were resoundingly inspiring, but one was particularly magical. About half the class was up there, all were women, one man entered. Story was alive. All were committed to their choices. All were violent in their decisions. All were taking and all were giving. All were being and all were doing. All were leading and all were responding. All were unique and all were unified. It was breathtaking. At its natural conclusion, we of the audience erupted in sighs and sounds and applause in a collective wow moment. It was truly magical.
Production photos from Broadway World, StageBuzz and Scribd
Keep up with our blog to read and learn more about SITI Alumni and what they’re up to by following SITI’s blogs at siti.org/blog. If there’s an alum you want an update on, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org