Category Archives: Soul

Leave Breadcrumbs

I believe in breadcrumbs.

Since the night I snuggled up to my Oma’s bosom to hear her read Hansel and Gretel for the first time, breadcrumbs have fueled my imagination. Haunted and yet mesmerized by this tale of witches and evil stepmothers, it was the breadcrumbs I remember most. And I began leaving them too. I didn’t do it consciously, but then neither did Hansel (they fell from his hands as he walked). In writing and documenting my feelings since the days of my teens, it turns out that I too have left myself a trail of tender bits of nourishment that have guided me home when I’ve been lost in tricky passages, grasping for clear direction.

They say the itch comes in cycles of seven; for me it’s longer. Ten years ago I was in a similar place, and ten years before that. I yearned for a deepening of the path each time, filling journal pages with my questions, enrolling in workshops, and gathering my most trusted peeps together in support of my molting. I’m in such a transition again today, feeling that the path is either deepening, veering off into a brand new direction, or both.

My fiery Sagittarius (Rising) is ready. In the early morning, I hear her stamping her hooves to prepare the ground for new adventures that will rattle my cage, reset my marbles, and bring in the next stellar thing. My earthy Virgo (Sun) is all in her head. She knows vitality is essential to her heart and change to her soul. What’s vexing is that we’re presently in the in-between place where one foot is happily tapping away on the known ground while the toes of the other foot are already dipping the new waters. Cue the breadcrumbs.

These notes to myself prove to be treasure-filled. In a journal from 2006, I find an entry where I envisioned meeting my future self 20 years anon (which is only 10 years now). I wrote out in detail how my future self looks, how she will greet me, what she’s up to, and what advice she will have for me. It’s a poignant read, inspiring enough to lift me from the goo of my current ambivalence and place me expectantly on the back of my patient Sag.

As in any good fairy tale, there are demons all over these writings. And history shows me that the ones we come into this life with are the ones we’re fated to fight. The same menahudi that tried to trip me up a decade ago are back in full force, which is depressing except for what I’ve learned about that: demons are our teachers and the level of our resistance to them is equal to the size of their gifts. In my last blog posting, I sent a love letter to fear and in that same spirit I acknowledge these others, some of whom I’ve  endowed with names, descriptions, habits and skills in an effort to understand them better and win them over:

Missy Incompetence is mousy, prim, and whiny. Her strengths would be persistence and soft-spokenness if she had a better message, but it’s all about “not enough” for her. Grim Reeper Mama is steely, cold and deadly. She insists that time is running out and barks “Why don’t you quit art and go back to a real job before it’s too late?” I gotta hand it to her, she’s the very spirit of clarity and confidence. Greener Pasture Patsy misses a lot and is obsessive, always looking for something other than what she has. But she still has a killer bod, can seriously multi-task, and is light-hearted and spontaneous which makes her adorable too.

Argh! Fighting these three is futile. I’m better off getting cozy with them over cocktails and dinner. (Mata Hari: I totally get what you were onto in choosing to sleep with the enemy.)

My breadcrumbs are clues that help me see the oh-so natural struggle that is the artist’s life and how well things have actually worked themselves out since the last time I was drifting. I see how life and craft are richer and more fulfilling than anything even my Grimm-trained imagination can ever conjure up. Knowing that is a real blessing.

Leave breadcrumbs. Not only is writing a cathartic activity no matter how scratchy and haphazard it may feel in the moment, but it’s cheaper than therapy and a huge vote of confidence in your inner guru. Keep those scribblings near your passport, will, marriage license, bible and whatever else you’d grab in a fire. You’ll find that these testaments to your vulnerability and longing, as well as your hopefulness and gratitude, will provide ample direction should you one day find yourself in a dense forest at night with a wicked stepmother in tow. And if there’s a budding writer in you, you’ll have the seeds of your memoir.

I’m reminded of a tender tidbit from the life of Goethe, my fellow Virgo who shares a birthplace with me and whose poems have reliably lit my path. He lived to spend his 82nd (and last) birthday in August 1831 in the mountainous region around Ilmenau surrounded by his grandchildren. There in the woods he’d visited often in his youth stood a tiny wooden hut. He came upon the hut while out walking, and on the wall inside it was a poem written 51 years before. As he recognized his own handwriting, he wept.

Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh, (Over all the peaks there is peace,)
In allen Wipfeln spürest du (In all the treetops you feel)
Kaum einen Hauch; (Barely a breath;)
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde. (The little birds in the forest are silent.)
Warte nur, balde ruhest du auch. (Just wait, soon you will rest too.)


Love Letter to Fear

Dear Fear,

It has taken me some time to get around to this, but with Valentine’s Day having recently passed and the world evolving the way it is, I’ve been thinking a lot about love, affection and their opposites. It’s high time I wrote you this letter.

The world is full of teachings that would have me confront you, tame you, control you, overcome you, silence you and be free of you.

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.
– Mark Twain
The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.
-Buddha
Where fear is, happiness is not.
– Seneca
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.
– Mahatma Gandhi

It’s tough to argue with sage souls.
Even Marilyn has no love for you.

We should all start to live before we get too old.
Fear is stupid. So are regrets.
– Marilyn Monroe

Life has taught me something else. It has taught me that if I make an enemy of you, Fear, I make an enemy of me. If I disown you, I disown what it means to be a human woman and breathing, living artist. What has it ever cost me to acknowledge you and own you? Have I been irreparably defeated or have I only ever gained from your lead? You who has the uncanniest way of showing me the path not by leading me along it, but by pointing me to it. You, who are not my leaping and my flying, but the miles of ground leading to the edge of everything that has ever been extraordinary and, in retrospect, essential.

I used to believe it was you who kept me from crossing the street, but really it was you who kept me from staying where I was. The tight feeling in my mother’s hand as she stepped off of the curb with my tiny hand in hers, that was her fear. I learned that fear feeling from her. I learned it so I could recognize it. I’ve heard it in the faint-hearted gasp of someone not coming along with me, or someone looking back over their shoulder. I’ve seen it again and again in the eyes of people, in animals, in the movement of crowds, in the gestures of evangelizing egoists. But I’ve never seen it in babies. Fear, you are not our first response, you are our learned response.

People talk about being free of feeling afraid. The enlightened teachers of our time encourage fearlessness. Is that even possible? Can I be free of the feeling of my heart racing, my stomach turning, the top of my spine tingling, my blood boiling, my mind playing tricks? How would I know these things, these life-defining things, if I were free of you? You are Life to me, Fear. Without you I am dead. Dead to myself. And fear of death? What is that, really? Is it fear or is it the absence of that other F-word….faith?

The people in my life who know me longest and best know that resistance is my gut response to any new and really worthwhile thing. I come in with a shrug, I furrow my brow, I speak with time-buying words, I step back, step around, hold my breath. It’s true that I never leap into the really good stuff, the stuff most destined to be me and mine, right out of the gate. My resistance is you, Fear, and how I’ve learned to trust it! That wall of No is how you get yourself across to me – for an hour, a day, a year if the stakes are high. It all depends on what’s on the other side waiting for my Yes.

You’re my safety, but not in the conventional sense. I’m not safely stuck to you. I know you don’t want me for yourself. You’ve gone five decades without so much as a blown kiss from me let alone a missive of love like this and look how you’ve thrived. You’re my safety because you want the utmost for me. There just near the heart of me, the core of me, the best of me, is where you are. As artist I’ve been saying it for years…fear is fuel. You are the way in to the center, not the center itself. The stronger I feel you, Fear, the closer I know I am to my jewel.

That band of prickly heat I feel on my neck on a dark street at night is you. That cosmic, no gravity, freewheeling feeling in the pit of my stomach when I look down from a very high place is you. That flutter in my heart at the sight of someone electrifyingly resonant with my being is you. In my every step up the aisle into long partnership, or downstage to the footlights, in those fleeting moments of sublime connection, in every exit visa, in every whimper of my heart beginning to break open, there you’ve been. Like a chaperone, you old chap. Because at the moment of arrival you are gone. You have no desire to own me and rule me. This is the great misunderstanding. You don’t want me to cleave to you like anxiety, hallucination, terror and madness would have me do. What are those but fear fearing fear. You want me to breathe through you, shake you off, move on from you. Your purpose in life is to see to it that I arrive inside the wondrous, elusive, and transcendent moments of being, alone.

I know you had a name once, long long ago and all but forgotten. Ireul. I know you came with wings and fire for anything seeking birth. You’ve been here always. In that fateful spark that became me, you were summoned for my journey. At long last I have the words to tell you what I know you’ve always known: that without you I don’t exist, without you I don’t create, without you I don’t breathe, bleed, feed, live and love.

The day you die, my Fear, I will die with you.
Until then, you are my compass guiding me toward all that I am meant to be and not to be.

Love always,
Karen

The bird of courage flies with wings of fear.


Give Your Gift Before You Go

This New Year’s morning, my man and I were talking about the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. And about how I have enough decades behind me now to weigh and measure. I’ve been here long enough to attend births, to steward some into their own becoming, and be with others at the doorway to their deaths. Now is my time to bring my experience to the midpoint and say:  It’s a short distance between one and the other.

You can bring birth here
You can bring death here
To this midpoint
To this center, this moment
Which contains all

We artists have a natural urge, a hunger even, to throw ourselves into the world with abandon. We’re inclined to embrace without first needing to understand. Our very pursuit of art is the way IN toward the understanding we seek.

Without our yearning, who would we be? Without our curiosity and wonder, why would we care? Without our sense of abundance and absence, how would we know where to go? We’ve gifted ourselves the gamut of emotions from bliss all the way to regret so that when the music plays, we can move.

Since birth we’ve had placed at our feet infinite treasures. From the first blink of consciousness up to this moment, who we are is a wealth. It doesn’t matter what, it matters that. We’re the totality, the beginning and the end, the first word and the last. Whatever you come across, it’s treasure and there’s more than enough.

There is enough.

Take any experience at all…take a negative one: a betrayal, a theft, a broken bone. The one who sees only the experience suffers many times. The one who sees the gift in the experience suffers only once. The victim is resigned. The maker sees the bounty and gets busy. Experience is a treasure trove. It’s fodder for the craft. We know this.

Make your life your work of art. You’re at the helm, master of brush and baton, mistress of ink and film and marley.  Play with what you’ve lived. Use it with abandon. Draw it back, pull it forward…recreate it. Be selfish, be reckless, be courageous. Be honorable, be humbled, be happy.

If in life you’re an artist, you’re an artist of life. At irregular intervals you stop to consider your time, your distance to events and people, and you begin again. You make anew what you were taught and given, and what you learned and received.

Share what you’ve lived and lay it bare for us. Create a new way for us, a new world of possibility for yourself and for us. When you open, we open. When we discover, you discover. When you are, all can become. This is art. This is also wisdom.

Give to your life the voice of its author.
Your life is your gift.
Give your gift before you go.

When Artists Die

I really didn’t know much about Philip Seymour Hoffman until he died. I hadn’t seen most of his films and none of his plays. Yet I’ve been moved to read about him. His unexpected death struck a chord and prompted people to weigh in on not only how he died but how lived. I found it fascinating that people weighed in on the matter of PSH’s death. That they judged his death. That they accounted for all his talent and riches and said it wasn’t enough for him to continue living.

Last week Erv Raible, cabaret impresario, also passed away. The last time I saw him was two years ago when he was one of six of us at an intimate dinner party hosted by a mutual and treasured friend, and I got to know Erv Raible a little bit more. Erv loved this artform and devoted himself to its practitioners . He owned/managed venues where I had my firsts: Don’t Tell Mama where I made my NY cabaret debut as singer and later as director, and the Duplex, where I first came onto the scene as a producer. Erv’s passion helped usher in my own emergence as an artist. That’s his legacy to me.

On the heels of PSH’s passing, ER’s death has also generated a lot of dedications on Facebook and elsewhere. It seems that when a person dies we really get to know who they were, how they lived, what they gave and who they inspired.

Suppose both of these gentlemen had had enough of living and decided it was enough and timely for them to go. One died in the hospital after a long illness, the other alone in his apartment. We have such trouble letting people live on their terms and die on their terms. We judge it in an effort to make sense of it.

I think it comes back to fear. Not fear of dying but fear of living. Fear of power, and the power of our will. If I were to truly exercise my power and my will, what would happen? I might live and be happy. Is it death we really fear and that makes us squirm or is it life?

We die so many times while we’re alive, every day, every second. You’d think we’d have gotten used to it by now. That final ending. How can we the living say its final? Because we do it all the time. We have built in all these living deaths along the way to remind us that there is no end to us. We exhale, we inhale – we stop, we go – we sleep, we awaken. We die…we’re reborn in someone’s memory.

PSH possibly reached more people in his death than he did in his life. Outside his circles of family and theater and film, he’s been all over the news and magazine covers and Facebook. Like others before and others to come. In the stage artist, the father, the addict, the man, the human being, we see something of ourselves. He performances registered, on stage, on screen and off. He showed us what passion looks like, his and our own, and in this recognition is a birth. Something in us comes alive, something is born. That is recognition. It may be an “ah” that lasts for 7 seconds. But in those 7 seconds there is more light than shadow and more life than not.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. – William Shakespeare


Channel Magic

You’ve got to find some way of saying it, without saying it. – Duke Ellington

In cabaret, I’ve experienced enormous freedom. I’ve lived moment-to-moment for an hour at a time, using anything that comes up in myself and offering that to my musicians and my audience. The result of my dipping into my own emotional palette is that others dip into theirs – their own emotions and stories and memories. And so it cycles ’round and ’round.

This is why the audience is so essential to the cabaret experience – because of this intimate and immediate exchange that happens. The magic happens when a channel opens, a channel of interpretation that connects us in limitless ways to each other and to something beyond ourselves.

Learning cabaret has helped me learn life. Just as I’ve spent years getting out of my own way on-stage and out of the way of what seeks to express itself through me, I’ve freed myself off-stage too. I’m better today at feeling empathy, at managing fear, at listening, at making mistakes, at lowering my expectations and letting myself be surprised. I’m better at trust.

The goal for me as singer is not to sing at all. The goal is to channel. To open myself to the emotions, ideas and messages that are at hand and to understand how that will sing itself. My method can be reduced to being fearlessly willing to stay open in the moment. To not “put” anything out there or put anything on, but rather to allow myself to be put out there. My work is as much about vanishing as it is about arriving.

Excellent performance is a matter of being rather than doing. It’s handing myself over and that takes time. Time and practice and trust. Ironically, before one can hand oneself over as an artist one has to first accumulate oneself. You can’t give up what you don’t possess. To release the self from performance requires a hearty self-consciousness, an amassing of self and an ever-increasing confidence to let go. And so we pack on the training and the experience and the “me/mine” for many, many years.

As singer and teacher today, I release myself from my preparation and live as freely as possible on-stage. I am not tied to my interpretation of a song (even the one I rehearsed yesterday) or my ideas about stagecraft. I dip into these things as needed – catch them, bring them to earth, let them go. Performance is like any language. I’ve learned it, it is in service to me and in opening to it, it brings itself forth.

In my workshops and privately, my students come with their presentations and I observe. Ideas comes to me as I watch and listen and I note my feelings as they occur. Then we play. The student guides herself to refine her piece, change it, polish it, transform it. I am the witness, the nudger. My aim is not to change the way she is expressing herself. I want that to be natural and real and on her terms. My aim is to help her bring herself to that channeling place, and to place her expression in a certain frame. I am an enframer, yes.

I strive to sing my songs the same way, as I would speak them. I let them come to me. I let the audience come to me. Allow, allow, allow. That’s when the magic happens.


The Seed Within

Within us all there is a seed of resplendent life force. We artists feel it especially. This seed lies in its casing, a hard exterior shell. 

We have to let the flowering take place. For an artist this is always a necessity…this having to bloom. We cannot help it. We can hinder it, prevent it, stifle it, go another way. It does not go away. It is patient. It waits for us. And then, when we allow it… even then we cannot help it. It grows itself.

Resistance to it comes from the mind and through the body. It does not come through the heart. The heart may race with fear as easily as with exuberance. The two are the same when fear feels exuberant and exuberance, fearsome. Both originate in thought, in mind. And we resist. We resist feeling fear and we resist feeling exuberance.

My life in art has been a long path of getting out of the way of the flowering. Of not putting up walls and other defenses. Of becoming increasingly trusting. Of listening. I have thrown myself into the stream and sometimes I have floated and sometimes I have been hurled into rocks and I have come close to drowning more than once. Here my mind, my ego, has come to be a necessary ally. And I have survived, with the seed intact. And this seed has grown and begot new seeds. And that’s what it means to live as an artist. To sow the seeds of our destiny and see the path we must follow.  Like Hansel & Gretel and their breadcrumbs, only with better results. 

At whatever time you awaken to the seed that stirs within you, that is where you start….whether you’re a child or a very big grown-up. No matter how old you are or how you look or who you’ve been or what you’ve done. Or haven’t been and haven’t done. Start there. Begin to listen.

The other voices in your head will be there too. They will have you wait until some certain time, or some other thing happens first or is achieved – when I turn 21, when I quit my job, when I quit my marriage, as soon as the kids are gone, as soon as I lose 50 pounds, as soon as my father dies, as soon as I have a million on account – are stories. Set the story straight. Start where you are. Become the one who begins at last.

Everything comes from nothing. You have an inspiration, your intuition tells you something, turn in. Listen to that something, attune to it. It is the stirring of your seed.

images-1

It needs your attuning and that’s really all it needs. Just your attention. Attune to it, believe in it, and watch what happens next. You are given things…clues, ideas, instrumental people, energy. Soon the seed becomes a root and a stem and a branch and a bud. The flowering happens naturally. Our job is to cultivate the seed, to make fertile the earth and to water it all the way into budding with our love and our belief. We can let others love it and believe it for us first, before we do. It’s all the same to the seed.

No flower asks for permission to bloom. It blooms in its own time. Claiming our birthright as artists is like making a pact with nature. Our responsibility is to the seed. Nature takes care of the rest. Our true nature.

If you are reading this posting, then something has likely already stirred in you. Your soul has been aroused from its deep sleep, or perhaps from a recent nap. Long ago or just this morning. It has called you to art. What will you do now?

A new year is an impressive time. It always feels pregnant to me. All of us people on earth who count the years, and that’s most of us, are focussed on this turning. And we feel it collectively, that focus. All those intentions and all that dreaming. Very potent.

Some things will stick. Some seeds will pop out of their shells. Some won’t.

Don’t set yourself up too broadly, too vigorously, hang up too many hooks around yourself. Pick a thing that is your heart’s desire and feed that. Just one essential thing. What is it you dream of most nights? What have you known about for as long as you can remember? What inkling have you had time and time again…

Here in the northern hemisphere it’s winter and all the seeds are dormant in the earth.

Any day is New Years day, all the live long year.


On Being a Towering Figure

The towering figure called Nelson Mandela has died.
This is the poem that got him through prison:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
~ Invictus, by William Ernest Henley

Did Mandela know as a boy that he would be towering?
Did it come to him in jail?
Did he know what he was in for?
What he would shoulder and carry and marry?

He said: “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

What determines small? What determines towering?
A script at birth or the one we write ourselves?
Are there costs of playing large and none of playing small?

As kids at play, we jump to be the hero, the king, the queen, the princess. Perhaps the wicked witch. Not the girl in the back of the alley nobody ever sees.

What do we amplify in ourselves to play it big and silence to play it small?
Conversely, what do we amplify in ourselves to play it small and silence in ourselves to play it big.

Nelson Mandela gave himself messages beyond the ones he was given and that determined his way. I will settle for the life I am capable of living.

He got to be right. We all do.Whatsoever we choose comes packaged with a voice within us that draws all the corresponding stuff of living to carry us along. Towering situations, opportunities, challenges, emotions, events, language and people for the one with a passion for towering. Small situations, opportunities, challenges, emotions, events, language and people for the one with a passion for small things. What deals do we make with our voices. What bargains with our souls? Or is someone else steering our ship?

We’re all of us a blank page at the beginning. Powerful beyond belief. Until we know something for ourselves, we take the belief of others. So what separates a towering figure from a small one? Nothing. Nothing but belief. Either way we choose it, it will take our full effort. The effort to be towering; the effort not to be. The rich man has his impoverishments; the poor man his riches.

Nelson Mandela lived the life he believed he was capable of living. Fate met him on the way, on the highway, because he believed it would. His voice said to him:

I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.

Today I ask myself: Am I?


Emptiness and Origin

Emptiness is the void. Silence is the void. The place of origin from which all comes and to which all returns. Silence is key. Without it there is no music. Debussy said, “Music is the silence between the notes.” Think about that. Music is the silence between the notes.

Silence is space, space is physical – the earth, the chair, the wall. Space is air – the atmosphere. Space is resonance. If singing the notes of a song is music, the silence that follows is divinity. It is where the inscrutable is felt and heard.

The call to art emerges from that void. The courage to heed the call, to undertake the study, to find the teachers and read the books. The impulse to explore, to discover, to drop what we are doing and sing, to throw on a CD and dance, to immerse ourselves

in the rhythm of music, to play, to turn a new page. It all comes from the emptiness. The determination to practice. The fear. The doubt. The voices in the head. Ours, theirs. The persistent tuning into what begins to move within us, to uncoil itself and express itself. That bone-level feeling of destiny. The inspiration for the first step and then all subsequent steps that begin to be felt, to be known as the career that slowly begins to unfold. It all comes from the emptiness. All utterances, tones, expressions, exhalations, intentions. And into the emptiness they return.

Galaxy

The silence following a song can be deafening, can it not? That moment that hangs heavy in the air just before the first sound breaks in – a sigh, a gasp, a chuckle, applause. That silence, still pregnant with the sweet echo of purposefulness and connection. Of origin.

We must cultivate the silence in our work. Learn to empty ourselves again and again – between phrases, between songs, between acts, between performances, between days, between seasons. We must learn to trust the silence. Learn to move within it, shape it, harness it, use it, speak with it. So that we continually resemble that from which we came and which is continually seeking to express itself through us.

What is emptiness to you?


Understanding

To become exemplary, an artist cannot imitate, cannot be a carbon copy of someone else. She must present that which is thoroughly unique – herself – and for this she needs to know herself and to continually grow herself.

A good singer builds herself a mental reference book. She excels in the art of seeing into someone else’s eye to glimpse the truth or a lie, or of hearing into someone else’s voice. Every artist can be inspired by another person, another artist. Every interpreter can have her models, but in the end our own signature must go on the work. We must become Creator and use everything that exists to make something new and to reveal a soul, an original soul. Can one learn to be observant if one hasn’t possessed this quality since childhood? Very definitely, yes!

There is no real art without understanding. It is our responsibility as artists to combine sensitivity with intelligence. Sensitivity enables us to beautify our work, but that can only happen if it is supported by knowledge. It is the job of the actor to present human truths artistically, but not in some kind of precise and mechanical mirroring process. If he shows an ugliness, he should show the beauty in that ugliness as well. The actor is not a photographer but a painter and must derive his inspiration from the myriad sources around him. So it is for the singer, who paints a picture with each tone, word, and gesture.


As Artist

My art is an art of nuance. I use my body to channel air through space, my intelligence to communicate what someone has composed lyrically and musically, and my spirit to set it free. I like to chuckle, choke, whisper, sigh, growl, breathe and moan. I like to sit, stand, bend, twist, and face the audience with my back.

Homage to Yvette

I am a painter, a scene-maker. I want my audience to see a scene unfold through me. I use tools I’ve brought from vocal studies and theater, using a singing voice as well as a “Sprechstimme,” (speaking voice) to turn songs into “un drame condense,” a mini-drama. Going first by words and then by melody, and using a broad palette of expressions, I seek to bring color to my songs and thereby to illuminate my subject, the atmosphere, and the age.

I am a choreographer. I use gesture to accentuate an idea, a line or a word. My sensuality is expressed gesturally. I am a masquerader. I love to dress the part. I am also an exhibitionist; the most essential Karen Kohler exists before a receptive and open audience.

I am a thief. I don’t borrow something; I steal it and put my own signature on it. There will only ever be one Lotte Lenya, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astaire. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but I leave it to the men, the male impersonators, to transform themselves into these ladies. I am an evoker, I honor those who have come before by giving myself fully to what I appropriate. The mentors and muses whom I’ve heard and watched, from whom I’ve stolen and whose humanity and style have influenced my own are, most notably: Lenya, Dietrich, Astaire, Yvette Guilbert, Bessie Smith, Anita O’Day, Elis Regina, Ella Fitzgerald and Connee Boswell.

I am a preservationist. From the moment I came upon the songs of early 20th century Europe – inventive, fresh, daring, lyrical, ironic, dark, sexy – I was hooked. I became committed to the preservation of this music, to the authentic re-interpretation of these lyrics, in my own time. Toward that end, I am a passionate singer.

I am a bridge. Born in Germany, raised in the U.S. and now a dual citizen, I know that I am uniquely suited to this art form. I have made my own journey across time and place, as have my songs.


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