As the percussionist in Art or Evidence?, Charis Calvert has the inauspicious duty of teaching the decidedly non-musical member of the group (me, of course) how to find the 2 and 4 counts so she can play claves. She’s also a recent graduate of Fresno State majoring in media production and minoring in music and English. A percussionist since she was in middle school, she’s particularly enamoured with her marimba, which she plays in AorE’s upcoming Rogue Festival Show “Tea Liturgy”.
She loves movies, television, books, and video games; start a conversation with her about any of them and expect to be there a while. She regularly goes swing dancing and rock climbing, two hobbies that she considers the coolest on the planet (after music, which she categorizes as a lifestyle, not a hobby). She is deeply inspired by her best friend and cat, Allegra, and by her marimba.
As for her tea variety, she adores Irish cream cherry tea with an almost sickening amount of cream and sugar.
Charis and fellow AorE member Rachel Witort make up the musical duo Wild Parsnips.
Here is her Drive-Thru Interview:
In one word, describe your present condition.
In one sentence, what’s going on in your world?
A vast number of things, ideas, and people, all spinning around each other with the intensity and speed of subatomic particles and to the same bewildering effect.
With no restrictions on content or form, describe the present condition of your artistic outlook.
Presently, it’s an interest in exploring what soothes people and why. The incredible gift the arts can give us in comforting us when no purely rational means can is astonishing and fascinates me. I want to discover and engage things that will soothe souls, both mine and others’.
Charis, you did Rogue Festival last year for the first time. Tell us about your experience.
Rogue Festival in 2018 was a great opportunity to hone our craft and present our ideas and personalities to a receptive audience. We also got to experience brand new (to us) artistic expressions in a low-stakes, organic manner. I will forever love how casual Rogue is, both as a performer and an audience member. Rogue is truly unique, certainly in Fresno, for its ability to bring together people of vastly different talents and inclinations under the same banner, while still allowing them the freedom to express themselves however they choose. In Rogue last year, I found a community willing to embrace me for my ideas and gifts, and audience with open minds and willing hearts. That’s more than I can ask for.
What does Art or Evidence bring to your creative life that you don’t get anywhere else?
Art or Evidence is distinctive in my life right now as a place where I am an indispensable member of a creative team focused inward. I believe the name, Art or Evidence, offers a look into our process and attitude towards what we do, where the “purpose” of what we make is perpetually in question. Do we make art for art’s sake only, or does it mean something deeper? Can it be objective evidence of something outside of ourselves, or is art subjective and the perceived meaning is evidence only of the state of the performer and/or audience member? These are questions I get to explore in this group without a constant necessity to arrive at an answer. In this group, I generally see the journey to the performance as more important than the resulting performance itself. Before I shoot myself in the foot, I should be clear that we strive for excellent performances for our audiences (all members of our group are excellent-ists, if not perfectionists), but our shows are based around the discovery of ideas and the process of unpacking meaning. So many things in life are set with a clear destination in mind before you even set out, it’s a gift to be able to sit down with these three other talented, clever, creative, and above all funny people to explore our own lives and minds for beauty and meaning.
How would you describe Art or Evidence: Tea Liturgy in its present state?
I would describe Tea Liturgy as a celebration of and reverence for the everyday and the minuscule, the little details and rituals that make up who we are as people. We each as individuals have habits and moments that daily determine who we are and how we see and face the world. Seemingly inconsequential things like a cup of tea can be a bountiful oasis of calm in a turbulent ever-shifting and storming desert, or a bolstering weapon in the face of life’s horrors, or at the very least its banalities. Each of the members of Art or Evidence explores the way we live our lives in these brief moments between the big things. It’s all about the little stuff, and why we think it matters.
What other creative or performance endeavors are you wrapped up in these days?
I’m also currently active in a duo with my longtime partner-in-crime Rachel Witort as the indie-pop group Wild Parsnips. We feature original music, which I get more and more excited about every time we play; Rachel is an incredible songwriter and it’s an honor to perform with her and be a part of the way her music impacts the world. So much of her beautiful soul goes into her music and I’m so proud to be her drummer and her friend. Other ongoing projects of mine including story editing for my sister Cadence Calvert’s upcoming webcomic (her work is incredible, I can’t not pitch checking her out at cadencecalvertart on Instagram), and actively fighting both my perfectionism and my fear of my own natural clumsiness in learning how to swing dance (It’s an exercise in creative patience, adaptability, and, in my case, durability).
What do you find exciting about the creative work you’re involved with right now?
I’m really excited about the opportunity to find new ways for me to explore and combine what I do very well with others’ abilities. Since most of my musicianship training comes from the classical school, working with new people who haven’t learned their arts in the same way really refreshes my perspective on my own work. I’m never sure what the next rehearsal will hold (in a good way).
What makes a great audience for you?
In my mind, a great audience is any audience that truly gives you a shot with an open mind. As much as Rogue Festival shows can be out there, a lot of classical percussion repertoire can be just as bizarre. I’m used to performing for people who aren’t really sure what they’re watching or how they feel about it. I’m gone to performances by other people where I’ve felt more or less that same way. Hopefully, the audience, regardless of whether or not they personally enjoyed all aspects of the show, can still leave with an appreciation of how hard the performers have worked to hone their craft and what their performance can say about the humans who choose to perform it and enjoy it. Even if they just think it means that the performers are absurd, at least they can now appreciate how absurd. Whether or not you gain a better understanding of percussion from my shows, I can guarantee you’ll gain a better understanding of me as a person.
What’s your vision for the next five years?
In the next five years, I’d like to more fully realize and integrate my various skill sets to match my personality and vision. I am more of an artistic jack-of-all-trades than master of one, and as such my creative endeavors often feel more like a disparate juggling practice than anything else. I suppose I’m looking for synthesis of my skills, abilities, beliefs, and ideas into coherence. Not much to ask for, right?
What’s one thing you hope to find or experience at Rogue Festival this year?
This year at Rogue, I’m looking forward to being able to showcase what’s important to me. I’ve always found that I love sharing art that’s personally significant, and I believe that every show I’ve been a part of has, at some point, taken on a life of its own in such a way that I feel like discovered rather than helped create it, and every performance feels like a dramatic unveiling or some new creature or civilization previously unknown to history. There are so many incredibly distinctive and unique ways in which people express themselves and the way that they see the world, and I think that the Rogue Festival is about celebrating that.
An additional note:
one of the best parts of specializing in an unusual/rare instrument is that I often get to enjoy people’s reactions to hearing the marimba played live for the first time ever, and I can promise that that will never get old to me. Personally, I haven’t seen a marimba at Rogue yet; here’s to the new discoveries!
Art or Evidence?: Tea Liturgy runs during the Rogue Festival in Fresno’s Tower District.
Friday, March 1 — 8 pm, Sunday, March 3 — 3 pm, Friday, March 8 — 8:30 pm, Saturday, March 9 — 4:15 pm (added show), Saturday, March 9 — 6:45 pm
(Latecomers welcome. Runtime: 45 min)
Location: Fulton Street Art, 1118 N Fulton St, Fresno CA 93728 In the Tower District
Tickets: $7. Tickets online or at the door 30 minutes prior to showtime. www.roguefestival.ticketleap.com/tea-liturgy