How does one write an intro for oneself? You have your comedian husband do it. So here is a brief intro of me, written by my husband Jaguar Bennett. – HP
Heather Parish is the “writer element” to this year’s incarnation of Art or Evidence: Tea Liturgy. Heather is a quiet person who wields a surprising amount of influence. In the thirteen years she has worked in Fresno theater, she has come to occupy a central position in the theater scene, simply by working incredibly hard, without tooting her own horn too much. (Apparently, she lets her loudmouth jerk of a husband do that. I can’t explain her taste in men, but that’s her problem.) A highly accomplished director and administrator, Heather has run two of Fresno’s prominent cultural institutions as artistic director of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival and executive director of the Rogue Festival. She revitalized independent theater through the creation of her own company The New Ensemble. She has directed countless plays, including productions of Richard III, The Pillowman, A Picasso, Copenhagen, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, Gross Indecency, and Hedda Gabler. Heather continues to direct plays locally and be involved in various community organizations, as well as indulge her hobby of historical costume and reenactment. Heather still serves yet another indispensable role for the community as the founder, proprietor, and editor of this blog and newsletter.
In person, Heather exudes a quiet authority. She is unfailingly polite, but no one would dare cross her. I once witnessed her make a child burst into tears by calmly telling it to be quiet. Heather will someday rule the world, quite effectively and in a civilized fashion, and I advise you to make your peace with the inevitable now.
Here is Heather’s Drive-Thru Interview.
In one word, describe your present condition.
Eventful. (I don’t like the word “busy”.)
In one sentence, what’s going on in your world?
The convergence of the most exciting and exhausting 10 days of my year: Rogue Festival.
With no restrictions on content or form, describe the present condition of your artistic outlook.
My artistic outlook is by turns excited and exhausted. I’m in a bit of a transition phase right now, having spent several years in consuming administrative roles at the Rogue Festival and now transitioning back into more creative and expressive work. My outlook is positive, although I don’t entirely know what form my artistic outlook will take beyond 2019. I’m fortunate, though, to be in this Fresno arts community which has so much to sustain me.
What does Art or Evidence bring to your creative life that you don’t get anywhere else?
The chance to be a part of a collaboration where I’m not the principal decision-maker. That’s rare for me. It takes some of the pressure off and puts the emphasis on fun and learning. I was asked to come in as the “writer element” to the show and that’s pretty open ended, but I jumped at the chance to have to write a piece and deliver it orally to an audience. That’s a good step for me at this point, since I’m more accustomed to writing for blogs.
Also, three-fourths of Art or Evidence’s members are musicians and the music is the predominant part of the AorE experience. So that learning curve has been a good one for me. This will be my first experience singing in public since middle school. Luckily I only sing in the background!
How would you describe Art or Evidence: Tea Liturgy in its present state?
A collection of unique ideas on creativity in four units. We’re still putting the patter and transitions together, but the bulk of the show is there. Good news considering we basically have two rehearsals left (as of this writing on 2/14).
What other creative or performance endeavors are you wrapped up in these days?
I’m also directing “S’will 2: Romeo and Juliet” – the Fool’s Collaborative’s Rogue Festival Show at the Tower Lounge. Check it out! Right after Rogue wraps, I go straight into teaching a class on Jane Austen at the Osher Institute at Fresno State and then auditions for “My Cousin Rachel”, the adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier’s novel I’m directing for Good Company Players this summer (opens August 16!).
I’m also still the regional coordinator for the Jane Austen Society of North America Central California Region. So my 2019 is pretty booked. I like to take the autumn off to recharge my batteries.
What do you find exciting about the creative work you’re involved with right now?
Honestly, I like that everything I’m doing this year is rooted in literature in some way: writing, Shakespeare, Austen, DuMaurier. I like the tension of ideas contained in literature, rhetoric, story and speech. My love of theater is preceded by my love of literature. I prefer the spoken and written word and the rational beauty contained there.
What makes a great audience for you?
A listening audience will always be the best kind for me. And I don’t mean just sitting back quietly and allowing the performers to perform. I mean really listening – deeply, actively, and responsively. The human voice to ear exchange is truly an intimate one. The speaker’s voice rides on vibrations from their breath and throat, riding the air, landing inside a tiny canal and floating to the center of the brain where a tiny bone is vibrated to create meaning in the receiver’s head. If the audience can be fully present to receive it, a unique connection is created. When that happens with an entire group of people, it has such potential.
What’s your vision for the next five years?
That’s something I’m still working out. I’ve spent the last 15 or so years producing theater and various events, trying to push that ahead or keep it afloat. I’m far more interested now in working with people who have the artistic life in perspective. I’m as passionate about theater as I was at 30 or 35, but it has morphed and integrated into other areas. I’m inspired by many other things now, I’m interested in the world at large and the good and bad happening there, and I’m experiencing a deepening where theater is just one way for me to know my life.
So in the next five years, my vision is to integrate and balance my outer creative life with my inner personal life as much as I can. But theater is still one of the best ways to live the examined life that there is!
What’s one thing you hope to find or experience at Rogue Festival this year?
Every year at Rogue Festival, I hope to have an inspiring conversation with either an artist or audience member (hopefully both) about performance, art, or living life creatively. It can be about a particular show or about how we approach our work or about how an audience member took something away from a show – it doesn’t matter. I love those conversations around festivals and the cross-pollination that can happen there. Now that I’m back to being an artist at the festival, I hope a little more of that comes my way!
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