PARTICIPANT REFLECTIONS: KATE QUARFORDT

Share a moment with educator, writer, theater director, artist and mother Kate Quarfordt as she reflects on her experiences with CEZNJA: BORN LONGING (tales and songs from croatia):

 

Here are a couple of memories I take with me:

 * Hanging out with Dara, Elana and Karma in the upstairs office at The Kitchen and watching the form of the piece evolve right before our eyes as Abena and Kristina hashed through ideas while physically rearranging cardboard box tops labeled with working titles and descriptions of each segment. What a great reminder of the fluid, organic nature of creative collaboration!
* Singing with the feisty, graceful, luminous Miriam in the back room at the Rudar Club in Queens with Abena, Elana, Dara, Zeljka and Kristina–all of them feisty, graceful and luminous in their own right!–and feeling immense gratitude for the privilege of getting to make music with such a powerful group of women. I was so moved by the range of ages, cultures and experiences represented at that table… and yet, how easy our interactions felt! Amazing.
* Realizing that for each of the main Croatian participants–Miriam, Nori, Marcella, and Ivica–there is no separation between art and life… and that calling yourself an artist is in no way a prerequisite for making art. Miriam “has ideas” and misses her island, and she writes poems. Nori crosses the ocean on a tiny boat and writes a book… AND paints! Marcella tells her story and recites poetry with the soul of a born performer, in three languages no less. And then there’s Ivica, whose lyrics have been hitting me out of nowhere and making me cry while I’m standing at the sink doing dishes these last few days. I mention all of this because, as a working mother of two, I sometimes struggle and worry about how to “be” an artist. What I’ve learned, witnessing these incredible folks–is that this mental struggle is really pretty pointless when you remember that on any given day you can simply choose to open your mouth and sing… or write a poem… or make a painting… or compose a song about a child’s story. Makes the phrase “creative life” feel kind of redundant. 🙂
* Sitting next to Ivica’s daughter during the second half of the performance. Out of the corner of my eye I could see tears sliding down her cheeks as she watched her brother translating. I was flooded with adrenaline at that moment, wanting to make sure I got the words and the notes right. As a non-Croatian I felt in some ways like an outsider, afraid I might dishonor the music by not embodying its message the way a Croatian singer would be able to; yet at the very same time, I felt completely welcomed and trusted. Out of the tension of that paradox, a simple but startling thought occurred to me: the idea that–while our stories and family histories may be very different–we are all, by virtue of our humanness, “born longing”–yearning for something deep and true inside ourselves that so often feels obscured, cut off from us, just barely out of our reach. I decided then to sing from that place of longing in me, and once I felt connected to that, all my anxiety about getting the words right dissolved and I sang with my whole heart.
With gratitude,
Kate
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