Lost & Found, Summer 2022 on Raspberry Island and Contact Tracing, Summer 2021 in Zoom
What is Loss & Resilience?
Nearly all of us have had something to grieve over the last few years—loss of loved ones, loss of connection, loss of experiences, loss of stability, loss of community, loss of a sense of identity. And many of us have been dealing with ambiguous losses for a long time. Through generations.
We know that creativity and ritual help us on our journey toward resilience. We’ve seen how listening and sharing stories help us acknowledge and manage grief and loss, however specific or ambiguous.
Art We’ve Made
Lost & Found
Created by Wonderlust Productions co-Artistic Director Leah Cooper in collaboration with a diverse collection interdisciplinary artists, Lost & Found was a portal into a new way of seeing the future by reconnecting with our community through stories and live performance.
That has left a hollow where
Once there was certainty?
Because it feels too big
And dark to name?
This island is a portal
These trees are waiting for you
This water can receive your sorrow.
you’ve already been here, and
singing our loss out together
is simply returning home?
Created and directed by Leah Cooper with stories created and performed by Masanari Kawahara, Antonio Duke, Marcela Michelle, and Laurel Armstrong. Guided and co-written by Megan Kim, Adam Whisner, Sophie Javna, and Yana Landowne (co-director), with additional co-writing by Ernest Briggs and Shante’ Sojourn Zenith. Costume design by Andrea Gross. Music composition by Becky Dale and Sophie Javna. Herbal offerings by Sophie Javna. Research assistance by Lacey Mamak.Read More
During this unique experience, four local storytellers (Masanari Kawahara, Antonio Duke, Marcela Michelle, andLaurel Armstrong) use movement, song, storytelling, and ritual to share from their own experience transforming loss into wonder and healing. Four guides will playfully lead the audience on an exploration of the island–an evocative little oval of land in the middle of the Mississippi River, sitting under bridges and trestles, right alongside downtown Saint Paul. As they move between performances all across the island, audiences and guides together will build the ingredients for a ritual that will be performed at the end of the show. Each Guide (Adam Whisner, Sophie Javna, Yana Landowne, and Megan Kim) brings a rich history of working in community to create art that is participatory, meaningful, and fun.
“I’ve been obsessed for a while now with the kinds of loss that go unnamed, ungrieved, and unresolved for many of us,” said Leah Cooper, the play’s primary creator. “I’ve also been struck by the power of story sharing, art making, and ritual to help people express loss, and find understanding and resilience through collective expression. So I’ve wondered what it would look like to create a performance experience that gave people a place for grieving unnamed losses together.”
Lost & Found began in response to the work Wonderlust has created with various communities who have often been silenced, ignored or misunderstood since founding in 2014. People affected by adoption, the incarceration system and military veterans are all dealing with complex layers of loss and potential trauma.
To better understand how Wonderlust’s plays were positively affecting participants, Cooper began to research, read, and reach out to local anthropologists, psychologists, ritualists, and other artists. In 2021, Cooper and collaborators Megan Kim, Oogie_Push, Aimee Bryant, and Kari Olk created an intimate online storytelling and ritual experience based on this research called Contact Tracing for nine performances of 18 participants at a time.
Participants in that experience called it “the kind of show that’s stuck with me weeks afterward and it keeps popping back up in my life in unexpected ways–just the experience I needed as we navigate this weird “return” to life that’s not dictated by a virus.”
The combined knowledge gained from those performances with the desire to share live communal performance with audiences again gave birth to Lost & Found.
Cooper explained further, “For a long time, I had a hard time explaining what I meant by complex or unresolved loss – if you had it, you knew what I meant, if you didn’t, you didn’t. And then the pandemic happened. . . So now nearly everyone has experienced profound losses – even if just a loss of certainty about what’s true and reliable – and they’ve had to endure it in isolation. After these last two years, it feels like everyone gets it now, and everyone is looking for a more thoughtful way forward than pretending it all didn’t happen.”
Wonderlust sees Lost & Found as an entertaining opportunity for people to come together as we acknowledge how fundamentally we have been changed by what we’ve lost and what we may yet find once we release what’s gone. Audiences are encouraged to allow the experience to help them transform their own unnamed losses.
Lost & Found also includes music by Becky Dale, Sophie Javna, and Laurel Armstrong. Plants and herbs by Sophie Javna. Costume Consultant is Andrea Gross. Stage Management Gabriel Penaloza-Hernandez. Ritual and script collaboration by Shante’ Sojourn Zenith.
Performances are Friday-Saturday at 3 pm. All tickets are sliding scale/pick-your-price (suggested=$20). No one will be turned away for lack of funds, but capacity is limited to 80 people per performance.
Laurel Armstrong is a singer/actor who has also been known to produce, dance, compose, commune with spirits, write, and/or bake for various projects she has worked on. Formally trained in classic musical-theater performance, her true passion is for work that blends genres, tries new (and preferably weird) things, and involves communities directly. Some great folk she has worked with in this regard include Natalie Nowytski, Peter Vitale, Nautilus Music-Theater, The Flying Foot Forum, Skylark Opera, Theater Elision, Animist Arts, and Wonderlust. www.LaurelArmstrong.com
Antonio Duke is a Twin Cities based actor and playwright. He’s inspired by myths from the black spiritual canon that derive from the Yoruba, Santeria, and Voodoo deities. He has three solo performance pieces under his belt, Ashes of Moons (Pillsbury House Theatre’s Naked Stages Fellowship), Tears of Moons (Guthrie Theatre’s Solo emerging Artist Celebration), and Missing Mississippi Moons (Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant) He is an inaugural Jerome Hill Artist Fellow. He’s an alumnus of the Guthrie B.F.A Actor Training Program. He has been seen on stages with The Blue Barn Theatre, Penumbra Theatre, Pillsbury House + Theatre, Climb Theatre, Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, Pangea World Theatre and The Guthrie Theatre, Great River Shakespeare Festival. Make sure to check him out on The History Channel series “I WAS THERE” playing John Lewis in an episode titled “Good Trouble.”
Masanari Kawahara 川原正也 (he/him/his) is a Butoh doer, theatre artist, puppeteer, and arts educator. He recently performed in Lelis K. Brito’s A Binding Strangeness as part of Isolated Acts at red eye theater, Valerie Oliveiro’s SOFT FREEDOMS as part of MERGE at the Cowles Center (2022). His solo piece 8’46” (movement for healing), featuring a soundscape by Sho Nikaido, was performed as part of Offerings: BareBones 2020, and was recognized in StarTribune’s 2020 Artists of the Year edition. Previously Masanari was a member of the Butoh group Nenkin Butoh Dan, which received a 2015 Sage Award for outstanding dance ensemble for Fu.Ku.Shi.Ma. Other dance projects include: Anthea Hamilton’s Cabbage Four Ways (2021) as part of Paradox of Stillness at Walker Art Center; Throw Open The Heavy Curtain (2018) by Sharon Picasso Projects; Census (2016) and Every Other (2015) by Aniccha Arts. Masanari is currently the Director of Naked Stages program as well as a Resident Teaching artist at Pillsbury House + Theatre. Masanari is a Playwrights’ Center McKnight Theater Artist Fellow 2018-2019 and 2010-2011.
Marcela Michelle is a Minneapolis-based transdisciplinary artist, activist, producer, and educator working across genres and forms. She is the Artistic Co-Director of Lightning Rod – a QTPOC-led arts organism providing opportunities for QTGNC artists and activists, and before that was the Artistic Director of 20% Theatre Company. She is a Teaching Artist in Residence with the Hennepin Theatre Trust and a 2019 Mentee of Pangea World Theatre and Art2Action’s National Institute for Directing and Ensemble Creation. Her work has been featured by Walker Art Center, Red Eye Theater, Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio, Northern Spark, Rough Magic Performance Company, The Minneapolis Burlesque Festival, Dykes do Drag, and many other fine groups. Marcela loves spending time with her Wife and their Dogter, watching and reading non-fiction, and expanding her culinary repertoire. Upcoming work includes a new dance from Alexandra Bodnarchuck and a December Residency with Rosy Simas Dance 331 Studio.
Sophie Javna (guide, music, and herbs) is a transplant from Oregon, a theatermaker, mover, singer, scribbler, puppeteer, and gardener. She is currently touring Tucker’s Robot with Open Eye Theatre’s driveway tour this summer and just planted mushrooms in her garden. She is in her second year of the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Minnesota.
Megan Kim, (Wonderlust ensemble member) is a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy-Los Angeles. She spent 9 years acting and singing in LA performing at various venues such as the Ford Amphitheatre and Fullerton Civic Light Opera, before returning to the Twin Cities. She is a company member with Wonderlust Productions. She performed in In My Heart: The Adoption Play Project, Our House: The Capitol Play Project and the OverAchievers Web Series and was the assistant director for Look Again: The Normandale Play Project. Other theatre credits include: Artistry, Smartmouth Comedy, Freshwater Theatre, Theatre Unbound and Nautilus Music-Theater. She also performs with Pillsbury House + Theatre’s Breaking Ice program.
Mahayana (Yana) Landowne is an Interactive Performance Artist and Theater Director based in NYC and delighted to be participating in her first Wonderlust Production. Currently she is also very involved with staging art activism especially with Extinction Rebellion (xrnyc.org) and in radical self-expression and empowering others to believe in their own creativity. Thank you for being part of this performance. For other fun festive projects check out callingallparties.org & mahayanalandowne.com.
Adam Whisner (Wonderlust ensemble member), performed in Wonderlust’s Veterans Play Project, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Adoption Play Project, Capitol Play Project, Dear Future Self at St. Thomas University, and Overachievers Web Series. Adam has been a full-time actor in the Twin Cities since age twenty-five, doing theatre, corporate/educational video, and commercial TV, radio, and Web advertising. He’s been the voice of dozens of local, regional, and national brands including Callaway, Papa Murphy’s Pizza, and the Minnesota Wild. Theatre credits include shows with Hey City Theater, History Theatre, Hidden Theatre, Eye of the Storm Theatre, 15 Head: A Theatre Lab, The Commonweal, Walking Shadow Theatre Company, Gremlin Theatre, Workhaus Collective, Joking Envelope, Loudmouth Collective, Theatre Pro Rata, and Park Square Theatre. His stage acting has been recognized in Lavender Magazine and City Pages, where he was named Best Actor in City Pages’ 2016 “Best of the Twin Cities” annual review.
Ernest Briggs (co-writing) is a proud Anishinaabe actor from the Twin Cities who has worked on stage and screen for over 10 years. He received his Acting M.F.A. from the University of Florida, attended AADA and studied at Brave New Workshop and Upright Citizens Brigade. When Ernest is not acting, writing, directing, producing or teaching he spends his time with his wife and kids. www.ernestbriggs.com.
Becky Dale, (music and Wonderlust ensemble member) was the composer of original music for Wonderlust’s Capitol Play Project. She also participated as a community member in the Adoption Play Project and the Overachiever Web Series. Other community-engaged theater work she has done includes composing music for Cornerstone Theater Company’s touring production of California The Tempest, Cornerstone’s downtown LA production of Attraction, and founding, producing and composing for the West Side Theater Project, a community-engaged effort that staged three shows. Some of her other Theater composing credits include Nautilus Music Theater’s Sister Stories, Ten Thousand Things Theater’s The Furies and Caucasian Chalk Circle.
Shante’ Sojourn Zenith (ritual and script co-creator)is an animist somatic practitioner who approaches ritual through the nervous system, creative expression, and relating to wider ecological bodies of support. Her practice weaves together learnings from somatics, constellations, poetics, clowning, grief ritual, and systems intelligence as well as the oracular guidance of ecological beings and deep time ancestors. The descendant of English, Eastern European, Swedish, and German ancestors, Shante’ lives in Mni Sota Makoce on the ancestral homelands of the Dakota people, where she learns from the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, Turtles, Maitake Mushroom, and many other nature beings. This project marks Shante’s return to theatre after a several year hiatus: from 2007-2017, she assisted with directing and/or dramaturgy at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, The Playwrights Center, The Moving Company, The Guthrie Theatre, The Heart of the Beast, and Ten Thousand Things. Shante’ has studied clowning and physical theatre with Philippe Gaulier in France and Pierre Byland in Switzerland, and spent several years as an archives assistant at the University of Minnesota Libraries organizing the Theatre de la Jeune Lune collection. She was a 2016 Naked Stages Fellow, for which she created and directed Vulneraries, a project about cultural and ecological healing. In 2019, she was the director and creative consultant for Lauren Drasler’s solo performance Post-It, Baby! Shante’ has an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, focusing on the intersection of grief rituals and creative practice for which she created a solo show called Earth Grief. She is currently completing her thesis for an MA in Health Arts and Sciences, also from Goddard College, with a concentration in Embodiment Studies, researching somatic practice related to animism, ritual, and the nervous system. She has studied grief rituals with Azul Valerie Thome, Francis Weller, and as part of the 2019 Earth Leadership Cohort training in the Work that Reconnects. As part of her MA, she participated in several year long training programs, including the Academy for Soul-Based Coaching, the Animist Arts Practitioner Cohort, Liz Koch’s Core Awareness Professional Application Course, and the first year of the MN Center for Constellations Facilitator Training. Shante’ has a podcast art project called Long Body Prayers and she offers classes, sessions, and project consulting through her website: www.earthpoetedgeweaver.com.
Andrea M Gross (costume consultant and Wonderlust ensemble member) is a St Paul based costume designer, mama, advocate and activist. Her costume designs have been seen in almost every production the company has made (In My Heart, The People’s House, and The Minotaur and the Labyrinth). Design work has been seen with Walking Shadow Theatre Company, Park Square Theater, The Ordway, and The Jungle. As Rubble&Ash, she collaborates with Barb Portinga to meld pieces from existing stocks of costumes; thrift, antique, and fabric stores; and purpose-build garments to combine elements in unexpected ways. She is a company member with nimbus theatre and a founding member of Technicians for Change, and The Costume Collective. Andrea believes that a rising tide raises all boats and that we all do better when we all do better. (www.agrossdesigns.com)
Gabriel Peñaloza-Hernandez (stage management) is delighted to be stage managing for this second Wonderlust production! He has been stage managing locally for companies like Shakespearean Youth Theatre, Commonweal, and Rough Magic!
Literature and people who informed this project
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Emerging Ritual in Secular Societies, A Transdisciplinary Conversation edited by Jeltje Gordon-Lennox
From Ritual to Theatre by Victor Turner
Symbolic Loss: The Ambiguity of Mourning and Memory at Century’s End edited by Peter Homans
How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong
The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller
Finding our Way hosted by Prentis Hemphill
For the Wild, An Anthology of the Anthropocene
The Emerald by Joshua Schrei
The original cast and crew for Contact Tracing (the zoom version of this project performed in 2021)
Aimee K. Bryant, Megan Kim, Peter Morrow, Kari Olk, Oogie_Push
Huge thanks to people who met with us, shared advice, came to workshops in our studio and on the island, and lent their wisdom and energy to this journey!
Allison Bares, William Beeman, JoJo Bell, Craig Bloomstrand, Dr. Pauline Boss, Leslie Brown, Nicole Duxbury, Nina Guertin, Julie Guidry, Marilyn Habermas-Scher, Nor Hall, Amy Hubbard, Ellen Hufschmidt, Karen Hutt, Jim Bear Jacobs, Brandon Jones, Brittany Kellerman, Kevin Lindsey, David McCurdy, Melissa Miller, Dr. Amy Muse, Anna Pasno, Dawn Tomlinson, Alla Traun, Samuel Verdeja, Xiaolu Wang, Stanton Wood
CONTACT TRACING: A VIRTUAL RITUAL, 2021, ONLINE
Contact Tracing: A Virtual Ritual
Stories and rituals help us through life’s most difficult moments. During the isolation of Summer 2021, we presented Contact Tracing, an interactive story-based ceremony in Zoom, to cross the distances between us and our visions of how this past year was supposed to be. Guided by three storytellers, the audience was an active participant in a collective exploration of ambiguous loss and the road we build toward resilience.
Created by Leah Cooper. Performed and facilitated by Aimee K. Bryant, Megan Kim, and Oogie_Push. Directed by Kari Olk. Music and videos by Peter Morrow.
At the end of 2020, we asked members of Wonderlust’s community what ideas they have for rebuilding community in 2021.
We created short videos that include many of their answers.