ARTS DISCOVERY Artist Interview – January 2022
Nathan Caron, Co-Founder | Emergent Theatre Project
By Eddie Long | NLAC Public Relations
Creativity is more than artistic talent. It is more than expressiveness. It is innovation. Creativity is adaptability.
In times of uncertainty there are certain people that are still able to act with grace and poise. There are people lucky enough to thrive under the zaniest of conditions and there are people simply willing to work hard enough for success under any condition. Nathon Caron would be at home among either of those two groups of people.
Hard work always includes some bit of innovativeness. Some work can be repetitious, but it is the tasks that require us to think on our feet that are the most rewarding to complete. Theatre is that way. The ability to think on one's feet is as essential to the actors as it is to the stage crew. When Nathan discusses the things that could go wrong during the production of a play you get no sense that he is afraid of any of those things. According to Nathan, there is an inherent bit of uncertainty in every art discipline.
When the New London Arts Council (NLAC) first formed it saw its plans for a recruitment event thwarted by COVID. The New London Arts Party was created as a virtual gathering place for the local arts community to meet up and engage with one another during quarantine. Then there was a brief period of time when people were back in offices, attending shows and events, and generally feeling optimistic. Now we once again find ourselves feeling less optimistic.
With a pandemic that has moved beyond its initial ebb, and back into a flow, the ability to adapt to uncertainty becomes a super power. Nathan describes pandemic induced issues in theatre as not completely different than many of the difficulties that presented themselves back when he first started - when things were normal. As the director of a well-attended, highly acclaimed play that took place during the pandemic, he has become something of an authority on this topic. His strategy for dealing with plans having to change is quite sound. In an interview with the NLAC, Nathan shared that strategy; adapt, make it work, and lean into it with everything you have.
Quite a sound strategy indeed.
What first attracted you to theatre – the production side or acting?
I was first exposed to theater as an audience member attending a student matinee of a performance at UConn. At the time, the theater was using a proscenium curtain. I remember the sound the theater seat made when I pushed it down. When the house lights went dark, and the curtain went up, I remember the rush of cool air that originated from the stage. The smell was remarkable; there was something about it that was inescapable. An actor appeared on stage, riding a bicycle, and from that moment, I was hooked.
The pandemic has required theatre to rethink the way it is created, promoted, and even seen. Are there any modifications brought on by the pandemic that you would like to keep in place, or would you prefer to go completely back to ‘normal’?
Preferably, when we are talking about theater, I like 'normal.' However, there have been modifications due to the pandemic that may not go away, and I see the value of them. Second Stage in New York, along with other theaters, have afforded audience members the opportunity to purchase tickets to live-streaming performances. While I feel theater should be experienced in-person, live-streaming gives people the opportunity to see a piece that may otherwise have not been able to.
What will theatre look like when we get back to ‘normal’?
Hopefully, normal. Watching, or being part of a dynamic piece of theater, is unmatchable. For me, it is transcendent, inescapable, on par with the highest form of spiritual connection just shy of complete incomprehension.
As a result of the pandemic, you have seen projects halted, and then modified, before being successful - What advice would you give other actors and artists, who may be having a difficult time finding success, during these times of uncertainty?
About an hour-and-a-half before the final performance of Solace at the Art Park this summer, one of our crew members was exhibiting COVID symptoms and was quarantined. The show's run was dependent upon somebody filling the technical role. We were also fearful of losing others due to the fact that the individual had come in contact with nearly everybody associated with the show. We were taking precautions, but could not escape the inevitability of the moment. Thankfully, our amazing team was able to locate somebody who could step into the technical role, and we were able to perform the show.
During rehearsals, our amazing stage management team was responsible for COVID protocols that included temperature checks, sanitizing, etc. Given the uniqueness of the moment, we adapted, and will continue to adapt; we have no choice. Smaller audiences, social distancing among audience members, cleaning, and monitoring, these are modifications that are manageable and essential. There is a degree of uncertainty inherent in art. Will an actor remember the lines, blocking? Will there be funding? What happens when the drawing/painting is completely divorced from its original intention? Well, something else happens, and that may not be bad. So, based upon my limited experience with theater and its intersection with COVID, I realize that it's not necessarily all that different from anything I experienced during a time when things were 'normal.' We adapt.
What’s next for you?
Michael Bradford and I have teamed up to produce one summer production a year, in New London, with the Emergent Theatre Project. Stay tuned... believe it or not, we're only a few months away from warmer temperatures, the inescapable summer in New London, and a production barely visible above the horizon, among the questions and uncertainties of the moment. It's there, though, making its way.
ARTS DISCOVERY Artist Interview – December 2021
Cristin Rivera, Founder of C*Kin
By Eddie Long | NLAC Public Relations
There is a difference between living for fashion and fashion being one’s life. There’s no denying that someone’s perception of us can be influenced by what we wear. But what influences what we wear? What things in the world have inspired our fashion choices? Or perhaps that which inspires our personal style comes from within. These concepts are part of what makes C*Kin such a unique line of apparel. The designer behind this line, Cristin Rivera, and her desire to explore such concepts, ensure C*Kin is always evolving. Cristin is as committed to honoring the tradition of fashion design as she is to challenging the very philosophy of fashion itself.
It is easy to say fashion is Cristin’s life, but it is interesting to learn exactly why that is true for her. With her grandmothers having worked as seamstresses and even couturiers, fashion is more than just Cristin’s experience, it is in her DNA. She began her own journey into fashion while in high school, first by altering existing clothing and quickly moving on to draping fabric and sewing her own designs. Cristin started her career in New London, showcasing her first line of designs and coordinating her first fashion show at Muse Gallery in 2007.
Since then, Cristin has developed a brand that celebrates fashion while incorporating her personal belief that how one feels underneath is what is most important. Cristin benefits from an ability, as she says, to find inspiration everywhere she goes, but wants to inspire others to find inspiration in themselves. It seems her apparel line, C*Kin, is about finding a balance. Inspiration, when from within, is a beautiful thing. But there is so much around us to be inspired by as well. In an interview with the New London Arts Council (NLAC) public relations member, Eddie Long, Cristin shared that being surrounded by talented, strong-minded people, dancers, actors, musicians, and artists, has always been exquisitely fueling. Well, there is certainly no shortage of talented, strong-minded people, dancers, actors, musicians, or artists, in New London! In the interview, we learn about Cristin’s unique experience with fashion and all that has influenced her, here in New London and beyond!
What do you love about being a fashion designer?
I love the expression and empowerment that fashion gives to each individual. I’ve been expressing myself through my own designs since age 16. I started by altering my brother's T-shirts with a stapler. With my mom's help I learned how to use a sewing machine. I don’t use patterns but I love to mimic classic styles and lines adding my own twist. My mind is constantly re-designing most of the world, cafes, retail stores, office buildings, other people's homes, as well as clothes. It is a non-stop space conscious machine. Designing clothes, for me, is about solving the problem, the problem being the ideas that have been crazily running around in my mind. How to bring it to life, how to make it a tangible item that falls in the right places, keeping it functional, comfortable and unique.
Why did you choose fashion design as a career?
Over the years I’ve continued to add to my design experiences. After a bad relationship, living in California for a bit and traveling overseas I found myself inspired to develop my craft as a designer. It started in New London when I coordinated my first fashion show at Muse Gallery in 2007, showcasing my first line of designs. Since then I’ve collaborated with other local designers such as Jessie English, Anna Lucas and Susan Hickman. We have Coordinated over 15 local fashion events. While living in New York City I was Wardrobe Supervisor for the Off-Broadway show “Fuerza Bruta”, Brand Technician for “Butcher James” and assistant Wardrobe/seamstress for the Bloomingdales “Greatest Showman“ promo event. Once I moved back to Connecticut, I sold my designs at Indigo, a boutique in Niantic which focused on ethically sourced and locally made apparel and accessories. I also worked as a seamstress for Mishale Bridal in Niantic. Throughout the years I’ve consistently done custom designs, wedding dresses, formal gowns, costumes for performance artists and most recently designed a dress for one of the choreographers of the Broadway show “Six”, which she wore to the premiere in NYC.
What is fashion for you?
Incorporating the many moods and emotions of being a human in this world, combining sex, comfort, original art, and other elements to create fashion. I started off making clothes for myself so a lot of each design is inspired by a time or moment in life that needed more expression. My paternal grandmother was a seamstress and has sewn many of her own clothes. My Nanny (maternal grandmother) has always been an influence, fanciful garments from New York’s Madison Avenue designer shops. My step grandmother was a couturier, who had her own boutique in NYC. Fashion is repeated throughout history, this is what makes it so beautiful. How we alter it, is what makes each design our own. How we wear it, is how we take each design to new levels. Fashion is about the individual, testing their own limits of expression.
How would you define your personal style?
Femme comfort. I want to feel sexy and I want to be comfortable. Every day is a new day, some days are for form fitting clothing and muted tones, other days are for baggy clothing and pops of color! How I feel underneath is what matters most. And not just as I take a picture or as I look in the mirror. When I’m walking around in an oversized button up and baggy pants, I feel confident, comfortable and I feel sexy. As far as gender roles in the fashion world, I think it's an expired concept. I wear clothes that I love on my body, and I want others to wear my designs because they love them on their body, gender and age is irrelevant.
Who and which things are the inspiration while creating any of your designs?
I am an observer, finding inspiration everywhere I go. I like to experiment with different textures and fabrics. Always incorporating elements of my own original artwork and poetry. Movies and music are very important to my creative process. Usually movies, shows from other eras or music is playing in the background. At times I have a hard time seeing all my ideas through. I find myself filled with designs most days. It’s as if my brain has a section in which it’s constantly reconstructing a garment or tackling the process of how to execute a new design! From “Local Threads" to "Ima" to C*kin, soon to be the “Violet Sphinx”, reinventing my forces of fashion. C*kin has elevated my creative thought and helped to expand my skills. My brother, Kreatoday is a massive part of why C*kin came to, continuing to contribute his original artwork and designs. My husband Klashwon is an artist of many media and excellence, which also aids in my creative process.
How do you stay updated with the trends in the fashion industry?
I don’t intentionally care about trends. However, they are shoved in my face by everything and anything I watch on the screen so I’m sure I’m subconsciously influenced, but trends are never something I purposefully pay attention to. I’m sure there’s things I naturally gravitate towards but I don’t think people need to follow trends.
What’s next for you?
I am currently an artist at the Annex and my line of clothing is featured there for sale. C*Kin. You’ll find original sewn designs, original art printed on apparel, and vintage upcycled clothing! Soon I will be debuting a new extension of my creations, the “Violet Sphinx”. I’m also collaborating with local artist Aly of Magik Press, they have created a unique fabric using the process of cyanotype. I am designing and sewing a line of clothing from this fabric that I will be premiering Sunday December 19th at The Annex, 12PM-4PM. The Annex is a group of artists including myself who came together to open an empowering artist space that offers the shopper something truly unique, all made by local makers.