Welcome to the Gift Guide for Woke Folks curated by Perseverance Theatre's Artistic Director Leslie Ishii!
Leslie has a long resume of creative and service work that fills us with awe and admiration, but who is better to tell you all about it than the wonder woman herself?
KP: What do you do by day and what do you do by night?
LI: By day, I am the Artistic Director - humbly so and proudly so - of Perseverance Theatre and so I do a lot around producing theatre, here locally and for the state of Alaska (that's our mission, professional theatre by and for Alaskans. I'm also an activist, a community organizer, and while that's part of producing theater by and for Alaskans I also work a lot with other kindred spirits in the American theatre field to make sure that we're inclusive, that theatre making is just and equitable, that's informed by my activism with the Japanese community throughout the US, and that we're able to advocate for others in the US who have been detained (e.g. newer immigrants and refugees who have not been treated well), or for any injustice. We're a social justice organization that is suited for solidarity.
So just for my own healing and the legacy of my own family, it's important that I'm an activist and a community organizer so that all our colleagues and all of our communities are safe and can thrive and that they're just.
By night.. Well I have to say, I'm a workaholic so I do some of this work on night, because I juggle a lot of memberships on Boards and being of service. And I give credit to my parents because they taught us to be of service to our community.
KP: Describe a recent a-ha moment or precious moment.
LI: At Public Market recently, we thought we were doing a really good job at getting the world out that we've re-opned. But we were so surprised at how many folks were like, "You're open, omg!" So it was lovely to connect with the community and they were excited that we're open and that we'll have the next show - The Brother's Paranormal.
And I'll share this with you - I might be leaking - but I'm being called to service to act in that piece. So I'll play the mother and I'm very nervous, hahaha. But the staff is like, you've got to do it! I'm excited and nervous to get back on the stage. But how wonderful to get to support our Asian and Pacific Islander communities in this story telling. Really excited about this show. And wonderful to be at Public Market so people could know that we are up and running.
KP: What are you looking forward to in 2022?
LI: So many things. Well this is why I love this book "Holding Change," because I feel like we're making such great strides in shifting / making a new chapter at Perseverance Theatre. But also a lot of work that myself and a lot of colleagues in the field have been doing now for quite some time. We're starting to see change occur in our field, in the American theatre field. So I'm really excited about that. And, I'm just excited to have people back in the theatre. With Voyager One it was so beautiful to see people back, excited, enjoying having a night out. We did all our covid mitigation plans, so it was just lovely to have their trust and see them enjoy it so much. So I am looking forward to how we can keep gathering together as a community in the theatre.
"We were almost strangers." I love that. I can't wait to hang this because I feel like I'm a connector and I love to meet people, make relationships, see how we can be of service, or see how I can be of service. So I love the idea of "almost strangers" - that we're connected.
"You're a good idea." I love conveying that to the staff at Perseverance Theatre. They have great ideas, and just as humans they're beautiful humans and I want to empower them to have their own agency. That feels right on. So I can't wait to hang that in my office.
I think this is going to be a beautiful gift for my brother. Omg I opened it and "what will i let go of? I'm grateful for… I'll focus on…" For us folks like my brother who's a super Social Justice Warrior I feel like this is going to be really nurturing for him. He gives so much to everyone else. And advocating as a family and the Japanese American community, we work in such a committed, loving way to be of service so that everyone can survive. So to have that focus on yourself first, every day, every morning, to me, is just the right tone.
Our dear Erin Tripp came into rehearsal with this new book and I was like, Whattttt! And she leafed through it and there are people in here we know! From Seattle or throughout the Northwest. Princess Daazhraii Johnson, Aaron Yazzie, Janet Mock… it was like a who's who, it's beautiful!
So I thought at some point I've got to get this book. So this is my Christmas gift to myself.
This is a really beautiful book. I was thumbing through it thinking, I need to keep learning for my own self- education. I think I'd like to put this in the office for our staff to refer to. We have so many colleagues in our field that are being able to identify now as non-biary, non-confirming, and I'm a cis gender heterosexual woman, a woman of color, but I hold privilege in this area of my identity. So I thought I need to keep learning and I want to make sure our staff is making a good, safe, brave space and this is a good reference for all of us to keep our self-education going.
I love emergent strategy. adrienne maree brown, what a hero, or shero, I should say. I can't wait to look at this; I've been hearing about this book so that's another one that I'll probably read. Our staff loves emergent strategy so we actually use that iterative / evolving process so this is another good one to add to our library and have available.
Recipes for Self Love
Omg, how beautiful! The drawings and some of the sayings in here: "you dont need permission to be yourself," "skin is a feminist issue," "check in with yoruself." So many beautiful reminders, lessons, and so beautifully illustrated, too. This is another one that I think we can have in the office as we're dismantling patriarchy in the theatre world.
Candles & Juneau Hand-Painted Dreidel
One of my colleagues just moved here and identifies as Jewish and so I have these 45 candles for her menorah. I'm really excited to be able to offer this gift to her; it's my way of contributing to the holiday, it's a non-western holiday, and supporting her and celebrating her. And this dreidel, I love this dreidel! It's of Southeast, and it has a whale, and I love the stand which looks like water. So I'm excited to offer that too as part of her Hanukkah gift.
This is for stocking stuffers for my family; I get to visit them. These chocolates -potato cip crisp, what! OMG! And you gotta have the superfoods. I love it. A little sweetness in our life never hurt.