#294 – Karen Ancheta

Karen is a Hamilton-born Filipina- Canadian multidisciplinary artist She’s an original member of the Hamilton 7 and just finished a project with Kwentong Bayan Collective lcpcomicbook.com for myseumoftoronto.com as a storytelling facilitator and Decolonise Your Ears Festival with redbettytheatre.org directing/outreach.
She is co-founder of Porch Light Theatre dedicated to the development of youth emerging and professional theatre/storytelling artists. Through Porch Light Theatre, Karen has been working with an incredible team on a site-specific audio story show called Tin Can Telephone at the Hamilton Fringe. She is currently working on The Garden Project 2021 in partnership with Industry and urging people to
DONATE OR APPLY here: https://www.industrypresents.com/garden-project
Currently, Karen is working with openheartartstheatre.com with Conversations Around The Table, Fertility Monologues with Light Echo Theatre. Karen is a recent recipient of a City of Hamilton Arts Award 2021.

Porch Light Theatre on Instagram: @porchlighttheatrehamilton

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Karen Ancheta, Phil Rickaby

Phil Rickaby  00:01

Welcome to Episode 294 of Stageworthy, I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. You know, for more than five years Stageworthy has been a labour of love for me. I don’t make any money from this podcast and the only time I ever have ads on the podcast are through reciprocal agreements. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please consider supporting it. You can do that by making a donation (either one time or continuing) in the tip jar – I’ve put a link to that in the show notes, and you can find those at the website or on your podcast app. Or you can now buy some merch at the new online store shop.stageworthyproductions.com. In the store, you’ll find Stageworthy T-shirts, mugs, stickers, as well as merch from some of my other projects. All of your purchases and tip jar donations go towards Stageworthy and help me continue to bring you great conversations in Canadian theatre. And if you can’t donate or buy from the store, please consider rating and reviewing the show. If you’re listening on Apple podcasts, you can leave a review right in the podcast app. If you don’t listen on Apple podcasts, you can still review the show by going to podchaser.com searching for Stageworthy and rating the podcast there. Thanks for listening, and thank you for your support. You can find Stageworthy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @stageworthypod and you can find the website with the archive of all 294 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com. And if you want to drop me a line, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @philrickaby, and My website is philrickaby.com. My guest this week is multidisciplinary artist and recent Hamilton Arts Awards Winner, Karen Ancheta. If I was to ask you, Karen, how you describe your artistic practice or to put it in another way. If you had an elevator pitch to describe to somebody, yourself as an artist, what would you say?

Karen Ancheta  02:33

Okay, so I would say that my me as an artist, I’m like a, like the ultimate collage. I am the sum total of everything that I’ve experienced everything. Up until this point, it all funnels down everything from my cultural theatre, working with youth working with community groups, new play development, my customer service skills come in handy being a mom, everything, everything, I am amazed, there’s some things that I take on. And I think oh my god, I could not do this, if I didn’t have that piece.

Phil Rickaby  03:17

It’s really interesting how sometimes things that we don’t expect to come into our artistic practice will suddenly, like, for example, customer service, I’ve worked in customer service for over 20 years. And one never knows when those particular skills are just going to be needed.

Karen Ancheta  03:32

Oh my gosh, I feel like customer service. Like it’s like, when I’m doing customer service, I used to work this place called poke a and I would in the farmers market. And I would see like sometimes 200 people a day. And it’s the same script, like over and over and over again, when and you’ve got like a, you know, a short term objective and long term objective. And you’re just playing the same scene over and over again, every three minutes for eight hours. And it’s like, yeah, I’m trying to make it fresh, trying to make it fresh, like everything. Everything overlaps for me.

Phil Rickaby  04:12

I always I you know, what’s interesting about that is is I think that, that the lessons that one learns, as an actor, for example, come in really handy in customer service, because somebody who didn’t know how to, you know, repeatedly play the same scene and make it feel like it’s the first time they’re playing that scene. In a customer service situation, it would sound like they were just doing it for the 1,000th time. And for an actor performer. You can make it so that it sounds like it’s the first time.

Karen Ancheta  04:45

Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think sometimes on those long days, when it’s hot and sticky, that’s the thing. It’s like okay, reset. Hi, how are you and that genuine curiosity and really trying to connect With someone in three seconds, I think is, is that a customer service skill? Or is that an acting skill? Do you know what I mean? Like, it’s like it goes hand in hand.

Phil Rickaby  05:10

In a lot of ways, I think it does. But then I think there’s a lot of people who work in customer service who can’t do that. So is that? Are you able to do that because you’re an actor? Or are you able to do it because of your years of experience in customer service? Or is it the combination of the two?

Karen Ancheta  05:28

Oh, my God. Hmm. I think actually, I think it? I think it is because I’m an actor. I have to say, I think that, that ability to reset and to make it fresh, and to connect for the first time and to find something to love, and to connect with a person I think that’s the actor in me

Phil Rickaby  05:52


Karen Ancheta  05:52

Yeah, that’s just definitely fully engaged.

Phil Rickaby  05:56

So speaking of the actor in you, what what is your, what is your theatre origin story? If you were to describe, you know, what, what drew you to the theatre that made you start down the path to be the person, the performer you are now? What was that?

Karen Ancheta  06:14

Oh my gosh, I think it was in grade five, grade five in my orange fuzzy house coat. And my kerchief. And Twas the Night Before Christmas. And I think I came out and did a yawn, and I think ch ch TV was there. And I think that was it. I was like, yeah, this is it. And then from there. I mean, like, my sister and I, my sister is a musician, Marian chetta. And we always saying, like, we like we, you know, we were Filipino. We grew up on music, we did karaoke. And the music from there, like expanded into musicals. I was obsessed with musicals. And then in theatre, sorry, a theatre class at my high school, a lovely, lovely teacher named Bill Cook. He exposed us to theatre and we went to England, where all we did was watch two shows a day. Wow. And for 10 days, and then we kind of snuck into the pub at night. It was amazing. And then from there, I saw Miss Saigon, like I saw the original cast, except for Leia Salonga. And I, that was it. I was like, I need to be in Miss Saigon. That’s what I want to do. It didn’t happen. But and I thought I was gonna go into musical theatre. But then I ended up being an actor and taking classical theatre Ryerson. So I guess that’s a bit of my origin story. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby  07:46

Um, you know, I always found as as a child, I think that my first exposure to theatre was through original cast recordings. Before I saw a play, I heard the music. And then I started to realise, oh, these things I’ll tell a story when you put them together.

Karen Ancheta  08:09


Phil Rickaby  08:10

You know, I once I could read that would read this synopsis on the back and try to figure out all the nuances how these things fit together. And that was really my start into, into like theatre though. This is a play. This is what it’s like. Of course, at the time, I thought that all theatre was musicals, because that’s all I knew. But I very quickly learned that there was more to it than just that. And I think sometimes musical theatre can be like a gateway drug to theatre.

Karen Ancheta  08:40

I think so it’s just so pumped up. Oh, actually, we used to do, we used to do this thing in high school called show stoppers. And we were like a little cabaret group. And we used to wear these glittery butterfly tops from the 80s and we used to go out as a troupe. And we used to do Broadway tunes. Oh my gosh, I think that was like Yeah, I think that’s where it kind of bit also for me. But I think also like just going to school shows. I just have this like strong memory of like sitting there in the house. And my favourite part is always when the lights go down. Because you just know that you’re going to go for a ride like it’s just the beginning. Here we go.

Phil Rickaby  09:32

I think really clever shows and sometimes you see it in the big budget musicals, but really clever show somehow sets the stage for that moment. You know, you know they have like, either they have their their, their their drop in the front with like a logo or something. They play some lights on it or something. A really smart show has that moment. in Hamilton. They don’t really put the lights down, but they’ve amped the anticipation because there’s no curtain. You know, you sort of see it and you’re like, oh, there’s things. I can see this set, I can see the things and then all of a sudden it starts.

Karen Ancheta  10:10

You’re so right. I feel like it’s been so long since I’ve been in a theatre. But yeah, yes, that’s totally true. There are a lot of places here that don’t have the curtain, huh?

Phil Rickaby  10:22

Yeah, but I think that there’s there’s definitely something about that, like the promise of something interesting happening.

Karen Ancheta  10:31

Oh, yes. Something definitely is going to happen. Right. It’s like, We’re going on a ride for sure. Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby  10:39

Yeah. And that’s, that’s certainly like a great that really sort of amps up that that anticipation as people come in, you know? Oh, yeah. I missed that, don’t you? Oh, my God. I do. You know, it’s funny, because I mentioned Hamilton, but you know, it’s I you know, I watched I’d seen Hamilton live and I watched it in the when they came out of Disney plus last year. And all it really did was – it was fun – it was fun to see it. But it really made me miss being in a theatre.

Karen Ancheta  11:09

Yeah, I know.

Phil Rickaby  11:11

Yeah. Have you have you in all of this time this this this time when we haven’t been able to be in theatres? Have you? Have you dipped into digital performance at all? Have you been involved in any any, like zoom plays or anything like that?

Karen Ancheta  11:24

Oh, my God, I feel like I’m just like, chained to my computer. I, I don’t know if I didn’t realise that this would happen. But I’ve just been involved in so many different things because of digital, digital magic. In all different capacities, like yeah, I mean, in the past, I mean, love and Hamilton. So if I want to go to Toronto to see theatre, see my colleagues see some amazing work, I – it’s a day trip.

Phil Rickaby  11:57


Karen Ancheta  11:58

like I have to. Okay, okay. Okay. And I felt really bad that I couldn’t come out all the time. You know, I’ve got kids. And I remember the first time that I turned on the computer and got my digital ticket, and I was like, Okay, I’m just gonna put dinner on really quickly here. And then I could go back to watching and I was like, Oh, my gosh, I think I like this. Like, I didn’t have to drive all the way in and I can I know, it’s not the same. It’s not the same. But it’s, it’s, I’ve seen more than I have in a long time. And I’ve participated. People will say, Hey, can you can you come online? You know, there’s a there’s what do you call a new play development? thing that’s happening, I’d love you to sit in. That’s like, Okay, sure. And I didn’t have to go anywhere. It’s like, Alright, and here you go. I’ll send you my notes. Like that was that was pretty cool. I yeah, I right now, I’m My head is spinning. There’s a lot of things happening digitally, in my world right now. Everything from let’s see community engaged art, with different different groups, some in Toronto, some spread out. I’ve got storytelling things that are happening happening here in Hamilton. I was doing Vocal Coaching for Humber College, I’m going to be adjudicating for the NTS drama fest. I am what else am I doing? That just, oh, well, I’m working for it, just all these things that I’ve been able to engage with just by sitting in my little corner and my computer. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens, like, wasn’t this busy before?

Phil Rickaby  13:47

I think that there’s as much as we all miss being in theatres. There’s something about this, doing things digitally, that has, in many ways opened up the world. As far as participation goes. For example, being you being in Hamilton and being able to participate in shows that are in or, you know, to, to watch those in Toronto to, or wherever else they might be. I really feel like if we don’t keep that going, somehow, we’re missing out, we’re missing an opportunity to both open up theatre for both the rest of the country and the world so that we’re no longer siloed in our little cities, but also, we’re opening up theatre to people who can’t necessarily get there. We’re taking the ableism out of theatre attendance, for example.

Karen Ancheta  14:47

I agree. I totally think you’re right. I think that I think it just opens it up and makes it super accessible. Yeah, I hope they I know it’s like it’s like an extra department. It has to happen. But I kind of hope it does. I kind of like how the Hamilton fringe, for example, has has something they had the frostbites Festival in the winter. Usually, it’s site specific. And for this year, they had you know, you’d, you’d buy your ticket, you’d log on, and you kind of had a virtual option. Or you could have like, a walking tour option. And I thought that was really cool. You know, and, and I like, I like that there’s that option. I mean, I think that people will have to, like, I’m doing an audio play right now. And I’m thinking, Okay, like, they could they could experience it online. But what do we need to do to get them to get out of their house? What is it, we will have to work harder to get them into the theatre In some ways

Phil Rickaby  15:54

You know, I think I have to jump in, I was just having this conversation just the other week with somebody about about how I think we think that

Karen Ancheta  16:03


Phil Rickaby  16:03

that we’d have to work harder to get people to come out. But how many times do we go to see our favourite musician to play our favourite songs? There are plenty of podcasts that have live events. And people will go to hear their favourite bits, or even even you know, comedians will perform. And if you do everybody’s favourite bit from your last album, they’ll go crazy. Like they want to hear it. Oh, yeah. So I feel like, the story that we’ve told ourselves in the theatre is that, if we give it to them online, they’ll never come and see it live. But I think that, that the fact that people go see their musician play exactly the same songs that they could hear on the album, Live, sort of gives us the opportunity to, to, to break out of that, that story that we tell ourselves, and to give it to them live, but then offer them something like, sure you heard this, but here’s what it could look like, Oh, you know, to, to expand beyond just the the audio and to give them some kind of spectacle and whatever it is like to, to bring it to life out of their minds and on the stage.

Karen Ancheta  17:24

Not only that, I think that, like we’re so starved now for the mingling of energy in a room. At least I am. I mean, I thought I thought it was a bit of a hermit, actually, but I’ve been so starved for that, you know, like, for that mingling of energy in a room, so that is like, part of the reason why would go like, Yeah, I remember seeing prairie nurse at the blight festival bombed by Marybeth Baden and, and there’s two Filipino nurses on on stage. And there’s and then there’s a Scottish doctor, and the Filipinos are going, I don’t understand what he’s saying. Can you understand what he’s saying? And sometimes it’s in Tagalog. And sometimes it’s an English. And when I was sitting, I could see the whole audience and I could see the Filipino patrons laughing. And then, and then, and then the, the doctors also were like, they couldn’t, they couldn’t tell them apart. And that, and then you could see the other the other patrons that were like, you know, resonating with the, with the Scottish doctor on stage, you could see and so that was like part of it, like part of being in the audience and watching that. That was I wouldn’t get that, you know, if I was sitting here watching it on screen.

Phil Rickaby  18:44

No, no. And that’s I think, you know, I think that that a lot of us who’ve, you know, if you spend a lot of days, like I do in video meetings, it’s hard to take that same video format and treat it like theatre. But I kind of feel like once we’re back in the theatre, if we were to just set up a couple of cameras in the theatre. We can like, have a live presentation. People can watch it at home, if they can’t come to the theatre, but they may also having seen it had that taste of what the live experience is like. Then they maybe want to come and see it live.

Karen Ancheta  19:27

No, I totally agree. I saw Bug here at home on my computer, and there’s this beautiful shot from above where the main characters lying on the ground and that’s so beautiful. And I kept thinking, Oh, I never would have saw this from this vantage point. If If I didn’t see it online, and saw where there were things the camera work was so good Jessica Lee running. It’s her Her camera work was so great. And I really enjoyed it. And yes, like when it when they when it comes back into the theatre, I will definitely go again to see it from that vantage point. So maybe it’s like about seeing it twice. I don’t know.

Phil Rickaby  20:15

You know, I know people, you know, I’m not going to name any names because they shouldn’t do this, but they’ll watch musicals on YouTube, and they’re all terrible, pirated versions of whatever is a hit on Broadway. But if they have the opportunity to get a ticket, even though they’ve seen it, they’ll go Oh, yeah. You know, because it’s not the same. It’s not the same. No, and I think that the deep down, we kind of know that we know, even though we can hear the audience that the that the experience is completely different for the people who are there.

Karen Ancheta  20:45

Oh, that’s so true. I’m thinking about the Fringe Festival show that I’m doing with porch light theatre, which is a theatre that I founded with Aaron Jan, and we’re doing we’re working on this project called the house key project. We’re hoping to make it a yearly thing. This summer, we had planned to do a full out in person in studio thing with four youth from Hamilton. But well, obviously we can’t gather. So we’ve postponed it because that like the you know, the in studio thing and that it’s just not the same when Yeah, we want to have that experience. We were lucky enough to get funding from theatre Aquarius theatre school. And we decided, alright, let’s do like an audio thing. And so we’ve been working with them. I’ve got like four brilliant High School and first year univer art college participants, storytellers, Bruce whoosh, other Sowell matea, or cooinda, and Sonny Diwan, and we’re doing the show. And it’s an audio show, and we’re gonna put it in different areas of Hamilton. But I was telling them about the full programme next year, and they were all stoked. They were like, Ooh, that’s so cool. And I was thinking, wouldn’t that be interesting? If we took these audio plays, but then did the next year? What if we did them again? But did the you know, a stage version of it? Sure. Yeah, I’ve been a whole different experience. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby  22:29

I did. I did. Last year at Christmas, I presented a six part audio drama that I’d created. And it’s always been in my mind, that I would perform that live in person at some point, that i think that you know, hearing it is one thing, but the experience of having that story told in person is different enough that to me, yeah, you can go and listen to that now. But it’s going to be different. And and it will be more of more spectacle. There’ll be something different about seeing it performed in person. And I think that you approach it differently, too, right. So you know, when you create it for the audio, you’re thinking about it as an audio, you know, then you take that same script, and then you’re like, Okay, so now we’re in the world, What’s changed? How do we present this? It’s completely different and yet adds so much

Karen Ancheta  23:18

Well, that’s a that would be a great experience, actually, like for these youth, thinking that we should do it? What do you think should we do?

Phil Rickaby  23:25

I think, absolutely. I think that, that, in fact, giving them you know, you think about about taking it, you know, they’ve had one experience of doing it. Now they think oh, yeah, I know that. That’s easy. And now we’re going to give them the same material and have them perform it in front of people. And that’s, that’s completely new when you breathe new life into it for people who maybe thought, Oh, that’s, I’ve done that. But no, you haven’t.

Karen Ancheta  23:49

I kind of wonder too, if the same audience were to experience the audio version? Like, would they come out? You know, to see the physical version? And like, I’ll be curious to hear what they what that experience would be like to see both actually.

Phil Rickaby  24:05

Yeah, absolutely. I think I think that people do I for the same reason that I think that people go to see their favourite band, or or, you know, if that band didn’t play their favourite song that they could listen to them in their in their car on the way home, they’d be pissed. Yeah, that’s we have that desire to even if we’re familiar with it, we want to we want to experience it again in a new way.

Karen Ancheta  24:28

Oh, that’s so true. Because Yeah, I could listen to it, you know, on online, but then when I’m in a crowd, and everybody’s singing their heart out, everybody feels the same. There’s something magical. There’s something so validating, there’s something that yeah, it’s totally different. That’s cool.

Phil Rickaby  24:49

yeah. And the audience, the audience experience is very different because when they listen to it, audio in the audio format, they probably listened to it alone. Yes, and maybe a little absently Maybe they were doing something else, maybe they weren’t. But now when they’re listening to it in a group then that that group dynamic that comes in that thing that we want when we’re gathered in the room comes into play, and they’ll experience it in a new fresher way.

Karen Ancheta  25:12

It’s actually the missing part I’m finding with my storytelling groups, whether I’m working with caregivers Association through Quentin Byun, we work with Filipina caregivers, or whether it’s the youth from Porch Light Theatre, or the South Asian women’s groups, that I work with him one on one online, and then we tell the story that can be so intimate, you know, a little slice of remembrance a little slice of themselves. And then I remember we went from that, and into the theatre. This was a couple years ago, and, and then all of a sudden, they were confronted with standing in front of them with a microphone.

Phil Rickaby  25:58


Karen Ancheta  25:59

You know, with 100 people that will be coming, and it was like this. And I remember feeling it too, like, Oh, my gosh, what I didn’t realise how intimate it was working at a distance like that. And then having to share it. But the results are always amazing. And even when we do a share, like if I work with them individually, and then we just share in a in a zoom, a bigger zoom thing. It’s the missing part. Like you need, you just need that you need. You need to have it received by someone in real time. And it changes it changes the energy, it changes. You can see it I love watching watching them, especially a lot of the storytellers in the community, they’re like first time tellers, so it’s quite beautiful.

Phil Rickaby  26:50

Hm. Yeah. Yeah. Especially that first time Teller, it’s always so like it’s raw. Right? If it’s the first time as a storyteller,

Karen Ancheta  27:00

Mm hmm.

Phil Rickaby  27:01

It’s such a new experience that it’s like everything is on the surface when they’re telling that story.

Karen Ancheta  27:06

Oh, my goodness, yeah, it’s almost like I can see them, it’s, especially if it’s, if they’ve been working in this, it’s like working in this little tube. And then all of a sudden, they have to share, and they’ve got this microphone, and then the realisation of Oh, my God, what have I been creating, I didn’t realise I was going to be exposing myself like this. And then seeing them, there’s like this, and this adrenaline that kicks in. And they have to, it’s almost like over overflows, and then they have to like, experience that and get over that hump, and then be able to rein it in and to tell and I tell you the most beautiful part. And I always tell them that, you know, if if what you say is rings true, then right after you’re going to have people coming up to you and start to tell you their story. And it always happens and I’m always so happy to watch my students or my mentees in the lobby, or and I can see them holding courts and people are standing there telling them their their grandma’s story, you know, or it’s it’s quite a, and I know that feeling to so I quite enjoy it.

Phil Rickaby  28:18

I think that is such an important experience for people to have is to have told a story that’s so personal. And see how it how it hits people. Because I think that that sometimes as artists, we get caught up in trying to tell a story that will appeal to everyone. And then when you do that it appeals to nobody. Yeah, because you have to tell a story. That’s so true. And so yours, then that’s when people relate to it, they relate to the emotion, they relate to something, and that they’ll share that by telling their story as well. Like you said,

Karen Ancheta  28:53

it resonates. And that’s when you know, that’s one of the reasons I think I really love storytelling. I draw a lot. I’m one of those storytellers that draw a lot on memory. I’m not like a memory keeper, who my family like to remember all the details and who’s who. And I always thought if I could be, you know, that level of truth and attention to detail and trying to get the clarity of what actually happened. If I can achieve that with a storytelling. When I go to write something that’s imagined, you know, for theatre, it still has to hit that bar. It has to ring at the same level. That is my bar.

Phil Rickaby  29:41

Yeah. When did you When did you start storytelling by the way?

Karen Ancheta  29:46

Oh, I guess formally with the Hamilton seven. This lovely, lovely, my one of my dearest friends Lisa ps1 namara, who is a multidisciplinary artist here at Hamilton. She started this group called the Hamilton seven. And so amazing. is like Josh Taylor, who’s a hip hop dancer. We’ve got Toronto Catholic fosse who is a visual artist a. He’s like me to so many things. sculptor. He took all kata who’s like a fabric artist, there’s a Sheldon and Darla, there. If come from acting, they’re there, through and through, like actors who by Miss Dave Brennan, comedian, and against me and Lisa, I covered theatre and she’s, she’s also a flamenco dancer. So we would meet, and then we would kind of like dramaturge our stories on the spot and share. And we we did a storytelling night, once a month for like, I think two years. And I guess that’s where it started at the staircase. Theatre is where we would do it. And it was just so amazing. Like, everybody had their own flavour. Everybody had their own style. And there was always like, actually, there was nine of us, Corrine Raymond, also was there singer, storyteller. And, but there was at least seven of us on stage at any, any, any show. But I guess that’s where I started doing that on a regular basis. And then it kind of like, my process kind of like came out of that. And then combined with a bunch of other stuff, like theatre wise. And then I keep getting called to do to do storytelling facilitation for all for all different groups. And it’s, I’m really loving it.

Phil Rickaby  31:49

And can you tell me about the first time you told the story on stage? How What was that? Like? Oh,

Karen Ancheta  31:57

ah, I think it was I’m thinking about the Hamilton seven. I’m good. It was good. It was a small crowd. All the people in our group are so loving and supportive and generous. And everyone, everybody was so just really supportive. And and, yeah, I think it’s kept me going. It was a really great experience.

Phil Rickaby  32:26

Nice. You mentioned a couple of times, you’ve mentioned porch light. Can you tell me a little bit about the founding of that of that company? that that that group? Oh, yeah,

Karen Ancheta  32:34

I’d love to. So porch light theatre was started with myself and Aaron, Jen, I had tried to convince him to come to Hamilton years prior when he first graduated from the theatre school, and he kind of said, I can’t come there. Okay, come back home. Because I guess he had been he’d finished at York. So I can come back home. There’s nothing there. So I was like, okay, sure, fine. And then I was at the factory theatre, doing through the bamboo with it, we collective, and he was in the courtyard and said, Hey, Karen, I know how to get funding now. Let’s talk. So we sat down, and then we kind of made a list of all the things that we had wished existed. And so we did that. So we’re Hamilton bass collective dedicated to the development and supportive youth, both emerging and professional theatre artists and storytellers and we hope to exist to build a space that amplifies the voices of marginalised theatre artists from the greater Hamilton area. So we’re talking about stories playwriting explorations and hoping to take it to the next level which also means getting paid

Phil Rickaby  33:45

Hmm. That is always the always the challenge. Although Aaron has been doing a lot about helping people

Karen Ancheta  33:53


Phil Rickaby  33:54

get their funding is really great.

Karen Ancheta  33:56

He – Yes, the money Goblin he’s gonna kill me for that.

Phil Rickaby  33:59

Money Goblin. I haven’t heard anybody call him that..

Karen Ancheta  34:03

Go ahead. He won’t mind. He knows it’s true. So So yeah, so that that’s been really amazing. And then last summer, we did the garden project, with our wonderful partners at the industry. And we because of things that some things that happened in Hamilton, we decided to take action and this was our call to action. So there’s like seven of us who were the founders Rose Hopkins, Rick, Banville, Anna Chatterton, Matt McFadden, Laura Welch, Aaron and I and we are the founders of the garden project. So together we we had set out to raise seed money for black indigenous and people of colour artists in Hamilton. We try to raise $2,000 and we’re like, Okay, well, we’ll do that. Do that we’ll support one artist and then we’ll do mentorship. We’ll pair them up with a mentor and we’ll pay them also Well, word got out. And then we had a second artist. Oh, that’s cool. And then we had a third. And then we’re able to support four artists in total, we raised almost $18,000 during the pandemic. Yeah, so we’re hoping to happen. We’re hoping to make it happen again this year, because last year, last year’s pairings, and the artists that came through oh my gosh, it was so, so lovely. And definitely worth it. Le Fernando Kyoko, my random admin, and a group called unsettled scores, they were just fantastic. So, we’re hoping to do it again this year. And we’re going to be doing that I believe, the, I guess, the end of June, we’ll be calling for submissions for that. And we want to make it a tradition. That that’s the goal.

Phil Rickaby  35:51

That’s great. That’s great. Um, you mentioned being a mother. And is that as far as like being a theatre artist? Is that how hard is it to juggle being a theatre artist with being a mother for you? Huh?

Karen Ancheta  36:14

It’s harder at different times. I remember when I was when my son was two weeks old. And I went in to visit the Carlos Bulosan Theatre and they were doing some collective creation. And it was so nice because within the Filipino community and like children are just embraced and accepted in one spaces. So it was so nice to bring the baby in. And then at breaktime have people fight over the baby. You know, it was it’s so nice and like, you know, he he has so many Tito’s and teeth does in that space. I did a project with su long theatre with Catherine Hernandez and or a quick quaver called future folk. And he was a little older, so I had to leave him with my parents here. And I had to drive in for that 10 o’clock rehearsal, and then drive back and then pick him up. And then do it all over again. Like it was intense. Oh, my goodness. So. So in that sense, like, and my husband travels a lot. So a lot of that fell onto me to try to, to try to juggle him, like put him somewhere. So I don’t know, in that sense. It’s just a lot on the goal. Like it’s not about you know, you may want to concentrate on your script, but somebody needs it. Kids always need something.

Phil Rickaby  37:43

Yes. Yeah.

Karen Ancheta  37:44

So it’s always a split focus kind of thing. I always feel a bit split focus, like all the time, not as much as before, but in a different way. But then again, you know what, I I’m a better artist. I’m a better artist, because I’m a mom.

Phil Rickaby  38:00

Okay, tell me about that. Why did why why do you think you’re better artists? Because you’re a mom, you’re a mom,

Karen Ancheta  38:04

I think I’m a better artist because of my mom, because I, my all my, all my caregiving instincts come into play. Especially right now with a climate of taking care. You know, I feel like people are more aware and are really trying to make safe spaces. in rehearsal. And being a mom, it’s just a natural. It’s just an extension of that. You know, caring for someone checking on someone. Are you okay? I’m sensing a little bit. Come on, let me take care of you. kind of thing and then having someone do that. Look, you haven’t eaten. You know what, come with me. Like, there’s just something about people and people recognise it, they go out your mom, your mom instincts are kicking in, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So that in terms of care, and just oh my goodness, like, I think about myself in my 20s trying to play a mom, huh. And then I think about through the bamboo, where I had to play a mom to a 12 year old. Hmm. And I didn’t have to do very much. Because I already I already knew like, I knew it in my bones in my blood in my flesh, like what that felt like, like, I was amazed like, Ah, yeah, there was no imagination required. I just had to be.

Phil Rickaby  39:32

is there now one of the things you know, there are plenty of theatre artists who are mothers? I think that that like you mentioned there’s there’s a challenge to balancing being a mother especially with very young child and and being a performer. If a theatre company was to come to you and say what would you need as a mother to succeed as a performer? What could we give to you

Karen Ancheta  39:58


Phil Rickaby  39:59


Karen Ancheta  40:00

Care for a – care and consideration. I know that in a Filipino – Okay, so in a Filipino theatre space, I’m not worried. Hmm, I know that if I get stuck and I have to bring my boy and I can say, okay, you’re going to sit in the corner. Here some snacks is your thing. Okay. And everybody, not only is it oh, you know, it’s more than okay. Like he’ll come out of that rehearsal with more uncles and Auntie’s Tito’s. And then when he started and it is, it’s such a family environment. I know that in some theatre companies, that would be not cool. And that would not be very professional, you know, even though it is my reality. And I wish that that Yeah, like, I don’t have to apologise. I don’t have to apologise in in most spaces that are no, I guess, like cultural theatre. Like that. I’d say for too long theatre, with Catherine Hernandez and Erica quaver. We were like, I was, there was two of the shows that we did. And we were both pregnant in the show. And then after they came out, you know, like, we all had one kid. And I remember us saying, okay, so if this goes further, we need to put childcare in the grant. Like, this just has to be a part of it. That’s like, Yeah, of course. That makes sense. And it was just nice to have like women kind of going okay, yeah, we need this. Of course, yeah. It’s it’s a no brainer. You know, but maybe someone who doesn’t have kids? Or, you know, it just wouldn’t dawn on them. No. Oh, I have to say one more thing. Yeah, there was this one time. So last year, I had a contract. And I was trying to make it work. And I messaged my director, the most talented Jasmine Chen. And I said, Listen, I, it’s the first year my kid is getting on the school bus. And I’m trying to figure out how to get them on the school bus. And then right after that, I have to zoom on the highway to get to you to Toronto, and I met a dude a dress rehearsal tomorrow to see if it will work. But I just want you to know, this is what I’m dealing with. And she wrote me and said, Would it make your life easier if we started rehearsal at 1030? And I, I couldn’t believe that I almost cried. I was just like, yes, like, because I was like, I may get there attend 20. I’m so sorry. Because we were supposed to start at 10. And that kind of tiny consideration. I felt heard, I felt seen it made the world of difference to me. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby  43:02

yeah. No, I think there’s there’s something that we do with theatre school that I don’t see in the theatre. And I think we learned it in theatre school, this idea. And I wonder if it’s the same for you, where it’s all about not rocking the boat, don’t rock the boat, don’t cause any trouble. Don’t ask for too much. Don’t don’t cause any trouble. Yeah. And so in a situation like that, of course, you approach that like you would in other spaces and look. So here’s my thing, you’re apologising. And I think that in some ways, like, it should just be a no brainer, if the if your cast members have children, you have to accommodate that, instead of treating it like a like an annoyance. And we have to accommodate for the fact that maybe not everybody can afford child care, maybe they are the single caregiver. And so if they’re going to be in the show, that care has to be in the budget, we have to be able to look at, you know, all of our cast members, and we need to make our spaces that we rehearse in as welcoming and as safe and as loving as possible, because some of the work we do on stage is not

Karen Ancheta  44:06

Oh, it’s so true. I totally agree. And I love what you’re saying. I’m just like, yes, it’s I’m cheering I’m cheering you. Because it to me, it’s like, yeah, like all those things. Like that sounds like utopia, but what like what, but if you don’t have if you’re at the top, and you don’t have children? Yeah. If I didn’t have children, maybe I wouldn’t think this way. Do you know,

Phil Rickaby  44:37

I do. I do. But I think that it comes down to and I think part of the problem is, we talk about people who are at the top, you know, artistic directors and things like that. So they are disconnected in some places they are, but it’s their job to know they’re there. They’re there. They’re the people that they’re working with. It’s your job to know their directors, designers. It’s their job to know their actors. It’s their job to know what their actors need in order to succeed. And if you really want the best actor for the role, then you make accommodations for if they need childcare, if they have to come in a little later, like you have to do that. It’s, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the one of the jobs of the artistic director, stop acting as though you are at the top and everybody caters to you know, you have to cater to everybody else. Otherwise, you’re creating a toxic space.

Karen Ancheta  45:34

Wow. Yeah, I haven’t I haven’t heard that. Yeah, I totally agree. I think what you said too, about the, the mom thing, like, I feel like things are really shifting. I feel like people are always like, like, for me, as a mom, I’m always like, Okay, what do you need? Like, in any of my sessions, I’m asking my creators, what do you need? What, what can I do to help you? You know, to get the best out of this moment for you? And is that customer service? Is that my mom? The mom and me generally mean, but it just yeah, it just benefits? It makes sense, right? Because you can see it and the artist and sometimes even just the simple asking of going, Okay, before we go on, I just want to ask, Do you have enough support? Like during this time right now? Like, how are you doing? What’s the situation and the some of them, you know, some of my students, I remember connecting, especially with my students at Humber, just that simple question is so lovely, how it was received, sometimes it was like, oh, oh, thank you for asking.

Phil Rickaby  46:40


Karen Ancheta  46:41

You know, like, I think that that’s just, that’s just human nature. I think that should be we should always be doing that. How are we going to get the best out of each other?

Phil Rickaby  46:51

Hmm. Well, that’s I mean, that’s sort of the opposite of, you know, that toxic rehearsal hall where the director rules with an iron fist and all that stuff. A few weeks back, I was talking with Siobhan Richardson, who’s an intimacy director, and I was talking with Nicole Winchester, who’s live action roleplay facilitator. So you know, role playing games, but in person, but one of the things that I brought in Nicole for was to talk about emotional bleed, and how that can affect both the life in the rehearsal room and outside of it. And Stefan talks about that as well. But one of the things that we talked about was was how we sort of came to this idea that on the first day, part of the first day of rehearsal, should be everybody being able to say what they need. Oh, yes. What do you need in the rehearsal hall? If we’re working on a particularly difficult play, what do you need to get through it? Or just generally, what do you need to succeed in this room? And how can we, as this temporary family that’s come together to produce this play? How can we support you make a collective agreement? Yeah,

Karen Ancheta  48:01

yeah, I’ve done that a couple times now. And sometimes it looks like gathering, like on the floor with cue cards? And that question, what is it that you need, you know, from everyone, and in this rehearsal space to get through this, and then so you make your list. And then it gets shared. And then it gets posted, so that we can be mindful? And it’s, it’s just, it’s a beautiful way to work it cut a levels, everything right off the top and like, makes people more mindful of each other in the space? Yeah, I love that practice.

Phil Rickaby  48:43

Yeah, I think I think that’s really that’s really, what you’re doing is something that I think is super important. And that is like, literally just like, we’re going to be working in this room. And we are basically going to be taking our emotional clothes off for however long this rehearsal process lasts. So we need to support each other.

Karen Ancheta  49:02

Oh, yeah, I know. There’s no other work like it. Is there?

Phil Rickaby  49:05

No, not at all.

Karen Ancheta  49:06

Yeah, the relationships that you can build. I think it and it all feeds in it all feeds into the work on stage. And yeah, yeah.

Phil Rickaby  49:16

So Karen, just as we start to draw to a close, one of the questions that have been asking pretty much every episode of everybody is, is a question about joy. You know, for this entire pandemic time. We’ve all had our ups and downs and sometimes as the theatre stay closed, and we’re doing scrolling on our phones or whatever it is that we’re doing, we forget to think about the things that give us joy. So my question to you is, what’s been giving you joy that you’d like to share with us?

Karen Ancheta  49:56

What’s been giving me joy? Well, the first thing that comes to Mind is is family, you know, I bubbled with my parents who are in their 80s. And, and also an and so we’ve we’ve been able to spend time with them. And, and also just teaching the boys to to brief reframe. I mean, I think that’s my survival technique, whether I’m working in a restaurant or busing tables or whatever, you just have to re frame and look at all the good stuff. And honestly, it could be a lot worse. I mean, we have that we are very privileged to be able to bubble. And to keep ourselves safe, we have a lovely home, we can work from home, like we’re so privileged and and I think the joy of creating the joy within our little bubble, and just like cocooning with our family and enjoying the small things, like having dinner by the water, finding some water somewhere to eat in front of is been really lovely. We have a tree house now. So we go there, and just kind of like decompress, that gives us joy. There’s so it’s all the small things, all the small daily things and that and trying to find that within all this crazy chaos outside of this bubble.

Phil Rickaby  51:35

Yeah. But I think that you know, what you’re mentioning this is those small things. And those, they may seem like tiny things, but they’re moments of calm. And they’re moments of really quiet intimacy among a family. And those little moments are like, the world can be chaotic. But you find this this really calm and beautiful centre right in the middle. And with that, you can find your centre, eat in front of water, and then you can it’s a little bit easier to face the world.

Karen Ancheta  52:10

Oh, yeah, I think you’re right, that’s so true. Like we’ve been very, we’ve done everything that we can to not raise our cortisol levels. That has been cool. Like, I’m homeschooling the kids, like, I just like, whatever, I just tried to take the stress out of it. You know, like having if the kids went to school there would be have the daily exposure, and then I would worry about my parents, okay, you know, what, if everyone’s going to go to school, that way, we’re going this way, we’re gonna go in a different direction, which also teaches the kids you know what, we can make a decision for our family and go in a different direction, and it’s worked so far. So so we’ll just keep, we’ll just keep keep ourselves safe and calm and just find the joy and also really make an effort. I mean, really, again, you know, like, within my storytelling groups, it’s been like this little extension and like, to other people’s little bubbles, for the Internet, and to see how they’re doing also. And you realise that those are the little moments. You know that you can you can spread some joy.

Phil Rickaby  53:20

Yeah. Yeah. Karen, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful.

Karen Ancheta  53:25

Oh, my pleasure. Thanks so much for contacting me. This has been great.

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