Accessibility Note: Scroll to the end of this post to find the audio transcript.
Bekah Jordan is a jill-of-all-trades director, producer, writer, designer, teacher, installation artist, and performer. She joins Joey Phoenix on the podcast to talk about art as a lifeline, children’s literature, her in-the-works zine Attn: Pandemic and how well-produced immersive theatre can ruin your life in the best way.
Bekah Jordan is the Executive Artistic Director of the 5th Wall Immersive Theatre Company and the co-founder of small film and media production company NB productions. She also facilitates several online writing groups including Unspoken Ink through Lacuna Loft: an online organization for young adult cancer survivors.
Some of her recent projects include a comedy-drama web series called Lily of the Valley, based on true events of a first-gen woman navigating the tide pools of dating in Boston and cancer, as well as a zine called Attn: Pandemic which aims to capture what being alive in these surreal times feels like.
Mentioned in this Podcast
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Boy James
Quaranzine, by Zac Smith
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy
The Last of the Really Great Wang Doodles by Julie Edwards (Andrews)
About The Chaos Within
Hosted by Joey Phoenix, The Chaos Within is a podcast celebrating the weird, the wild, and the creative – featuring makers, doers, artists, and oddballs exploring the unknown and tapping into their creative energy.
The Logo was designed by Anton Presents, the intro music is by Paul Senn (email@example.com) using the Theta-U Creative Circuit System, and the outro music by Chris Wilson Sound using one of Joey’s maternal Grandmother’s haunted music boxes.
Creative North Shore is produced, curated and managed by Creative Collective, we are trying really hard to make sure that we don’t have to put a paywall in place and could really use your support to keep afloat and make us able to keep a few of our staff employed and providing you with content and information. Please consider supporting us with any amount.
Joey Phoenix 0:05
The Chaos within, part of Creative Collective Presents is a podcast celebrating the weird, the wild, and the creative, featuring makers, doers, artists, and oddballs, exploring the unknown and tapping into their creative energies. The Intro Music is my pulse and then the outro music is my crystal sound.
In the beginning, there was chaos. I’m your host Joey Phoenix.
Unknown Speaker 0:30
Bekah Jordan is a drillable, trades director, producer, writer, designer, teacher, installation artist, and performer. She is the executive artistic director of the fifth wall immersive theater company, and the co founder of small Film and Media Production Company and B productions. She also facilitates several Online Writing groups including unspoken Inc through the Kunal loft, an online organization for young adult cancer survivors. Some of her recent projects include a comedy-drama web series called lily of the valley-based on true events of a first gen-woman navigating the tide pools of dating in Boston and cancer, as well as Attn: attention pandemic, which aims to capture what being alive in these surreal times feels like. Welcome, Bekah.
Bekah Jordan 1:11
You definitely seem to keep very busy. How do you, how do you grapple with the daily challenges of feeling pressure to make art during quarantine on top of what you’re already dealing with?
I would say it’s less so of feeling pressure to make art and more that it’s really my lifeline because of health issues etc. and other things that I deal with. It’s kind of like the one world that Bekah lives in that I can still have. agency over and act in and be creative and that feeds my soul. So it’s, it’s less so about feeling like I need to create art and more just feeling like that’s, that’s the place where I can feel like myself – where a lot of the rest of the world’s circles that I live in feel very upside down for a lot of us right now.
And I mean even, even that bio listening to it, I was like, Yeah, it sounds like I’m doing so many things and I also feel like I am spending a lot of time just sleeping. So I don’t
Sleep is very important, I think right now. I’ve been following your work for a while and I’ve always like really admired how even when things are stupid difficult you still managed to produce beautiful art in the midst of that and I hearing you say like, it’s a lifeline. I definitely connect with that. And I sort of wonder like, when did you first realize this can be a way for you to find like healing and like expression?
I grew up in an artistic surrounding environment. My family is is a lot of artists and I think so it’s always kind of part of the fabric of my life. And then I got to college and sort of I think I you know, I didn’t start out in theater, but I ended up finding my way and finding my way there. I remember seeing a production of a piece at my school and I left the show saying to myself, like I, I can’t not do theater, actually. And I ended up switching my major.
A really life-changing experience that I definitely point to when I talk about how theater changed my life was a show that I saw when I was actually had the privilege of going to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh back in 2011. And at the time, I was still in college, the six-year program, and I saw this piece, and the first time I’d ever seen intimate immersive theater, which is, you know, small, small audience, there’s no real line where like the audience sits here and the actors act over there.
It’s like all, you’re all in this space together. It’s kind of interactive, a little bit. And the piece was just it’s it completely floored me I mean I say to most people when I talk about it, that it ruined my life in the best way and I mean even talking about it I could like probably start crying without getting too into details about it because like, I had never seen a piece of theater that was that of that caliber, where you set aside fully set aside all you’re, you suspend your disbelief completely just like lose yourself and believe that this 25 year old is who is playing a five year old really is a five year old boy.
It was called The Boy James based upon J.M. Barrie who wrote Peter Pan And basically the adult James saying is goodbye to his inner child, which is that’s like the very pared down synopsis. And it was heart-wrenching in the most visceral guttural way. The ending was the little boy’s alone in the room with all of us. And the older games have left and had left him with this letter that he’d written. But he’s a five-year-old boy, right? He can’t read. And he’s crying. And like, snot is like, coming out of his face. Like it was just we were like, what is everyone’s like holding their breath and suddenly someone in the audience, it’s like an older woman, with obviously a beautiful British accent. Like, do you want me to read that for you? She reads this letter and it’s basically saying like, I’m sorry, I have to, I have to leave you. And this little boy breaks down and like slumps to the floor. Again, like snot is just like dripping down his feet. I mean, it was just, and that was the end of the show. Like there is… there’s no like curtain call where the actors come out and we all applauded, like, we all had to get up and leave him
And it was this symbolic thing of all of us leaving our inner child. I mean, everyone was crying, everyone, there was no one was okay. And I remember the woman who read the letter, like I’m, she just came up to him and holding him as he’s crying. As I’m like stumbling towards the door and she’s like telling him and holding him and saying it’s it’s okay and says to live will be the great event adventure and I was just like what in the holy heck is happening?
And I like stumbled back to the flat I was staying in crying. I like fell into a wall and cried. I was not drunk at all. Probably looked it though…and fell asleep crying woke up, cried myself back to sleep woke up, journaled, cried into my journal couldn’t talk. And I told my professor, I’m not coming back with you guys. I found what I want to do what I need to do I need to stay here with these people and make art with these people. This is I found my place and He gently reminded me that I probably should graduate. He’s what he said literally, to me was do it where you are. So I came back to the States. And for my senior thesis project, I sort of used that style of theater. It’s like an intimate, immersive theater-style, and created a piece of work that I still think about, and it’s part of a trilogy that I’m still, you know, working on. That launched the theatre company. I mean, that was, that was our first piece, you know, very heavily influenced by that by that specific piece of work that I saw the boy James, but it just, it transformed me and I just knew I had to keep doing it. So that’s, that’s the Reader’s Digest version.
That’s really extraordinary. I think also maybe more extraordinary is that I was also there that year.
Iwasn’t a theatre person at the time. I just happened to be in Edinburgh in 2011 during the Fringe Festival.
Wow, that’s nuts.
Now I’m heartbroken that I was not at that show because.
I am heartbroken. Ahh
like, we might have passed each other on the street and had no idea.
there’s I mean, there’s a billion jillion people. Yeah, it’s the first time I’d ever been to Edinburgh and that was the first time that I’d ever felt I’m home. I was like, these are my people. I you know, I’m walking down the, the main force now the name is eluding me.
The Royal Mile?
Right! And, you know, there’s people on stilts and tons of actors in costumes waiting in line to get a sub sandwich and jugglers and it’s I was just like, and all these languages happening in music and buskers, and I was just like, this is like any city that allows artists to come and take over their city for an entire month, every single year. It’s got to be the coolest city that exists.
I have to agree. And I think like, right, Salem tries, but it’s just different.
Well, I mean, and Salem being, you know, the size that it is, certainly is one of the coolest cities as well. I feel very privileged to be here. In this area and be close to Salem
You are.. you’re working on a new project called Attn: Pandemic.
A friend of mine actually sent me a zine that was published by a poet that I was unfamiliar with. I knew I knew the name of one of the poets that was published in in the, in the Zine. Tao Lin is the name that I knew. Anyway, she forwarded this lien to me and it was called Quaranzine. I was like, great, you nailed it. Grab the low hanging fruit of titles. And it just it became it was, first of all, it’s a fabulous publication. You can find it online and it just became very apparent to me and I’ve been reading and just about historians even just asking people to write about their experience of living right now because we are living during a historical event. I mean, I do not claim ownership of this phrasing but it’s nearly impossible to know and understand the importance of a moment in time. A moment in history while you’re living at but right now certainly is one and just to read, read what had been collected.
I was like, I, I know so many artists, I know so many writers and artists. I want to kind of add to this Time Capsule in a way you know create a little time capsule least at least one and the whole thing to maybe do another volume as well because honestly, it feels like every couple days is a month you know, it’s like so much time is going by so many things are changing. So that’s I just find it really important to create these time capsules, one and also encourage artists and people to pay attention I mean, which is why I wanted to title it Attn: pandemic like it’s our letter, a letter to the pandemic or what you’re paying attention to right now, you may understand has meaning right now or maybe the meaning comes later but I just think it’s it’s been really special and I feel privileged to have had really great submissions and just kind of working on putting that together right now.[Music Break]
Why are we doing this thing is a question that I ask myself regularly and like, because I have so many things that I’m involved with. And there are some days I’m just like going through the motions because I feel like producing is better than not producing. I checked in with myself this morning and I was just like, how much of this may actually connecting to connected to and how much of this I feel like I’m doing because something needs to be done. And I didn’t have an answer. And I was wondering, like, what gets you through your days? And like, what connects you to the world, especially now when there’s like so much noise?
A lot of pain medication. So that there’s that piece that that definitely you know, that’s a work in progress. Having a having an autoimmune disease and chronic illness is a straight up challenge, which is a whole other thing.
But, you know, it’s interesting you say like, with so much noise it’s it’s this interesting paradox that we’re living in right now where? Yeah, there’s an incredible amount of noise almost noise in how much media is just like taking over our lives because that’s our kind of only connection to the world in some sense. And yet this also this profound silence in isolation as well. At least for me, I don’t know I’m, I’m, I’m personally in pretty extreme isolation just because I’m such high risk for the Coronavirus, specifically So I have not seen, like human beings and quite some time other than virtually, which has been a great lifeline. But good days are few and far between, I would say
It’s a challenge right now, I think especially because the world feels upside down on a macro level and then on my, my micro level life, I’m going through some pretty intense challenges just with my health etc, which is just crappy. So, I know I’m dealing a lot with that, which is why I think I need to have art as an outlet because otherwise it’s just health. It’s just like doctor’s appointments and medication and palliative care. And trying to get referrals and figuring out insurance and I just, I need things, other things. I need things that feed my soul.
Reading out loud. That is something that continues to be a huge gift. My mom and I read aloud to each other. And I’ve just recently actually started Facetiming with my sister at night. She’s in Philadelphia, so, and she’s alone in her apartment, but we’ll both be on our beds with our computers and it’s kind of like we’re in, you know, laying next to each other. And she’ll read to me too, and it’s just, that’s, that’s such a gift. Right now. We’re all trying to find ways and we are finding ways creative ways to connect with people in ways that we hadn’t before.
What are you reading to each other right now?
My my mom and I just finished the horse and his boy from the Narnia… I love Narnia. If I could pick one one magical place to be real it would hands down be Narnia that’s that’s that’s my maybe hot take. Now that should be a question you ask everybody on your podcast, if you could have one mythical world be real.
And then my sister funny funnily enough, I do. I’m I’m like I’m, I’m outing myself as a children’s literature. young adult fiction reader exclusively by this…
My sister is reading to me a book that’s called if you can believe The Last of the Really Great Wang Doodles.
Yes, that is exactly what it is called. And did you know it’s written by none other than Dame Julie Andrews.
So when I was a kid, my favorite book is called Mandy. Yes. Written by her. Yes,
Yes, it is Julie Edwards. And I had no idea I was saying, I would imagine that we probably had similar experiences of like, mind blown.
To have Mary Poppins as the author.
Of course she is, right. I know. I was like, but Julia Edwards. Now we did a whole Wikipedia deep dive the other night because we were like, wait is this I have a big memory that this is Julie. Julie Andrews, but it’s Andrews as you know, and then we’re reading on Wikipedia and being like, Oh my gosh, that’s right. You know, because that was a book that we read when we were little. It’s been years. But yeah, Wang doodles. So that’s what’s happening and…
I definitely feel the pull towards like, young adult and total literature right now because like it feels more hopeful. Yeah. This tendency to just like fixate on the horrible, and like the catastrophizing and like children’s books, horrible things happen, but they’re still and I feel like, what better thing to read right now then something that can give us hope.
I totally agree with that.
I really, really appreciate you and the work that you are, are doing and it really is moving. And so I thank you for being here talking to me and sharing your truth.
Thank you. for listening and asking and caring enough and yeah, I appreciate you as well.
The Chaos Within is produced by Creative Collective. Creative Collective connects creativity, community, and commerce across the North Shore. As a collective of creative professionals, small businesses, organizations, and individuals that coordinate a series of events, traditional and non traditional marketing initiatives, resources and best practices to define why creativity matters in all aspects of life. In the beginning, there was chaos. Then you make it yours.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai