Santa Barbara News Press

Eyes of Sapphire


Karsen Lee Gould started out in theater, studying acting at Cal Arts and the Goodman Theatre School in Chicago, then slid over into education and psychology.

She taught children theatre and dance for 15 years, became a certified drama therapist, worked at the famed Imagination Workshop in Los Angeles and moved to Santa Barbara 14 years ago. She has run therapy groups for a wide range of populations, including seven years as a consultant at Devereux School, presenting several public performances with her drama group.

Sapphire Eyes
WHEN: 8 tonight and Saturday night and 2 PM. Sunday
WHERE: Crane School Theatre, 1795 San Leandro Lane in Montecito

The latest manifestation of Goulds passion to connect theater and healing is Sapphire Eyes, her adaptation of Oscar Wildes fairytale The Happy Prince, which opens tonight for three perfor- mances at the Crane School Theatre in Montecito.

The show is sponsored by Tri- Counties Regional Center, and the cast several developmentally disabled performers along with accomplished dancers she recruited at dance concerts and parties.

Gould is the producer, director, writer- creator, choreographer, and performs in the show as well. Summer Solstice is also helping with the production.

As the countdown to opening night ticked even louder Gould was exhausted by her multiple duties but charged with enthusiasm for her mission. When you work with the developmentally challenged, she explained, you cant put something on them and ask them to do it. You find what they can do, and then you develop it. Thats how my last five pieces were designed. This piece is more of a combination, more asking performers to do things rather than just seeing what they can do and then forming it. But its a tricky balance when youve got these populations together. I have high standards. My objective is to create quality work with absolute integrity and integration. Its quite a challenge.

Sapphire Eyes is a kind of pilot for a spirit-of-inclusion project Gould calls Arts for Humanity! or AH! Her vision includes a year-round company doing community workshops as well as theatrical productions. One of her models is Santa Barbaras acclaimed Access Theatre, which closed down after director Rod Lathims resignation in 1996. I didnt work with Rod but were friends and hes a supporter, said Gould. Access is gone but I think this will fill the gap.

It was her experience at Devereux School that set Gould firmly on this path. After the first two months I was there, she recalled, I had this group of teenagers in a drama class, and we were asked to perform at their 50 th anniversary celebration and they were fantastic. We ended up doing a show at The Multicultural Center, at enter Stage Theatre, at San Marcos High. She said, Arts for Humanity! wants to serve the community by bringing more of the arts to underserved, underrecognized groups, with the belief that the arts are very healing and need to be part of our daily lives, recognized for their power. I am hoping this project will bring me more exposure and help me with funding.

People who have weaknesses in some areas often are stronger in their creative areas. This is a strength that can offset deficits, she continued, Audiences are moved by the aspect of inclusion, but I want to be recognized also just for the innovativeness and beauty and magical quality of the kind of work I create. What really moved me in the past was that people would see the work and instead of saying, Didnt they do a great job, theyd say That was a beautiful piece of theater, and I was so moved by your cast and their authenticity. Thats a word several people used.

The evening will open with a series of short pieces-whimsical vignettes that arent exactly nonsensical but dont necessarily have a logical connection, in the directors words. They were created by structured improvisation. I have this ability to get people to start playing, and then I start forming and evolving , developing work around their creating. And I love that process. I adore that process. The Happy prince is more structured, with Gould narrating the story. Oscar Wilde wrote a series of fairytales as a way to impart his values to his kids. Every fairytale is about doing the right thing. Theyre about humanity, about kindness, about honesty. Theyre magnificent, theyre magical and theyre important. Im interpreting it through metaphoric abstractions that create theater and magic.

I did a little version of The Happy Prince when I was 25 on the Venice boardwalk with a group of 10-year-olds, she confessed. Id walk around with a banner, hear ye, hear ye, and wed go on the lawn. I had a little 8-year-old as the bird, with a grass skirt for her wings. I have a long history with this piece, and its getting there. I like the symmetry of working with these marginalized people and this story, because the piece is about helping humanity, bringing everyone together as one, and taking care of everyones needs with respect, that we all deserve the best out of life.

Its work with a lot of heart and beauty to it. I like to create a healing evening, where you leave feeling purified in some way, and certainly touched. Some of it is the visual and kinetic aesthetic, and some of it is the fact that this is a mixed group. I know clearly that the lives of those 30 people I did shows with at Devereux are transformed. It takes commitment. I work with people. Its empowering to know that you can do it, you can push yourself and connect, do what it takes, and be part of something, be acknowledged and share your soul. Get up there and share your soul. Its very dear. (Blue Moon Players will present Sapphire Eyes at 8 tonight and Saturday night and 2 PM. on Sunday at the Crane School Theatre, 1795 San Leandro Lane in Montecito. Tickets, which are $13 general, and $10 for students and seniors $10, may be purchased by calling 687-6615) MAY 31, 2002 SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS ¥ SCENE The “Sapphire Eyes” cast includes Ron Glover as The Happy Prince, Masako Fitzmaurice as The Swallow & Director-narrator Karsen Lee Gould, from left.