Artist Spotlight: Gary Ketzenbarger
Ketzenbarger is the theater program coordinator for Colorado Mountain College’s Sopris Theater Company, as well as associate professor of speech and theater and a tai chi instructor at the college. This week, he’s opening the fall season with a one-man show, written and performed by himself, that combines storytelling with movement, and focuses on tai chi as the embodiment of the natural flow inherent in Taoism. Tickets for “A Resume for Immortality” are $18 for adults and curtain is 7 p.m. on Sept. 16-17 and 2 p.m. on Sept. 18 at CMC’s Spring Valley Campus. Visit coloradomtn.edu/cmc-theatre or call 947-8177 for tickets or information. In advance of the show, the Post Independent caught up with Ketzenbarger to talk about his life and work.
Tell us a bit about your background.
My father was a military officer, and my mother comes from France, so I grew basically moving all over the place. I never really had a permanent home, and that has its advantages and its disadvantages.
How did you get into theater?
I feel like I’ve been acting my whole life, but my introduction to theater was via football.
I was on the practice field one day and a friend of mine came running over and said, “We need guys for the play!” That’s always kinda the story in high school. I thought about it and decided I liked movies, so a play could be kinda cool. I didn’t have any competition, so of course I got the part.
I did a couple more and thought it was pretty cool, but when I went off to college I actually ended up majoring in religious studies with theater as a minor.
It wasn’t until I was contemplating going back to grad school that I decided to get my master’s in theater.
What brought you here?
I was teaching in Summit County for CMC as an adjunct and I was a white water rafting and dog sledding guide at the same time. I was kind of piecing together a living, so once this job was open, I applied for it. That was eight or nine years ago.
Is this your first original work here?
The first solo show. I wrote a play that we did maybe six years ago called “Confession of Faith.” This is a different kettle of fish. This is me doing my own thing. When I teach about playwriting, one of the questions I ask is “Why would anyone in their right mind write a play?” Typically, there’s no money in it, but in the theater the playwright’s kind of a kingpin. There’s a real reward in that, and in seeing your work actually take shape on stage.
Is it difficult to hand it over to someone else to direct?
I have done some directing from the stage, but in this particular piece when I’m all alone up there, I can’t see myself. I need that outside perspective. I love working with Brad [Moore]. He’s a really open, understanding person, so it’s a very collaborative process.
Tell us about the inspiration for the piece.
Ever since I was a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I’ve had an interest in martial arts. I signed up for classes and worked out incredibly hard and did all the kung fu things, but my interest really became more and more focused on the internal aspects. Tai chi and other related arts rely heavily on this inner flow of what the Chinese call chi.
At some point in everybody’s life, there’s something you have to stand on philosophically or religiously that defines you. I had a kind of spiritual crisis, and one way to find my focus was to write about it.
Will the audience be able to follow that?
They’ll catch the flavor of it, and maybe it will get them to think. I want to articulate something, and I want to entertain while doing it.
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