Turning Point Q&A with Ann Randolph

Ann Randolph is considered one of the most gifted and innovative writer-performers in the country, and has been hailed by critics as “revolutionary, Whitmanesque, and a tour de force.” Ann’s solo shows have garnered many awards, including the prestigious LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times Ovation for “Best Solo Show.” Excerpts from her shows have been aired on NPR’s All Things Considered, Public Radio Weekend, PBS, and the BBC.

Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
I write and perform solo shows based on my life, and teach others to tell their own transformational tales.

Tell us about a turning point in your life.
Having Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft as mentors and producers in staging my first solo show, Squeeze Box, off-Broadway. I had been working 10 years on the graveyard shift at a homeless shelter for mentally ill women in L.A., making minimum wage so I could have my days free to write and create. One day, I answered a call taking two reservations for Mel Brooks to attend my show. (My home phone number was also the box office number.) That evening, they showed up, and I could see them in the audience laughing and, at the end, crying. Afterward, they came backstage and told me that they wanted to take the show to New York City and produce it off-Broadway. It was a dream come true.

What do you love about teaching?
I love watching students delight in the creative possibilities that unfold as they’re guided in pushing through their own personal boundaries. I love watching how effortless it is to create bold, courageous art if you teach students to get out of the mind and into the body. I love when students surprise themselves with finding the funny in a deeply painful experience.

What are you passionate about right now?
I just figured out how to combine my love of teaching and of performing in a single night. I’m currently performing my new show, LOVELAND, a dramedy about my mother dying and how I came to terms with the grief. After the show, so many audience members want to share with me their own stories of loss, so I thought, Why not have a sharing/writing session immediately following the show? It’s been incredible. The show lasts 75 minutes, and afterwards I guide the audience in a short writing exercise around the themes of loss, and then we all share. The experience is deeply moving. It’s such an honor to hear people share stories that they might have been holding inside them their whole life.

What do you do in your downtime?
When I’m not on the road, I go to Kauai to hike in the rainforest, swim, and work on new material.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.