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How do we feed ourselves? Nikiko Masumoto is a great person to ask.

The idea that Nikiko Masumoto, artist and farmer, is appearing in a new national production titled “The Nourish Project” is just perfect. Can you imagine a better fit? Masumoto joins a multidisciplinary cast of musicians, dancers, storytellers, writers, and cultural organizers from around the country in a virtual production that explores the idea of how we feed ourselves.

The live production premieres Thursday, Jan. 28, and runs for just eight performances over two weekends. (You’ll need to reserve a virtual ticket that ranges in price from free to $100, depending on your support level. If you want to see Masumoto in her biggest role in the show, choose the “Earth Room” option at the time of ticketing.)

I always jump at the chance to learn what Masumoto, of organic-peaches-and-storytelling fame, is doing in terms of her art. I sent her a list of questions about this newest project, which she finished answering right after “racing to finish tractor work before the rain.”


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Q: How do you describe “The Nourish Project”?

A: Our leader / director, Rebecca Martinez, has conceptualized such a lovely performance experience from the question: how do we nourish ourselves? I would describe it as an immersive online experience moving through many modalities of art: dance, poetry, song, and bearing witness. Audience members are invited to take part and be ritual-makers. Each artist offers something unique and beautiful connecting to the elements: fire, air, water, earth and ancestors.

Q: You’re playfully calling this your “New York City debut.” Tell us about the WP Theatre and some of your fellow performers.

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A: I am very honored to be included in this WP Theater production. WP Theater has a long history of making space for marginalized voices in the world of theater. It began in the late 70’s out of a glaring disparity between men and women in theater. The people at the helm — the playwrights, the directors, the producers – were all overwhelmingly men. Today, WP Theater continues to make room for women, transwomen, and gender non-binary folks to make theater!

The Nourish Project cast and crew are incredible! From all across the country and with perspectives that defy borders and colonialism, the performance is grounded and centered in the wisdom and brilliance of artists at their best: offering multiple entry points into nourishment, offering intimacy and gestures of healing. Every rehearsal, I am so very humbled to be a small part.

Q: It’s one thing to rehearse a fully scripted play via Zoom. What was it like to collaborate on original material with 15 artists spread across the country?

A: From the beginning invitation, Rebecca Martinez framed this as a collaboration and through the lens of offerings. This has felt true through all of the rehearsing. We each offer parts of the tapestry of the experience. We are all coming with offerings unique to our stories, our peoples, and our places, and there are echoes and whispers of sharing and resonance between each part. The zoom-scape allows us to be in conversation in real time in the intimacy of homes and places of belonging. I have never experienced anything quite like this collaboration!

Nikiko Masumoto

Q: One of your major roles in the show is to host the “Earth” room. What does that mean? I know there are going to be some surprises, but can you tell us one thing that ticket buyers who select the Earth option will experience?

A: Ah, yes! The Earth Room! As an artist and farmer, this room is so very dear to me. If you attend the Earth Room, you’ll be asked to form a deeper connection with the earth. You’ll be invited into a reflective space and then (hopefully) be surprised by a secret the earth wants to reveal.

Q: Are you just a teensy bit sick of spending so much time on Zoom these days? Do you have any tips for the rest of us on feeling Zen toward Zoom during these digital times?

A: Here’s the thing for me: While I long for touch and physical presence and I miss gathering in person, I think of zoom like a magical moment of star-gazing. Do you know that moment when you’re outside under the canopy of darkness of the night sky and those incredible lights, burning spheres of gases we call stars are dazzling us in their splendor?! I often accompany that moment with a deep breath and I imagine, the people who I miss dearly, both who have departed from our world and who are here, just far away – I remember that they too look/looked at this sky. In fact, we are all here together under the same sky 24-7, even if we do not think of it or see it. This is kind of how I feel about Zoom! Yes, we’re not able to do many things through zoom (or other digital spaces), but we can do something profound: acknowledge each other’s humanity. We are here, we are here, we are here.

Q: What is one thing you hope people take away from “The Nourish Project”?

A: I hope people leave feeling held, embraced, and replenished. I hope something in our piece reminds each guest of love, loss, and being alive, that precious gift of now and the profound gift of being here. I hope people feel connected to their senses and the elements, and hear an answer to their own sacred question: what do I need to be nourished?

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Thank you for helping to share this piece!


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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