How To Be A Good Ally to Women: non-male graduate students in the University of Saskatchewan’s History Department submit an open letter

If we’re friends on Facebook, then you probably saw the beginning of this post on my profile page as I shared the letter from friends of mine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon on December 8th, 2018. I’m going to go ahead and recognize that the main title I chose for this blog post is very wide, while I am only addressing ONE example of the topic today. Perhaps there will be future incarnations of this title if I experience more real-life examples of the same caliber. ***I will include an image of the U Sask open letter at the end of this post if they give me consent to do so***

I’d like to share an experience I had a few weeks ago on our own campus here at UC Berkeley. It was a great example of how y’all men can ally. I was at a cafe staking out a place to study while I waited for my friend to get out of class and join me. A male grad student who looked to be in his 30s said something nebulous over his shoulder to me while stirring condiments into his coffee – something about my “ensemble.” Given the nature of the flippant comment I half-heartedly replied from a distance. Then he directly approached me and started to talk AT me. I say AT me because fast forward many minutes and after asking me what my major is and hearing my reply that my field of concentration is in Indigenous histories he then preceded to try and school me on my own topic (I should note that he is NOT in the fields of History or Native American Studies). He mansplained to me on and on about the state of Indigenous people all over the world today and when I tried to correct some of his gross assumptions, he shut me down. His claim to superior knowledge was that, as a privileged white male, he once studied abroad in Australia where they educated him on the plight of the Aboriginal people there; so now he understands that their racial situation there is so much worse than ours could ever be here in North America and would not hear otherwise. (The words “OPPRESSION OLYMPICS” flashed in neon lights…*face palm*)
Now saucy me would usually have just read him his rights and walked away, but I was taking it as a chance to put on my future Professor & Historian hats and try to defend my point of view to someone who was making me angry with his ignorance and lack of consideration for my identity – as I imagine this happens to Professors and Historians throughout their careers – the job of an educator and a scholar is partly to shift hearts and minds using good arguments. You cannot just throw up your hands and walk away from students – not in my opinion anyway. But on top of all this, Mansplainer here was also putting off major creep vibes, so I was already contriving my exit. 
I should add here that Mansplainer also told me an anecdote from his undergrad years where he was begrudgingly required to take a “feminist” class on gender and women’s history, so of course he knows everything there is to know on the topic but also completely resents that this was a requirement for his degree. While he claims he did benefit a little from hearing women’s point of view, he also explained how it was a total crap waste of his time. Red flag, ladies and gents – – RED FLAG!!!
Anyways! So a guy in line for coffee about 15 feet away kept looking over his shoulder at us having this conversation. Eventually he approached us, checking in with me with his eyes first and then addressing his comments directly to the mansplainer. He looked at me and said, “Is everything okay here?” giving a warning look to Mansplainer. I said something along the lines of, “Yeah I’m chill – it’s cool, I got it.” But he could see from my face that maybe everything was not okay. Mansplainer immediately got defensive and said, “We’re just having a conversation, MAN.” And then the gloves came off. Mr. Ally said, “I’ve been standing over there for a few minutes waiting for my coffee and it did not look like things were alright over here, so I wanted to check in.” He then laid into Mansplainer, telling him that about 15 mins ago his girlfriend told him about an older male grad student who was being creepy and getting into her personal space and wouldn’t leave her alone.
The key point I want to make about his method here is that while he was laying into Mansplainer, Mr. Ally did not get too aggressive or raise his voice or get in the guy’s face. Because honestly, if it had turned into that type of altercation, that would have made ME uncomfortable and anxious and I would NOT have felt safe anymore. I say this is a good example of male allyship because he managed the situation in a way that put Mansplainer on notice while also letting me still know that it was a safe space for me, through his body language and tone of voice, as well as how he reserved his words. 
Finally feeling like I had a buffer zone to work with, my gloves came off. It was time for this prick to hear my roar. And honestly, with a male ally standing there offering his calm and unwavering (but not pushy) support, I felt much more confident to do so. I said, “You’ve been mansplaining me for the past 10 minutes – talking AT me and not listening in return, and I didn’t want to be pushed out of my own space by you because I have been waiting here for my friend to show up.” Then I looked directly at Mr. Ally and said, “Actually, THANK YOU for coming over and checking in. This now feels like a good exit for me.” I gave him one last look that said, “seriously man, thank you so much, you’ve been of solid assistance here.” And then I literally just walked away, leaving Mansplainer to deal with Mr. Ally alone.
My heart was racing and my pulse pounded in my ears, all the way through the doors until I was outside. I walked and walked and walked further away from the building until it occurred to me that I was still waiting on my friend to arrive and needed to go back. I have a “grace under fire” tendency to handle tough situations with calm in the moment, but later it hits me like a ton of bricks and I have to process. In this case, I was cool as a cucumber until I walked away, then all the pressure build up of anger I had been feeling bubbled to the surface and I basically freaked out on that walk. Once I stopped walking I was frozen in place for a few minutes; I still couldn’t go back towards that space. When my heart had slowed I pulled up on ye-olde-bootstraps and walked back to the cafe to reclaim my space, hoping that Mansplainer had left the building and if he hadn’t, being ready to give him the “talk to the hand” treatment.
Despite the fact that I initially responded to some of Mansplainer’s questions in an open way (consent), as the conversation dragged on, it was clear from my body language and tone of voice that I was uncomfortable (withdrawing my consent), but Mansplainer just wouldn’t take the hint, and he became more intense. But I wanted to stand my ground – after all I had been there long before him. Like a colonizer, he decided once he saw he wanted to be in my space that he had a right to keep encroaching and then claim the space for his own. He was colonizing my danged space, I say!
I ask myself what I would have done if Mr. Ally hadn’t shown up, and I already know the answer. Part of me sending the signal that I no longer wanted to have a conversation with Mansplainer was I started texting my friend who was meeting me, telling him to hurry up because boy oh boy did I have a story to tell him! When actually, in my mind I was hoping he’d arrive instantly so that I could make a clean getaway, knowing with my personality type that I’d probably be giving Mansplainer a public dress-down on my way out.
I ask myself why I couldn’t have just done that anyways WITHOUT a male friend at my side, and the answer to that is, as strong as I am, I have survived traumatic experiences with men in the past where my personal space, autonomy, personhood, and consent were violated by men, many times. What my dino-brain learned from those past experiences was that even if I used my words to tell a man to stop, he wouldn’t. That even if I walked away or even fled a situation, that I would be pursued. That if I tried to make myself more space, that space would in turn be taken away from me again. That it doesn’t stop. That to some men, my mere existence serves as consent to them. In that emotional space in the moment, I sometimes feel paralyzed, and yes, the presence of an ally – male or any gender actually – is what restores me to myself and allows me to reclaim my personal power.
In connecting to the open letter from the grad students at U Sask, I echo their rally cry. Women are doing so much more emotional labor constantly – whether it is asked of us or not – because of the state of gender dynamics and the world that we live in today. This state of being, which was thrust upon us without our consent, is a battlefield which we non-men are constantly navigating, sometimes ticking away subconsciously like the background programs running in a computer. So please do step up, allies, when you see something, say something. But keep yourself in check, too – don’t allow your fervor for being the White Knight in the situation to diminish the role of the woman you are supporting. Allowing her to keep her space and giving her room to stand her ground is one of the most supportive things you can do.
P.S. As a side note, I’d like to point out that I spent a chunk of my time <<during finals>> crafting this response for you all this morning. It was emotional labor that I felt compelled to do as part of my own healing, but it is ALSO a great example of the emotional labor that all of the women and non-men in your lives are doing all of the time.

Published: December 8, 2018 | Comments: 4

Coping With Our Oakland Fire Tragedy of 12/2/2016

On my way home from work this evening, I found myself stopping by the site of Friday’s fire, right here in our Fruitvale neighborhood. Many of you have been checking in with me about this, or are former neighbors of mine, so I thought I’d send you an update.

The site is still packed with emergency personnel, many many vehicles, news vans with the telescopic poles on top, various reporters, and even a podium in the middle of the street with lights all around it, for speeches given by officials, I am guessing. They have all the surrounding streets on those 3 blocks blocked off with caution tape and safety personnel. They are still hauling out the charred debris by the truckload (I stopped to let one such truck go in front of me getting to a stop light).

If you haven’t heard this yet, they pulled 24 bodies out early this morning, which brings the number of the known deceased to 33 so far. As I rounded the corner of Derby by 13th St, I saw the side of the building with the 2 windows on top. Daylight was still happening at this hour, so what I saw through those windows was an entire roof plunged through the building, and lots of black charred rubble. This made me sob and sob and sob uncontrollably, as it hit me that this could have been any one of us. The building I live in just got a sprinkler system this past year, but other than that the burned building bears heavy resemblance to our own.

I walked past the many vigils of flowers and candles and messages such as the one spelled out in pink post-its saying: “We are all in this together”. With 33 dead and another at least 20 or so survivors, this tragedy has undoubtedly touched every member of our community in some way or another – I’d even say many people in the Bay Area probably know someone directly affected by it.

Within the last hour I was interviewed on camera by NBC Bay Area – by Elyce Kirchner. I was still crying at that point. She reached out to speak with me, but I made the decision to give her an interview because, as I stated in the interview itself, I am really sick to my stomach with all of the headlines that came out yesterday calling the victims “clubbers” and calling the music concert a “rave” – it doesn’t matter what it was (and it probably was not what the media has spun it to be) – THOSE PEOPLE DID NOT DESERVE WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM OR WOO THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES, AND TO SAY SO IS. . . I have words here, but it’s a stream of cursing, so I’ll spare you the end of that sentence. What I said to Elyce and her NBC camera was that the people of our neighborhood who live in our beloved art warehouse spaces are economically at the bottom of the barrel. These are folks who feel like they don’t have options to go elsewhere, and living in a creative space where they at least get to express their art is like a dream come true compared to the homelessness that many of us have been through in our lives. 

On my way back to my car, I was stopped and audio recorded and photoed by members of the Associated Press (this may have something to do with the fact that I just got back from portrait modeling in the city, so I look put together and approachable). Brian Melley was the name of the reporter. I continued the economic conversation with these guys because I feel like instead of seeing headlines about how these people had thrown a “wild” party, WHAT THE MEDIA NEEDS TO BE COVERING IS SYSTEMIC POVERTY, AND HOW IT LEADS TO MASSIVE TRAGEDIES LIKE THIS ONE. It’s complicated, and therefore slower to talk about, but it is the root of the cause, and needs more mainstream attention. I explained to these guys how when you’re as poor as we are, and you’ve already been through rent hikes, and suffered slumlording for years, and now what seems like inevitable gentrification (a dirty word in these parts), you often feel like you cannot speak out about these known injustices – such as the fact that most of our warehouse buildings in this neighborhood are probably NOT fully up to fire code. Some of them not even close. But even me – a person who had an AP reporter just tell her how articulate she is – even I stop myself from raising a lot of these issues with our building management because their response will just be to raise the rent. Hell – they’ve raised the rent a few times in the 5 years that I’ve been here, and the only thing I got out of that extra money, from what I can see, is a sprinkler system they promised the City of Oakland they were going to install almost 15 years ago. So blaming the tenants isn’t just unfair it’s wrong – and it makes the accusers a participant in the oppressive system that keeps people in poverty down. 

The AP guys thanked me very thoroughly for talking to them because they said they hadn’t been able to get anyone else to speak with them today. I told them people are crazy with grief at the moment and have an inherent distrust of the press because of the way communities like ours typically get covered by the media at large. They sounded very understanding of this and had actually said when they first approached me that they wanted to talk more about the economic part of this equation. I asked them how the other folks they approached had responded to them, and they said today they have been yelled at, told off, told to to fuck themselves, given the finger, etc etc. I explained that the REASON I was willing to speak with them is that I hope they will more accurately represent our neighborhood, and the difficult position we are all in – tenants, landlords, the city – but MOSTLY US. The people who actually live here, who aren’t courting disaster, but merely living our lives the only way we know how. 

I had just spent 30 mins walking the circumference of the disaster zone, visiting the vigils, and crying, crying, crying. This could have been us. It could be us still. It could be our other artist friends. I feel like I was able to be more articulate with the 2nd interview b/c I had just had a long crying jag. The first interview I probably still looked like a blubbery mess, but that’s okay with me if it makes my voice heard. 

Please let me know if any of my interviews show up somewhere, and try to provide links for me if you can. I realize that I have been speaking to the press my whole life, and most of my community is either too scared, angry, or in grief to do so at the moment. But I want us to be heard. 

Thanks for reading.

I found a clip of the first interview I gave, @3:46:

Published: December 5, 2016 | Comments: 0

our racist election 2016 – response

This article written by Jim Wallis, called “Racism: America’s Original Sin,” did such a good job breaking down how racism leads to systemic inequality, including poverty, which America just can’t seem to shake, or even admit exists. These are the parts that most effected me:

“There is only one remedy for such a sin and that is repentance, which, if genuine, will always bear fruit in concrete forms of conversion, changed behavior, and reparation. While the United States may have changed in regard to some of its racial attitudes and allowed some of its black citizens into the middle class, white America has yet to recognize the extent of its racism—that we are and have always been a racist society-—much less to repent of its racial sins.

And because of that lack of repentance and, indeed, because of the economic, social, and political purposes still served by the oppression of black people, systematic racism continues to be pervasive in American life. While constantly denied by white social commentators and the media, evidence of the persistent and endemic character of American racism abounds.”

“It is the economy itself that now enforces the brutal oppression of racism, and it happens, of course, invisibly and impersonally.”

It has been so difficult this past week. Many of us were experiencing real trauma and stages of grieving. It led to several unproductive days for me – well, unproductive in the sense of all the things I’m supposed to be taking care of on my to do list, but productive in the sense that I read so many articles and watched so many videos from so many different sources on the catastrophe that was this election. Having been stuck in the bubble of work and school for the past year and a half, my quest for answers and comfort led me to get back in more current touch with not only friends but with how this country is functioning at present. The situation is desperate – that should now be abundantly clear to everybody.

In the midst of the knee-jerk reactions, lashing-out, and hate speech, one thing that came to my attention, quite wonderfully, is how it can and should be acceptable for people to process things in their own time. I initially felt pressure, like most, to hide my sorrow, shovel it under the perma-frost, and go back to business as usual. But I was experiencing very bad things, and having so many friends post solidarity in our misery, and make speeches condemning those ordering us to get up and take action already, was such a comfort. I realized that the people who got up right away were those least likely to be affected by Trump’s dangerous promises. They were either middle class, white, male, or combinations of those. They were unknowingly practicing oppression and internalized oppression. They missed how it might affect them (white middle class women still being women, for example), and they failed to grasp intersectionality, and its impact on an individual’s psyche.

A friend told me the morning after the election that she’d heard this quote somewhere – that in the wake of a tragedy, if you can start a sentence with “Well at least. . . ” then you have no business finishing that sentence and should just close your mouth. That sums up how I still feel now, on Saturday.

Thanks for reading, my brain is still a scramble soup of being so absolutely upset.

Published: November 13, 2016 | Comments: 0

gender and power dynamics in fairytales – response

I had a couple of somewhat usable hours today, so despite my anxiety that I wouldn’t get the homework done by the deadline in the condition my body is in, I have managed.

This whole idea of fairy tales being used as cultural bonding, and also for social lessons and political ends (from my first paragraph in the homework), reminds me of this thing I read of Frantz Fanon’s. I believe this is what Fanon was talking about in his “Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the Fight for Freedom” (

“On another level, the oral tradition – stories, epics and songs of the people – which formerly were filed away as set pieces are now beginning to change. The storytellers who used to relate inert episodes now bring them alive and introduce into them modifications which are increasingly fundamental. There is a tendency to bring conflicts up to date and to modernise the kinds of struggle which the stories evoke, together with the names of heroes and the types of weapons. The method of allusion is more and more widely used. The formula ‘This all happened long ago’ is substituted by that of ‘What we are going to speak of happened somewhere else, but it might well have happened here today, and it might happen tomorrow’. The example of Algeria is significant in this context. From 1952-3 on, the storytellers, who were before that time stereotyped and tedious to listen to, completely overturned their traditional methods of storytelling and the contents of their tales. Their public, which was formerly scattered, became compact. The epic, with its typified categories, reappeared; it became an authentic form of entertainment which took on once more a cultural value. Colonialism made no mistake when from 1955 on it proceeded to arrest these storytellers systematically.”

I also liked that the Ms. article author, Catherine Orenstein, brings up the etymological origins of “spinning a yarn” and “old wives’ tales” – how they come from the oral storytelling tradition of women gathered around to do work. The idea that the story of Little Red may have in fact characterized her as more of her own active agent who pulled one over on the male characters makes her more balanced and human. In that iteration, it’s easier to see how people could have come up with the story, whereas to me, the standard sort of Disney fairy tale with the Princess and Prince Charming seem terribly manufactured, and lacking divine artistic inspiration.


As an owner of books such as “Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History—without the Fairy-Tale Endings” by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie (, and “Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics” by Jason Porath (, I whole-heartedly endorse using the classic fairytale construct to communicate real women and more realistic history.

Published: October 23, 2016 | Comments: 0

Indigenous Peoples Day Replacing “Columbus Day”

*Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see links to where I got all these images.

*Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see links to where I got all these images.

Indigenous vs. Columbus Day: a brief history and reaction

As I am an activist in support of indigenous peoples and First Nations rights, I refuse to call the holiday “Columbus Day” except in irony, sarcasm, or in reference to what it was formerly known as. I have to say that I didn’t think very much about Christopher Columbus in my early life. Growing up in Yorktown, Virginia, the story of the settlement at Jamestown, the colonial legislature in Williamsburg, and the Battle of Yorktown loomed much larger in our historical scope, and no one really seemed to give two hoots about some Spanish invader. Whereas most of the country grows up thinking that the Plymouth Pilgrims are the founders of our country, and that “Thanksgiving” is this peachy keen lovely little holiday commemorating peace and friendship between the English settlers and the Native people, in Virginia we know the first part to be patently untrue and ignorant history, and the second part, while not covered in school, I learned in my outer community activities in my hometown that the holiday was controversial. Our local First Nations were active in community events which I was fortunate to have been exposed to in my adolescence – the Mattaponi, and, more vocally and even more local to where I grew up, the Pamunkey – the Nation to which Matoaka (/”Pocahontas”) came from. I was speaking with a Pamunkey woman when I learned for the first time, at the age of 15, that the American holiday of Thanksgiving is a source of great pain and a trigger point for trauma reflexes for First Nations people, particularly on the North American continent.

So you see, I had a reference point for American holidays which cloak oppression and genocide, practiced by the hegemonic culture, in the glee of a day off work, or the excuse for mail not going through. And yet I still was oblivious to the seedy underbelly of “Columbus Day.” It should now come as no shock to you when I cite stories like these as reasons for why I want to teach history. In my mind, there are cartoon fingers waving back and forth, pointing at everything written in this response so far. Grew up in the hotbed of this nation’s history. Still wasn’t being taught the full truth of events that happened right there. Had a sense of the inaccuracy of the national historical narrative. Plymouth wasn’t first. Why does everyone think Plymouth was first?

It turned out Jamestown wasn’t even first, there was Roanoke. And when I moved to Florida, I found out that the Floridians are taught that St. Augustine was first. Looming in the back of this entire narrative (but why in the back?) are thousands of years of indigenous history. It was in Florida where I first began to learn about Columbus; before that he had just been a word, not really a concept. Even so, I was learning the white history that apparently a lot of people who were not me already knew – that the Spanish were here first (which at the time was new information to me – a testament to how regionally-skewed history classes can be), and that there are all these Spanish Missions which pre-date either Roanoke or Jamestown.

I feel this outrage at having been taught such a selective narrative of American history. And I get it – I see the logic that history is just too massive and nuanced to teach every part of it to a student, especially a child. But in carefully selecting the narrative of history which is taught to American students, why choose a white-only perspective, that doesn’t even tell the white history accurately?!?! The politics that regulate the education system in this country are willfully ignorant, creating generations of, at best, passively racist, uninformed citizens, who will vote for future policies and presidents, and who will not question enough the one-sided version of the world that’s handed to them, because their teachers have been muzzled by oppressive bureaucracy. . . .*Places soapbox aside for future use*.

So where does Indigenous Peoples Day come from? I hadn’t even heard of it until I started college in Berkeley. The first time I had even heard the story of what Columbus actually did when he landed in the New World – and his relationship to the Taino people – was when I first moved to the West Coast in 2011. This was when my former partner and I were living out of our car, and we listened to a lot of audiobooks. The day we started listening to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I felt like my head had exploded – where was this version of history when I was in school? It’s not as if my formative education predates it – the book was published in 1980!

Columbus Day would come around, and I would gnash my teeth and roll my eyes at it, still not knowing that there was an alternative. I look back at that now and think, seriously, what rock was I living under? Enter – college education in Berkeley, which as it turns out, had a major hand in the birth of the alternative holiday, and is home of a very active urban Indian community.

In preparation for the 1992 quincentennial marking Columbus’s first voyage to the New World, the U.S. Congress had chosen the Bay Area to represent the commemoration of this event for the national stage, on what was then known as the “Columbus Day” holiday. In response to this, 120 Native nations held a conference in Ecuador in 1990 to prepare to commemorate “500 Years of Indian Resistance” of the European invasion of the Americas.

“While the U.S. and other governments were apparently trying to make it into a celebration of colonialism, Native peoples wanted to use the occasion to reveal the historical truths about the invasion and the consequent genocide and environmental destruction, to organize against its continuation today, and to celebrate Indigenous resistance.” (“THE HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY,” cited below, under “Sources.”)

Berkeley’s mayor sent a representative to this conference, and later it was unanimously voted by the Berkeley City Council to observe Indigenous Peoples Day in place of “Columbus Day,” henceforth, in perpetuity, starting in 1992. Each year, in celebration, there is a pow wow held right next to Berkeley City College, in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, which is open to the public and free to attend. Since 1992, many other cities have followed suit, but there still hasn’t been an overall nation-wide adoption of the switch.

The myth of Columbus that Indigenous Peoples Day is asking us to leave behind is one which champions him as the father of the Americas. He gets painted as this paternal explorer figure, discovering a “virgin” land (re: empty, unpopulated – well at least not by anyone of any import). This creation myth (the oral, word-of-mouth dinner table story, which has a totally different vibe than the story told in the diaries of Columbus and other men on his excavation) establishes Christopher Columbus as a hero, coming to found this new Utopian settlement, encountering backward locals who, once he helped them see the light, gratefully benefitted from European technologies and ways of civilized living. This version of the story takes away Native peoples’ agency, the resistance they put up, the cultural mis-connects, and the unfortunate diseases that European peoples brought with them, which catastrophically depleted the Native population.

As this lady says in this beautiful video here, it would be hard to imagine a discussion of Indigenous Peoples Day that didn’t include Columbus – so it’s not like he’s getting cut out of the curriculum – it’s just that we need a more accurate and balanced representation of the events of history. Attending classes here at Berkeley City College last fall, I heard for the first time in my life this mnemonic device: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” – and apparently I was the oddball in the room, as nearly everyone else had heard it starting in childhood. “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” – yeah, well – he did a lot more than that, but I’m all in favor of anything that gets people to remember important dates in history. My fear is that it is taught as a children’s rhyme, with joyful tones, and not enough history to explain what it represents. Don’t teach this to children unless you sing it in minor dissonant tones, or you tell it with a face and a timbre that would only be found in the gruesomest of ghost stories told around the campfire. It should be told as a cautionary tale of what havoc can be unleashed when unchecked greed and racist assumptions fall into a stroke of luck, aided by what Jared Diamond coins, “guns, germs, and steel.”

It was also here in college in Berkeley where I first learned of the national figure, “Columbia,” who represents a maternal and virtuous embodiment of America. It was here in college in Berkeley where I first read excerpts of contemporary accounts of Columbus’s voyages to the New World, and got to hear from someone who was actually there at the time, telling of all the violent atrocities, and the judgemental hegemonic assumptions made by those “explorers.” Not to mention the term “Columbian Exchange,” which makes the swapping of yes, yummy foodstuffs, but more prevalently diseases, invasive species, and oppressive ways of life – sound like discourse over a cup of tea in a fancy salon.

So, in response to the question, “Do you believe this should be celebrated every year?” – if the “this” which is being referred to here is “Columbus Day,” then no, absofreakinglutely not. It should never be “celebrated” ever again. We should move on from that harmful and inaccurate view of history. If the “this” being referred to in that question is Indigenous Peoples Day, then yes, absofreakinglutely we should pump up the mic volume on the celebration of Native peoples’ survival, through 500 years of what would more accurately be portrayed as a European invasion. Just say “no” to the celebration of premeditated murder and genocide which lead to more oppressive regimes and more genocide. Say “yes” to a commemoration of the survival of resilient nations – many of whom are still around today, despite conscious attempts by outsiders to erase their culture. And at least once, every year, we should all reflect on what the real story is.


“THE HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY.” Indigenous People’s Day. Indigenous Peoples Committee, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2016. <>.

***Thanks to an assignment and a few prompt questions from my Storytelling professor (and I would be remiss not to include the influence of my Native American History & Culture, and NA Thought & Literature professor), I finally got around to publishing a post on this topic.

Collage Image Sources, clockwise – starting with the blue card in the top left quadtrant:

“Let’s celebrate Columbus Day by walking into someone’s house and telling them we live there now.”

“Abolish Columbus Day”

“WANTED” poster for Columbus

“Columbus Day – for those of you who think that living off of the avails of genocide, is cause for celebration.”
from the Facebook page of F.A.I.R. MEDIA – (For Accurate Indigenous Representation)

“You decide.”

Colorful medallion image for Indigenous People’s Day

Published: October 9, 2016 | Comments: 0

illness, injury, accident, trauma, or setback story

I want to start by saying, I probably sent you a story that was way too long, but I felt a little lost on where to cut out more.

This week in particular was hard because I wrote about the first thing that popped up into my mind when I read the topic. All subsequent thoughts about other things I could write about just sent neon flashing signs up in my head to turn around and write about my injury instead. It was right there, it was glaring and wouldn’t go away, and it was painful. I have a certain amount of self-shame and embarrassment every time I share that story. Part of it is that I feel like I’m just trashing the American company that I’m working for, and I don’t mean to. They are not wholly bad, in fact parts of what that company does are entirely wonderful and positive. BUT, their actions which resulted in setting up and managing a work space and environment where so many of us got injured were deeply flawed, and should be able to serve as an example to other companies of what NOT to do. However, every time I share my story, I feel this pressure not to because I might get blacklisted or something by an organization which is so much larger than me as an individual entertainer. The psychology student in my head (trying to be supportive) keeps saying that I shouldn’t care about shaming them publicly because the pain of losing the ability to do my career because I stayed in their contract has caused me a substantial amount of pain & suffering, life upheaval, and struggle. I still have great blockage and frustration around telling this story, because I’m always unsure what to include and what to leave out. Honestly, it feels like there’s just so many important details that to actually tell the whole story, I would need hours to tell a person, or write half a book’s worth of pages, so I find I am constantly making decisions on what to include, what to let go in a particular telling.

But whereas talking about it always makes me feel kind of guilty, writing about it makes me feel like I’m retaining or recovering a little bit of my personal power. In telling my story, I hope to help other people who may face that situation. Mostly, as an entertainment business owner myself, I hope that this cautionary tale will make other business owners change their policies and the way they handle situations like this. Part of why I opened my business was to address the hazily unethical ways that businesses like this were practicing on individual performers. It is a topic that remains close to my heart and which I remain an activist about. As soon as I got back States-side, I began to seek out legal help, as I was in a situation (pre-Obama-care), with no insurance, and no work due to the fact that I couldn’t use my body, due to industries sustained on-contract, due to poor working conditions and the threat of further poverty. I’m not usually one to jump to sue people, but I thought if ever there was a time for me to depend on our justice system to help protect me, this was it. I of course couldn’t afford legal council, so I made a lot of calls and did internet research, reaching out to pro-bono legal services. At the end of many months of researching my options, I had my final answer: due to yet another loophole – that the incident took place overseas, and involved 3 companies, 2 of which were foreign, I couldn’t get anyone to take my case. I did have several people at the legal offices tell me that I had a pretty straightforward case, in which I should be receiving massive compensation from the companies that put me in that bad position, but that due to the legal loophole of the foreign-ness of it all, my case would probably not hold up in the end. *I would like to note though that even seeking pro-bono legal help took many hours, days, weeks, months of my time, and it all came to nothing. Meanwhile, I was paying for medical services out of my own pocket. I drained the rest of the money that I came home with on medical bills, until the money ran out, and then I could get no more, and yet I was not yet healed. So I got stuck in an holding pattern with a half-functional body.

***As a sort of footnote to this whole assignment, I actually wrote my conclusion, intro, and this blog response all before I could get myself to write the body paragraphs which actually tell the story of what happened to me. That’s how stuffed I keep it. That’s how averse I am to revisiting those details. I feel like they paint a picture to people of how broken I am, when I do not want to be seen as broken. It was a traumatic thing that happened to me, and now my life, out of necessity, is on a completely different path.

Published: September 25, 2016 | Comments: 0

The Reinternment of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral/Finding Richard’s Bones

Okay, let’s tackle Richard III!  (Well, okay, like – not really tackle him – I mean, the guy’s just bones now, and he looks like he had a rough end…so more like, a love-tackle…)


But SERIOUSLY! Since my first foray into WOTR (the Wars of the Roses, for those of you who aren’t caught up yet) 2 years ago, there have been several flashing arrows pointing to both Richard III and Henry Tudor as my next big research subjects.  I avoided them for a long time because, well, they’re men – and I have just found the women of this story so much more fascinating up until now.  If you want to catch up on some of the research I’ve been doing for the past 2 years and why, check out my Wars of the Roses Reading List blog post.  No really.  Click it.  It’s a link to the post.

Horrible Histories “Richard III Song”

horrible histories


26E5E15D00000578-3006275-The_coffin_Made_by_Richard_s_descendant_Michael_Ibsen_a_cabinet_-a-163_1427072640410Yesterday, Sunday, March 22nd, 2015, the remains of Richard III were placed in a casket made by his 17th grand-nephew, Michael Ibsen, who subsequently supplied the DNA sample which proved that this was Richard (hey – he’s a cabinet-maker by trade, and after all what is a coffin but a giant human cabinet, right?)  The King made a tour through Leicester as he would have on his last day of life, through Bosworth Field, and ending up at his new place of rest, Leicester Cathedral, about 100 meters or so from where he fell.  I take comfort that they only allowed men wearing matching polkadot ties to carry Richard in.britain-richard-iii-reburial


There will be Richard festivities this entire week, (though what those are I cannot seem to find the answer to!), culminating in his reinternment on Thursday.  Oh, why do I not have enough money for a plane ticket to Leicester right now?!


The recent discovery of Richard’s remains and the entire archaeological dig and hooplah surrounding it have arguably been the most important discovery of my lifetime so far (because, well, toilet paper and sliced bread were both discovered before my birth).  His skeletal remains tell us some very important things, in a nut-shell:

  1. Yes, he had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, which probably meant his right shoulder sat visibly higher than his left.  But NO, he did not have a hunchback – and people probably wouldn’t have known about his scoliosis either, as it probably wasn’t visible with all of his clothes on – okay, well maybe there were a few ladies who knew about it…..


    “That bottled spider, that foul, bunch-backed toad” – Shakespeare

  2. ALSO, he did not have the famed withered arm!  So bump that!
  3. Richard III was probably infected with parasitic worms that grew up to a foot in length - says the Guardian

    Richard III was probably infected with parasitic worms that grew up to a foot in length – says the Guardian

    Richard had worms.  Not just the kind that ate his corpse; he had a bad case of roundworm when he died. Dude, gross! That’s one way to get horror stories told about you after your death!

  4. DNA shows that Richard was blonde-haired and blue-eyed – the perfect Aryan! But seriously….that hair probably got a little darker with age, but still not the dark brunette he usually gets depicted as. They now think the portrait on the right is closer to accurate because of the coloring – but, I don’t know – seems to me after looking at his facial reconstruction that the more famous portrait on the left is still more correct, only his hair maybe wasn’t that dark.  What do you think?richardiii famous portaits comparisonv0_master
  5. He most definitely died of a massive head wound.  He also incurred quite a lot of “insult wounds” after death.  And that’s just from what we could tell with the bones!  Imagine what was suffered on the soft tissue we no longer have evidence of!  It seems bloody likely to scientists that some of those major wounds were inflicted after his armor was removed, but that

    (from King Richard III Painful Death: Forensic Science Unravels mystery – see below links)

    he was probably killed with his armor still on, but somehow he lost his helmet – that was a bad move, ‘Chard.  This likely proves the popular story of Richard being stripped naked after death, slung to the back of a horse, and walked through town central, where people hit him, kicked him, stabbed him, and did who knows what else to his already dead body – poor horse was probably in danger as well! (please check out New Evidence Shows King Richard III Died A Badass)

  6. richard_III__a_king_skeleton_found_in_a_car_park__153774Then, Henry Tudor had no plans for a state funeral for Richard.  Instead, some monks from the Grey Friars Church there in Leicester dug a hole for the King – when it was almost big enough, they got lazy and stopped digging and just tossed Richard’s corpse in, with no linen or shroud wrapping him (come on, it gets cold in those graves!)  They also chose not to mark it….then again, Henry Tudor and his son made some pretty weird decisions, so that just follows suit.


So, Richard III.  He was the last of the Plantagenet kings – a great and long dynasty in England.  He was the last English king to die in battle – the last to die fighting for his crown!  He was an epic warrior, even by contemporary accounts, a brave and fiercely strong individual.  Policy-wise, a very good king, quite possibly one of the best.  He only reigned for what – 777 days or something?  He was only in charge for about 2 years, and check out all of the really good things he did accomplish in that time – more than most British monarchs in that kind of time span!

I do highly recommend watching the Smithsonian Channel’s “Richard III Revealed” documentary – I saw it on Netflix.  It features Philippa Langley (the woman who spear-headed the finding of Richard, and who has also written a book on it), as well as the amazing video documenting of the behind-the-scenes at the dig and in the laboratory.


Fun Links & Research for this post:

New Evidence Shows King Richard III Died A Badass (video):

Horrible Histories “Richard III Song”

King Richard III Painful Death: Forensic Science Unravels mystery

Richard III had roundworm infection, scientists claim

Was Richard III Riddled With Roundworms? – read the end of this one…holy funny-ness!

Infected and Hunched: King Richard III Was Crawling With Roundworms

Soil samples show Richard III suffered from roundworm – this one has a video of the doctor explaining it….who may need to lay off the caffeine, given his constantly alternating fluttering & bugging out eyes.

Richard III: Man who will seal king’s lead-lined coffin speaks about ‘proud moment’ ahead of royal reburial

Head of Richard III reconstructed in four-hour operation based on DNA test results

Published: March 24, 2015 | Comments: 2

My Wars of the Roses Research Materials List

If you are at all interested in the Wars of The Roses (The Cousin’s War in Britain) – then this is the blog for you!  Please let me help you on your journey to find amazingly interesting research materials, novels, movies, TV shows, videos, and podcasts that deal directly with this juicy story. I like to deal in multiple media formats for my research! My goal is to create an ultimate resource for all (FUN!) research materials dealing with the Wars of the Roses and the late Medieval Period.  History – you can’t make this stuff up!

*Most recent update: August 14th, 2016*


Some of you know already that I am working on a show based on the women of the Wars of the Roses time period.  I am drawing on Shakespeare (not always historically factual, but informatively entertaining), as well as actual recorded history of the times, and biographical history of these ladies.  I can’t say too much about the show yet, as it is still early in the process and details are always subject to change (secrets! mystery!), but I did want to share my reading list (and some reviews – sometimes in the form of links to their pages on goodreads).

The Tudor Rose. Culmination of the Wars of the Roses, this one symbol was created to invoke peace in England, by recognizing the union of Queen Elizabeth of York (though only crowned as Consort, hers was the claim by which they held their throne), and King Henry VII (Henry Tudor) of the house of Lancaster.

The Tudor Rose. Culmination of the Wars of the Roses, this one symbol was created to invoke peace in England, by recognizing the union of Queen Elizabeth of York (though only crowned as Consort, hers was the hereditary claim by which they held their throne), and King Henry VII (Henry Tudor) of the house of Lancaster.

I have been doing a massive amount of research since 2013 when I first got hooked on this concept, and I must say it is completely addictive!  The more I dig, the deeper I get, and the more little nuggets I find to interest me, which lead me to researching so many different aspects of this story.  What is most interesting in all of this is how tightly these women are all woven to each other – both by blood ties and in their regular encounters with one another in which they serve each other, plot together, make marriages and alliances, and how quickly their relationships can change from besties to mortal enemies.  I wanted to share my research reading list with you, in case it is helpful to someone else in some way.  Reading all of this source material has made me feel, more than ever, that doing so much work that you’re passionate about is made more fulfilling by the sharing of it with others.  Maybe other people who are nuts about WATR stuff will find something new on this blog post!

I will attempt to reconstruct my reading list so far in the order in which I have read them.  Stay tuned for live updates, as I read more, I will update this blog post.  At the bottom you will find my research reading “to-dos” – those books which I have not read yet, but are on my list to get to at some point in my research.  Some of these books are fiction, and some are non-fiction.  I am creating a theatrical show, so all character research is valid in my pursuit of a story line.

I am also going to include research I did from video in bold italics, if it was extremely informative and had an impact on my research.

Follow my progress on Goodreads! :


5971165The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The book that started it all!  I have always been a fan of Philippa’s work, so when I heard she had begun writing a new series, and that they were going to make a television series from it (Starz & BBC’s The White Queen) – I had to get reading.  Thus, the seed was planted and my obsession with the women of this familial and national conflict.

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory9542439

Okay, technically, I think I read this one first.  My knowledge of and acquaintance with The White Queen was what prompted me to read Philippa’s story of her mother first, after which I had a better premise for beginning the next book (chronologically).  I actually read it as an audiobook, and have since (some 10-15 books later) purchased a print copy of the book, and plan to re-read it.

*Okay, at this point, I read lots and lots of Wikipedia articles on every name that was of interest to me.  I also researched a ton of family trees, and created several of my own on pieces of paper, including a grand one including everyone I researched – which I’d love to translate into an image for you all one day in the future when I have the chance to make it more clear and legible 🙂 *



The Starz/BBC production of “The White Queen”

A television drama in 10 episodes, based on the Cousin’s War books by Philippa Gregory: the White Queen, the Red Queen, and the Kingmaker’s Daughter.  Explores all 3 stories overlapping chronologically together.  It also fleshes out in a more satisfying way the sort of sub-characters from the novel of Duchess Cecily, Countess Warwick, Lord Warwick, Isabel Neville, and George Neville, to name a few.  Gives a beautiful visual on what it must have been like living at home with the Woodville clan.  I highly recommend this series to anyone in general, not lovers of historical costume dramas.  My fingers are crossed that Starz will follow through with a series based on Philippa’s The White Princess!!


7148256The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Margaret Beaufort’s story.




Philippa Gregory’s 2-part series “The Real White Queen and her Rivals”  


The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory12326644

Anne Neville is one of the trickiest ladies to become acquainted with out of this whole bundle.  My tactic with her was to read a fictional account first, then follow up with a historical biography, so that I could make a comparison, without first being overwhelmed by details which were completely foreign to me.

1178657Anne Neville: Richard III’s Queen by Michael Hicks

This was the most authoritative and everybody-backed biography of Anne I could find.  Amy License wrote one which was a close second contender to read, but I ended up going with Michael Hicks because so many reviews I found of the Amy License book said she didn’t give very much information about Anne at all, and when she did, it was so conjectural, and frequently wrong.  The Michael Hicks book is short, which was a relief, as the information he provides can be quite dense at times.  I did still find it very readable, and while I found some inaccuracies (could be due to bad editing? or sometimes even the best historians can make tiny mistakes – hey, we’re all human!), I did like the way the book offered me more people and nuggets to look up.  I learned so much more about the family tree and relationships from what I researched outside this book thank I had even known so far!

Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith2015307

About Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy and sister to Edward IV & Richard III.  Listened on audiobook.

4788697The King’s Grace by Anne Easter Smith

About Grace Plantagenet, illigitimate daughter of Edward IV, who later becomes companion to the Queen Dowager, Elizabeth Woodville.  Listened to on audiobook.


The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy720718

About Anne Neville.  Listened to on audiobook.



BBC’s “The Shadow of the Tower”

About Henry VII, mostly.  But there are some good parts in there of Elizabeth of York & Margaret Beaufort.  Namely episodes 1, 2, 3, and 13.  The acting and overall style is highly dated, if you like that sort of thing.  I didn’t, at first, but it grew on me after a while 🙂


pulled from

Richard II by William Shakespeare

Henry IV, Part 1 by WIlliam Shakespeare

Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare

Henry V by William Shakespeare

Finishing Shakespeare’s historical tetralogy on the earlier part of the Wars of the Roses felt so good!  Chronologically, these 4 plays depict the earlier time period, but actually, he wrote the next 4 in the series (Henry VI parts 1-3, & Richard III) first.

817181The Goldsmith’s Wife by Jean Plaidy

About Jane Shore, the most well-known mistress of Edward IV, who was publicly shamed by Richard III after the death of his brother.



“Princes In The Tower” film from 2005


Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir17262152

Alison Weir really fleshes her out as a human being.  This biography is well researched, well written, well organized.  One of the things I appreciated the most actually is her attention to the relationship between Elizabeth and her husband, Henry Tudor.  There are a lot of mysteries there, and with the info we have available to us in the historical record, you could have multiple valid takes on the way that marriage went down, and what it meant to both parties.  Alison takes the high road, and paints them as a loving pragmatic pair.


12326627The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

About Elizabeth of York… Stick with this one.  It is vastly readable throughout, as are all of Philippa’s works that I’ve read, and her attention to research shines though, as usual.  Without giving away too much, early in the book, the character of Henry Tudor appears to be painted in a very specific way, one which I wasn’t sure I could agree with at first, and which seemed to lend itself to one-dimensional-ness.  But hang in there.  She plays out their relationship for what it must have really been: intricately complex, multi-leveled, and one which probably must have changed in quality throughout time, even retracting at some point to its former stages.  Way to be brave, Philippa!  I’m with you!


Henry VII - The Winter King

“Henry VII: The Winter King” – Based on Thomas Penn’s book. (That’s him behind Hen there!)


Women of the Cousin’s War: The Duchess, The Queen, and the King’s Mother by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, & Michael Jones


3 essays from experts on Jacquetta Woodville (Elizabeth’s mother), Elizabeth Woodville, and Margaret Beaufort.


pulled from

Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

The second historical tetralogy on the War of the Roses that Shakespeare wrote – now we really get into the meat of it.  I believe Henry VI is actually the first play Shakespeare ever wrote, and it remains the one that adheres the most to the poetic and iambic pentameter structure.  The writing is beautiful, really.



Margaret Beaufort by Elizabeth Norton8521781

A pleasant and complete biography of Our Lady The King’s Mother.  It didn’t tell me a whole lot that I didn’t already know, or change my mind on anything, but it was lovely to get someone else’s opinions and interpretations who has done a great deal of research.  The author gave good insight into her marriages with Stafford & Stanley.  She also paints a good picture of how some of Margaret’s closest retainers felt about her, personally.

175487The Queen’s Secret by Jean Plaidy

Listened on audiobook.  A fictionalized account of Catherine of Valois, Queen to Henry V, and mother of Henry VI.  Her secret marriage to Owen Tudor scandalized her reputation, and makes her the grandmother of Henry Tudor, later to claim the crown as Henry VII.



“Secrets: Richard III” (from the Smithsonian Channel) – This is a documentary based on Philippa Langley’s research and the archaeological dig they did to find him, through the steps the took afterwards to verify his identity through DNA samples, debunking myths, and a facial reconstruction to find out what he really looked like.

Richard III reconstruction

It seems so outdated now to still have the brunette recreation bust of Richard here – but I think I’ll keep it for nostalgia. If you’re interested in seeing what changes they made to his visage here and why, check out my blog about Richard’s reinternment at Leicester.


The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham  7889845

Fictionalized account of the life of Margaret of Anjou, Queen to King Henry VI and the throne of Lancaster, and mother to its heir, Edward Prince of Wales – not to mention arch-nemesis of Richard Plantagenet Duke of York and Richard Neville Earl of Warwick (although in a dramatic reversal at the end of his life they are allies, and he dies fighting for her cause). It was really nice to finally read something that flushes out Margaret of Anjou’s character more. However, I’m not sure I agree with some of the plot choices. I like historical fiction that is based as much as possible, on historical fact. She doesn’t have Jacquetta of Luxemburg in there much at all, when every history book I’ve read says that she and Margaret were probably close. She puts the Duchess of Suffolk there. While I thoroughly enjoy Susan’s blog, and find it a great & helpful resource for mini-biographies that really beef out much forgotten about characters from history, Queen of Last Hopes missed the mark a little for me. I wanted a little more….texture, or something….to Margaret. Perhaps I found it a little fluffy, and wanted it to be more political.


pulled from VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare

Sets up the snowballing conflict between the King and his lords, which results in all of the lords choosing sides.  What this play also does marvelously well is it captures the independent character and motives of Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI’s Queen.



Kings & Queens of England by Antonia Fraser


Listened to on audiobook.  A really nice crash-course run-down of the line of British succession, from the Norman Conquest (1066) all the way to present day Queen Elizabeth II.  Keep all your Edwards, Henrys, & Charleses straight 😉


Helen Castor Medieval Lives

“Medieval Lives: Birth, Marriage, Death by Dr. Helen Castor”

She is lovely…..just, lovely.  A scholarly narrative of medieval lives, through the primary source lens of the Paston Letters.


851245Elizabeth: England’s Slandered Queen by Arlene Okerlund

The author (Arlene Okerlund) makes some very passionate, very well researched arguments defending Elizabeth. She’s got and great quotes in here, too – if I go back and find any, I’ll write them in here. Okerlund attacks some myths and topics about Elizabeth that I have always wondered about – things that other historians seemed to have been overlooking for centuries, taking at face value the propaganda of the Warwick era, and not examining the vast hypocrisies on the other side.


Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey


A mystery novel about Richard III. Groundbreaking for it’s time, Tey’s novel debunks the classic myths about Richard being downright evil, and begins to humanize his story.


More Videos:

Medieval Dead – 01 – Richard III’s Lost Chapel (on YouTube, licensed under Cineflix?) – This is a great documentary about trying to find out what happened to the chapel Richard III commissioned to commemorate the soldiers lost at the battle of Towton.  What’s really the most interesting about this piece is all of the science shown about medieval warfare and wounds that they can amazingly still discern from a SKELETON!  They found at least one mass grave of warriors, and it shows the puzzles they solved trying to pick through all of that information.

Richard III: The New Evidence – Channel 4 in the UK did an update documentary about the scientific analysis of Richard’s remains.  This is the most facinating documentary, to me.  The team found a 27-year-old man with the same scoliosis as Richard III.  They train him up and fit him and kit him in medieval armor, then they put him through the tests of medieval battle, to test if Richard really could have been the great battle commander many have written that he was, (given his condition).  It is so facinating!  Check it out!

“I feel… a juggernaut.” – Dominic Smeeton

Time Team Special 46 (2011) – Wars of the Roses – A team examines the REAL Bosworth Field – found to be in a slightly different location than was previously thought.  If you’re into Medieval artillery reconstruction, this one’s for you!

War Walks: Bosworth (season 2, episode 2) – I judge this one to be for the true anglophiles.  Between the narrator’s accent, cadence, the background music, and overall delicious cinematic-ness of it all, you are sure to get your dose of English scrumptious-ness.  I was hooked right in the beginning, with the very Monty Python-esque ride-in of an armoured knight on horseback, galloping past camera.  Happy viewing!



History Extra Podcast:

The History Chicks:

Renaissance English History Podcast:

The History of England:

Footnoting History:


And, well because you need to see this: 

Horrible Histories – Richard III Song



After a huge break (I started college again, began working 7 days a week running a theatre company – or theat-er, if you’re of that opinion…):


212855The Perfect Prince by Ann Wroe

I like the writing style a lot! Ann Wroe is a storyteller, first and foremost; she delivers the facts in a very poetic yet pertinent way. This way of presenting the story I feel is so much more accessible than your average history book, as it illustrates the details in a way that really puts the reader there in the shoes of the character.

*UPDATE! In the Fall of 2015, I took a playwriting class, where I FINALLY created the first 4 drafts of my Wars of the Roses themed show. Not only did I have the chance to have a reading of it done in my Playwriting class, but I also got to put it on its feet with prop swords, choreography, blocking, lighting, light set, and some costuming in one of my theatre classes this same semester. BAM! First go at the show – out there. I am currently (Aug 2016) circulating the most recent draft to some of my inner theatre circle, to get some feedback so that I can proceed to the next round. Hooray!

It was also at this point that I decided that family trees on pieces of paper and web pages are for noobs.  I couldn’t afford a wall-sized cork board, so I cut up some of my Amazon boxes (ahem – school supplies), glued them flat so that it was 2-ply thick, set all of my heaviest books on top while it dried – et voila! I had a wall-sized bulletin board, upon which I have been constructing my own WOTR family tree, from Edward III to Henry VIII, with index cards, colored pens, and yarn to tie the marriages together from thumbtack to thumbtack. This has been an incredibly handy reference for me as I continued my research. As questions come up, instead of opening a bazillion tabs on my computer, I can just look at my wall and figure it out.


Back to my research-rabbit-hole on the English Late Medieval period…..

Joan of Arc: God's Warrior - presented by Helen Castor for the BBC

Joan of Arc: God’s Warrior – presented by Helen Castor for the BBC

While I have picked up the book and started reading it, I didn’t get very far in before school started (and as a history major, boy oh boy do I have a lot of reading to do!) But in the meantime, this beautiful documentary on Helen’s latest book subject only took an hour of my time 🙂


Dan Jones' Documentary for Channel 5, called Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets

Dan Jones’ Documentary for Channel 5, called Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets

History’s Bad Boy has done it again! This four-part series presented by Dan Jones covers the earlier half of the Plantagenet’s reign. Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets aired on Channel 5 in the Autumn of 2014. 

Bloody Crown BeFunky Collage

Been longing to see Dan Jones in his glasses and a knit sweater, pouring over ancient texts? Well then I won’t blame you if that’s your reason for watching this series, especially if it gets you interested in the historical actors of this subject! (Psst! You won’t be disappointed, on the sweater front.)

Straight Away, I watched the next in this series – Britain’s Bloody Crown, which, if “Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty” is an extension of Dan Jones’ book The Plantagenets, then “Britain’s Bloody Crown” is the extension of Dan’s Wars of the Roses


Currently Reading:

The King’s Curse by Philippa GregoryKing's Curse

This might be the last of her Cousin’s War series for now, as we are firmly into the Tudor reign. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through, and I have to say I don’t find it as gripping as some of her other books – certainly not as much as the rest of this series. But it is interesting to hear it from Margaret, Countess of Salisbury’s view. She is the daughter of George Duke of Clarence & Isabel Neville, and sister to Edward of Warwick. The story here is that Henry Tudor had Warwick executed so that Spain would let his son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, marry Katherine of Aragon. All of Margaret’s male relatives are then in the line of fire.



Jasper Tudor by Terry Breverton – thanks Cynthia & JoAnn for the Xmas present!

Cecily Neville: Mother to Kings by Amy License

The Third Plantagenet: George, Duke of Clarence, Richard III’s Brother by John Ashdown-Hill

Joan of Arc: A History by Helen Castor

The Lost Prince by David Baldwin

Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood

The Woodvilles by Susan Higginbotham

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Dr. Helen Castor

Hollow Crown/War of the Roses by Dan Jones

Cecily Neville by Amy License

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

Queen By Right by Anne Easter Smith

About Cecily Neville

Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith

About Jane Shore

To Hold the Crown by Jean Plaidy

About Henry VII & Elizabeth of York

The Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser

Katherine by Anya Seton

The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory


Published: October 6, 2014 | Comments: 0

The Elizabethan Neck Ruff



QE Ist - Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I of England



60ff5ae047a90de31034bc61cd644facThis year, I finally fulfilled a life-long desire: to wear an Elizabethan-style neck ruff.  They cost a bagillion dollars to buy usually, so of course, I learned how to make one!  And then I didn’t just make one – I made 4!  (More to come, they’re still happenin’!)  Today, in honor of my friend Della Moustachella, and her quest to make le ruff, I would like to provide a tutorial on how I made my Elizabethan Neck Ruffs.  *so exciting!*  


First, a history!

Ruffs, ruffs, RUFFS!  Everyone wore ruffs in the Elizabethan era – men, women, children, aristocrats, working class people….probably someone’s small puffy dog…  They were not only vastly fashionable, but they were functional as well.  Having formed quite organically out of the shape that one’s drawstring shirt collar takes when you cinch it up, this detachable collar was more practical in an age where you didn’t bathe or launder your outfits all that often.  Greasy dirty necks made for visibly soiled necklines on doublets (what a sight!) – but detachable collars, called ruffs, could be laundered separately and by themselves, with more frequency than you would have washed the doublets themselves.  Master Ruff Makers ranked as gentlemen.  It’s arduous work!

The ruff we’re gonna make here dates from about 1580, with the appearance of the neck band from which spring the ruffled pleats perpendicular to the neck, thereby achieving an even more massive ruff than those attached to the top ends of neck bands, which were mimicking the earlier shirt collars. *check out and compare the portraits of Queen Mary I & her sister Elizabeth I – different ruffs!*

Mary's ruff is like a big up-ruff: an extension of the shirt collar.

Mary’s ruff is like a big up-ruff: an extension of the shirt collar.

Elizabeth’s ruff here, from a little later on, seems to be it’s own piece – much taller than Mary’s ruff.










This is the video that got me started:

Here are some photos of my process:


I started with a 100% silk green long skirt I got out of a free box in Talkeetna, Alaska. FYI curved strips suck to work with! But the material was breathtaking!

I started with a 100% silk green long skirt I got out of a free box in Talkeetna, Alaska. FYI curved strips suck to work with! But the material was breathtaking!

The strips when I was done assembling all 7 yards. I trimmed both sides, and lined the under side with a satin material.

The strips when I was done assembling all 7 yards. I trimmed both sides, and lined the under side with a satin material.








Strips closer, at a sexier angle. Work it, strips!

Strips closer, at a sexier angle. Work it, strips!

I held together gathered groups of ruffles with hair clips as I sewed along.

I held together gathered groups of ruffles with hair clips as I sewed along.

Working with uneven strip materials creates a more uneven ruff.

Working with uneven strip materials creates a more uneven ruff.

The ruff after both sides (with the dots/dashes) were gathered, sewn, and finished off, before assembling to the neck band.

The ruff after both sides (with the dots/dashes) were gathered, sewn, and finished off, before assembling to the neck band.

My first completed ruff! My pet! Finished off with satin neck band and velcro attachments.

My first completed ruff! My pet! Finished off with satin neck band and velcro attachments.

My Vernon, kindly modeling my very first ruff achievement.

Vernon, kindly modeling my very first ruff achievement.

My love, wearing my new sewing love :)

It’s hard to get the satins in the right light!


























My second ruff. Obsessed with Philippa Gregory’s series about the Cousin’s War!


White 3 inch wide ruff made from recycled bed sheets.

White 3 inch wide ruff made from recycled bed sheets.


White sheets cut, doubled over, and made into a 7 yard strip, with lace trim.


Ironing the doubled-over strip was really important.


This is what several yards of strip piled on your sewing table looks like 🙂






















 Just to break it down, here are the basic steps, as a bulleted list:

  • *Know that the following instructions are ONLY for when your ruff’s height (the troughs and waves, as you will) is 1.5″ – if you want a taller ruff, you’ll have to do some maths there.  I have done one taller one, and didn’t think it was all that much cooler, so I stuck with the inch and a half height.* 
  • First, you will need at least 6 yards of your chosen material strips – this could be as simple as ribbon from a spool, or as complicated as a custom built strip of your own designing.  I actually usually use 7 yards; I find it makes a fuller ruff.  REMEMBER: the height of your ruff will be determined by how far away you place your dots on your material, and the width of your ruff (i.e. how far away from your neck it goes) is determined by the width of your strip (so not the 7 yards, but the other directional measurement of your material).
  • Take a pencil (or chalk, or whatever won’t be show too much on your finished product) and mark a tiny dot or dash at the top of your strip, one dot/dash every 1.5 inches.
  • Take some heavy-duty thread (button thread, fishing line? dental floss?), and after making a knot at your starting point (dot/dash), sew through the top of every other dot/dash on your strip, folding it like an accordion as you go along.  So, there should be all of the every-other dot/dashes you skipped folded into the bottom, as of yet un-sewn.  Does that make sense?
  • Don’t tie your end off just yet! You may need to adjust!
  • Go back to the beginning, and now sew through all of those dot/dashes you left folded into the bottom of your accordion, just like you did with the first (top) side.  Don’t tie off your end just yet!  Get the ruffles looking the way you want them, evenly spaced, and the right length that you want it to be around your neck, too.  Adjusting will make your ruffles tighter or looser.
  • NOW tie knots in your other ends to finish that off.
  • Taking your neck band satin piece, and leaving room on your starting and ending side for however you want the ruff to close at the back of your neck, you will now attach the ruff to the neck band.  Leave that space of neck band (for fastening) at the beginning, and loop your needle and thread once through the top of each ruffle and the neck band, and once in between each ruffle (going through the neck band), and going all the way down your ruff till the end.  Then do the opposite (bottom) side just the same, making sure to keep your ruffles even all the way down.
  • Fasten as you like (I like velcro strips myself! I put the soft sided velcro on the inside against my neck) – et VOILA!  Put it on, you will feel ridiculously fabulous 🙂


Here’s a link to a ruff calculator, should you want to alter the recipe and work with different measurements:

Note:  Get help in the bathroom if you are wearing wrist ruffs.  (Think about it – you’ll see what I mean)


Now for some rollicking good ruff photos:

Major Ruff.

Major Ruff.

Full-body ruff.

Full-body ruff.

High School Drama Ruff.

High School Drama Ruff.

Triple Decker Ruff.

Triple Decker Ruff.

Crazy Ruff Man.

Crazy Ruff Man.

Ruff Headpiece! What?!

Ruff Headpiece! What?!




























*other sources:

Published: September 29, 2014 | Comments: 0

Resources for Bulletproof Makeup Workshop, Lookout Circus Campout 2014

So you have these new theatrical/cirque makeup kits from Ben Nye – but what happens if you run out or you wanna order more stuff?!  Shopping the interwebs can take up your whole day, no problem!  But why let it?  I took screen shots as I was making your makeup order for this workshop so that I could save you all that time!  Believe me, I’ve already wasted enough time hunting down good Ben Nye prices on the interwebs for all of us!  The following screen shots also contain valuable information, such as how many uses per ounce you get out of each of your makeup products.  There are also products here you may not have in your kit (because I ran out of budget for this), but I still stuck them on here because you may want to consider picking them up yourself in the near future.  You will see the prices of everything, and can plan a little budget for your new makeup kit based on that. I pretty much exclusively order from – which is also called International Fun Shop.  If you are ordering $30 of product or more, they now give you free shipping!  If you are ordering less than $30 of product, go ahead and price-compare them with this site, who may have cheaper shipping:

What you received in your sample kits:

  • Cosmic Blue creme liner (CL-191)
  • Cosmic Blue Lumiere Luxe Powder (LX-12)
  • Yellow creme liner (CL-5)
  • Sun Yellow Lumiere Luxe Powder LX-61)
  • (women folk) Raspberry creme rougue (CR-4)
  • (women folk) Azalea Lumiere Luxe Powder (LX-16)
  • (men folk) Red Creme Rouge (CR-1)
  • (men folk) Cherry Red Lumiere Luxe Powder (LX-155)
  • Ben Nye Clown White
  • Royal Blue Sparklers Glitter (LD-5)

Items & Products you used in the workshop:

  • Neutral Set (Setting Powder) – or some of you tried the Bright White setting powder
  • olive oil in spray bottle for brush cleaning
  • rubbing alcohol in spray bottle for brush cleaning
  • Final Seal (setting spray for when you’re all done – BULLETPROOF STYLE!)
  • washcloth/towel for wiping your brushes on
  • Ben Nye Glitter Glue (we passed mine around)
  • silver glitter (we passed mine around)

Here’s what my shopping list for you guys looks like: clown white order creme cheek rougue raspberryFinal Seallumiere creme colorslumiere luxe powdersMagiColor Creme Pencilneutral set orderSparklers GlitterVelour Powder PuffsBrush Cleanser

Ogre green!

Ogre green!

Who was Ben Nye? Benjamin Emmet “Ben” Nye, Sr. (January 12, 1907 – February 9, 1986) was a renowned American makeup artist for the Hollywood film industry for over four decades, from the 1930s to the early 1980s. He worked on over five hundred Hollywood films including Gone with the Wind (1939), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), The King and I (1956), The Fly (1958), Valley of the Dolls (1967), and Planet of the Apes (1968). His brother was actor Carroll Nye, best remembered today as Frank Kennedy, Scarlett O’Hara’s second husband in Gone with the Wind (1939). (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Ben’s son, Dana Nye, is the current CEO of the company. Ben Nye was already blending his own colors and products as a professional makeup artist for Hollywood.  He created his company out of the necessity to have the products he needed to use for his trade, that he wasn’t finding on the market at the time. Interesting Tid-Bit!: Ben Nye was makeup artist to many of the actors on Gone With the WInd, including Hattie McDaniel (“Mammy”), who was the first African-American to win an Academy Award.  Get this! – Ben couldn’t find any foundation makeup for Hattie (because no one was making theatrical makeup for African-Americans in the 30s – surprise!), so he mixed her makeup himself to match her skin tone.  Given this extreme HOLE in the theatrical makeup market, it’s no surprise he was prompted to start his own product company!  Go Ben!

…So what is the difference between face paint and theatrical makeup?

Let’s Look at Some Faces! Designs!


Fallon Statue


Fallon Statue 1


Here is some of my team from the Samsung contract in Korea, where I was Makeup Coordinator (w/ Aerial Experience Productions).

The gentleman in gray and the lady in yellow were also members of the makeup team. These were the 4 characters.


The Water character, shown on many different faces.  Once I taught the basic design to the cast members, we worked with everyone to individualize the design for their own face.  People came up with some great personalized renditions!





A Role-Reversal: Lindsey as Water, and me as Light.


Sometimes on long contracts, you gotta spice it up in discreet ways. Check out our Marilyn Moles.

Lots of different variations on the original designs.

Lots of different variations on the original designs.

Very fine lines - great for photos and walk-around, but don't show up from stage.  He does such a beautiful job with it though!

Very fine lines – great for photos and walk-around, but don’t show up from stage. He does such a beautiful job with it though!

makeup party before a show

makeup party before a show

Some other out of the box things I've done for random gigs...




Me, attempting to copy Zack's makeup design on my own face...


Tanya Burka 3

Tanya Burka - check out the subtle lip definition, eyes that are accented in a way that can still be seen from afar.
Similar style to Tanya's of outlining the outer parameter of the eye.

Similar style to Tanya’s of outlining the outer parameter of the eye.

 Somewhere between face paint and theatrical makeup. Great for walk around performing, or shows where your audience is not more than a few rows deep.  For a stage show, under theatrical lighting, this would all get jumbled from afar, parts would be accented for sure, and other parts would be unclear.  As far as face paint or walk around makeup goes though, I love it!  Performers with Animate Objects, Seattle. 



“Dark” themed makeup. Noah Mickens.


Lots of people use creative makeup designs for random gigs!

Lots of people use creative makeup designs for random gigs!



Viktor Kee.

And of Course, there’s Cirque du Soleil…





560815_10150899766842501_144074117500_12910001_1317037066_n   Feminine Eyes 🙂


lots of white face- male white face

Mime-like white face (still theatrical) makeup.
My beautiful coaches, Elsie Smith & Serenity Smith Forchion of Nimble Arts & NECCA.


Chromatic Revolution - non-conformity

Purely for fun…

What happens if I mess up?!




For the Care & Feeding of Your Illustrious New Makeup Trove, please look on my blog for the post entitled: “Makeup Guidelines – Or, Care & Feeding of Your Illustrious New Makeup Trove” – you will find my post to my Samsung/Korea/AEP cast, and it has plenty of helpful info in it for you, too! 🙂


If you want the Iced Gold Lumiere Luxe Powder to be super dramatic, dry adding a couple drops of water into the lid with some of the powder, mixing it, then applying it to your face. Ka-Bam!

Don’t just listen to me, take it from some other experts in the field!

According to Angelina Avallone, Broadway makeup artist whose credits include The Aadams Family, The Little Mermaid, and Chaplin, “You need to wash your brushes at the end of every single work day, not only to prevent breakouts on your skin, but to maintain the character looks that you create – you want clean tools so your makeup goes on well, and looks great.  Just grab a brush cleaner, or simple soap and water – wash your tool, squeeze out excess water from the bristles, and lay out each brush on a paper towel to dry over night.”

Another common mistake: leaving makeup out of the case for too long, or not paying attention to the conditions where your packed kit lives.  It’s best to keep makeup stored away from light when not in use.  Oil-based makeups (cremes) remain stable longer when stored at moderate temperatures: above freezing and below 75 degrees Farenheit.

*^My personal note on that last one is that I always find my cremes easier to use when it’s warm -when they are warm.  Sometimes I blow a little hot breath into the product and close the lid really quickly and let it sit for a moment before I’ll use it.  Then it’s more malleable.

“To me, the number one thing you’ve got to remember is, don’t share makeup – ever!” says Jeanine Wardale, customer service specialist at Graftobian Makeup Company in Madison, WI.

“Cremes left to dry [on your makeup brushes] can stiffen the bristles and affect the suppleness of natural hairs.”  – makeup artist Sonia Kashuk

Manhattan dermatologist Julie Karen, M.D., confirms my suspicions: “Makeup brushes can accumulate bacteria, dust, and dirt, all of which permit the growth of further bacteria, which can aggravate underlying skin conditions like acne,” she says. Gels and creams left on bristles can contaminate your makeup the next time you use it. “Especially with concealers and eyeliners—anything where there is moisture involved—you’re providing a sticky, wet environment,” she says. “You’re inviting the bacteria.”

Dirty Brushes are a Circle Jerk for Germs:  Let’s say you don’t wash your brush, allowing it to accumulate bacteria, dust, and dirt. Then, you swirl it in your expensive face powder or gel eyeliner, transferring all that grime into your beloved products. Gels and creams are wet environments where germs can multiply, just waiting for you to feed them again with a dirty brush. It’s like swapping an infection back and forth with your partner. Products that should last six months or a year can go off and spoil, and the circle of acne continues.  – Read more:

Dirty Brushes Cause Skin Irritation:  Bristles that are caked with dust and product can dry out and become brittle, making them more abrasive to your skin. Cleaning your brushes regularly keeps natural and synthetic fibers soft and supple. It’s your face, people. You want a cloud, not a Brillo pad.  – Read more:

Dirty Brushes Ruin Your Investment:  Cleaning your brushes keeps them in good shape and prolongs their life. Decent brushes often cost as much or more than cosmetics, so it’s worth the ten minutes you’ll spend cleaning them to keep them looking nice for years.  – Read more:

Dirty Brushes are Just the Gateway Drug:  Don’t use makeup brushes? Dipping your fingers into pots of moisturizer is just as bad. Make sure your hands are clean before applying anything that doesn’t come in a tube. If you’re feeling OCD fancy, fill a tiny spritzer bottle with rubbing alcohol and mist your lipstick bullets (the actual color, not just the tube). Seriously, your lipstick is probably covered in food particles and sneeze germs. You can also mist a tissue with alcohol and wipe off the surface of bronzers, blush, and frequently used shadows. Wash everything, basically.  – Read more:

Replacing Product:

Eyelash glue can go bad.  If it changes color – don’t take a chance!

If it smells, looks, or feels different, throw it out! (I have to say, I have used makeup beyond its’ time, but it’s not as easy to work with).

Replace mascara every 3-4 months, as it can cause infection.

Lipstick will taste bitter when its’ shelf life is up – about 2 years. *I’ve never used a whole tube of lipstick before it went bad!

If your foundation has separated – the oil has come to the top – it’s time to toss it.

(thanks to this page on Ben Nye’s site: )

Published: August 21, 2014 | Comments: 0