Buffy Aakaash on Poetry & Theater
by Anca Szilagyi
As we prepare for The Furnace Says Goodnight, Kyle Getz is interviewing Furnace contributors about their past performances. Next up is Buffy Aakaash, whose radio play “Last Night at Manuela’s” was generously supported by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. Please join us at Hollow Earth Radio on Friday, December 2 at 8 pm for a special collaborative performance and party. Without further ado:
KG: You mentioned during your Q&A that you feel poetry and theatre share a metaphorical element. Can you talk about what this play, “Last Night at Manuela’s” represents to you?
BA: “Last Night at Manuela’s” was inspired by a poem I wrote called “Manuela’s Kitchen,” which was self-critical of my jaunts to Mexico, specifically one visit to a small palapa-style seafood restaurant run by an old woman named Manuela. Her son was a fisherman. Looking back on the experience I saw elements of myself as the annoying American tourist. But I also saw where beyond the clashing cultures there was a place we came together, and learned from each other. So, the poem was also in praise and in favor of a cultural intermingling that reveals the spirit that ties us all together, through laughter and sensual experience. I think that carried over nicely into the play. For the play to work, I had to find compassion for myself to avoid stereotyping the two main characters. So, the characters discovering and benefiting from an aspect of another culture they’d never experienced is an expression of self discovery in support of having compassion for oneself, and points to what can be learned when we step out of our cultural boxes.
KG: Looking back on your experience presenting your work at the Furnace, what stands out most to you?
BA: I could have done more to make “Manuela” into a radio play. I was concerned about maintaining the integrity of the stage play, but there are certain visual elements that needed to be understood. Fleshing out those visual aspects required the addition of either sounds or new lines for the characters. So, I guess what fascinated me most about the “Furnace” experience was the adaptation of a stage play for radio. It’s something I’d never had to do, but I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity to think about the play in a new way. I also remember how I love working with actors on my own work, something that is generally frowned upon in the theater.