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From Perfectionism to Play with Malia’Kekia Nicolini

by California Digital News

Malia’Kekia Nicolini: Growing up, I hear directors say, “Oh, just go play with it.” Sometimes that means, figure it out on your own. Sometimes it means that you’re not doing it the way I want you to do it yet, so keep trying. It doesn’t always mean actually go take the material and try it twenty different times. I define “play” as to do or be without needing a pre-prescribed outcome, how we see it at B4 the Other. When creating theatre, there are specific outcomes. As the theatre industry evolves and we’re looking for the new, we’re looking for either new stories or new voices, we’re looking for old stories that can be done in a new way. In that seek for evolution, including how we treat people, including who we’re casting, including creating different types of cultures of theatre, I’m wondering where the space for the unknown is, where the space to discover through joy is, where can we stay connected and there can be multiple truths in a world that is so cancel culture forward, I’m really looking for that feeling of being on the playground again, which wasn’t always joyful, right?

Sometimes I was left out and I had to play by myself and the swing became my partner. And the wind became my audience and that was just as vibrant and beautiful as when I was playing tag or playing monkey bars. The play doesn’t always have to be with joy, but with play comes an essence of to be able to be buoyant. I always go back to being babies. The baby falls and doesn’t know that it’s done something wrong until it reacts to the adults, the people around them. And so that’s learned. So it’s like, “Gosh, how much can we unlearn in how I’ve been taught what theatre is supposed to do and be, process the product?” What actually wants to come through? Can I allow it to be different? Can I allow the process of theatre to not have a pre-prescribed outcome, even though there might be ticket sales or a set or something?

Yura Sapi: You’re listening to Building Our Own Tables, a podcast produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide. I’m your host, Yura Sapi, and I’m the founder of various organizations and projects including a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, a six-hectare farm and food sovereignty project, and LGBTQ+ healing and art space. And I’ve helped numerous creatives, leaders, and other founders unleash their excellence into the world through my programs, workshops, and coaching services. In this podcast, I’m showcasing the high-vibration solutions for you as a visionary leader to implement into your own practice and thrive. Stay tuned this season to hear from other founders who have built their own tables for their communities and for the world in this evolutionary time on Earth. You are here for a reason and I am so honored and grateful to support you on your journey, so stay tuned and enjoy.

Are you ready to break through to that new version of yourself that is no longer afraid of the unknown that has access to solutions for your most challenging problems? This is the episode for you. I am so excited for you to get to know Malia’Kekia, who is a co-founder of B4 The Other Creations. B4 The Other Creations is a company that specializes in play and the way that play opens the door for you to access and be comfortable with the unknown. It’s play and vulnerability. B4 The Other’s pedagogy of play taps into experiences from performing and educating through physical theatre and mindfulness. The company founded in 2018 has a track record of witnessing and supporting deep transformational breakthroughs from participants.

This is work that uses social-emotional learning, trauma, and neurodivergent informed care. B4 the Other offers professional development, theatrical productions, educational residencies, training programs. And in this episode, Malia’Kekia opens up about her journey in coming to this type of pedagogy, working through her own challenges as an educator in the theatre space. We dive into how this perspective and this way of moving through a challenging moment or the unknown, which is so relevant to where we are right now for the world and for our industry.

There is such a power in moving towards a space of play, a space of releasing the perfectionism, the judgment, and the worry so that we can come through a changed person and bring forth a new understanding of what is actually possible. Malia’Kekia also shares beautiful insights on different self-care practices as a leader that bring forth a grounded understanding of the work and setting boundaries, embodying the practice into the work. They also speak on the principle of belonging that many companies use and how it’s actually not as great as you might think. And you also hear about the many ways B4 The Other Creations has been able to make an impact on the theatre industry and beyond using tools of the theatre, which I think is so important right now to really consider how we want to be expanding our reach, sharing our wisdom and sharing the benefits of this type of work with others beyond a specific only one way this can happen type of thinking.

So I hope you enjoy this final episode of season four of the Building Our Own Tables podcast. It has been so amazing, so beautiful, lovely, gratifying. I am so grateful to have stewarded this transfer of wisdom that you got to hear from so many amazing leaders, founders, creators, visionaries. I know I have left feeling even more inspired than before, which already was pretty inspired. I hope you also feel this hope and the sense of prosperity that is coming through to us inevitably as we continue bringing forth this liberated future into our daily reality. Before we get into this episode, go ahead and hit subscribe on this podcast. This is the best way to stay updated on new episodes and it helps build a thriving planet where all beings experience joy and harmony with each other and Mother Earth. So go ahead and hit subscribe and keep this good energy flowing.

Welcome, Malia’Kekia. Thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the podcast.

Malia’Kekia: Mekaha’oli. With so much happiness, I’m here.

Yura: If you were a superhero, what would your origin story be? What is that pivotal moment that led you to forge your own path and build your own table?

Malia’Kekia: If I was a superhero, I would want to be some kind of volcano being, this creator-destroyer energy, which I feel like I often use in my work and just who I am as a person, really trusting in the abundance of: I could burn it all down. The fire isn’t happening to me. I’m also happening to it, knowing that new life can peek up out of the soil and regenerate. So thinking of myself as a superhero, that’s the image that comes to mind. The pivotal moments for me, there’s two in my mana’o. And one is right after college, I was teaching in about four different schools and working professionally and just completely running myself into the ground as a teaching artist because I went to a conservatory college. And so this idea that saying yes, if you didn’t say yes, someone else was going to get the gig. So I said yes a lot.

And, yeah, really just didn’t have much leftover for myself. So I was at a thespian competition with forty of my students and I stumbled into a workshop. I was trying to go to another workshop. And when I stumbled into my now partner’s workshop, his name is Christopher Beaulieu, people were scaling the walls. It wasn’t a lecture like all the other teacher workshops. And I decided to stay and everything that he spoke just really hit my heart and made me cry and I went up to him at the end of the class, tears in my eyes. I’m a crier. That’s how I feel through the world, so tears just come to me. So I’m already trying to hold back my tears and I’m like, “What do you do if your students don’t respect you anymore?” So just having such a hard time with the senior class in particular.

He just looked at me really calmly and was like, “Well, maybe it’s not the right school for you to be teaching at.” And then I just busted out and I said, “Well, are you hiring?” Because his work was so profound. We now have a company together called B4 The Other Creations, which is around this idea of play mindset, play as a feeling, but he was piloting that work of play about ten years before we had formed this company. The second pivotal moment is that … So the company has been formed, we’re traveling around, the pandemic happens, and we lost the entirety of our years’ worth of contracts in a day. And as a person that likes to move, I like to live in the wind, all of a sudden, I realized, “Oh my gosh, I’m not going to be able to travel. I’m going to be here in this apartment that we had moved into six months prior.” Dealing with the fact that the world has now said that my work is nonessential and I was my work. So now my identity is tied in with being nonessential.

So there’s a pivotal moment for me of trying to uncouple what I do with who I am as an artist on top of the pivot of going, “Okay, so the work that we do involves physical touch, large groups of people, and travel.” And now all of those three things are no longer possible. So what does that mean for this work? Well, after much grieving, we sat and we actually developed this clear six, we call them, buoys versus a pillar. It’s like a buoy in the water, this six-buoy pedagogy around play, and really try to just define what our work is so that we can start doing it online and knowing that connection, intimacy, vulnerability was super important and that we know that’s essential. So how do we possibly … If the world is going to view arts as nonessential, how do we start bringing this work into corporate offices, to doctors, with scientists, with people that are innovators because we know play is an innovation tool? So those were two massive pivots I’ll say that put me on this path.

Yura: Amazing. I’m so excited to hear more about how you’ve been able to integrate. That’s a really powerful story, both of those moments, and I think it really goes to show how there’s always a next step coming through and those moments of deep, I guess, despair and grief, like you said, of a loss of the past, but always bring forth this rebirth, this new opportunity that’s on the other side, and it’s just a matter of moving through the tears and moving through the pain and then letting that be so that we can then move into the next chapter.

Malia’Kekia: Oh, yeah, I’m in big practice of feeling my feelings without making them mean something true about who I am. When I was working with grief, I was feeling so much love, so much overwhelm of love that it made it possible to come to the other side. So I appreciate that reflection back.

Yura: Yeah. Is there any advice you would give to that former version of yourself now looking back?

Malia’Kekia: The advice I would give to that former version would be to enjoy being a puddle, enjoy laying on the floor, see how many different ways you can melt, find all the pleasure in this melting because they’re all such useful tools.

Yura: I love that visual. Definitely bringing the play into that moment, there is a lot of opportunity for change within the theatre industry and your approach speaks to that, speaks to almost the pathway to change, but I’d love to hear what you think the most frustrating aspects of the current theatre industry are.

Malia’Kekia: Oh. There’s two that come to mind. The first is around perfectionism, which I know is tied to this idea of white supremacy culture, the wants to feel put together. I understand the wants of, if I’m going to present something, it needs to be pick-up ready. And to me, that’s really frustrating because I think it’s robbing us of the experience of failure and also of just being seen as we are and that being enough. It’s rubbing at two very different things that both feel really unhealthy to me as a person, as a healer, as a person that’s really committed to showing up half-baked still in formation because, to me, that’s how I can be vulnerable, that’s how I stay present. That’s also how I can let people contribute. I’m a deviser. It’s actually really important to not have all the answers so that way my collaborators have an equal way to contribute and that also means to be able to sit in the unknown, which is where play lives. Perfectionism really has a hard time with that.

Yura: Yeah, because it’s fear, ultimately. It’s like fear manifesting this idea of, “I’m not going to release it because it’s not perfect, I still need to do this, I need to do that.” And then it’s like, “Okay, keep going, going, going.” And then it’s changed already. The situation has changed and it’s not even relevant anymore or it’s waiting so long that it’s not even out. I’ve gotten into these entrepreneur circles and spaces and training programs and one of the big things that they talk about now is, especially in this time, it’s not a time of having your full completed vetted prototype like, “This is it, go launch it,” because there’s always going to be that feedback moment, that space of understanding, how is this resonating with people? How’s my product, my service, my offering, my theatre piece? And so there’s so much value in being able to launch, even if it’s not “perfect” or there’s still things to be working out because you can actually work it out in the process. And in doing so, you actually save a lot on wasted resources or overextended resources because you’ve been preparing so much for something that’s perfect and then you find out that it’s not actually working this way, you need to change. And you could have found out that a lot earlier had you released it just as it is and shared and gotten that feedback earlier. So this is definitely a time to really take that wisdom in this moment, I would say especially, yeah.

Malia’Kekia: Yeah. And sometimes I have to find myself in my perfectionism in order to release it. If I am spending more than thirty minutes composing an email because I’m worried about my grammar or my spelling or that I’m going to get something wrong, I know, “Uh-oh,” I’m creating some perfectionism right now because I want to appear, look a certain way, when the reality is everyone makes a typo. I shouldn’t have to fear that. So it’s one of the ways I find myself in it and sometimes I purposely am like, “It’s okay.” Sometimes I don’t even fix the typo just to leave that little bit of humanity in there.

Yura: That’s true.

Malia’Kekia: So with you.

Yura: Yeah. What was the other frustration?

Malia’Kekia: Oh, the other frustration is around belonging. It’s around this idea of programs, theatres, saying that there’s a culture of belonging, which, to me, has always felt a little bit dangerous because one of the ways I play is with words. I feel like it’s one of the ways I can take ownership of my story back is by changing my relationship that I have with the word. It’s how I continue to rewrite my story is to grow. In my younger years, belonging, that’s all I want. I wanted to find my people. I wanted to belong to my culture. I wanted to belong to the show, to the cast, to the part. So much pressure to belong, which, to me, even just the word, belong, long, it feels so far away. It feels out of reach. It’s outside of myself, which is how that word felt. It felt like it meant the validation and the approval had to come from outside and not inside.

I feel like I was a really good shapeshifter and that came at a really high cost. So I’ve had to switch the word to think about it as “to be with,” that I could be with something, I could be with this moment, I could be with you as my partner, I could be with this cast, I could be with this theatre. So “be withing it” is being my own, that the validation comes from self, that I have nothing to prove it’s not outside of me, and that also I could choose to not do it either, that there’s choice in that because I think the frustration is, is when we say, “Oh, we’re a culture of belonging.” To me, it sounds like, “Oh, there’s a way, there’s a right way and a wrong way to fit in,” and yet if those aren’t explicit, then I feel like I have to tiptoe or I’m searching for the clarity. And then also who gets to make that culture of belonging? It feels like it’s a pretty light and fluffy word. I feel like theatres use it and to me it just brings some distrust. I’ve yet to find the space that has that saying and says it where I feel like the embody or the alignment is fully there and upfront and transparent.

Yura: Yeah. Yeah, it’s kind like these, “be your full self at work,” but actually not that. Only some parts of your full self, so it’s not your full self. And, yeah, I remember there’s this offering of people saying, “Oh, come to this party.” It’s not going to be with costumes on, like a Halloween party, it’s not going to be with costumes. And then you come without a costume and then everyone is wearing a costume. Yeah.

So it’s this like you say one thing, but is that really possible? Because how can we just switch by just saying something without actually seeing the realities that we are different and that that’s fine? That there’s aspects of our different cultures, especially, in this country, this colonial understanding of the United States. There are so many different types of people and cultures and backgrounds and languages and understandings of how you see the world, how you perceive yourself, how you live in it. And so how can we all really be everything at every moment with each group?

So it reminds me, too, of the colorblind casting where it’s like “we are colorblind.” It’s like, “No, we want to see everyone’s differences. We want to see color, we want to see our parts of ourselves.” And so I love that of being with, of offering that we are each our individual selves and we can come together and create this new entity of what it is, and that’s this spiritual teaching of one plus one equals three, that there’s you and there’s me, and then together, we create this third thing that is our relationship, our existence, our project, or whatever it is that we’re doing.

Malia’Kekia: I always say I have a really high tolerance for the unknown. And I think I’ve developed that from this practice of to be with it because it also means I have to allow myself to be willing to be misunderstood, which can be quite painful and also liberating depending on the space and the time and the day.

By trying to just people please everyone, and be acceptable to everyone, then we don’t get into the depth. We don’t get into the depth of what is actually possible.

Yura: Being understood, especially in this time of a lot that is not understood. We’re starting to have more answers and yet also even more questions. I think definitely this is a place of different moments in the journey. I think there are some people that are maybe just starting to realize that there’s a whole other world out there. And then there’s other people that already have been in this a lot and that are almost connecting to a future timeline so deeply. And so I think it’s interesting to be able to say, “This is what I want to share right now. This is what I’m willing to be misunderstood about because that’s just how it is.” I definitely resonate with that in terms of being this visionary thinker that there is this aspect of being okay with some people not liking me or not really into my vibe because it’s all about attracting who is.

Malia’Kekia: Yeah.

Yura: And that actually by trying to just people please everyone, and be acceptable to everyone, then we don’t get into the depth. We don’t get into the depth of what is actually possible.

Malia’Kekia: Yes. Yes. I know, I was drawn to your work because of your connection with spirit and with love even. It felt so spirit forward. To me, I think the creation process, theatre, is innately spiritual. We’re trying to make something that’s bigger than any one person. And so I appreciate folks that can name it and that can live into it versus pretend like it’s not there because it so is. So I know, to me, that drew me right into your work in this podcast.

Yura: That sounds great. Mission accomplished.

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As the theatre industry evolves, what do you believe that it’s asking of us as creators and leaders?

Malia’Kekia: I want it to be asking for more play, but that’s for selfish reasons and non-selfish reasons.

Yura: Of course.

Malia’Kekia: Maybe I just always have two answers right now. We do plays. And growing up, I hear directors say, “Oh, just go play with it,” which really means whatever that means. Sometimes that means figure it out on your own. Sometimes it means you’re not doing it the way I want you to do it yet, so keep trying. It doesn’t always mean actually go take the material and try it twenty different times. I define play as to do or be without needing a pre-prescribed outcome, how we see it at B4 the Other.

And when creating theatre, there are outcomes, right? There are specific outcomes. As the theatre industry evolves and we’re looking for the new, we’re looking for either new stories or new voices. We’re looking for old stories that can be done in a new way. In that seek for evolution, including how we treat people, including who we’re casting, including creating different types of cultures of theatre, I’m wondering where the space for the unknown is, where the space to discover through joy is, where can we stay connected, and there can be multiple truths in a world that is so cancel-culture forward. I’m really looking for that feeling of being on the playground again, which wasn’t always joyful. Sometimes I was left out and I had to play by myself. And the swing became my partner and the wind became my audience, and that was just as vibrant and beautiful as when I was playing tag or playing monkey bars.

The play doesn’t always have to be with joy, but with play comes an essence of to be able to be buoyant. I always go back to being babies. The baby falls and doesn’t know that it’s done something wrong until it reacts to the adults, the people around them. And so that’s learned. So it’s like, “Gosh, how much can we unlearn in how I’ve been taught what theatre is supposed to do and be, process the product?” I’m really interested in what actually wants to come through. Can I allow it to be different? Can I allow the process of theatre to not have a pre-prescribed outcome, even though there might be ticket sales or a set or something?

Yura: That’s so powerful and to be able to create these spaces, these portals of that freedom because sometimes we get so caught up in this idea that we have to have that final product, we have to have these sales. And then we’re really closed off to the immense infinite possibilities of what could be exponentially better than what the current situation is. So being able to create these spaces of timeline jumping, of being able to have just the impossible possible, it’s very needed. It’s an important strategy also that I think folks, if you are at that point of, I don’t know what to do, it almost feels like the final straw or that pivotal moment that is really breaking these types of spaces and moments to create for what you’re speaking about play as a pathway to reaching the unknown that brings forth a possibility that is very much joyful and abundant and full in this way of being really grounded in yourself and everything that can be coming out of that process of play. It’s really a game-changer opportunity for how we can create these solutions because the solutions are coming out of something that hasn’t been done yet. Because if it had been done, then we wouldn’t have the problem.

So how do we get the solutions that are coming from somewhere else is by, like you said, basically trying twenty different ways and seeing all these different ways of inspiration coming through. And so when we create these special spaces where we can experience that and release all of the perfectionism, the fears, the worries, then we give space for something bigger coming through. And then once the idea comes through, once the information comes through, then we can go back and organize things and see, “Okay, well, how will this work? How will this work?” But it’ll be coming at it from a different place. You’re like a changed person after going through that. So I would love to actually hear more about what it’s like to work with you and B4 The Other Creations.

Malia’Kekia: Mahalo. Yeah, you hit it so beautifully at the end, too, this idea of change and being a changed person. One thing that I’ve learned around self-love is that once I love this version of myself, I change it because I loved it. And so how do I continually love the new, which I go back to the ocean. I love the ocean so much, and some days, I show up and she’s really still. I’m like, “Oh, great.” Other days, I show up and she’s raging and there’s so many waves, and I still say, “Oh, great.” Such different vibes, but I don’t get upset with her for being different. And sometimes I can put that on myself of like, “No, I’m supposed to stay consistent,” and yet that was actually what I want. So it’s this idea of how do we allow things to change us in the process and with joyful abandonment.

So mahalo for touching on that. And what it’s like to work with B4 The Other Creations? Well, it’s very much like the ocean in that way. So we get hired in a bunch of different ways. Sometimes it is at an educational residency and we’re coming in to build a show. The process of that show mostly is devised, where we’re starting with a concept. And I am a choreographer-director. My partner, Christopher, is a stage combatant, and a clown, and a director as well. So we’re coming from it from a couple of different angles there, but clowning is really the fundamental of everything we do because the clown is the shaman. The clown was the person, the fool that could tell the king the truth without getting their head chopped off. And so I believe the clown innately brings the spiritual and it brings this idea of being for the other, to be for someone else, to be able to see their reflection in you and vice versa. That’s how the connection is built.

So all of our work has that inside of it and that’s whether we’re creating a piece of theatre, whether we’re coming into a school and organization because, I don’t know, someone didn’t like the cast list, and so there’s a massive problem with the ensemble rate and they’re completely divided. We get brought in to do some ensemble building through play in that way. We also get brought into corporate offices as well to work on play as a medium for wellness to create some work-life balance, to connect folks together from different departments. And then my favorites are that we do online courses and we bring folks through our six-buoy system, it starts with great effort, goes to conscious vulnerability, bold choice, grounded acceptance, grateful surrender, and easeful buoyancy. Those are all the six buoys. And every buoy has an opposite counterpart and anchor, so the anchor for buoy number two, conscious vulnerability, is perfectionism.

Sometimes we do find the buoy through the anchor, that there’s always an oppositional force and that we don’t have to see that oppositional force and add or wrong. It’s so human. And we’re really in the practice of being human with each other and to do so in community as well. This work is done through the eyes of the other, so we need each other to be able to get to this place of play, this feeling of play together. We do eight-week courses in our pedagogy of play online and we also run retreats. Usually, there’s one, we call it the B4 Blast during New Year’s, and there’s also ones in the summer called the B4 Summer Submersion, and it is five days, all the buoys, ridiculous, sweaty, fun, silly, crying, messy, communal meals together. It’s intense and I get changed every time I come out.

Yura: That’s incredible. What are some of the stories of people who have gone through the trainings? What’s that before and after for people?

Malia’Kekia: Folks that come through the trainings are usually at the precipice of something. We get a lot of folks that are like, “Oh, I’m transitioning my gender right now and so I’m trying to rediscover what that looks like in my body, in my heart, with community.” We get people that are doing massive career shifts that are coming out of divorce. We get people that have just gotten really serious health diagnoses and they’re trying to understand what the relationship to self is like and to be held in community. And back to the volcano, it’s one of those creator-destroyer moments where sometimes people are coming right before they erupt. Sometimes people have erupted and now are regenerating what that new earth looks like for them. Those are usually the folks that are volunteering in to do these retreats. When people are ready to play with their identity in that way, to reform, to open up their hearts, to love, we’re able to bring a certain level of the exercises and of our work to really meet them versus when we’re going into a corporate office where people are usually voluntold that they have to do it or they have to be there.

Our access point in our way in is a lot different. People come out with their hair down, people come out usually a lot looser than how they went in. People come out of it with some really strong relationships to self, to each other. People come out of it running, ready to go to whatever that next thing is. We also make sure that there’s touch points, too. That last day, we talk a lot about, what does support look like past this moment and what connection looks like if you’re wanting to stay connected. When we molt in front of people in this way, I call it a vulnerability hangover, right? That’s real. You go back into your life and that can sometimes feel like a big shock or lonely. So there’s a lot of care that goes around, how do we want to move forward together out of this and what care are you hoping to receive? And then we, as the facilitator, step back and let the group actually coregulate and try and care for each other in that way so that we’re not always holding all of it because that’s how it becomes sustainable for us, too.

Yura: Let’s get into that more, too. The sustainability as a facilitator, as a leader, as a creator, a founder, what are your go-to self-care practices, navigating some of these complexities of what it means to be a founder?

Malia’Kekia: I fall on and off of my own practices all the time and just honoring the complexity of being a founder, being a co-founder, being a freelance person, that the hustle is always there, the drive is always there because there’s this idea of stability that needs to happen to be a human in the world. I can find myself sometimes booking, booking, booking, booking myself and I was having a hard moment and I was on the phone with my mom and I was like, “Oh.” She’s like, “Gosh, you’re so busy, girl.” And I was like, “I know.” I said, “Rookie mistake,” and she said, “Honey, you’re not a rookie anymore.”

And I was like, “Don’t say that,” because in that moment, she reflected to me this idea of, “Oh, I fell off that practice again.” When I’m in my practice, I make sure that I have at least one day with nothing scheduled. I make sure that I don’t block meetings, give myself at least a thirty-minute window between every meeting. I make sure that when I am in meetings or at a conference that I practice, I bring my full self into the room, which often looks like taking my shoes off almost immediately. I sit on the floor. Chairs are really hard for me. I like being really close to the earth. And so I’m always … Sometimes I travel with my little meditation cushion and I get out and I sit on the floor with it. I’m also in practice of keeping my body comfortable, which often looks like not wearing a bra.

I realize that I wear a bra for other people to make them feel more comfortable about my own body. And so that’s a practice for me of my own sustainability of being able to be a human on the earth if I don’t wear one, if I don’t want to. And I often don’t. It feels like a really important part of my self-care. I cry as part of my sustainability and crying is I don’t like to give my tears to tissues as if they are trash or disposable. My body worked really hard to transmute that memory into this beautiful little drop of salt water, so I usually give myself my own facial with my tears.

Yura: Cool.

Malia’Kekia: I’m just wiping them in, saving the memory. Oh, I also make sure, sustainability-wise, that I’m in my own practice. I include myself in my work. So when I am teaching, I’m also participating.

I don’t ask people to do things I haven’t done myself or wouldn’t do myself. It feels really important to me to bring my cultural … I’m Kanaka Maoli. I’m Native Hawaiian. That part of my culture, my ʻōlelo, the words, chants, the ʻoli, I usually start out by chanting. I’ll end a project by chanting. That also makes it really sustainable, too, to bring my ancestors forward in the room with me, to also invite other people’s ancestry to be present, too, if that’s something that they’re willing to do. Making sure that my own self-care or my own voice is included in the circle. I always stand in the circle with folks. Try never to be outside of it. That’s one way that I really believe in leadership and make it equal. That’s one of the ways I practice that.

Yura: And everything comes back, that multigenerational support of really bringing in ancestors and bringing in the earth and our cultures. In that way also, seeing how what we’re doing is healing generations of trauma and that, within each of us, we have that opportunity in this lifetime to work through and heal. I see the opportunity that we have and being able to come together in these spaces that you’re creating with others. It’s really powerful.

Malia’Kekia: Mahalo for that reflection.

Everything I want to be, I already am.

Yura: Well, my final question is reflecting on your journey thus far, no longer rookie. What has been the most rewarding aspect of carving your own path and creating your own space, building your own table?

Malia’Kekia: One, I still feel like my table is getting built. I feel really aware of that path still being paved for getting this thing up into the air and letting it fly out into the world. So grateful to my partner, Christopher, for that kōkua, for that help. And what’s the best thing? I think the best thing is sovereignty. It’s really leading from my heart and trusting that I have my own answer so I can trust that other people have their own answers. There’s certainly the freedom of schedule feels really good. I have this mantra that came to me years ago that continues to provide fruit. Everything I want to be, I already am. When I think about carving my own table and just even the idea of carving, building all of the intricacies of the table, I think about wanting it to be this thing and also accepting that maybe it is a tiny table right now, and that can be enough that I don’t have to prove. Everything I want to be, I already am. There’s no more work I have to do other than simply keep showing up as myself and letting that be enough. And so that has provided a lot of peace and ease and sweetness in my life as an artistic entrepreneur, facilitator, teacher, friend, sister, stepmama.

Yura: Beautiful. Okay, so tell us how we can get in contact with you. What are the next workshop dates and how do you sign up? What’s going on? Yeah.

Malia’Kekia: You could find us at and you could email me at [email protected]. And we’re taking a lovely little pause for a moment of really trying to see what wants to come through next, so we’re in this practice of ho’olono, of listening with all of our senses, to see what retreat wants to come. So if you send me an email, I’d be happy to put you on a list. That way when we’re ready, you’ll be the first to know. We’re also on the Instagram, @b4theothercreations. You can find me @maliakekiatilts. And I’m so looking forward to receiving more community if this work calls to you. And I’m so grateful, mahalo me ke aloha la, Yura, for having me.

Yura: Such a pleasure and joy. Thank you so much as well. Yupaychani. This was a beautiful conversation, a beautiful space to bring forth what the future is asking of us and also with that support of the past of our ancestors.

So thanks again so much. Everyone, go ahead and check out B4 The Other Creations and I would say if you’re interested in experiencing this portal of play, this is a space to go to. Thanks again.

Malia’Kekia: Mahalo e ola

Yura: This podcast is produced as a contribution to HowlRound Theatre Commons. You can find more episodes of this show and other HowlRound shows wherever you find podcasts. Be sure to search with the keyword, HowlRound, and subscribe to receive new episodes. If you love this podcast, post a rating and write a review on those platforms. You can also find a transcript for this episode along with a lot of other progressive and disruptive content on Have an idea for an exciting podcast essay or TV event the theatre community needs to hear, visit and submit your idea to this Digital Commons.

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