Pelago Interview: Kate March & Kalina King "DUETS:: I AM X LIGHTSTAGE"

DUETS:: will be performed at LIGHTSTAGE on 19th and 20th Feb. Get tickets here!

Who are you and what do you do?
KM: I AM Kate March. That’s not easy to answer concisely… Bottomline, I am multi-disciplinary artist and business woman.

KK: I AM Kalina King. I love projects and surrounding myself with open-minded, big-thinking and optimistic people (like Kate!) – people who like to say “yes”,“and”,“also”. I started LIGHTSTAGE Art & Events in 2014 and we’re passionate about this creative iteration of the sharing economy: beautiful spaces for art and events that surprise and delight.

Why do you do what you do?
KM: I have a deep and relentless passion to inspire people and express myself.

KK: Because I wake up every morning smiling, and every day is different.

What’s your artistic background?
KM: I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old (more than 25 years). I have an undergraduate degree and a Masters degree in Dance (performance and choreography).

KK: Lots of finger-painting and I attended one ballet class when I was five and was asked not to return -- super graceful, right? I’m visually-oriented and hand’s on: growing up I took Chinese calligraphy and ceramics classes. And then fell in love with photography in high school.

What is the origin of I AM Concepts and LIGHTSTAGE?
KM: I AM probably had a longer gestation period than I first realised and was born in July 2013. I had been freelancing for all of my professional life and started to gain a lot of momentum…So, I decided to come up with a brand or as I like to refer to it as, a movement, that could help me achieve a broader creative vision with a team.

KK: LIGHTSTAGE was born out of our observation that it was difficult to find places in Hong Kong suitable for large-scale and non-traditional events, and to gather creatives, and our desire to build that ourselves. We were inspired by NYC loft spaces, and it was love at first sight stepping into the expansive and peaceful light-filled gallery that is now LIGHTSTAGE Art & Events Venue on Hollywood Road.

KK: For I AM X LIGHTSTAGE: Kate and my co-founder Jody and I were introduced and met for a coffee that changed our lives in late 2014. We bonded over loving immersive and interactive theatre experiences in New York and the ‘shock and awe’ of various shows. Wanting to bring that freshness, and willingness to experiment in theatre to Hong Kong, we decided to collaborate starting with the debut of DUETS:: last February.

What was the inspiration for DUETS?
KM: I was actually wanted to do a concept called “SOLO” which would have been a series of solos. But because Kalina and I had discussed doing a production for Valentines day, I thought SOLO might be a little bit perverse and cynical, so I embraced the idea of a duet. Exploring and experimenting with what a duet could be lends itself so well to artists because it can really be interpreted in so many different ways. It’s the perfect platform for an artist to share something about themselves - which is the ultimate goal - a space for expression.

What 3 words describe your personality style?
KM: Passionate, ambitious, expressive

KK: ENTP, Enneagram 7, Scorpio

What is your dance style preference?
KM: Improvisation

KK: My signature move: eyes closed, light on the feet, good beats, arms waving, huge smile.

What or who was the biggest influence to you when beginning your career?
KM: Professors at my undergraduate school, Connecticut College, who encouraged me to embrace my voice and embrace art as a career.

KK: In my early career in finance I was lucky to work for strong, independent women leaders, founders of their respective firms, who in addition to being tough (in the best of ways!) and smart bosses, shared their life experiences and took a strong interest in developing me and my personal goals.

What makes you thrive?
KM: Having space and being near the ocean

KK: Making time and space for myself (you’ll never find the time; make it!): long runs and swims, not answering my phone, sitting down for real breakfasts.

What was a challenge you have had to overcome to progress in your industry?
KM: Trying to describe what we do because I think it’s hard to assign words to the power of making people feel something and it’s even harder to assign a value to that….

KK: I have so much respect for the events business: these are long, hard hours, requiring dedication and unleashing all kinds of potential stressors for the people behind the scenes in order to make the show/event/party ideally look effortless for guests. For LIGHTSTAGE, we think about how to appreciate and show our respect for everyone coming through our doors.

What is your dream project?
KM: If I dream something, I do it. So I don’t really have one.

KK: I’m living a few dream projects now, and the rest I can’t tell you about.

What & where was your first public performance?

KM: There have been many firsts…first one ever when I was 3 years old in Connecticut. First professional performance was in New York City in 2007/8. First professional performance abroad was in 2011. First performance in Hong Kong was in 2011/2.

KK: I went to a wonderful elementary school in San Francisco, KDBS, which encouraged the arts. My first solo stage experience was performing Antigone, a monologue. Heavy content for a grade-schooler!

These days, the LIGHTSTAGE team feels ‘onSTAGE’ daily as the sun sets. Photos of us often show up on Instagram at #lightstagehk, when people photograph or video whatever and whomever is visible at LIGHTSTAGE 218 Hollywood Road.

What was the first musical experience that really touched you?
KM: Playing in an orchestra when I was young.

KK: 'Mastering’ and playing Für Elise for my family on my great-grandmother’s grand piano.

How has performing professionally changed for you over the years for you?
KM: Inevitably as we develop as people, our artistic voice and approaches develop as well. I would say I know my strengths as a performer and am able to tap into them quite quickly in a performance setting. Meaning, I’m prepared to perform several different styles or thematic content in a week without being overwhelmed by it like I would be when I was younger.

Are you ambitious? If so, towards what ends?
KM: Yes…I want to make an impact.

KK: Always hungry, so yes, ambitious.

Do you perform for yourself or for others?
KM: Both.

KK: This speaks to one of the great creative tensions of the DUETS:: performances, that relationship between artist and audience, and the magic that is live theatre and especially the immersive-style seating such as at LIGHTSTAGE. It’s intimate, and powerful, for the artist and audience to access that level of eye contact, that sense of presence, through a performance.

What sort of music do you listen to? Favorite artist?
KM: Beethoven

KK: I love music, I like happy beats and clean melodies, I also really love silence. Currently favourited on my Spotify is a fair amount of Solomun and Mozart. I have recently been bouncing back and forth between classical music and EDM. At FIRST LIGHT, the performance with I AM celebrating LIGHTSTAGE’s first year anniversary, we had a classical harpist playing with a DJ.

What role does the artist have in society?
KM: I could write a book on that.

KK: “Art tells you things you don’t know you need to know until you know them.” Peter Schjeldahl, art critic. Throw light onto the world, introduce new ideas and experimentation and sparkle in unexpected ways, stand up for exposing and grappling with darkness, remind every one of us to live a life of passion and beauty.

What has been a seminal experience for you?
KK: Life’s a seminal experience.

What art do you most identify with?
KM: Hard to pinpoint

KK: The art I identify with changes as I change. I have been drawn to modern and minimalist art for the structure, grace and clarity. Right now I am looking at ink works, and art formed using one medium that appears to be another, performance art, and digital or multi-sensory environments.

What work do you most enjoying doing?
KK: All work when work is play.

What’s your favourite art work?
KK: There’s a great quote in the book Twelve Million Dollar Shark about the established and passionate art collector Ron Lauder: “According to Lauder there are three categories of art “Oh,” “Oh my,” and “Oh, my God.” He says he only collects the last.” The first art work that I heard about in that third category was a conceptual piece: instructions for actors to perform within a museum installation, that was dictated once by the artist to the board of the museum and not allowed to be tape- or video-recorded, for which the artist was paid US$10 million dollars for the museum to gain the right to ‘perform’ the piece once. That shocked, tickled, made an impression with me. The first artwork that I fell in love with at first sight, and later bought, and which still surprises me every time I look at it, is London painter Stephanie Ho’s ‘Human Planet’ diptych. It’s abstract yet also super detailed. Human spots!

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
KM: I’m pretty much only inspired by real life situations….

What is your most embarrassing moment?
KM: One of them is when I was being interviewed by a very important publication and they came to a rehearsal of mine to capture some photos of my directing. I jumped straight into the rehearsal after the interview so was wearing high heels and a dress. My heel got caught in my dress and I fell down flat on my face. It was the most un-graceful thing ever.

KK: I have embarrassing moments daily! No need to print anything.

Why art?
KK: What not, if you love art?

What is an artistic outlook on life?
KK: Artists’ lives and habits and process may differ so widely. Driven to dabble, make, perfect or at least iterate, and often - engender understanding or a reaction in people through that creation.

What food, drink, song inspires you?
KK: The flavours at the James Sharman chef popup at Soho Printing Press last month were inspiring – I could have sworn I ate a Christmas tree!

What do you like about your work?
KM: I honestly feel we are doing something meaningful and no matter how overwhelming or stressful the business side gets, I hold onto this dearly….I want people to recognise the real value of creative expression and in doing so, I believe they can connect to their true identity, to others, to personal freedom, and to joy — there’s nothing more profound than that and this vision is what drives me daily. I love what I do because it’s more than doing, it’s who I am.

What superpower would you have and why?
KK: Flying. Obviously.

Name something you love, and why.
KM: The ocean - it grants me a sense of serenity and clarity ….A perpetual source of freedom and joy.

KK: The unfathomable, bottomless resourcefulness of the human body and mind and spirit to rise up and regenerate and create out of times of trouble and despair. I’m from San Francisco, and the history of the city having been scorched by fire five times, and five times rebuilt, is etched into the street and culture. The tale of the phoenix, that love and belief in one’s self and in others, is so powerful.

Name something you don’t love, and why.
KK: I don’t like talking about things I don’t love. You baited me though! Hearing “no, cannot” or being trapped in slow-moving traffic, because I want to believe that anything is possible, and quickly, and surround myself with like-minded people to experiment and try in parallel to make it happen.

Name an artist that you’d like to be compared to…
KM: I hope I can forge my own path…that’s the real goal….to not be compared to anyone else…

KK: Nah. Let’s be incomparable.

Favourite or most inspirational place?
KK: Burning Man. Marfa, Texas and the vision of a vast, permanent site-specific museum that artist Donald Judd brought to the town and surroundings is a close second.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
KK: Work smart, not hard. And 80% today is better than 90% tomorrow. I remind myself of these constantly.

Professionally, what’s your goal?
KK: Building a brand people love with art and events that shock, surprise and delight, providing space for creators to create and to collaborate, activating “oh my god” venues, unique and historic properties for fitting events and new uses. A real estate empire would be nice on the side.

What wouldn’t you do without?
KK: Daily runs, and my team. It is inspiring to work with people who approach their roles as owners.

What is your breakfast of choice?
KK: Protein-filled! 4 to 6 eggs, ‘frambled’ and black coffee.

What is your pre-performance ritual?
KM: Depends on the performance….usually having a few hours beforehand to find solitude.

KK: Deep breaths and a few minutes alone help me to channel that natural nervousness into productive energy to fuel stage presence.

Last passport stamp?
KK: Philippines – Boracay White Beach is my getaway.

Where do you see dance in 10 years?
KK: There are so many possibilities for performance and dance in mixing disciplines, and experimenting with the immediacy of live dancers and performers alongside video projections, digital environments, the trompe l’oeil of modern set design.

What are your biggest vices or indulgences?
KM: I am…dessert fiend..

KK: I love adventures. I’ll be the last to call it a night. I may also be the first to pull out a computer at a dinner or party if need be!


DUETS:: will be performed at LIGHTSTAGE on 19th and 20th Feb. Get tickets here!