By Crysta Coburn
Hitting the Stage with Kristin Danko
You could not meet a more upbeat and passionate person than Kristin Danko, the executive creative director of Ypsilanti’s newest theatre company, Neighborhood Theatre Group (NTG). Kristin and her partner, Aaron Dean, founded the company after spending years in Chicago’s experimental theatre scene. Kristin, who holds bachelor’s degrees in both theatre and music and a master’s degree in arts administration from Eastern Michigan University, brought her talents to Ypsilanti in 2013. Why did she leave the Windy City for our little Ypsi? I sat down with her at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea in Ypsilanti, across the street from her alma mater, to find out.
After seven and a half years in Chicago, Kristin had tried her hand at everything from storefront theatre and musicals to improv and comedy. She loved it all, but …“I got really tired of acting,” she told me. “I wasn’t feeling challenged, and I wanted to challenge myself in theatre in a new way.”
So when she was accepted into EMU’s graduate school, she and her partner packed up and headed to Michigan. They originally looked at living in Ann Arbor but were shocked to discover that rental prices were comparable to what they had been paying in Chicago. They found themselves more attracted to the DIY-vibe of Ypsilanti, and also liked the quirkiness of the city. They’ve lived in Ypsi for over two years now and have no plans to leave.
“There is so much talent here!” Kristin gushed, but she also lamented that there aren’t enough outlets for actors to pursue after graduation. She and the whole NTG crew hope to change that by becoming the “premier experimental theatre for Ypsilanti,” a place where actors can get their start and experiment with original shows. “New theatre companies are a dime a dozen in Chicago,” she said. “[Ypsilanti has] more opportunity to explore the art form.”
The NTG will be performing a cabaret show March 24 to 26 at Ypsilanti’s Back Office Studio, where Kristin is also Artist in Residence. They will also perform a weekly sketch show at the same studio starting Fridays in May. The goal is to get their own space, but for now they are thrilled with the support they’re receiving from the community.
What Kristin finds so magical about theatre is the “connection of energy” between the audience and the performers. “You’re creating something with a group of people that’s bigger than you. Once you perform, we get to all go through this together.” The excitement is contagious. I can’t wait to see what Kristin and NTG come up with next!
Contact Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow NTG on Facebook at facebook.com/neighborhoodtheatregroup, on Twitter @NTGYpsi, and on Instagram @NeighborhoodTheatreGroup.
Crafting Up Something Fun with Celena Lopez
Celena Lopez of Ypsilanti is an independent, clever, and crafty lady. She has made handcrafted blankets for all of her friends’ babies, mostly knitted, but “the last one was quilted because I ran out of time.” I don’t generally think of quilting as a quick and easy task. That’s the kind of can-do attitude that Celena brings to her projects. She may not always know how or when a project will get done, but it will get done, and in my opinion, it will be beautiful and carefully and professionally finished.
After her first year in the world of D.I.Y. craft fairs, Celena had already graduated from sharing a table at Ypsilanti’s twice yearly show DIYpsi to having a full table all to herself. She has also traveled for out-of-state craft fairs, such as Handmade Toledo Maker’s Mart. She sells under the name Diosa de la Luna. Her wares can be found year round through her online shop and at the Eyrie located in Ypsilanti’s historic Depot Town, a store that features only Michigan-made products by local artists and crafters.
It was the Eyrie’s owner Janette Rook, a friend, who initially started Celena on her path to selling. As Celena puts it, “She said one day, ‘I know you’re a crafty person, why aren’t I selling your stuff?’” Another friend and independent artist Marcy Davy of All Things Grow also encouraged Celena to get involved in craft shows.
After thinking hard about what she could sell, Celena settled on her beloved Ypsilanti’s iconic (and infamous) water tower, knitting its image into dish cloths and sewing felt pieces onto fabric framed in wooden embroidery hoops. The tower has also been turned into a stuffed toy and anthropomorphized with big eyes and a “hair” bow for a female tower or a bow tie for male. Both are adorable. She has branched out into other hoop designs since. (I purchased one depicting a jar of fireflies that made the perfect housewarming gift for a friend who moved to California, where they don’t have fireflies.)
Recently, Celena has moved into becoming an independent sales rep for other artists “specializ[ing] in connecting wholesale buyers with artists of trendy paper goods and gift items.” She explained to me that with her finding the buyers, the artists can concentrate on creating, allowing them more time to meet product demands.
This hasn’t slowed her down too much, though. She still works on her own art while also holding down an hourly part-time job and finds time for outdoor adventuring with her husband, Ben, and their too cute Pomeranian, Asher. This last year, Celena successfully trained for and completed Ypsilanti’s Color Run despite the arthritis in her ankle caused by an injury, which just proves this woman will take on anything! And win.
You can email Celena at email@example.com and find her online at both diosadelaluna.weebly.com and celenalopez.com, or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/DiosadelaLunaDecor.
A Look at Ayurveda with Andrea Ridgard
The word Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words, ‘ayur’ (life) and ‘veda’ (study or science). Andrea Ridgard is a bright and passionate local Ayurveda healer and practitioner who was gracious enough to sit and talk with me. She explained that Ayurveda goes beyond just “the study of life” — it can also mean the study of one’s self. As Andrea put it, Ayurveda is “asking yourself ‘Who am I?’”
“The base line is the five elements,” said Andrea, which are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. They come together in pairs to make the three vital energies called doshas. As a healer, Andrea is looking for what has come out of alignment, something that “feels off,” between these energies. She pays particular attention to skin, eyes, and digestion. “A healthy digestion equals a healthy constitution!” (This is why Ayurveda is so frequently tied to diet.) When something feels off, such as sluggishness, sudden insomnia, and constipation, “you’re not aligning with yourself.”
When a patient sees Andrea for the first time, she has them fill out a form that asks many questions about lifestyle. She told me this is often enlightening for the patient because they start to notice patterns and habits in their lives that they never realized before. Sometimes it’s, “Wow! I have no routine!,” which can be stressful on a body.
Andrea is not likely to prescribe treatments like taking herbs, which she has less knowledge of. As a hatha yoga instructor (yoga is a sister study of Ayurveda), she is more likely to suggest that a patient practice a certain posture for a 30-day stretch and take notice of any changes that occur in his or her body. She described Ayurveda as a “slow science,” not a magic pill. “Patients need to take on some responsibility,” she said. “It can be a very big lifestyle change for people to slow down. There’s a lot to miss when we’re rushing.” She sees being an Ayurvedic healer as “an invitation to stand beside someone and help them on their healing.” She will refer patients to others who are more capable of helping when possible.
One simple practice Andrea advises for anyone is to start the day with a cup of hot water. (The amount and temperature is up to how much the individual can stand.) This will warm up the digestive tract, making it easier for the body to process food, and it will ease constipation better than coffee. I started it myself. I’m not a morning person and often skip breakfast. Now I feel more settled and ready for food in the mornings. Try it and see what you think!
Contact Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and a list of her class offerings, head to groundedhere.com.