Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tara Jepsen is a busy woman

On July 19th we'll welcome Tara Jepsen to the Progressive Reading stage. She's a busy person; a writer and performer living in San Francisco, she’s been featured at the Porchlight storytelling series, the RADAR Reading Series and Litquake. She is co-host of the long-running, beloved queer open mic, K’vetch. Her work has been published in the anthologies, Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache and It’s So You. She toured extensively with the original Sister Spit’s Rambling Road Show in 1997, 1998, and 1999. Her most recent short film, Diving for Pearls, won the Most Innovative Short award at the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 2005 and was selected for the Best of Newfest screening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She is at work on a novel, Like a Dog, as well as a new film. Her two-woman show, written and performed with Beth Lisick, “Getting in on the Ground Floor and Staying There” opens at The Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco on July 24th, and she holds down a day job as a landscaper. Luckily Tara found some time to answer some questions via e mail.

Sona Avakian: When was the first time you got excited about a political candidate?
Tara Jepsen:Well, I remember the fever around my family in Wisconsin about wanting to re-elect Reagan for a third presidential term because he had been just that incredible. My mom's friend worked on his campaign. I don't know how my parents felt about it; they've both become far more liberal as they've gotten older. I remember thinking if they thought it was a good idea, it probably was. Experiments in blind faith! I don't remember thinking anything else they did was a great idea so why the election carried any weight with me, I don't know. The first time I remember getting excited about a political candidate was when Matt Gonzalez ran for mayor. He came to Beth [Lisick’s] birthday party and we did shots of tequila. I thought, "I like this guy." I know that's late in life to get politically excited but better late than never. I do remember when Geraldine Ferraro ran with Walter Mondale in 1984. I knew it was exciting that a woman was running but I was in a nest of conservatism in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, a factory town about halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay. I wasn't aware of local politics at all growing up. Now I think about it a lot more.

SA: Are there any other politicians you've done shots with? Now's your chance to tell.
TJ: I remember only a small fraction of the people with whom I've shared tequila shots (I was just reminded about a tequila spaz-out in NYC that I had completely forgotten...), and I assume there are no more people who would outwardly identify themselves as politicians...? Now if we're talking non-profit employees, unsung talents or karaoke enthusiasts, pull back the sash and let the list unfurl.

SA: Is there any book in particular you read growing up that informed your sense of community?
TJ: God, my sense of community. I do not recall feeling anything that I would label a sense of community. That language was not part of my world!! Nancy Drew books made me excited to be a smart, investigative woman. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret made me aware that girls/women wrestle with Issues. And that a contemplative life is in my future. And being tortured and indecisive. All the Madeleine L'Engle books made me want to be smart too. So maybe I just new I wanted to be a smart woman among smart women. So far so good.

SA: Is there any book you'd recommend to the two presidential candidates, or one you hope either of them have read?
TJ: Well, if any candidate has time to read a book, and I am asked to evaluate their needs, I guess I would say that I would hope they read any book that expanded their knowledge of all the different kinds of people who live and breathe in the country they are governing. Or would it ultimately benefit us more if they just went deep into a Danielle Steel novel and relaxed for a moment? I guess it feels too arrogant for me to say what book anyone should read. I don't think they would like the same shit I do, and I don't think I can conceive of their burden as president well enough to know what would make an impact. Maybe something that got them excited about green building materials, vehicles, whathaveyou! Composting for Presidents! Feminism: It's Good for All of Us! Maybe a PFLAG parenting book? Homelessness and Drug Addiction: Not Just Issues for Underpaid Socially Minded Folks! And of course, Deenie, by Judy Blume.

SA: You run K'vetch, you've toured with Sister Spit, can we look forward to something of yours in print?
TJ: I have a couple short stories published and I'm shopping a novel around right now.

SA: Who would you rather take care of your pet goldfish, a magician or politician?
TJ: Obviously a magician should take care of my goldfish, they will have waaaay more time.

SA: How does it feel to be the first author interviewed for the Progressive Reading Series blog?
TJ: It feels amazing to be the first author interviewed here, and naturally it makes me think I am an expert on absolutely everything.

Tara can be found hosting K'vetch the first Sunday of every month at Sadie's Flying Elephant (491 Potrero @ Mariposa.) She will grace the Progressive stage on July 19th along with Neal Pollock, Doug Dorst, Frank Portman, Ethan Canin and Po Bronson. Don't miss it!