Kendra Arimoto is a Japanese American femme multi-genre writer, performer, conceptual artist, activist, community builder, wife, and stay-at-home mother to four children (two teenage stepsons, one six-year-old stepdaughter, and one nursing-aged daughter who was born at home). The thematic focus of her work is on the life and development of blended families, Japanese American ancestral memory and history, reconnecting to land and environment, queer motherhood, and the queer woman of color experience. She is the Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood in Aptos, California, for 2016-2017, a conceptual artist residency that takes place inside her own home and life as a mother as inspired by the open-sourced ARiM tool kit made available by Lenka Clayton.
She graduated from Stanford University (B.A. Drama ’05) where she won the Louis Sudler Prize for excellence in the performing arts, and the Sherifa Omade Edoga Prize for creative work involving social issues. After college she found a home in San Francisco’s independent theatre scene while building a career as an engineering recruiter (Google, YouTube, and Facebook).
She has performed in 35+ productions with a variety of organizations including One4All: SanFrancisco Asian American Theatre Festival, San Francisco Fringe Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Pacific Repertory Theatre, Stanford Shakespeare Society, New Conservatory Theatre Company, and San Francisco’s No Nude Men. She has a particular love for independent theatre and favorite venues in which to perform include The Exit Theatre and late Climate Theatre. Some of her most life-changing mentors and directors include Cherríe Moraga, Stuart Bousel, Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, Kay Kostopoulos, and Adelina Anthony.
In 2009 she took a sabbatical from the tech world to attend Smith College (M.F.A. Playwriting ’11) where she studied with Len Berkman and Andrea Hairston, focusing on writing stories about Japanese American, female, and queer experience. One of her most memorable experiences was serving as the EarlyStages Playwright-in-Residence at the Berkshire Fringe under the mentorship of Susan Kim.
Her plays have been featured at the Berkshire Fringe Festival, Smith College New Play Reading Series, WORD! Festival for new plays by playwrights of color, Hawai’i International Conference on Art and Humanities, and San Francisco Olympians Festival. She has also directed for Smith’s main stage and a variety of workshop readings.
Since becoming a mother her artistic life has transformed into one centered around work that can be produced within and around her home. While theatre is central to her artist’s identity, she is currently experimenting with a variety of genres and mediums, embracing anything and everything that will simply allow her to make some art, and choosing projects that may be completed with nap-length studio hours and fragmented focus.
Projects currently being produced on residence:
- BLEND, NOT BREAK, an investigation of the development and emotional life of blended families through the use of both natural and human-made materials scavenged by my own blended family from the beaches within walking distance of our home.
- CAMP TAKIBI, a project which seeks to transform my home into an overnight camping retreat and creative workshop for artists selected from my social media feeds. (Update: Completed on August 27, 2016)
- THE NAPTIME NOVEL, an online writers’ group and workshop for writer-mamas with young children.
- RAISING REBEL: WATER IS LIFE, a set of recordings posted to Soundcloud that document her daughter’s relationship with water.
- GREAT WARS LIKE OURS, a series of mixed media micro essays that combine to form an intimate and vulnerable memoir about the experience of a queer Japanese American mother as it connects to family stories, personal dreams and memories, and Japanese American history, politics, and ritual.
- art: To produce art and share that work publicly.
- community: To use art to build community.
- outdoors: To connect us back to land and environment through art.
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