Before this blog became a posting of the lovely birth family adventure it was a place for musings, and I’m going to continue that here though I’ll be back for more tales from the Louisiana story soon.
I’ve been reflecting on the nature and importance of mentorship now that I’m doing a bit of mentoring myself and am, as always when thinking of the people who’ve influenced me most in my life, drawn back to my high school Theater Arts teacher Rita Kotter.
I cannot turn down the opportunity to mention her when asked about the people who have inspired me most in my life- I just cannot. She’s got to be sick of hearing me sing her praises and I’m not the only one, there are so many she’s taught who admire her, just check out Facebook jeez. I’ve done interviews in English, French (ah zee vunderful Reeta Kottahr- biensur, écoute la femme la plus intelligente et la plus remarquable) and Italian Rrrrrita Kotterrr ispira ogni persona che incontra! ).
Every time I make it home I want to see her. Listen, even if she’s weary of being praised, it’s beyond me to resist any chance to do so. I realised recently that, though I’ve mentioned her in countless interviews, I’ve never actually written about her myself. It’s not about pandering. It’s not nostalgia for my long lost, wayward youth. I laud Rita because it’s so important. It’s important to be grateful, It’s important to give praise where praise is due, It’s important to show love.
The old woman narrator in Brigadoon - A part Rita created specifically for me.
What I learned from her is specific to my craft despite the fact that I became a songwriter/poet rather than the actor we thought I would, yet everything she taught me about commanding a stage, holding an audience, inhabiting your space with confidence and presence, listening deeply to the others who are on that stage with you, respecting the words. All of that serves me well and when I’m wobbly for whatever reason in a show, it is her voice - her instruction that steadies me. A great mentor reaches beyond teaching about craft and gives life lessons as well and Rita, lemme say it again, was a great mentor. As a result, not only on stage but off I am reminded of and guided by those lessons almost daily.
Here’s a little character study I did on her last time we met. It’s the beginning of something. I’m not sure what form it will take but it’s definitely a beginning…
So once again, and please bear with me as it's probably not for the last time, Rita thank you!
Photo by Marylee Zurick
Tall with shoulder-length grey hair swept back from her prominent forehead and sparkling deep-set eyes, behind her large framed tortoiseshell glasses Rita was always beautifully and colourfully dressed.
She favoured many shades of a solitary color and many textures on a theme. This particular day she was immersed in greens, a forest’s worth of green from her chunky jewellery to her billowing silk scarf, her soft wool beret to her layered clothing.
I couldn’t identify at first if the sea foam froth about her legs was a long peasant skirt, then ah no, I see they’re wide legged pants topped with a leather belt, an enormous jade buckle echoing the green in her dangling earrings with the sound turned up just a bit. In her oversized olive cashmere sweater, the soft sage silk shirt beneath it, a mint scarf tied artfully about her neck she made me think of a French woman covered in leaves, her brown suede boots adding to the image of Rita as tree.
Her focused expression served only to magnify the resemblance. Her lined face brought to mind wrinkles carved from wisdom rather than from bitterness and her bright lively eyes might have been birds in the branches.
As I watched her take in the room around her, her self possession was striking and she projected an aura of sophistication yet playfulness.
She smiled widely with her impish grin as she caught sight of me and headed in my direction. Unhurriedly she ambled towards me stopped often by her admirers each of which she greeted with a smile and a word, often with her head thrown back in laughter. If integrity, kindness and artistry might be bottled it would smell like Rita Kotter.
In conversation, she is forthright and intensely curious. Even if one did not know Rita one would assume that she was very capable indeed in whatever her chosen field was, it was well apparent that she was passionate. There was an air of mystery around her and it was patently obvious that she was an artist of some sort. Though born in Superior, Wisconsin you could smell the Boulder, Colorado on her as soon as she walked in the room. A holdover from Boulder’s heyday as a hippie haven—Not so much the earth mother Boulderite as what some would describe as the airy-fairy Boulderite. A paradox perhaps- as she also seemed a cosmopolitan urbane sophisticate. A well travelled, well read, educated grown-up kinda hippie, but hippieish all the same.
Photo by Marylee Zurick