What is the nature of silence? That question loomed over Nikki Weaver and Matthew Kerrigan as they made a list of moments characterized by either a literal or metaphorical absence of noise, which included Neil Armstrong striding across the lunar surface and the respective elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
The brainstorming blossomed into Weaver and Kerrigan's short film Sound of Silence. With its fusion of dance, dialogue, dreaminess and therapy, the film defies categorization—not unlike Weaver, who is a yoga instructor, a founder of Portland Playhouse and the executive director of On the Inside, a nonprofit arts group dedicated to empowering incarcerated women.
With the recent release of Sound of Silence, now seemed the perfect time to ask Weaver about the people and passions that have shaped her excitingly eclectic journey as an activist, artist and athlete.
I started running competitively when I was 12 in Sydney, Australia, which is where I grew up. I ran at state level, and then I ran in the 2000 Sydney Olympic trials and I missed the team by just three-tenths of a second, and so that was sort of my running world colliding with my theater life. I got on a plane and I flew to Vietnam and thought, "Do I want running to be my life?" and realized that I enjoyed it, but I didn't love the competition and didn't want to go any further. That's kind of when I dove more fully into theater.
2. Coffee with my husband
We love going to Albina Press, which is just in our neighborhood. I almost always drink an Americano with a little bit of soy milk, and he almost always drinks a cappuccino with whole milk. We often sit on our front porch and watch neighbors walk by. It's almost always the quiet time before the kids are awake and the day kicks into full gear.
Even if I'm up till 9 or 1 the night before, even if I've been drinking a lot, I still make myself get up and go [watch the sun rise], and I always look forward to it, even if it means I have to nap or drink a bunch of water later. I think it's a reminder that you can start again in any moment every day—and especially during COVID, I'm like, "Oh yeah, I need that reminder."
4. Hot baths
We have an old clawfoot tub that we painted bright blue when we bought our old Portland home. I'm a huge lover of candles, so I use lots of candles, and as many essential oils as I can gather and dump in there. What I like to do is lock the door so my husband and my kids will give me space.
5. Books, right now Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown
What's interesting is just listening to how [Brown] speaks about how we can shape and change our world, just through different forms of leadership. I think for years, I felt super guilty if I was picking [any book] up that wasn't theater-related. And now my favorite things to read are memoirs mostly. I've been sort of slowly thumbing through Ruth Bader Ginsburg's book, because in my head, I don't want her to die just yet. I feel like if I read it too quickly, then she'll be gone for real.
6. Creating work
Portland's always felt like the creative entrepreneur's dreamscape to me—that you can arrive in our city and make anything. But I remember, years ago when we first moved here, I was teaching so much yoga that I sort of thought all the theater companies around town didn't recognize me as an artist. It felt like an identity crisis, you know?
7. My daughters and Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble's co-artistic director
Margot and Elliette, they're my two daughters. Margot's 8, Elliette's 6. They keep me on my toes in a daily way—lots of surprise, lots of arguments and joyful moments. And then Cristi Miles, she's a wonderful theater artist in town. Often I go and see [PETE's] shows and then afterwards, we'll hang out and she'll say, "What did you think?" and I'll be like, "I thought it was beautiful and I didn't understand or see any kind of storyline." I'm glad they're here and I'm so glad that Cristi always challenges my ideas, too.
SEE IT: Sound of Silence streams at portlandplayhouse.org/shows-events/sound-of-silence.