Sunday, August 12, 2012

Interview with Karen Jane DeWitt


Did you have a nickname as a kid?

My mom always called me Karen Jane, or just Jane, which is my middle name. I thought it was cute. Jane was my mom's best friend growing up and she was the polar opposite of mom in every way. She was a very live-in-the-moment, free spirit. They met in nursing school, and she was about 10 years older than my mom and I guess they hit it off. I remember going to her house at Lake Kickapoo and I'd stay with her. She didn't have a/c and she let the spiders roam free and would tell me the spiders were my friends and read me books at night. I had a lot of fun with her. She passed away almost eight years ago, but I feel proud to be named after her. She was a really neat lady, had been all over the world and met people overseas and hosted them at her lake house. I wish she was still here today.

What do you think it is that makes your relationship with your husband so strong?

Well there's a lot of things. I think there was a strong attraction in the beginning. I met him and instantly felt like this was going to be a person worth knowing, I felt something that you can't even describe. Just yeah, just yeah, you know? And then being together, we were very opposite in a lot of ways. I was more of a structured, needs lots of comforts, organized person and he was a musician failing out of college, free wheeling kind of guy, but also just so genuine, just very grounded and genuine. He had this amazing intriguing presence, where you just knew this person was a good person, all the way down. I guess that was new for me. I had never been around someone with such gravity. 

How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself, um, I don't know. I feel like a really optimistic person and I see the value in saying yes and going for things and believing something is possible. But there's a little bit of a darkness in me that I get pulled into maybe a little too often.

What do you think your tattoos say about you or what do you want them to say about you?

Well, I don't really know. They all have specific references to my life and I don't expect other people to understand that or to relate to it and I don't explain them to people too often. I remember thinking once you have one that's not easy to cover up it's almost like you're in a club or something. 

What are your thoughts about self-expression and image?

I think a lot of people have something to express, and then feel scared to express it. With these tattoos, I wanted to prove that I wasn't afraid to express that. You hear a lot of people say, "Well what if I like that thing and I get a tattoo and ten years later I don't like that tattoo anymore?" But my answer to that is that you're still the same person that liked that thing ten years ago. You can't escape that person that you were. It's like a way of saying, "I fully commit to myself." 

Improv has been very changing in your life, and it has become something you do a lot of. Why do you keep doing it?

It's almost like an addiction. Like tattoos. It's like creating magic. It really is. When you connect with a group of people on stage and then create this amazing thing and then you walk away from it and it's never to be done again... even if you record it, you're not capturing whatever it was. You might be capturing this two-dimensional memory of it but unless you were in the audience or on stage experiencing it in that moment, it's gone forever. There's something really freeing about that. To put so much commitment into something that disappears as soon as it happens... it's just magic. 

Are you a secret admirer of anyone in the improv community? 

There's a lot of people that blow my mind. Like Craig Kotfas. He has a pun machine in his brain. He can turn anything into a joke in a split second and it completely boggles my mind. It's so far from my ability it wows me every time. I'm not fast or clever. I can be genuine and in the moment but I'm not quick like that. 

Do you have a favorite joke?

The only joke that I can think of is a stupid knock knock joke my mom used to tell me when I was little. Knock knock. Who's there? Mascara. Mascara who? I mascara you! 

What outlet does poetry serve for you?

I usually write when I have a tugging feeling of some sort and it helps ease that feeling. I don't usually write when I'm overwhelmed with joy. Usually poetry comes at a time when I'm having a feeling I'd rather not have or thinking of a person or some situation that is confusing or intriguing to me. It may take me a while or a few starts to get on a topic I care to talk about, but it'll just happen and then I have a poem. Have you been fishing? It's like one of those fish radars, where you can see them coming. It's like oh, there's a fish about to be here so you throw your rod out into the water to try to reel it in and a lot of times you don't get it but sometimes you do. Maybe if I fished more often I would get bigger fish more often!

Your Dad died eight years ago. What words from your dad do you hear the most in your mind?

Well, to take it literally, he was a grouchy man and he and my mom didn't get along very well. So I hear little things in my head, like when my mom would cook him a meal and ask him how it was he would say, "Well there's nothing wrong with it." It's always those little quips since he was a man of few words. Or when he would babysit me and my friend when we were 4 or 5 years old, instead of getting up and disciplining us he would just sit in the living room on the couch and bang on the wall and say, "Shut up ya goddamn sons of bitches!" We thought he was so funny, though. I feel a lot of connection to the person he was to me.

What are you most afraid of?

I am afraid of emotional instability. Perspective is everything and I'm deathly afraid of losing that perspective. Becoming depressed, and feeling like there's nothing to live for, which is ridiculous, there's always something to live for. But I know what it's like to feel like everything is shit even though your rational voice is telling you that life is good. 

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