Radhika Rao is an actor, improviser, storyteller, director, writer, and arts educator/consultant. She has performed theater in the United States and abroad.
Courtney Walsh (left), Radhika Rao and John Steele Jr. in Cutting Ball Theater’s “Timon of Athens.” Photo Credit: Rob Melrose / Cutting Ball Theater
Radhika has an Ed.D from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and specializes in creating curriculum that integrates theater into diverse learning situations for various populations and organizations. She works as a communications coach with Life Theatre Services, Leela Improv, Peers & Players, University of San Francisco, and Stanford University.
Rebekah Dial (left) and Radhika Rao perform an improv class exercise at Intersection for the Arts. Photo credit: Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle
In our conversation, we talked about weaving theater into every part of our lives. Radhika talks about her theater experience she had in college in India – learning Shakespeare and classics as well as new playwrights. We discuss the ways in which Radhika has always been drawn to theater.
Radhika is a ray of sunshine. She talks about the ups and downs of her path but she still appreciates the overall journey. Radhika shares her experience finding Buddhism and connects that to the strength that keeps her positive and moving forward.
Radhika Rao as Lady Macbeth, Teddy Spencer as as the title character in “Macbeth.” Photo credit : Gregg LeBlanc / Arabian Shakespeare Festival
Radhika is excited about her upcoming projects. She teaches improv and she directs plays and one woman shows in the Bay Area. And recently, she acted in an episode of the Amazon series, “Hiraeth,” available now.
Check out Radhika’s website radhikarao.org to support her future performance and educational adventures!
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Download the FREE HC Universal Network app for Android and iDevices or visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com and join the fun.
(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 2/19/2020)
NEW Feature –> TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, yes, but why listeners? This is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Episode 206 of yes but why podcast featuring San Francisco based performer director and educator, Radhika Rao. But first, a bit about our sponsor. This episode of spy podcast is sponsored by Audible. You can get your free audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audible trial comm forward slash Yes, but why? Guys, we’re all at home. Audible has something to entertain you or enrich yourself with. Learn to garden. Dig deeper into history, read Wuthering Heights and get it in a totally different way. No matter how you’re spending your time in quarantine. Audible has something for you. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android Kindle or mp3 player. Download your free audio book today at audible trial comm forward slash yes but why This week’s guest is Radhika Rao. Radhika is an actor, improviser, storyteller director, writer and arts educator out of San Francisco, California. Radhika was such a lovely person to talk to, and so well adjusted. She tells stories about the ups and downs she’s experienced, but she’s so positive about it. She was really great and honestly, revisiting this episode to edit it was another breath of fresh air. Things can be dicey these days. But guests like Radhika Give me the strength to be excited again. I now present to you Yes, but why Episode 206 Radhika Rao on trusting yourself and committing to your own path. I’m Amy Jordan, and this is yes, buddy. Why podcast? Yeah.
I think I did one place in elementary school. And then I think I was part of one musical production in high school. And just to give you some context, I grew up in India, and I grew up at a time when schools were very, very academic and focused on academics. I think it’s gone now there’s much more art I think back in classrooms, so but there was no focus on art. Really, and so I but those just those two experiences and just watching movies I think gave me the gave me that that feeling that kind of confidence that I really like to perform, but I started performing in college, I joined the drama club Went to a women’s school. And I joined the drama club there. And that’s where I started performing. And then after I graduated, I decided to join a professional theatre company. So I would say starting age 18 is when I started doing theater regularly.
Did you want to do it before that you just didn’t have the opportunity? You’re Yeah, yeah. I am sure I wanted. I knew I wanted to act. I didn’t think I had a sense of what theatre was so much. Yeah. Because, you know, my parents didn’t come from the art world. So I wasn’t really clued in, but I knew I wanted to act, but no opportunity. You know, nothing, you know. Yeah. So what was the drama club all about? Were they doing Shakespeare were you guys doing? It’s India. So you know, we you know, so like a lot of traditional Indian. Exactly. So.
So, to give you an example, yes, we did do Shakespeare is done all over the world. My first experience of Shakespeare was Julius Caesar in Hindi, which is amazing. And I think I played like Porsche. So the first time I ever did Shakespeare was in Hindi, the first time I ever saw Shakespeare was in like a dialect of Hindi and it was a musical of Midsummer Night’s Dream. But beyond that, like we did a lot of like popular, you know, Indian plays, contemporary plays, some classical plays. And then we also did like a lot of famous playwrights like, you know, are, are translated into Indian languages. So I did like Neil Simon and Eugene O’Neill. And yeah, just think things like that, that you you know, did in like the local language, and there’s, there’s English theater as well. But English theater in India is done by Rich people, and it’s really like very privileged and weird kind of theater. But the Hindi theatres really authentic. So, yeah, that’s how he created there’s a
Access to like, current playwrights that are working though like, even at a collegiate level, like, I don’t think I read a play of an of a person that wasn’t hundreds of years dead until long after I got out of college. I mean, what’s
funny? Yeah, no, we are living like they were living playwrights that we were studying. And then also we have sort of a rich traditional street theatre, which is where you it’s theater in the round, but you basically take over occupy a space a public space, and and there’s a few like maybe percussion or few instruments that people have but everybody gets into circle claps gets into a circle. And then in the round, you perform a play that speaks to the current like political milieu and you make a statement. So activism also happened to the form of theater, and you get a permit from the police or whatever, and then you just like occupy a space and talk about healthcare or occupy a space Talk about women’s rights. And it’s through theater and, and it can be improvisational and that the audience can talk back to you and you have to respond in the moment. And because it’s like in the round and it’s fluid, like the audience can, you know, come in and out, like it’s very interesting and you can go into the audience and there’s no stage so I guess some of my theater there was improvisational, even though I hadn’t done improv, you know, I got into that later on in life.
Yeah, yeah. The political, you know, occupying of a space, something that happened, like with your teachers, like, were they like, this is a style that we’re going to work on now. And then you like go and do that? Or was that just something that happened and like something that you noticed since you were now in a more theatrical state of mind?
Oh, that’s a I don’t think that I actually saw a street theater show because they happen in certain parts of the city. I come from New Delhi. So that’s like, that’s the capital. So I but they happen closer to the political centers, you know, and where all the political activity happens. And I was more on the outskirts. I don’t think I saw play when I started doing theaters when I really, you know, became part of this movement. But I didn’t go to school for theater. I went to school for psychology. I just joined the drama club. So I’ve never for sure,
right? Yeah. Was there even a better major available?
Um, there’s one school that you go to, not a Bachelor’s theater major, but a Masters that you can get asked to do your bachelor’s. And, and there there was like, at that time, there was one school. And it was like a state school and there was Yeah, it was like, it was it was once for the entire country. And I didn’t get it. I tried. I didn’t get in. I wasn’t good enough to be one of the billion Indians to get into 30. See, you know, to be one of the 30 lucky few No.
One school is kind of I mean, I mean, I know friends that are sad. They didn’t get into Yale grad school and it’s like, that’s one of you know, hundreds of theater. Yeah, I could have gone to so it’s like one school. Like every school I feel like you don’t have to feel bad. No crazy. I was fine.
It was crazy odds. Plus, there were quotas for different states, you know, for different states, those quotas and I was from Delhi, which is like, it’s like saying you’re from New York or LA like there’s a dime a dozen actor
so your chances are way worse
than way way way worse, way worse, and I don’t think I was ready for it. You know, I don’t even think I was bad grade like, you know, I wasn’t that I wasn’t that kid who was that theater kid like nah.
Yeah, right on. So when you got out of college were you like all into psychology Did you like get a job and in that and know what to call it?
So I really wanted to do theater and there was no programs. I tried to get into the school and you know, I didn’t get it and I was heartbroken. But I didn’t want to get into psychology and I really liked human behavior. But I didn’t think that I could listen to somebody for that long. And I didn’t. I didn’t think psychology could make you happy. You know, I really felt like psychology couldn’t make a difference. And that was my experience with psychology. You know? And I, you know, if positive psychology had been around at that time, I would have probably been more amenable to being a psychologist, but I just didn’t want to sit around and listen and, and, but, you know, 20 years later, it’s so funny because I do a lot of improv where it’s all about listening. I’m a teacher, it’s all about listening. I’m practicing Buddhist, were like, it’s all about like taking in other people. But at that time, I didn’t want to do it. So I joined a theater group. Yeah, I joined a theater group and I just said I’m gonna I didn’t even pay. But I stayed to my, to my amazing Indian parents great dismay, wonderful was a doctor. The other one is an engineer. I was like, I’m gonna join this group but they were amazing enough that they were like, okay and but I just stayed at home and didn’t make any money and I was part of this theater group for a while and eventually I got a job teaching in an educational company using some of these theater skills in a school but I mooched off my parents for a bit
right away you started teaching like that’s that was part of your, you know, creative journey was to immediately start teaching Hmm, that’s awesome.
I didn’t want to my grandmother was a teacher and I didn’t think it was a great profession. But then when you’re when you’re an artist, and you’re broke, you get into teaching and my how it happened was a friend of mine was Supposed to teach a puppetry workshop for an Outward Bound program and she got to drop out because she was getting really big and getting gigs. And she said, would I like to teach? And I said, Yes, but I was so scared. And anyway, but that’s how I got into it. And I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing. I, I don’t know if I know how to teach, but I think I like this. So it scared me and excited me and gave me a sense of purpose. So yeah, pretty much like within the first year of me, like really becoming a professional like theatre person. I started to teach and integrate theatre and learning situations. And you know, that is kind of that’s the path I’ve been on.
That’s pretty great. So tell me, tell me about your your experiences up top. You’re in the troop. you’re performing. You’re living with your parents still. Yeah. forward from there. One assumes you’re not still living with your parents. No, no, he decided to mine the bear You
know, he was way more, you know, crazy. Just to give you a cultural context living with your parents isn’t a big deal in India. So there was
that. Yeah, be honest, I feel like everybody lives with their parents here too. So
definitely the case in the bay area where real estate is so expensive. But, um, I was like, 21, right, and I just, you know, new news fresh out of college. But I think I definitely did want to make my own money. So, you know, as I started, you know, I started finding these jobs that I can remember how they came my way but the one big life event that happened was when I was 22. And I was actually really unhappy in this theater group because there was a lot of toxic relationships and artists can be complicated and I kind of reached an existential crisis where I wasn’t enjoying myself. And and I just said, Wow, I told my life was about performing and if this isn’t, if I can’t, if my life if I’m not enjoying what I thought was my dream then, you know, what’s the purpose of life and I think I fell into this like really deep existential crisis and, and I think I was probably borderline depressed like undiagnosed depressed. But at that time, one of my friends, who was she joined the same group that was causing me a lot of unhappiness. And she joined the same group, but somehow she was thriving, and I was failing. And, and she had been trying to introduce me to Buddhism for many, many, you know, years. And, you know, sometimes to make a big shift in your life, you, you know, you know, should have said the fan, but, you know, I saw that it was actually her attitude, and you know, her life conditional lifestyle that was so elevated that people didn’t mess with her the way they did with me. So long story short, like I started practicing Buddhism, which essentially asks you a question, it says, Who do you want to be in the world? And it’s not about the environment, it’s about, you know, and when you change, everything changes. So when I asked myself that question, It became very clear that I loved teaching, I loved performing. And and I was really passionate about creating a better world, you know, and, and world peace, if you will, I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I just wanted people to get along. And I come from a very diverse country with various religions cast all kinds of stuff and also a violent country because we, you know, you know, we couldn’t there’s so much conflict, I mean, similar to America in so many ways. And so I kind of started like really chanting about that, and through many things that you know, you could say coincidences, but I thought it was like the universe working. I got opportunities to teach but also, a friend of mine came back from Harvard, having done a program in theater and education in education. And he said, You’ve got a gold here, and I was like, okay, and I you know, I say, apply I basis Looking into education programs, because theater programs don’t offer don’t offer scholarships, and I didn’t have any financial means. And not only did I start looking at theater education programs, I looked at doctoral programs because there was no funding at that time in India to send anybody to for a master’s program. So I started looking to doctor programs, and I started writing applications and how to apply theater and education to create world peace. And I applied to a few schools got rejected by all but got accepted into Harvard. So that’s America.
We that’s how you got to America was harmed. Yes.
Yeah. Wait, I, I did my I have a you know, Doctor, education.
You don’t just have a doctorate in education. You have a doctorate in education from
Yep. Earlier when you’re talking about how there was this school you really wanted to go to and it didn’t work out for you. Well, I am from Boston and I applied Harvard. And I did not get in. So that was my thing. That was the part of when I was 18. And I was like, yeah, whatever news like nope. Thanks so much other person from our from Boston. We don’t care. But
I know, it was so crazy. I you know,
what did you do? Like what were you know, you know, like, Wow,
it was amazing. I mean, I it was it was, it’s very complicated. I don’t know that I don’t know about undergrad because I went to grad school. And but I’ll say that anybody who goes to Harvard has a very complicated relationship with Harvard. It’s not like oh my god, I loved Harvard. Like in the Bay Area, anybody who went to like, you know, Berkeley, went to Cal State Berkeley loves Berkeley, you know, UC Berkeley, excuse me, loves Berkeley. There’s something about Berkeley like you just are loyal. Everybody went to Harvard is a little bit like You know, it’s always complicated. You can never really say you’re from Harvard because every time you tell somebody like dropping a bomb, you know, one of the first dating advices I got in America was uh, don’t tell them you’re from don’t drop the H bomb. You know, cuz dudes get intimidated by by dad. I know. But it was I mean it was I went to the poor school you know education divinity and the school of public health of the poor schools. So we’re like literally even on like, we’re the smallest school we don’t get that we don’t get a lot of scholarships. We don’t have fun damage funding, but we’re really happy people the teacher, it’s a school full of like people interested in teaching. So they’re committing to a poor life. But it was really really you know, that school was was probably the one of the happiest places the rest of Harvard can be full of like, super intelligent, but really emotionally dysfunctional people. I think the School of Education is probably one of the happiest schools but it was kind of crazy like to be at this place where you know that these dudes like rowing and all of this like white library, the biggest library, you know, in America and, and you just continually you just ask yourself what you’re doing there. But to be very honest, it wasn’t the most humanistic education. And when I was there, which is between 2003 and nine, my program became less and less humanistic. So they shut down the Native American program, they shut down the Gender Studies program because I guess, you know, we’re equal now and we don’t really need to fight you know, women don’t really have anything to fight for. And they systematically got rid of faculty, they were working in race, class and gender. So I came at a really interesting time but I believe the purpose for me going there was to kind of know that you know, Harvard or power or privilege or people who go to these elite institutions don’t necessarily change the world they might become president but they may not change the world. You know, the, the country is full of like, exhale Princeton, Harvard people, but they aren’t. You know, they think of their heads but now with their hearts enough, you know, so was interesting. It was complicated. I got out in time. And I wrote a good dissertation on how to use theater in building, you know, youth citizenship, which is like basically talking about high school theater programs and how it makes young people belong. And I studied, particularly program at Cambridge, Rindge and Latin, which everybody knows is where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck went to school. You know, but it was it was really amazing because it was a very, very diverse school with a rich history and there are many new immigrants there are many like kids of color, and I wouldn’t feel like society just gave them the message that they didn’t belong, that they, you know, you have you might have a passport but you didn’t belong. And so they did this program, this theater program, which is based off of like theater of the oppressed. And Anna Deavere Smith ethno drama, which is basically where you go into your community and do interviews, and you record those interviews and then you perform those interviews. And so they went in as youth citizens and the mayor of Cambridge, their program paid for these young people to be part of this program. So instead of working at like your local fears or Kohl’s or Macy’s in the summer, they were part of this program. And they put this plan together based on experiences of real people in Cambridge and talking about gentrification, social justice, violence in the community, you know, and they put the show up in front of the community in front of Cambridge people. And then as youth leaders, they basically, you know, had dialogues with the community. So it was an incredible that my dissertation is based off of that, and what happens when young people engage in, in a theatrical process that is geared towards like social justice and empowerment, how they start to feel like they belong in a community. And so I mean, yeah, what is what does citizenship look like beyond voting because they were all under 18 these kids, but, you know, what does it look like if you can’t vote, you know, which is, you know, a question that I continue to ask myself because I have a green card and I’m not a citizen yet I filed for citizen. But I’m not I technically can’t vote, you know? And so but what does it mean? Does that not mean, I’ve lived in this country for 16 and a half years? In what ways do I participate in American democracy? So yeah, that’s what I ended up studying there.
That’s really great. I really love this idea of like, giving the voice to the youth because, you know, they’re at that point in their lives, where it’s really important for them to say what they’re thinking and what matters to them. Like, it’s not always, you know, we don’t always feel strong enough or fearless enough as we do when we’re, you know, in high school. So it’s, it’s important to empower them early. I am. I think that that is really, really amazing. And what a cool thing to do a dissertation on.
It was really great. It was really great that that was the last year of my program over there was really happy because I ended up you can teach a class also, as an, you know, as an later stage, you know, doctoral students. So I ended up teaching a class about, you know, this topic and I also ended up like doing a great dissertation and I played a leading I find, I was so tired because I for five years, I hadn’t done theater, but I was studying theater, but I hadn’t been in a play. So I think out of my frustration, I auditioned and I was cast as the lead in a show just a small like company in Boston, but I ended up like doing that too. And so I felt very victorious.
Yeah, you did it. Oh,
yeah. I did it. All.
And then I got out of there and I’m like, I’m not going into academia, I can deal with this. I can do this. Like I need to go back into the classrooms. I need to teach me to act. I need to go back to my roots, you know, and you know, and I had, in my second semester, fallen in love with, you know, a person who was also at Harvard. And he, by that time had moved to San Diego to become a professor of literature. And so I kind of followed him to San Diego and then he got a job. And, you know, in San Francisco and that’s how we moved. You know, that’s how we moved out here. So I got I got, I let patriarchy move me to California. But, but I’m not complaining and then our marriage fell apart, which was really fun to have you.
Yeah, but at least I, I ended up in San Francisco.
Yeah, pretty good.
Yeah. Well, you know, I like that you say the patriarchy moved you out? You know, because you just because you move to be in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean it was patriarchy. I mean, it sounds like you needed to change it up. And as a person who is originally from Boston, I know that the tone of that city can be a little intense. And yeah, I probably needed to move anywhere. So when he was like, hey, do you want to be gorgeous San Diego, you were like, Ah, yeah, I’m going. If I don’t have to hear another guy yell in an accent that’s deeply disturbing. I gotta get out.
You know what the, the funny thing was, I really love Boston because I come from a city that’s like 10 times less friendly than Boston. So when I came to Boston, I was like, Whoa, this is great. And it was I actually didn’t want to move, you know, and I say patriarchy, because so often women move because men are paid more money and men have the more lucrative jobs and so we give up our lives, but I really didn’t want to move but at the same time, you’re right, I needed I needed the sunshine, but I hated San Diego for the first six months because I was like, wow, going from a liberal to kind of the conservatively so I was like, why is it sunny all the time? Why are people smiling all the time?
Baby Boston is right for you. I don’t know.
No, not anymore. Not anymore. I am so California. But the funniest thing was, you know, I had an Indian. I mean, I have an Indian accent. But when I came to California people are like, Oh, you sound like you’re from Boston.
I had a boss, Boston, Indian accent.
They’re like, Oh,
are you like, Oh, God, get me out of here.
I’ve never heard you’re so funny. I’ve never heard anybody in the world say that Boston seemed friendly. My Yeah, it’s funny is my token story is right after college, I moved to New York City. So when I moved to New York City, I was like, wow, everyone here is so nice and friendly. Like what are you talking about? I was like, Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to mention I’m from Boston. So, New York is like, Oh, look at how gentle and sweet they are to each other like Austin, which let’s be clear is a magical Wonderland. It is. Yeah. I mean, certainly compared to Boston in New York. Yeah. As San Francisco is compared to, you know, yeah. Delhi and then Boston. Yeah. Oh, man. So when you finally got to the Bay Area, yeah, really? Were you able to nail this whole time that you’ve been going to Harvard? You have you been still practicing and getting inspiration and strength from your Buddhism? Yeah, yeah. It was like so that was such a big deal that like sort of got you on the path. Right. I wonder, you know, did it maintain for you while you were there?
Absolutely. It was a source of great support. And, you know, I was I was quite unhappy too much of myself. time at Harvard because I, you know, a lot of things that happened over there that just weren’t amenable, like I what I wanted to study like, you know, on the professors are leaving in that field. So, you know, if I belong I felt very very sick we sometimes call it a Harvard sickness, you know that people are just so there’s just that kind of like drive and unbalanced lifestyle and makes people sick. So, you know, I felt sick for about six months, and I just take a break from my program, but through that, through all of that, who doesn’t give me so much strength and just, you know, you know, just they gave me that kind of confidence that I just needed to finish the program and make the best of fate and in even in moments of strife, like so much value can be created. It’s never, you know, actually, when you face adversity, that’s when you create, that’s when you grow the most in your life. So, yeah, so that absolutely there’s there’s a community there and the Buddhist organization that I belong to call the Soka Gakkai International. They exist everywhere, even in Austin, and so You know, I was just able to adjust a join there. And but yeah, yeah, it was, you know, it was there and it still is a big part of my life and how I, you know, approach the world and how I deal with any difficult moments or how I appreciate the good moments.
Yeah, yeah. But yeah, since you’ve gotten to the Bay Area, and have things gotten, I mean, I guess after the tumultuous end of the relationship was, were you able to find like a new community, you know, or, you know, like, how did it go for you, you move to San Fran, relationship. Not awesome. Yeah, you got to figure it out. What happened then? Yeah.
Yeah, that was, um, you know, it’s so interesting what I am, I think my marriage ended 2015 so it’s been five years now. It’s incredible. And that was also like a really crazy time. In America, that was like, you know, we still had a clinically seen president, you know, in the White House. But like now it’s like, sorry, I don’t know what your politics are, but he’s talking from. Yeah. Yeah. But, you know, and so, but it was also like, you know, I think it was a crazy time in America. But I think when that fell apart, I was actually really thriving in my professional career. And I almost feel it was because I was really booming and I was starting to grow, and I might work was getting a lot of attention in a way that it hadn’t gotten before and San Diego and Boston that I think something sometimes relationships fall apart, you know, because of that, oh, my ex might have thought like, you know, she’s you know, yeah, maybe maybe this is not the life I want with a performing artist. I don’t know what his thinking was. And you know, but I basically got dumped. And, and it was really, it was really interesting, but I said yes to that. Like, talk about like You know, just saying yes. Yes. And and, and I think that yes was coming from a really deep conviction. There’s something when sometimes your life just gives you these messages and you, you know, if you tune in and follow them, it’s really great. So I think when, when a relationship falls apart sometimes like the just two people are just with each other. But there were these people in my periphery have always valued friends. I’ve always valued friends and I’ve always prided myself on being a good friend, but I think when that marriage fell apart it almost those people that were in the periphery came into the focus and it’s almost like my family grew from a family of two to like a family of like, 100 you know, and so I was actually because I was a performing artist and this is 2015. So the economy is shit like the real estate is is off like real estate is like bad and San Francisco. rent is crazy. There’s not that many great paying jobs for artists or teachers. jobs are being created. Like, it was so bad, but I ended up what ended up happening is I did move out, but shortly after I couldn’t pay rent anymore. And I ended up living with friends for a year and a half I lived in, I moved nine times in a year and a half. And I had, you know, that’s when I discovered how many great friends I have, you know, because I actually lived very comfortably and always had a room of my own, you know, and crashed with friends, you know? So it pays to be Indian because there’s a lot of software engineer friends I had, you know, who were in the Bay Area, and that’s why I’m like kids don’t do a BFA program then you only know poor people.
Okay, I mean, we’re all gonna pay student loans just get a yes degree it’ll be better,
just this better. Theater. Yeah. So I you know, that was a great experience where like, community really grew for me, and, and a big part of my community. There was a Buddhist community and then there was a theatre performing community and that The improv community and the teaching community. And you know, and then friends who had moved from school that happened to be in the area or from college, and, you know, they just came suddenly and to sharp relief, you know, they were just there, you know, so it was really amazing. And so for a year and a half, I didn’t pay rent in the Bay Area. And so I was able to take these artistic risks of my life and really grow my artistic and professional like resume and career without like worrying too much about rent, which is sometimes half of our income in the Bay Area. But if not half, like 30 to 40% and because of that, I think I really solidified I, you know, I think, yeah, I just I really, because when my marriage fell apart, my I wasn’t making that much money. My ex was so I wondered if I needed to take on a regular job, but I just never did. I just kept continuing with my passion and doing this, you know, this kind of like, I don’t even know what to call it like Pre of stuff that I do, you know, and I just I just gained great conviction and I’m like, dang, if I can be single and live in San Francisco, and you know, and survive, I live in a rent controlled apartment, I’m able to manifest that. And you know what? I just need to keep following my dreams and keep going on my path. Like, I don’t need to backtrack.
You have a great perspective on what’s happened through the jury. Yeah, that’s really
Yeah, I do think my ex every day because it was it was painful. But you know, like, these are Buddhism, this is a Buddhist perspective that in people cause you pain, if you really, you know, you know, can be a good friends because he really wasn’t the partner was going to support the life that I wanted, you know, and I would have Yeah, there’s a part of you that you kind of that I was hiding, being with him that I didn’t realize and so it just let me just blossom so
Yeah, I do. I do. Thank you. I really I do think and and for that. Yeah. Yeah, and I’m so much happier that I have no, like, I don’t have any pain or any regrets from that, you know, I get dumped a lot. Because I think sometimes I don’t know my own worth. So I get dumped a lot. And I have like a lot of confidence in the universe. I’m like, Oh, okay. even think it was good enough.
Like, it’s fine. Turns out that guy, wasn’t it.
So yeah, it wasn’t it, it wasn’t it. And it always happens that it’s right. You know, obviously, I’m constantly working on myself, but I think that I, you know, it’s also not about working on yourself. It’s about just being who you are. And, you know, finding that person was able to, you know, be with you the way you are. I think I’m pretty awesome. So
yeah, that was that’s, that’s that’s kind of it.
Yeah. I also like to think about how like, you mentioned it earlier, the idea that like, you know, you have to want to have a certain kind of lifestyle with a person. You have to be cool with having the kind of job that they do. You know, it’s like I’m sorry. Sorry that I don’t have the kind of security that brings in money every week, or every other week, like, right so smattering here and there, what I’m doing what I want to do, can you handle being part of that, like in some people, like, that’s a really interesting part that I’ve noticed, as you know, friends of mine of coupled or, you know, and it’s like, well, you know, that that person is an artist through and through, they’re, like, never gonna stop doing that. So you can’t just expect them to, I don’t know, get a nine to five, that’s just not the world that they could do.
No, and it’s, um, yeah, exactly. And I think it’s, it’s part of this is growing up, right, like, I met my, you know, then partner when I was, you know, just turned 27. And our relationship fell apart when I was 38. You know, and so you’re a different person then and you don’t even have I didn’t even have the language. I think when you’re in your mid 20s, sometimes you’re just looking for the one and you know, It’s just a very different dynamic and but it’s interesting being in the second phase of my life where I, you know, I have language and I know what I want and what I deserve. And it’s like you’re just there with the eyes that are way more open than when I was younger. Like, I just didn’t have that kind of perspective.
A lot of the glowing going on.
Yeah, it’s a lot better and having the perspective to look back at various adventures that I’ve had. And, and, you know, know how I felt about them at the time. And then, like, recently, I’ve had a few moments where, like, I’ll think about something that I did in my past, and Lady Amy has is like, Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I did such a thing. But at the time, I remember, you know, being like, this is crazy, but you’re gonna do this and it’s gonna be okay. And then I’m like, Oh, my God. Oh, my stars older me says right, but that’s why younger people Do Wilder things. It’s amazing the distance we can have from the mistakes that we made such that we can learn from them and actually become really truly better people. Yeah, in that scenario, you know, yeah. So right now in your life, and I know that this won’t be released, like tomorrow or whatever, but like, right, right, it’s the exciting thing that you’re working on right now. Like, what’s the project that you’re most excited about? At this point? Yeah.
So many, and that’s generally like, you know, that just generally the pattern of my life that that I’m excited, like, last year, I wasn’t, but I’m so happy to say I’m excited. I’m inspired. So I’ve been acting for what 20 years of my life now, but this year, I’m starting to I’m directing two really wonderful pieces. And, you know, one of them is for a festival that’s called less rights, you know, as a lesbian rights and it’s at at the theater called three girls theater. And I’m directing a, a women’s, you know, a two two person show between which is, you know, a play about a non binary Gen Z or you know, college student and the other is about and the other person plays her grandma was a lesbian grandma and it’s all about like, language changing and gender binaries and who fought for what and you know. And so it’s it’s really cool. I’m working on directing that I’m directing a one woman show with a friend of mine in it. I am a player of mine that has traveled to many cities, including Houston is going to is being revived and it’s showing at this theater called called v space, which is a dance drama about an emperor. It’s a South Asian Emperor, it’s a Persian Emperor so migrates to, you know, to India and becomes the most you know, famous First Lady ever And so it’s a big feminist piece from a South Asian perspective. It’s a dance drama and I do like 15 voices for the dancer who’s the front of the stage. Super excited about that. I just finished shooting an episode for a series called Hidayat, which is about immigrants in America. And the first episode is on on amazon prime. It’s spelled h AI r e th and I think I’m in the second episode, if I’m not mistaken, I’m not sure. But I just finished shooting that. Yeah, and then yes, because a lot of that, yeah, I’m busy and I’m, I’m teaching a lot. I’m teaching improv a lot. I’m teaching seniors for the first time like senior citizens. I’m gonna be teaching them long form improv, which I’m really excited about. And, and they apparently make amazing improvisers Of course, because they have all this life experience. And they don’t give a damn and
Students in their 80s and they were real fun. Wow.
Yeah. So I’m very, very excited about that. And I’m teaching I teach a course at the University of San Francisco, that I’m very excited about that teaches teachers how to use Arts in the classroom. And so and then I’m hoping to I’m doing a few corporate gigs, you know, like in, in San Francisco, you know, we have a lot of techies who want to know how to communicate you icontact so we play games with them learn, you know, speak to them about their voice and improperly improv and improvisational activities really helps them open up so that kind of work. I also work in like medical schools. You know, do you know what a standardized patient program is?
No, tell me about it.
So it’s, it’s now pretty widely used, but it is a it’s a training and every in every like well funded medical school, medical students will see a standard Patient which is a fake patient, so that they see. And, and so that they get the experience of meeting a real person, you know, in a simulated situation, oh, and as the patient, so we act as the patient, then we play out the scenario. And then we partner with the medical faculty to talk to them about their social skills, you know, and whether they were empathic enough whether they were, was there anything in their voice that was judging that they use your name during the encounter? Did they smile? Did they, you know, what would their bedside manner like so it’s really cool. It’s kind of an acting and an educational position. And I do a lot of that. So I’m always very excited to do that kind of medical acting, so to speak, you know, we’re currently piloting remote remote cases of you know, a lot of doctors now in healthcare systems allow patients to Skype their doctors, but that’s a totally different, you know, kind of warm. So we’re teaching doctors how to socially relate, you know, to their patients over Skype or over like, you know, zoom or something like that and the barriers that need to be crossed for that. So it’s really fun.
Yeah, that’s great. I mean, yeah, some really important stuff that does need to have a skills you know, yeah, delicate information to be parsing very desert Be careful with that kind of thing.
Yeah, the, you know, oh, the last case i did was about they basically have to tell me that the baby in my womb you have these fake wounds. It’s very high tech, but they have to tell me that I was stillborn child in my like this because I think my, my waters broke, but my water broke and they and I think I’m gonna have a baby but they have to tell me that it’s not a viable pregnancy and that my baby is dead and I have to break down and cry and crazy and so they’re learning those kind of like, how do you even those kind of situations like how do you deliver like that kind of news. So it’s very draining. I’m very exciting. And because your skills, you know, we can break out of it, but those poor nurses and doctors are often like totally shocked by the situation.
Oh, yeah, that’s true. Yeah, you know, I was recently talking to like an actor friend about like, sort of the breadth of emotion that I like feel in a day. And we were just, like, you know, that not everybody feels that way. Right? And I’m like, That’s crazy. Like, I’m like, breaking down in in like, crying like hard tears at a like radio commercial. And, like, you know what I mean? Like, I’m like, he just got the, you know, like, I, you know, I can’t get around it. It’s just like, yeah, and, you know, when I teach my acting classes, I’ll say things like your, you know, your creative ability allows you to access a part of the world that other people can’t access. So yeah, we’re You get it, that you’re able to act like other people and understand them and have a deeper empathy is because yeah, or you just have a natural ability to access that emotion. Some people are like, yeah, I’m happy What? But I’m like, Wow, I’ve got like gradients of happy where I’m like, you know, I don’t know, I’m a little but not a lot. I was like 20% you know, that kind of thing.
Now we’re like emotional bungee jumpers, like we just jump off, you know, and, and it’s like, and it’s a lot of courage required, but it’s like, you know, we’re not putting out fires or we’re not like going to war, but emotionally we have a lot of courage.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So you’ve spoken a lot about, you know, a lot of courage. Actually, a lot of wild things have happened in your life and you’ve like, made it through and maintained your sort of creative path throughout even though you know, I appreciate that your point of view is positive. So like you everything that happened that was hard you’re like, but it sprung me towards the next great thing. But he looks at it that way. Now, what advice do you have for people to like, keep it going, you know, like, when times are tough, you’ve clearly kept it going, like you could have quit. You could have been like, okay, I’ll work you know, and a travel agency or whatever. But you did, right. You were like, I’m gonna do this. How did you going? What kept your strength up?
Yeah, I mean, I think, I think what kept my strength up, you know, really was, you know, my faith, you know, in, in myself, but when I say faith in myself, which really came from my, you know, Buddhist practice, which enabled me to trust myself, and also the community that I was, you know, surrounded by. And, you know, I sometimes even when I feel alone, I think I’d realized there’s always people around you, you know, there’s always people who want to help and are there So, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without like, my friends and my family and you know how, you know, incredible they are. And I realized how much, you know, privilege I had in that situation. But advice that I would would give, especially to people were in the arts are in difficult professions, like, maybe nursing or teaching or, you know, is to really commit to your mental emotional and spiritual health. I think we don’t prioritize that enough. And, you know, we’re at a very crucial time in America’s like, history. We have like a suicide epidemic in this country, you know, especially with young people. You know, we have a loneliness epidemic. We haven’t prioritized relationships and we haven’t prioritized emotional health and I believe we’re collectively sick as a society. It’s not just you know, it’s not healthy for there to be shootings every day someplace in America. It’s not healthy for us for you know, young people or people to take their lives. But it’s collectively there’s something off. And so we really need to commit to our, our mental, emotional and psychological health. And I feel like because I did that, you know, I did that when I was young, by the time like life got tougher, you know, in my late 30s, like I had tools. So you need tools because especially as an artist, or whatever your path is, if you want to be successful, like you said, it’s, it’s not going to be very few people make it bigger. I discovered in a moment, most of times the journey and even sometimes when you hit the big time, that doesn’t guarantee happiness at all. You know, we’re truly happy. Remember, when we do what we’re meant to do on this planet, and only we can do what we can do. And that’s a really important lesson and And whatever you do that brings other people happiness and creates value will ultimately come back to you. So you know, that kind of messaging is very hard to give to yourself if you don’t have a community or kind of a values. Stone, so whatever it is, like, commit to your emotional and spiritual health, you know, it doesn’t need to be religion. But there is something called a spirit, you know?
So yeah, that’s what I would say is, would be my advice.
And five because believe in improv, you know, like, I found the, the tools that I needed to get through some of the harder times, you know, yeah, you know, sometimes the like, just, you know how, like, the beauty of letting it go, like at the end of a scene when it’s over and like, you never go back to it again. Like, yeah, embracing that, like in real life every moment. You know what I mean? Like I try to have especially Okay, also, once you have a baby and you’re like, on your own walking around with the baby, you are just like a lonely island trying to find other people to talk to like, Oh, hey, so I go to the grocery store, and have random conversations with strangers because I hadn’t talked to an adult multiple days like, right and the improv helped me through it. So I was like, I can do this just talk about anything. And I’m like apples, right? Like, it’s like so it’s a great way to help you open up and connect and, you know, to give you the tools to be with other people, and it be it feel less scary than it could.
I 100% agree and promise given me that, you know, being there with the other person listening, making your partner look good. You know, all of those tools I really learned to just to say yes to that moment, and I love what you just said about like, you know, it’s never going to come back again. So just let it go. And you know, and, yeah, it’s also talking about breathing a lot, you know, just breathing and mindfulness, you know, and just breathe. You don’t have to, you know, just take a moment. You don’t have to immediately respond or react or you know, Try to be funny. The funny is always in the unexpected, you know? And, and life is funny because whatever you tell your story when the trauma is past, everything that happens to you is kind of funny.
Oh yeah, that’s why something terrible happens. There is a voice in the back of my head that just goes, and enough time. This will be a great story. This will be a great story someday. Not right now.
But sorry that
you’re gonna be like, Oh, let me tell you about that time this thing happened. Yep, I’m about to those two where I’m like, you think a terrible thing is gonna change your whole life. Let me tell you how this terrible thing happened to me. And look I’m back on.
Well, Radhika, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk to me to share your stories with me. I really appreciate you telling me about your journey and you know, you just have a great attitude. And a good energy that you know hopefully will inspire some people in my audience to get out there and be an actor or just commit to their creative path of the way that you have.
Yes, thank you.
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