Art and Performance Spring 2024

What the Hell Is Make Believe Seattle?

Finally, a Film Festival for Fellow Weirdos

The Power of Making People of Color Invisible

Stephanie Syjuco Empowers the Oppressed with Just a Finger

Better, Stronger, Faster

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra Pays Tribute to the Legendary Oliver Nelson

Where to Pickup a Copy of The Stranger's Spring A+P 2024

Find it at Hundreds of Locations Around Seattle!

Queen of Our World

When Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe Writes, the Revolution’s Coming

Blowing Minds and Melting Faces

Thunderpussy Celebrate Their Survival with a Surprising Benaroya Hall Takeover

Person of Interest: Arson Nicki

Finally, a Fashion Expert for the People

Six Films You Need to See at Make Believe Seattle

Starring Ethical Vampires, Ridiculous Puppets, and a Dude Who Pretends to Be George Lucas for Funsies

Art, Illness, and Auto Repair

Cherdonna Makes a Compassionate Comeback

Person of Interest: TeZATalks

Harbinger of Horror-Filled Hardcore Pop

It’s Important That the Bug Undulates

How Anida Yoeu Ali Uses Wiggling Worms and Glitter as Forms of Protest

Sincerely Joking

Chastity Belt Live, Laugh, and Love 10 Years On

Your Spring Arts Itinerary

24 of This Season’s Very Best Art, Books, Music, Film, Theater, and Food Events

Tessa Hulls’s Feeding Ghosts Is Instant Canon Fodder

Too Bad She’ll Never Write Another Graphic Novel

Isabel Hagen’s Comedy Strings You Along

How a Juilliard-Trained Violist Found Harmony as a Stand-Up Comedian

Person of Interest: Taha Ebrahimi

Seattle’s Coolest Street Tree Expert

I think there is one thing we can agree on—we love Cherdonna Shinatra. 

If that name escapes you, let me catch you up. Cherdonna is a self-described “movement artist who works in persona.” She’s been a key component of Seattle’s arts and entertainment scene for years—she won a Stranger Genius Award in 2015 and an Artist Trust Fellowship in 2017 and has held successful residencies at the Henry Art Gallery and the Frye Art Museum—and she’s internationally recognized as a profoundly creative solo artist. But over the past year, a health crisis has taken Cherdonna away from the stage. 

In March 2022 Jody Kuehner, aka Cherdonna, had a calendar packed with gigs and was at the height of her career. Having rebuilt opportunities from the stress of lockdown, she cranked into the year with her concurrently touring shows Goodnight Cowboy and DITCH in addition to a myriad of other bookings and residencies. She told herself, “Okay, this is what it is to be a professional artist. I just have to do all this, take all these jobs,” and “suck it up,” because that was the model of a successful working artist. Of course, as a solo artist, that drive came with a substantial amount of behind-the-scenes tasks and obstacles—from tight budgets and endless rehearsals to securing support for highly technical productions that had to be moved from state to state and across oceans. By January 2023, “weird stuff was starting.” 

Kuehner had already been grappling with the feeling that her workload was too much—she didn’t want to do anything but be an artist but faced the economic pressures of making an income from her craft. After enduring push and stress and keeping Cherdonna’s wild and wacky persona going at full speed, Kuehner’s immune system collapsed. She became susceptible to a dormant viral infection, developed a fever and rash, and was rendered bedridden. For the first three months, her thoughts were not focused on art but on whether she’d ever feel normal again. “This too shall pass” became her mantra as she confronted dramatic change.

For the past year, she’s been redeveloping her nervous system, focusing on her breathing, and redefining her relationship with work and creativity. The process has given her a new perspective on her body compared to her rigorous dance background. She’s shifted her attitude on things like breaks and rehearsal schedules and generally learned to speak to herself with a more compassionate voice. Now all of this is getting put into practice as she steps back into her work. 

Cherdonna & the Bearded Ladies are ready to look under your hood. STEPHEN ANUNSON

Through On the Boards, Threesome by Cherdonna & the Bearded Ladies opens April 18 at Repair Revolution, an LGBTQ-owned and operated auto repair shop in SODO. The performance stars Cherdonna Shintatra, Martha Graham Cracker, and Jarbeaux in a collaboration that explores the pertinent subject matter of “searching for stability while living in uncertainty.” Threesome was originally slated to premiere in 2023 but was postponed due to a separate health crisis of one of her fellow collaborators. Between the two experiences, the show has shifted in both content and process. As Kuehner explained, “The show has really become about our relationship to our bodies. We’re working with this question of ‘How are you?’ and how it’s become a thing in our language that’s just a form of ‘hello.’” 

For Kuehner and her collaborators that’s a real question right now. “My training has come from the world of dance [where] you work and you work a bajillion hours and you push, push, push. Everything is for the work,” she said. “So much of what I just went through has to do with that, and so now as we pick up this show, I was like ‘I have to do things differently. I have to be a dance maker differently.’ That felt really hard and also just like new territory to me.” 

The group has been practicing the best ways to be creatively equitable as a set of three traditionally solo artists. With distance and ongoing health recovery, they have utilized video rehearsals and different structures of the content they had been developing over the last three years. Trust in herself and her fellow entertainers has armored Kuehner against the pressures of the art world demanding that everything be constantly “new and different.”

Outside of Threesome, Kuehner is assessing other changes in her life and creative process moving forward. “Somehow this is going to come out in my work, but also just in what I decide to do in my life as a person.” When asked if the experience has changed her perception of success, she said, “It totally has. I followed this rule of, like, you put your career as an artist first—above all other work, above my housing, above my relationships. It just was, like, you have to do this if you want to make it, and I have gained a lot of success by doing that, but I think by ignoring all these other parts of my life, of course, it’s now coming up as a detriment to me as a human… yeah, I don’t want to do that anymore.”

Kuehner plans to explore what the typically wild Cherdonna is like in a capacity that poses less risk to her body. She’s also looking into exploring more of her interests in general, including working with fabrics, materials, and music. “It feels like, after this April show is over, it feels a little wide open. That can be cool and exciting and also… I’m curious. I feel pretty open to go with whatever impulse happens.” 

She also had some words of wisdom when asked what she would say to artists who are currently struggling on a similar path of potential burnout: “The hustle of it is bullshit … be on the internet less. Put your blinders on and stay your course. Really, what are you interested in? That’s what I’m trying to enter into, too.” She encourages following your muse rather than industry pressures and approaching things with a lighter touch.

She says she has so much more understanding and compassion for those who are experiencing a health crisis or struggling with long COVID, chronic pain, a lasting illness, or any other curveball. That includes herself. “One of the biggest things that’s helped and actually created change for me was compassion,” she said. “Talk about rigor! It’s almost like rigorous compassion for yourself. This is where I’m at, and it is okay. That is way easier said than done. It can be so frustrating when you’re like ‘I can’t even get out of bed today; how am I going to be an artist?’ To have compassion for yourself is the hardest work and probably the most important work that a human can do in any scenario.”

Cherdonna & the Bearded Ladies will perform Threesome at Repair Revolution April 18–20 and April 25–27. Tickets are available at