I am Karen Kohler, artist, wife, lover, daughter, sister, aunt, immigrant, dual citizen. I moved from Germany at age 5 when my father, an airline executive, was transferred to New York. Already as a child, I had a curiosity about people and was often caught staring. Already then, I was developing a key muscle of the actor’s trade.
The Bavarian Alps enframe my oldest sense memories. At the ocean’s edge of Long Island is where I came of age. I’ve since lived in deserts, valleys and world cities. I’ve moved often enough that my possessions now pass the test of well-used or well-loved. I’ve known bullying and I’ve known worship. I’ve stood on the shores of multiple identities.
Singing has already saved my life a few times.
Taking someone else’s staggeringly well-written song into my heart, body and repertoire is a divine challenge to which I have learned to give everything I have and can imagine or remember. The art of performance transformed for me the first time I experienced what it is like to hold a room at the edge between light and dark and bring my vision across with the flick of a leather-lined finger.
I’ve chosen intimacy as my path to self and others. Radical intimacy in art and love. With historic models and no models, I forge my path to freedom swinging between messy and glamorous, giddy and morose, barefoot and well-heeled. I’ve been prepared to break myself apart for more clarity and insight. I am RudeWoke.
My intention for my life, my art, my relationships and for this website, is to strive to ask a better question and live surrendered into its answer.
I follow key changes.
Singing big songs in small spaces is what I love to do.
Crazy thing is, I’ve never been able to name my genre precisely. Yes, I sing jazz, but no I’m not really a jazz singer. Yes, I’ve got blues in my veins, but no I’m not a blues artist per se. Yes, I sometimes sing show tunes and yes, Cabaret is a Broadway show and it’s also a Paris-born, Berlin-bred artform that has been my artistic focus. As a genre it comes closest. But then what about all these other tunes and theater and satire?
I feel most in my power in an intimate setting. Because my songs are so big or so tender, I want to see and feel you, converse with you, while I sing them. As story singer, I bare my soul though a kaleidoscope of feeling and intention ~ from the ugly, hard and dangerous to the soft, sanguine and sensual. Every on-stage gesture, movement, sound and glance made inside of melody and rhythm is a gate for me. By revealing my most essential self before a receptive audience, I’m able to illuminate the meaning of my time and place.
Intimacy. Story. Universals. Having my audience close is the reason I’m in this game! The thing I’ve done consistently is sing in rooms all over the world. That’s when it came to me.
I’m a ROOM artist. I sing ROOM music. ROOM is my genre. This is what I decided in the winter of 2018. Read more about the origin story here.
ROOM is universal. It’s a space for jazz and blues and cabaret and folk. For the classical of the salons and the bluegrass of the saloons. Content is key; the message is the vehicle. ROOM etiquette puts the art first, and the artist and audience as stewards of it. It’s a here-and-now experience. A ROOM audience listens and is heard. I can hear you breathing as I breathe. Gasp, chuckle, moan, cry. Connect.
Into this new frame with the music of all the genre you’ve heard me do, I introduce my own words to those of the poet-lyricists whose songs have been my teachers. Lyrics drawn directly from my writing life I now sprinkle into my newest Shows and through my music label, Ars Intima. And for those students who feel drawn to this performance art, I teach a workshop in the art of Room.
Remember it: ROOM, the great big art of the small.
With this new site, I officially release my writing to the world. That feels as new and scary as when I first stepped out in public with a song so long ago. I was 6. Gulp.
My first two publications are in the world, my first novella and first collection of poetry. That has been a sweet process, in every way a birthing.
Like many of you, I’ve kept a journal since I was a teenager. I love writing and documenting my thoughts and experiences. I’m in awe of all the ways we have to do that today. I also love to write by hand with a juicy pen on just the right paper. I can’t imagine anything ever replacing this for very long. Handwriting is a signature, a meditation, a statement, and imprint. Utterly, entirely unique. I’m not really worried. All good things cycle back.
I began blogging over a decade ago. Previous followers of my The Art of The Boards blog will find my earliest entries preserved in this new blog. It was there that I shared tales from the road, tools of the theater, and tips on how to master stagecraft.
Henceforth I’ll blog and muse about life and craft both more specifically and more generally. Like what a wild ride it is to navigate a marriage for three decades. Or what sustains an international singing career rich with meaning but short on conventionally endorsed measures of wealth. I’ll share my journey of how to champion the indwelling artist and introduce my idea of the essential Me-One. And I shall noodle on some ideas about a force beyond opposites and therefore beyond balance.
I hope to become a better and better writer as I share the intimacies and intricacies of living artfully and seeing in every life a service to something, firstly and lastly, exquisitely human and whole.
I look forward to your engagement there through the Writing portal of this site.
In January 2017, I brushed up rather violently against the fragility and impermanence of life in a near-death experience and my urge to impart what I’ve experienced and integrated is especially keen. I long more than ever to witness and endorse another’s creativity, self-inquiry and what I call innergration.
I’m a resistant learner, sometimes a stubborn sceptic. Lessons have come as rude awakenings as a result. They’ve taught me about the servant forces of life, like fear itself that fuels the swift and lasting change both personally and communally.
I was once quite shy around strangers and didn’t speak a lot. I lived a lot in my imagination. I was a foreigner, an outsider. Those of you who are immigrants too or have ever been seen as different will especially understand this turning inward into a safe place in the mind. Today, I own my voice. I still stare and I still imagine with abandon.
I’ve been that person working in a job that wasn’t on track for me, that was leading me away from myself. Today I look back on a prosperous and meaningful career doing what I love. The money has always followed.
I’ve been that woman looking for myself in other people. Today I celebrate 3 decades of marriage and partnership.
You, my students are creative, exploratory, inquisitive and curious, original, self-aware and ready to take it deeper which is why you’re here. I’m dedicated to helping you, the Stage Artist find your path and calling. I’m committed to helping you, the Life Artist reclaim your creativity and Ur-inspiration with a childlike curiosity and joy. I have a chest of time-tested tools to share. Tools of self-inquiry, self-ownership, self-embrace and self-reflection through connection.
The world is a good place. It is more good-filled, light-filled and love-filled than anything else.
I believe wholeheartedly in the Life Artist. I believe that we each carry our answers within us and that we’re all here to walk each other home. Connection is essential to living an artful life.
I believe in freedom. I believe that both love and art must be free. We are a species on a planet on which all life is interconnected. We are at the page-turn between stories. That time is here, everything has been leading to it and will lead from it. I intend to play my part by calling “curtain” on the unconscious drama and begin the shift within. In the name of this new story of our world, I offer my personal guidance, meditations, workshops, interviews, and more.
As gatherer, I open up avenues of engagement for those of you who thrive on intimate dialogue with kindred travelers. This site is about stories – yours, mine and ours – sung, spoken, written and danced. May they tickle your fancy, provoke your mind, compel your heart and lift your spirit. This site is for our community. A beloved community (to quote MLK), rudely awakened. RudeWoke. Communilumina is my name for our community, awake and lit. From within.
I invite you to subscribe to RudeWoke Weekly (quotes and tips to stimulate your creativity), and the Rudewoke Sessions, stories from the collective, and interviews with the artists of life who grace my path.