A theater grad from Smith College with years of experience on NYC stages, Riza Zee Baker is currently assistant directing a large troupe of developmentally disabled ("DD" is the lingo) actors in an original musical entitled Rainbow Kittens with Wings. Rainbow Kittens is a collaborative effort between the clients and staff of Portland Supported Employment, an absolutely fabulous seven-year-old organization that employs 12 local artists to serve 40-plus members of Portland's DD community. Don't miss Rainbow Kittens with Wings!
(Fernwood Middle School Cafetorium, 1915 NE 33rd, Thurs-Fri, March 29-30, noon; Mon-Tues, April 2-3, 6 pm, $7-10, which includes an original recorded album of all the songs, plus an original comic book that tells the story of Rainbow Kittens with Wings and features all the clients and staff)
What is the best part of the job?
No two days are alike. And the opportunity to have so much fun and compassion, and to make such good friends.
Do you learn from your clients?
Absolutely. I've learned to be more open and more myself. People with DD, they are who they are, and they see you as you are—they don't fit you into boxes.
Challenges of the job?
Chaos. Complete chaos.
Describe a typical day.
We begin the day with art projects, like working on our zine monthly, called Howl. At 9:30 we do yoga and stretching. Every now and then we have a hiphop dance party instead of stretching. Then we have rehearsal; the current production involves a 10-person all-star band. In the afternoon we go on outings: swimming at the YMCA, bowling, OMSI, volunteering at Loaves and Fishes, or we'll go perform pieces of the play for elderly people. We have an awesome radio show every Wednesday from 10 am to noon that I DJ with another staff member. It's on the pirate radio station: praradio.com. We perform original radio plays that we write, record funny commercials, and movie reviews, then ad lib.
How old are your clients?
Twenty-one and over.
Twenty-one and over... Is there a bar at PSE?
There should be. We have one who yells about beer a lot. He's hilarious. He loves coffee, beer, and girls. He's like a Portland hipster at heart. There's a pretty girl who works at the coffee shop and he wants to walk over there all the time.