“There’s a crack in everything—it’s how the light gets in.” Poet, visual artist, yoga teacher, playwright, devoted mother and wife: Lakewood resident Isabella Russell-Ides finds karmic magic in many aspects of life. She believes wholeheartedly in Leonard Cohen’s statement about human imperfection and the enlightenment it can foster.
Her resonance as an artist began early and has buoyed her life. As a 5year old student at the Blessed Sacrament School in Hollywood, California, she fell in love with language’s imagery and the theatrical aspects of Catholic ritual. Through the Baltimore Catechism (“an outward sign of an inward grace”), she found an expressive voice and started creating fantasy worlds with scripture. She grew up in a conflicted household, with a depressed WWII veteran father repressing highly creative tendencies, dominated by a wife determined to live by the post-war era’s status quo. She attended the University of California at Santa Barbara in the heyday of the rebellious 60’s but delved further into visual art and intellectual inquiry, earning a BA in philosophy and comparative religion. Isabella says she found the political expression of the time overly emotional and threatening, while it was comfortable and rewarding to explore her personal creativity through intellectual analysis. Her two daughters were born in the late 60’s; their needs pulled Isabella’s focus back into her body and opened her heart. When the 70’s dawned with its ferocious feminist revolution, Isabella the adult artist emerged, reintegrated and in balance. The light began streaming in.
Living in Tyler as a poet, she found herself writing lyrics for a musician and landscape designer. “He was artistically fearless and so encouraging, it seemed natural to write libretto for him.” That wasn’t the only music she and Rod made together. Thirty years later, they are a totally devoted married couple, supporting each other’s artistic exploration and creativity. Thanks to his encouragement, Isabella “came out” as a playwright in 2003 with her play “Avatar” and hasn’t stopped writing since. This year has been particularly rewarding for her as a playwright/producer, with these productions mounted across the United States:
COSMO & GIGI//COSIMA & GIGI
Frontera Fest, Austin [Feb]
FIT, Dallas [July]
Looking Glass NYC [Dec]
LAST CHANCE FILLER UP
Venture Theatre, Montana [Jan]
Studio 500, Florida [March]
Looking Glass Theatre, NYC [June]
AMERICAN THINK TANKS
Brut Theatre, New Jersey [May]
VAGINA, SHE ROCK
ConnArtists, New Jersey [May]
Cosmo & Gigi, revised to include both black and white actors in its Echo Theatre production at the FIT Festival at the Bath House Cultural Center, won the 2008 Dallas Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum award for Best New Play. Currently on the boards is another bi-racial production, Leonard’s Car [when the rainbow is NOT enuf], running through October at the newly renovated Bishop Arts Theater Center under the auspices of TeCo Productions.
Isabella and Rod have lived happily in Lakewood for a decade now. Isabella grins mischievously and describes our area as an “externally sedate and historical place; but when you go deep inside, the neighborhood is full of interesting, aware, diverse, creative people.” If you have the fortune to bump into her at the Legal Grind or the Lakewood Starbucks, let some of her inward grace and magical creativity light up your day.