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  • Writer's pictureJen Norris

Review: QUAKE created and performed by Kat Gorospe Cole Counterpulse, San Francisco–October 13 & 14

Bathed in the sounds of a steady rain, the audience at Counterpulse chats, anticipating the beginning of QUAKE, Kat Gorospe Cole’s solo work about mental health and ancestral connection. A square clear acrylic trough, about six inches deep, sits hip-high on a platform center stage. The backdrop is lit in the orange of a tropical sunset. An other-worldly presence enters, draped head-to-toe in strands of crystals, clear beads, and sparkly things, that catch the light. The apparition circles the stage in elongated steps, carrying a round wooden bowl on upturned palms, as if catching the rain. A female voice recounts fond childhood memories of life in a fishing village in the northern archipelago of the Philippines, of playing in the rain. The spirit pours water from their bowl into the table trough. A light from below projects the liquid’s movement onto the backdrop. The figure leans over the water and with cupped hands brings it under the beads to their face. Whispers of “voice, voice, my mother’s voice…” are heard.

(Photo credit: Header image from QUAKE webpage on

The ghost-like figure stands parting the beads to allow us to see a veiled face. Darkly outlined lips speak in synch to a deep quaking voice wondering who will remember if not her children. Bent close to the ground, the figure reaches out their arms and spins, sending the curtain of beads and layers of white skirts twirling out in an arc. The beaded hat and sheer fabrics are removed to reveal a new character. Cole, now dressed as her young mother, wears a large collared traditional Philippine dress. in the elegant Maria Clara style. Projections of old sailing vessels fill the screen. The mother’s recorded voice poetically conveys how she wishes she had the power to stop the discovery of the Philippines by the Spanish. We learn about the mother’s family’s subsequent move to Hawaii and how she snuck out, at night, to dance with her friends. The lights change and we are in a club in the late eighties. Cole embodies that fun and sultry young woman as she sings and dances to Janet Jackson’s “Escapade.” Cole struts into the audience and up the stair aisle, making fierce eye contact as she goes. The song yields to the mother’s voice speaking of attending bible school and her attraction for the American male athletes. She recalls telling her father, when she was ten years old, that she would marry an American. Cole voices the inevitability of her being half American. In silence and semi-darkness, the dress is shed. Lights come up on Cole dressed in undershorts and a tank top. She stands centerstage. Her left arm swings out at shoulder height as her right hand brushes along its length from fingertip to armpit; before the right arm boomerangs out and the motion repeats with the right hand caressing the left arm. As she touches her inner arms, she tells a story about her mother and her aunts comparing armpits. They were obsessed with the wiry hairs there and longed to replace them with fine ones. Cole reflects on the ways in which they learned to devalue their inherited traits and give more value to those of the foreigners. She gestures up to her imaginary grandfather and his wide nose. She mimes the various good and bad body parts of her ancestors. “My mother’s tongue is not my mother tongue,” is the powerful way that Cole concludes a story about longing to, and failing to, communicate effectively in Tagalog with her grandmother. Cole worries she is not being Pilipino enough. She stands with vibrating hands over the water trough. The screen fills with lightning like white energy lines. Her body quakes, and contorts in elegant curves, as she absorbs the energy of this force field. In her final transformation Cole dons a costume of aqua diaphanous ruffles. Her long brown wavy hair is free to flow as she jumps, her arms swinging with abandon. The sound of falling rain returns. As we imagine it hitting her upturned face, she calms. At the water table she scoops the water onto her hair. Our final image is of the cool blue light refracting through the ripples making her face glow. Cole disappears in the darkness. The audience cheers, but to no avail, there is no bow. The weight of the responsibility of remembering and honoring ancestors and a culture to which she has limited access is real, as is the grief of what is lost over time and in translation. The fact that all this is conveyed in an immersive forty-minutes speaks to the power of Cole as an artist. A post-show soundtrack plays, as the audience remains content to listen and be present with the experience a bit longer. QUAKE’s arc from ancestral figure through direct descendants to the present where Cole lives in the United States struggling with her cultural inheritance has our attention. Review by Jen Norris published October 14, 2022




Counterpulse October 13 & 14

Kat Gorospe Cole, Collaborating Director, Performer

Robin “Birdd” David, Costume designer

Additional Costume by Cat Lauigan

Music by Josh Icban

“Escapade” Choreography by Kim Ip

Creative Consultation & Producer:

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