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Katherine Harroff wants to tell your story.

Artistic director of the collaborative, community-based theatre group Circle Circle dot dot, Harroff has been telling San Diego’s tale since shortly after moving here three years ago for an internship with the North Coast Repertory Theatre.

“We have a lot of cool resources in our group,” says Harroff, who also works with the San Diego Dance Theatre and the San Diego Ballet.

“Puppeteers, photographers, visual artists, musicians – all people trying to figure out where they fit into the San Diego theatre scene. Lots of theatres stick with the same actors and types of shows their supports want to see. When you’re trying to emerge into such a close knit community, it can be hard to get in and make a name for yourself. After a couple of frustrating attempts at finding myself in San Diego as a community-based, collaborative, experimental artist – working at a few theatres as an actress, teacher, and playwright – we started Circle Circle dot dot.”

From the website: “We take stories that are informative and insane, as well as thought-provoking and delusional in order to bridge gaps in communication and understanding of our fellow man.”

The troupe debuted on June 27 with The Break-up/Break-down, an episodic performance of the cast’s own romantic misadventures.

“We realized our audience really exists at The Break-up/Break-down, where we told our own stories as a way of breaking out. We found that some loved it, especially people in our age range, and others had a hard time swallowing it. Some of the older critics in particular were uncomfortable with some of the content. But in the end we had an audience interested in what were are doing.”

Circle Circle dot dot’s next performance, Ragnarok, continues in the vein of the community-based work Harroff has done with the Playwrights Project, where she helped found the Telling Stories program.

“We hung out with foster youth communities and group homes and taught kids play writing. Then, we’d turn their stories and interviews into plays so the community would have a chance to hear them. Community theatre is often associated with activism. That’s there, but it’s not all it is.”

Case in point? Harroff’s work with NASA as a master’s student in Arizona, where she interviewed Mars Rover scientists and created a piece of theatre based on their experiences.

“The goal was to make the project accessible to the youth, so that in the future there will be people interested in working with the Rover project.”

Ragnarok takes its name from a week long, 1600 strong annual Live Action Role Playing war in Cambridge, Ohio.

“I live by Morley Field where, every Sunday, a group of about 100 LARPers battle all day with foam swords and in character as somebody from a fantasy world,” says Harroff. “LARPers are a community that is accessible to our generation and they already have their own audience.”

Ragnarok runs November 23 through December 10 (Wednesday through Sunday, closed Thanksgiving) and marks the first time Harroff will perform in a play she’s written.

“I’m still a little nervous about how the production will be received by the rest of the LARP community. A big thing about community-based theatre is making sure that your subjects are OK and don’t feel humiliated by what you write. We made sure that the stories we are telling respect our subjects and their stories. In the end, it was impossible not to. Our subjects were kind people, and I hope that comes across in the production.”

In the meantime, Circle Circle dot dot has been working on a production for next March about the transgender performance community in San Diego.

“The really exciting thing is that every play is going to be different from the last. There will be lots of similar human stories, because all people deal with similar conflicts. But we are limitless in what we can do. There’s no other theatre group like that in San Diego that I’ve found. We’d love to be the group that represents collaborative community-based theatre in San Diego.”

For now, that means working on non-profit status and applying for fringe theatre festivals nationwide, where theatre troupes outside of the mainstream can showcase their work.

“We don’t think we have all the answers,” says Harroff. “We’re working hard to gain the respect of our community.”

Get your cootie shot tonight at Jake’s on 6th Wine Bar in Hillcrest, where Circle Circle dot dot will be hosting a costume contest, playing Holloween jams, and giving out prizes including tickets to Ragnarok. Jake’s will be donating a percentage of profits to the production. The party starts at 7 p.m.

Go tell them your story.


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