Performer Jody Kuehner Goes Solo

Nancy Guppy duets with newly solo performer Jody Kuehner
nancy guppy seattle magazine cherdonna
Guppy with Kuehner au naturel and below, as Cherdonna

Best known for over-the-top alter ego Cherdonna Shinatra, hilarious and talented performer Jody Kuehner usually takes the stage in a surreal sort of drag, with a gigantic wig and alarming eye makeup. After working for years as a duo with Ricki Mason (as Cherdonna and Lou), Kuehner has recently struck out on her own, and will present her first solo evening-length performance as Cherdonna this October at Velocity Dance Center. This month, she stays behind the scenes as a choreographer for Velocity’s annual Strictly Seattle series (7/25–7/26;

Porchlight Coffee & Records on Capitol Hill on a hot spring afternoon
Jody’s Order: Decaf latte

NG: Describe Jody Kuehner the artist.
JK: Dance artist, first and foremost. Lover of the abstract and nonsensical.  

NG: Is comedy important to your creative work?  
JK: Incredibly important. But I never go in saying, “I’m going to make this section, and it’s going to be funny.” It just happens.  

NG: Who is Cherdonna?
She is a persona that I describe as “aggressively sweet.” She feels her feelings at all times—she doesn’t filter anything—and she totally connects with her audience. There is no separation between the stage and the audience.

NG: Cherdonna has a solo show this fall—what can we expect to see?  
JK: An incredible visual landscape. [Seattle designer] Mark Mitchell is making my costumes, and we’re working with macramé and wool—’70s materials—and I’m hoping to carpet the entirety of Velocity, floor to ceiling, so everything is just yarned out.  

NG: How do you begin work on a new piece?  
JK: I try out a lot of things and I throw a lot of things away. Sometimes I’m like, “Oh God, I’m not keeping anything…sure hope I like something by the time the show begins!” And I always do.  

Has there been a point in your life when something shifted or clicked?
JK: A click I’ve had this year has been around the feeling that if I’m still self-producing at age 40 or 50, then I’m not successful. That’s changing for me because what else would I do? Would I really not dance? No. I can’t not dance. So I’m starting to feel differently about success.   

Nancy Guppy showcases Seattle artists on her show, Art Zone (