Caroline Waters: Sugar From Above


By A.J. Llewellyn

Three years ago I had a life-changing experience seeing Norwegian superstar Caroline Waters’ searing musical, Finding Venus. Every moment is still in my brain and last night she launched the CD of Finding Venus at Kulak’s Woodshed in the NoHo Arts District in LA.

Having seen the show a few times in the past and blogging about it: I was excited to see how much it has changed in three years. It’s changed a lot.

In some ways it hasn’t. The amazing Katisse Buckingham is still there playing flute, sax, clarinet, and being part of every second of the performance. Jennifer Richardson was still on hand, but sitting in the audience.

For the uninitiated, Kulak’s Woodshed is as stripped-down as you can get. Interestingly, it’s also the perfect space for a show like Finding Venus, allowing the words and music to fill the space like nothing else can.

Waters shines like a Pollia berry, or perhaps many of them, in this show that has evolved since I first saw it. It’s a deeply personal telling of a terrible bicycle accident that sidelined her for over a year when she was a child star in Norway, touring with her father, Per Asplin, the Norwegian equivalent of Frank Sinatra.

For months, Waters lingered in a dark mental and emotional cloud. Even as her smashed left leg slowly healed, traumatic brain injury left her with no memory and a lingering depression she hid from doctors, afraid of what they would do to her if they knew. “I had no idea who I was,” she said. Music school helped ease her soul until she confessed her truth and a couple of teachers staged an exorcism that was devastating. They burned her journals, the only things keeping her sane.

As Waters opens her soul to the world, the musicians performing with her are truly astonishing. For me, the wonderful cellist Ruti Celli was an astonishing, brilliant addition. Her artistry is in perfect sync with Waters.

At the center of this piece is Waters, who has no idea she was mentally wandering during this time period and responds to the name Venus. Waters reveals that with her brain in turmoil, other facets of life came into focus, such as psychic ability and prescience.

Caroline is an unknown entity until she travels with her parents to San Francisco at the age of 16 to perform, because her father believed work was the answer to all her problems. It was there that she met Stefanie Stroh, who became her best friend and the woman she came to love.  This is the fathomless, dark, glorious, tragic heart of the show. Just as Venus/Caroline is finding herself and embracing her sexual identity, Stefanie disappears during a year-long backpacking trip.

Waters had dreams before this and warned her beloved not to backpack alone. She knew something bad was going to happen. Stefanie survived India, Pakistan, and other far-flung places but was last seen in Nevada one day before she was due to travel home.

As shocking as this revelation is, there are funny moments in the show such as an astrologer telling Caroline the way to finding herself was dancing naked in front of the mirror every morning. Great advice!

Waters left Norway and traveled to the town of Wells, Nevada, the last known sighting of Stefanie. Armed with a machete in one hand, and a gun in the other, she walked for a year, searching for Stefanie. She also carried a pick to dig the earth. “I was searching for a body at this point. I knew she was dead.”

According to serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells,  he picked up Stefanie who was hitchhiking to Reno. They shared some LSD, allegedly, and he strangled her. Stefanie’s body has never been found, but while authorities do believe she’s gone, they don’t necessarily believe Sells’ version of the events.

It was here in the high desert that Waters did a private ceremony releasing the spirit of Stefanie Stroh to the winds and sky. She let her go home. In letting her go, Venus and Caroline found themselves. These moments in the show remain unforgettable and tear-provoking. In allowing Stefanie’s soul to fly, Caroline found her own wings. And the courage and passion to live.

Caroline and Venus are focused on a Finding Venus Broadway show and I can’t wait to fly to New York to see it. The final song I am Venus says it all.

The lyrics in part say:

I am Venus.

I am love.

I am sugar from above.

Yes, Miss Waters, you are. All that, and more.

Aloha oe,

A. J.

One Response to “Caroline Waters: Sugar From Above”

  1. Pick me please. I love your blogs and have missed you and your blogs.

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