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This is a portrait created by designers Kristiana Dimitere and Kristīne Jurjāne, shot by Gints Melderis.

It''s a promotional shot for a production of a play by the writer Aspazija (1865-1943), a feminist playwright who was ahead of her time.


So that's me in a wig looking like Aspazija. I'm sewing and smoking a cigar.

Aspazija ruined her eyesight by sewing late at night in order to support her family. I bet she hated sewing. I sew terribly, but admire those who do it well. Sewing is hard work. A great seamstress makes a work of art.

I don't smoke and neither did Aspazija. Men smoke cigars and rarely while sewing. A woman smoking a cigar insists you make room for her. There's something smokily subversive about this cigar, even dangerous.

I don't have fabulous stacks of hair, but I do this in picture. Look how easy it is to be beautiful and incognito - wear a wig. So this picture is entirely artificial. As is the theatre.

I don't know remember why the designers wanted me to sew and smoke a cigar, but I had two main reasons to love the idea:

1. Bertolt Brecht used to say that his ideal spectator was a man sitting in the audience wearing a hat, and smoking - in other words, someone always critical - engaged and detached at the same time.

I don't want anyone to smoke in the theatre, for all the usual reasons.

Yet I like Bertolt's ideal spectator. Mine would be a woman or a man who knows how to wear a good hat or a wig and who is knitting - or sewing - while s/he watches.

In other words, my spectator watches and creates at the same time.

2. Here's the other reason:

My high school drama teacher once gave me the task of making a show based on the quotation: "A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke."

He knew the quotation would infuriate me.

So cigars, for me, are a lesson in how to make art with fire in your belly.