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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Narrating at the Pfister Hotel

Off the Cuff with Anja Notanja Sieger

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When one thinks of Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel, descriptions like “elegant,” “glamorous” and “lavish” come to mind. And though this brilliance has made the Pfister a jewel of our city, it is also unique because of its wonderful narrator program and its accompanying award-winning blog. Anja Notanja Sieger began May 1 as the hotel’s seventh narrator. Sieger has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking and creative writing from the Kansas City Art Institute and runs her own one-woman typewriter service called La Prosette (anjanotanja.com). During her year-long residency, she will post at least two blog entries per week at blog.thepfisterhotel.com about her experiences with guests. Off the Cuff connected with Sieger to learn more about her unique talents and experiences so far.

 

Tell me the story of your artistic ways.

Stories, improvisation and paper are my consistent mediums. I stare at paper. After a while of being absorbed with a blank sheet I remove portions of paper with scissors. There is no planning or preliminary sketching, just what emerges. And what emerges always looks dragon-like. Each piece is a different portion of a dragon’s soul, a different depiction of the fire of life. My written work is similar, improvised meditations set to paper exploring interactions between beings and their milieu.

 

How did you discover your talent and love for writing “prosettes”?

A few years ago I was writing a novel loosely based upon Homer’s Odyssey. After several drafts I decided I needed to become a better writer before writing that kind of epic. There was a need for a regular practice that would expose and assign me to write about things that would never occur to me. I turned to public performance writing, where I spin off the thoughts of other seasoned humans. Then I invented the prosette, a prose-poetry hybrid that can flex into whatever structure is needed.

 

What inspired you to apply for the Pfister Narrator position?

I liked that the title is “Narrator” and not writer or blogger. Narrator implies a disembodied voice that describes ongoing plot. The job is to uncover the plot and grow accustomed to speaking to anyone and everyone I see who could know where it is. It seemed like another helpful practice to assist in my becoming a better writer and a role with which I could experiment.

 

What kinds of illuminations and discoveries have you experienced so far at the Pfister?

There is a culture to the hotel that anyone who frequents the hotel becomes eventually acquainted with. Dr. Hollander, the lobby pianist has a different theme song for each member of staff that he will instantly integrate into whatever song he may currently be playing if he sees them entering the vicinity. I learned this from Roc, the concierge. He’s a retired English teacher and he is always giving me story assignments because he happens to be all knowing.

 

Your pseudonym “Notanja” is more than just that. You say Notanja is the spirit that makes the art. How do you channel Notanja on the spot as a performance writer?

Notanja never leaves me entirely but sometimes, when feeling bland, I will invent a secret game or ritual for Notanja. When I first began taking our act out to the streets I would draw a chalk circle on the ground and stand in it knowing Notanja would be harnessed stronger in that spot. Since then I have built an antennae out of my own hair that I stick straight through a hole in the top of a hat that I also made for the purpose. This hat and antennae combination allows Anja Notanja to get radiowave messages from space from any spot without having to stay inside a circle. That’s a very specific performance, however, Notanja gets stronger whenever I have a hat on. Just like Indiana Jones.

 

Any deep-down wishes, goals and/or projects you are seeking to make reality by the end of your sojourn at the Pfister?

I want to have story slams, poetry readings, typewriter performance art and…surprises. Personally it would also be nice if someone offered me a book deal.

If you see me at the Pfister, approach me, tell me what your beloved slang words are and tell me in great detail about your day. Please.