“I whispered to Keith, ‘Should we talk to Natsu about what she wants to work on? Maybe we should just give her the keys to the castle,’ ” Muse remembers. “There are so few artists in this city who are generative in the same way — who are like ‘director-writer-creators.’ How can you not want to find a place for someone like that in your season?”
An irreverent ingenuity does seem to flow through Power’s veins. She’s married to Tom Power, chef-owner of Corduroy on Ninth Street NW, and perhaps that has informed some of her work, including her 2011 stage adaptation at Georgetown of Michael Pollan’s nonfiction work, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”
Friends and associates affectionately recount her iconoclastic style. Zimmerman says at their very first encounter, Power was naked: She had walked into Zimmerman’s performance art class at Northwestern University that way to appear in a friend’s work.
“I was such a bad actor,” Power says with a sigh, adding that she appeared in the very first production of Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses.” “I would never cast myself in a show.”
“She’s famous for being able to fix anything,” Zimmerman says . “She’d tell you things like, ‘I didn’t like the side that the refrigerator door was attached on, so I put in on the other side.’ ”
Even the tale of how she wound up enrolling as an undergraduate at Northwestern — where she’d eventually earn her PhD with a dissertation on Tezuka — has a whimsical prologue. She got the theater bug during a high school year abroad in Oxnard, Calif., where she ran with the drama crowd and landed a part in the backstage farce “Noises Off.”
“I got along with the theater kids more than the cool kids,” she says. “I started writing plays, and decided that I really wanted to go to a university to study that.”
How did she settle on Northwestern? She smiles. “I found it in a catalogue,” she says.
The school, with its celebrated performance studies program taught by theater-world stars such as Zimmerman and Frank Galati, was an apt launching pad. In Chicago in 2002, she created the experimentally inclined Live Action Cartoonists troupe with three other Northwestern students, who had special skills in video, sound and cartooning. One of their first offerings, “Are You in My Negative Space?, a Performance About Comics, War and Love,” was described by critic Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-Times as being “a wonderfully homemade yet sophisticated multi-media show that is not just original, playful and thought-provoking, but also has moments of powerful emotional connection.”