Cuban Mimes

One night when I was barely twenty I went–alone, I think? Maybe with a friend–to see a performance at Cafe Oasis of a Cuban mime troupe. Cafe Oasis, up on NW 23rd, more often hosted open mic poetry, acoustic tunes. It was a narrow venue in an old wooden building with warped floorboards and mismatched ceramic mugs, a small spot for a group traveling from Cuba, but how much stage would mimes need? I didn’t have any idea.  I took the bus then walked a ways in the dark. The mimes never showed up though. Cuban mimes, gone missing.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer Clown Girl Review (2007)

“Clown Girl” (Hawthorne Books, 297 pages, $15.95) is a devilishly quirky look at a downtrodden young clown adrift in the hostile streets of Baloneytown. It is a worthy fictional successor to another Rose City female writer’s highly original novel with not-dissimilar material — Katherine Dunn‘s “Geek Love,” an instant idiosyncratic classic about freaks in a traveling carnival that was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1989.

Read more:



L.A. Times “Book Discoveries.” Clown Girl.

“For a girl who spends hours perfecting her balloon-tying skills, Nita has highly sophisticated and elegant ideas about the difference between art and commerce, creativity and prostitution.”

Read the rest of this piece here:

 Photo: Me, juggling in an alley, Seattle PI, Scott Eklund photographer

Entertainment Weekly: Clown Girl Review

“…Amazingly, Drake finds an emotional through-line in Nita’s stubborn dedication to comedy in the face of disappointment. Riffing on language and revising her jokes in nervous flurries, Nita is the most endearingly teary clown since Smokey Robinson.”

Read the full Clown Girl review in Entertainment Weekly here:,,20012060,00.html (2007)




I was ready to rock it as keynote speaker at the Willamette Writers’ Conference. Picture a hotel banquet room full of writers and readers, everybody interested in words. Before I went on–after I was introduced, but before I hit the stage–we were hijacked by a Clown Girl with an oboe in a case. But wait! It wasn’t an oboe at all, it was a tiny violin case inside the oboe case. And then it wasn’t a tiny violin…she played “Ode To Joy” on a miniature rubber chicken.

Honestly, nobody knew she was coming–a daring move, to bust into a room of 350 or more people, and take over. It was unnerving, disruptive! No, it was welcome and dear.

Totally charming. Here’s a short clip, taken by Seth Isenberg, from the audience.