Funny beans

Rice & Beans with Mark Kenward

Yes, actor and yoga teacher Mark Kenward says he knows he looks a little like Ben Stiller.<br>

Yes, actor and yoga teacher Mark Kenward says he knows he looks a little like Ben Stiller.

It’s about balance. Running a competitive, profitable small business. Honing your art. Practicing your spiritual beliefs. And being a fully present dad.

“It’s easy in our culture, as a father, to get swept up in work,” says Mark Kenward, an actor, writer, yoga studio owner and dad. “That’s even true in the worlds of theater and yoga where you may think you’ll encounter more open-minded philosophies.”

Kenward will bring his one-man monologue, Rice and Beans, to a Reno yoga studio on June 7. A veteran of the stage in San Francisco, Kenward has performed in a couple dozen cities around the nation. The writer/actor also teaches yoga at his own Bay Area studio. The Reno show marks the first time he’s ever performed in a yoga studio.

Kenward was invited to perform at Reno’s Yoga Loka after owner Kim Orenstein drove to San Francisco a year and a half ago to see a yoga-themed performance created by Kenward, The Yoga of Moby Dick. (A Yoga Journal reviewer described it as “a show that weaves elements of Melville’s tale into a story of spiritual awakening.")

“He had me laughing and he had me crying,” Orenstein says. “I just felt the emotional gamut. When I finished watching the performance, I felt like I had taken a yoga class.”

Orenstein told friends and students about the show, recommending it if they were in the Bay Area. But she really wanted to bring Kenward to Reno. That’s why she’ll be moving chairs into her studio and turning it into a theater for a night.

“And that’s how I came to be in a yoga studio talking about what it’s like to open a yoga studio,” Kenward says.

He calls the show a humorous slice of life, an autobiographical tale.

“It’s about trying to balance the spiritual aspirations of yoga, being calm, centered, enlightened and all that with the reality of being in business and dealing with contractors and competitors—lots of competitors … maybe doing underhanded or nefarious things. These happen in the yoga world just like the rest of the world.”

The title of this show, Rice and Beans, calls up both his work life, that keeps him “in rice and beans,” and one way he spends time with his 2-year-old daughter, Rosalie.

“Something she and I do together is go out for Mexican food,” Kenward says. “She loves rice and beans. And she knows a dozen Johnny Cash songs, too.”

This will figure into the show’s plot.

“It’s very, very funny,” Kenward promises. “And the themes are universal. It’s not just for yogis.”

Kenward, 36, holds a master’s degree in theater from Northwestern University. Rice and Beans is the sixth one-man show that he’s written and performed. He’s also studied yoga with top teachers around the Bay Area. He decided to open his studio, Mountain Yoga in Oakland, when it seemed a more secure career.

“I’m dedicated to my performance work, but the reality was in order to support a family in a consistent way, I had to do something else,” he says. “Opening a studio was quite eye-opening.”

The experience made him think about taking yoga “off the map and into your real life.”

“This monologue tells the tale that realizing spirituality is not just about yoga class or meditating. It’s about spending time with your daughter and being present with her, not thinking about work. It’s about showing up for life."