Ken finds community, creativity, and joy in his retirement.

Ken as the Cyclops in Seattle Public Works’  The Odyssey,  photo by Seattle Repertory Theatre

Ken as the Cyclops in Seattle Public Works’ The Odyssey, photo by Seattle Repertory Theatre

A born actor and performer with an effervescent personality and generous stories, Ken Parms was the oldest of five children in a loving household in Akron, Ohio. Ken knew at an early age that he was gay, and had to leave his hometown and the endless chatter and feedback loop of neighbors and parents’ friends – he wanted to get to the west coast. In 1969, he moved out to the San Francisco bay area, and later moved to Seattle. 

Once in Seattle, Ken became involved in the arts, performing at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in a play by Linda Barry, a story about lost friendship and growing up in the face of racial tension. He was also the Artist in Residence at a Seattle elementary school, where he wrote and directed a play for an eighth-grade drama class, helping kids find their creative niche.

As he got older, his career moved him away from the arts and from Seattle, taking him to Hawaii, and later to Memphis, where he settled down for a while. He found a wonderful community there, but was also subjected to bigotry and violence. He eventually made his way back to Seattle, and only now, in his retirement, is he able to participate in the arts again.

“Being involved in Path with Art and the Seattle Rep has made me like a flower, blooming all over again.” 

Ken’s first experience with Path with Art was during the collaboration with Seattle Repertory Theatre on the Public Works production of Othello. It had been years since he’d been in a theatre production, but he was excited to get involved again. More recently, he took Musical Theater for the People, a class that stretched both his comfort zone and his vocal chords. The teaching artist, Orlando, was patient and kind.

Ken initially found himself critiquing the work of those around him, but learned to focus, instead, on himself and his own performance. He practiced concentrating on his own art and growth – not worrying about others – and enjoying the opportunities to participate with other creative people.   

“You have to not be afraid to be silly, or to make a fool of yourself. The opportunities to participate with other creative people, people who care, get me excited, and I look forward to participating more with Path with Art. I hope it continues to be a catalyst for me to grow, learn, have fun, and go on smiling.”

Special thanks to the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation, and to May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust for supporting our seniors!