Private Project

The Dirndl Diaspora

A talented dressmaker is overwhelmed by life changes as her multicultural clients discuss their German heritages and drink all her beer.

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Savannah James is racing against time. Orders are rushing in for her custom couture dirndl dresses; friends, customers and reporters keep appearing in her basement studio; ideas keep popping into her head; and—what’s that sound? A baby clock going cuckoo?

Business has been booming since Zendaya wore her designer dress in Teen Vogue. Suddenly Savannah's idea of making ethnic mashups of traditional German party clothes is getting every inner city in America excited about Oktoberfest. And now they're enlisting her for costumes to fight Nazis? Is this any time to bring a baby to work?

Kristen Caven’s new play is about work and creativity, horror stories and fashion fantasies, building positive futures out of complicated pasts, and the beauty of a circle of women.

Oh, and beer. Lots of beer.

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This movie about Oktoberfest (the traditional annual beer festival, now a globally local event) set in Oakland, California is illuminating and relevant at any time of year.

  • Kristen Baumgardner Caven
    Director
  • Kristen Baumgardner Caven
    Writer
    Be Mused, The Souls of Her Feet (stage)
  • Kristen Baumgardner Caven
    Producer
  • Vicki Victoria
    Key Cast
    "Savannah"
    The Smiths (2013)
  • Caroline Altman
    Key Cast
    "Anna"
    The Last Good Man
  • Kristen Caven
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Experimental, Web / New Media
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 25 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 3, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    6,300 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    n/a
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Dimond Oaktoberfest |Oaktober2020
    Oakland, CA
    United States
    October 17, 2020
    Worldwide
  • Virtual Oktoberfest 2021
    Online
Director Biography - Kristen Baumgardner Caven

Kristen Caven is a multimedia creative who has written and directed numerous projects, dance numbers, readings, videos, shows, and arts events to educate, entertain, and inspire audiences to imagine new possibilities. The author of seven books including The Bullying Antidote and Perfectly Revolting: My Glamorous Cartooning Career, Kristen’s approach blends mythical thinking with positive psychology. Her outpouring can be seen on www.kristencaven.com.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

This play was inspired at my local Oktoberfest in 2018, in the Dimond District of Oakland California, when I noticed there were more local beers, hip-hop dancers and African clothing booths than German cultural markers in the historically German neighborhood. As a 2nd generation German Immigrant, I wondered what I could do to help bridge cultures in a creative way. Admiring the beautiful fabrics, I was suddenly struck with the longing to buy a kente cloth dirndl! The concept for The Dirndl Diaspora downloaded straight into my brain over the following weeks and months.

The following year, I did a table read of the first draft at the 2019 Oaktoberfest, and saw there was something to it. A Zoom reading in May 2020 allowed me to develop the idea further, but it was not until the summer’s worldwide awakening to the reality of racial violence that I fully understood what I was trying to accomplish. A few rounds of sensitivity readings with both Black and German cultural experts allowed me to find the edges and use them to create the nuances I was seeking.

The Dirndl Diaspora is an optimistic work, both intimate and exuberant, about the role of women in creating cultural change. My work around women’s sovereignty, parenting psychology, and family power dynamics (the 4th edition of The Winning Family with Dr. Louise Hart comes out in April, 2022) came alive through the protagonist’s deliberations about reproduction.

I succeeded in wrapping a story about unconscious collusion with white supremacy in lovely corsets, and dismantling racism by mixing ethnic textiles, in the warmth of female friendships and the strength of women’s work.

The neighborhood association had given me a grant to do a staged reading at the 2020 Oaktoberfest, but it became clear that we couldn’t do a live performance. I spent the money I’d set aside for the venue on an animator to liven up the loooong conversation, and we came up with something unique and truly weird.
We sourced hundreds of assets from online stores, and wikipedia, and fuddled through the uncharted audio madness of Zoom recordings. The magic was there, and we even premiere an original song.

On opening night in mid-October, dozens of neighbors and friends gathered on Zoom and ate German food delivered from local restaurants, then tuned in to watch the movie on Vimeo.

The next day, I hosted an online dirndl fashion show with entries from all over the world, and gave out the first #dirndldiversity award!

The cast was thrilled to have a consuming creative project to combat the mental strain of Covid. Our collective hope is that this work helps illuminate intertwined ancestries, the bonds of love and fashion, myths and mindset, fascism and feminism, and help envision a more nourishing future for women and their worlds, everywhere.