“The Dirndl Diaspora” Honored by the LA Underground Film Forum

Kristen Caven
4 min readSep 25

Kristen Caven’s lockdown Oktoberfest animated stage play receives Honorable Mention in 2023


Think of The Dirndl Diaspora, a unique “spiel show” by Kristen Caven, as a work that is deep under the underground. For reasons that will be obvious when you see it, the LA Underground Film Forum could not include the truly weird animated film in last summer’s official selections, but awarded the Honorable Mention nonetheless, recognizing the creator’s vision and the film’s unique contribution to cinema. In this comedic work of couture theater about generational healing Caven, an Oakland writer, community organizer, and comic imagines an ideal intersectional community that achieves generational healing.

Honorable mention laurels emblem for the 2023 LA Underground Film Forum

This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Caven and her team, who “fashioned” a positive creative experience for themselves and an uplifting, inspiring, and laugh-out-loud think piece for the home-bound audiences who had to drink Oktoberfest beer at home. In fact, Caven’s passion for the story, which had been evolving over two years, was a driving force behind what may have been the world’s first virtual Oktoberfest. Instead of using her grant from the Dimond Neighborhood Association to book a venue in her historic German neighborhood, Caven hired an animator. Would-be partygoers ordered German Food and local beers to watch The Dirndl Diaspora’s world premiere on Zoom, and the next day, an online dirndl fashion show included entries from all over the world. You can see recordings on the show’s Facebook page and events.

This work is so underground it’s set in a basement.

In this captivating theatrical piece, a fictional fashion designer discovers her brand with a little help from her friends. Savannah James makes custom dirndls, the traditional dress of Austria and Bavaria, out of traditional fabrics of various ethnicities. A German journalist, Anna Schwartz, arrives at her basement shop for an interview, which is interrupted by a stream of clients with stories to tell about their connection with their German heritage. Words like “Gemütlichkeit” and “Struvvelpeter” and “Arschgeige” flash across the screen as croquis-inspired paper dolls move around the cluttered set, in a bizarre South Park-meets-Barbie animation by Ramona Zetino, with a tumble of conversation reminiscent of Mindwalk or My Dinner With André. They talk about everything from collecting kitsch to matching plaids to fighting Nazis, horror stories and war stories, and the universal intersectional issues of women from making babies to making money. Oh, and beer. There’s a lot about beer.

In fact, you can make it a drinking game, says the playwright. “Drink every time a character drinks…or every time a German word pops on the screen. And try to pronounce it.” Caven was walking through Oakland’s Oaktoberfest getting people to polka, and handing out funny German words on slips of paper, when she first got the idea for a play that would express her chosen city’s humor, progressive thought, and creativity. Drawing on her love for the city’s diversity, she created a story that reaches far beyond Oakland, as a homegrown example of interracial reality and relatability.

Audiences find it a bit of a jaw-dropper.

Yodassa Williams, author of The Goddess Twins, found the play evocative. “Its awesome seeing Oakland as a character as well as a uniting force.”

Nina Egert, Author of Noguchi’s California, said, “Oakland’s cooperative culture offers a positive example to the world, and your play can serve to broadcast that idea.”

Blogger and journalist Moya Stone of Overdressed For Life wrote, “An excellent educational tool; we need to get better at blending and appreciating all the fabulous cultures that make up America.”

Sarah Kobrinsky, Emeryville’s poet laureate, called it “A wonderful tale about women, their loves, their search for meaning in their family histories and forging their futures together in community.”

And couturier Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden said, “It was great to just hang around with women laughing their asses off.”

You can read more reviews on Caven’s blog and the play’s Facebook page.

About Kristen Caven

Kristen Caven is an accomplished writer and author whose books, plays, and essays are driven by her passion for storytelling and truthtelling. Her latest book, The Winning Family: Where No One Has to Lose, will be released as an audiobook in 2024. For more information on Kristen Caven and her work, please visit her website at https://kristencaven.com/.

About the LA Underground Film Fest

The LA Underground Film Fest is an annual event that showcases exceptional independent films and filmmakers from around the world. The festival is dedicated to promoting the art of cinema and providing a platform for emerging and established filmmakers to share their work with a global audience. For more information on the LA Underground Film Fest, please visit their website at https://www.laufilmfest.com/.

LAUFF is grateful for the opportunity to discover The Dirndl Diaspora. They look forward to Caven’s career as a filmmaker, and extend their congratulations to the whole team for creating a must-see underground film.

The Dirndl Diaspora can be accessed with a small donation through the playwright’s website, and her subscribers can view it free throughout October.

Kristen Caven

Author of The Winning Family and much more. Also likes shoes and jello. My books are at www.kristencaven.com