“Apple Season” Comes Home to LA

by E.M. Lewis

I started writing Apple Season [Moving Arts‘ production opens July 13] about ten years ago, when I was living in Los Angeles. I was invited to write a ten-minute play on, as I recall, the theme of “backyard fruit.” As sometimes happens with a writing prompt, something unlocked inside of me when I put pen to paper. A story about legacies of violence and how to escape them. A story about family and friends, and memory and monsters. All set in an apple orchard in my home state of Oregon, on a farm much like the one where I grew up.

I think it was a darker ten-minute play than the folks at Botanicum Seedlings had in mind, but that was the play their prompt inspired. And those characters continued to clamor for more story, well after our readings there in Topanga Canyon.

Liza Fernandez in rehearsal for “Apple Season” – photo by Cece Tio

Funny how things work.

It seems very right to be here now, telling this particular story. For lots of reasons.

This is a play about coming home. And in every possible way, that’s what I’ve done. I live back on my family farm in Oregon, now, just like one of the characters in the play. I’m back in Los Angeles for this production, working with the theater company I first called home.

One of the reasons is that this is a story with a woman at the center of it. From politics to soccer, there is a rising understanding that women belong at the center of stories.

This is a story that grapples with domestic violence and violence against women. And there is also a rising understanding that the truth of those types of violence, so long suppressed, must come out. We are going to bring them out. Because as much as speaking hurts, silence hurts us more.

This is a story about agency. There are so many things happening right now that make us feel powerless. And overwhelmed. And afraid. But even when our actions are small, they can change the world. One small step at a time.

I’m grateful to my friend, director, and long time collaborator Darin Anthony and my friend, producer, and long time collaborator Cece Tio for bringing Apple Season to Moving Arts. I absolutely adore my cast — Liza Fernandez as Lissie Fogerty, Justin Huen as her brother, Roger Fogerty, and Rob Nagle as Billy Rizzell. Our designers are working magic, over at the Atwater Village Theater, building us an apple orchard full of memories and ghosts.

I hope that you’ll join us for the show!

Moving Arts’ “Apple Season” runs July 13 – August 5 at Atwater Village Theatre, part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere. For Tix & Info visit www.MovingArts.org or call (323) 472-5646.

Justin Huen and Rob Nagle in rehearsal for “Apple Season” – photo by Cece Tio

E. M. LEWIS is an award-winning playwright, teacher, and opera librettist. Her work has been produced around the world, and is published by Samuel French. Plays include: Magellanica, Apple Season (currently having a National New Play Network rolling world premiere at New Jersey Rep, Riverside Theater, and Moving Arts), How the Light Gets In (which will have its world premiere at Boston Court Pasadena this fall), The Gun Show, Song of Extinction, Heads, Infinite Black Suitcase, Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, Reading to Vegetables, True Story, and You Can See All the Stars (a Kennedy Center commission). Awards include: the Steinberg Award and Primus Prize from the American Theater Critics Association, the Ted Schmitt Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a playwriting fellowship from NJ State Arts Commission, the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama, and the Edgerton Award. Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant, a new opera that Lewis is creating with composer Evan Meier, commissioned by American Lyric Theater, had a piano vocal workshop in New York City in March. Town Hall, an opera Lewis created with composer Theo Popov, was produced at Willamette University in March as well. Lewis is currently working on a big new political play called The Great Divide. She is a proud member of LineStorm Playwrights and the Dramatists Guild, and lives on her family’s farm in Oregon.

I Was a 2019 Fringe Do-it-Yourself-er!

by Grace Jasmine

I don’t like to hear no—especially about my own work as an artist!  I don’t think anyone does. When I was 22, I took a one-act musical I had written to NYC and managed to get enough interest from an agent to help me produce a 2-night off-off Broadway showing in the village. I just assumed I could do it, and I was right. Flash forward a few years (I won’t admit how many), and it occurred to me that I could do it again. I had a script in my hand I had workshopped for over a year, my baby show just had its first reading, and I had the need to move forward with my career as a playwright. So, I did.

In 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival, I wrote 2 short musicals. I finished the scripts and showed up to watch. But this time, I wanted control and freedom. I wanted to grow my show, my own abilities, and my understanding of what I could accomplish—as a writer, a producer, and a director! A whole DIY project. [Grace’s HFF19 show, The Masher, has an Encore! performance July 11, 7pm at Studio C.]

Here’s a short list of what I did right and wrong. I hope this helps you sum up your own Fringe experience, or if you are thinking about 2020, gives you a little head start.

1. Trust Your Instincts

Trust you are good at what you do. Trust you make good decisions. Trust your talent. Absolutely get advice, but trust yourself. It turns out my instincts were dead-on. Yes, I was right to get this show up at THIS Fringe, yes, I was right to direct, yes, I was right to make an LLC, yes, I had good instincts. I might have saved myself a few lost nights’ sleep and Xanax if I trusted myself sooner.

2. Make Friends

Get to know your stage manager and tech people. Talk to other people about THEIR shows, ask people for help and volunteer help. Support other people’s shows. Be generous. Be friendly and be kind. And on that note, let me shout out here to wonderful shows—and strong women who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in them who were especially dear to me and have become new friends: I Am Not a Man*, Crack Whore, Bulimic, Girl-Next-Door*, The Flower Society*, Paper Trails*, Speak I Will—a Fractured Shakespeare*, Trash, Drought, My Trans Wife*, What I Never Told You*… And to the new friend I am sure I just forgot, I love you too. (An asterisk means the show has an Encore! Congrats!)

3. Do the PR

Write your press release EARLY. Get your list of industry and press people together early. I did not do this fast enough and it became a thing that slowed me down. To do a great press release you need to really synopsize your show, down to a log line. That takes some think-time. Make sure you make time for it.

4. Pay People Something

I know it’s Fringe and we are all “starving artists” but people deserve payment for their work, even if it is the tiniest stipend. We all feel more validated if there is payment for our amazingly committed and quality work. I hope to always do this in the future. Another note: MAKE A BUDGET. And, oh, yeah: Do a KICKSTARTER, BUT DO IT EARLY. (I lost out on this and next time, I will do this first!)

5. Ask for Help

At Fringe you have to ask for help. Ask for advice from people you respect, ask for referrals or help with things you don’t know about. Ask your husband, wife, kids, partner, best friend, or sister for HELP. People will step up if you expect it and realize you deserve it. You do. This is your time. (You have supported everyone else’s dreams, right?)

6. Kill Your Darlings

Rewrite early. Cut the hell out of the things that don’t work. Work your transitions until they are fast and painless. Be brutal. Do the work. You will NOT be sorry. Fringe is an incubator. The 7th draft that ended up on your Fringe stage is probably 5 drafts away from a finished product. When the dust settles, take notes from people you trust, and move forward to your next DIY play.

And finally, realize you stepped out on the invisible bridge, you did the brave and the daring—you brought your show to The Hollywood Fringe!

For more info about Grace Jasmine and The Masher, visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5726

Cast of THE MASHER

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Comedy Hoe

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Jil Chrissie

WHAT: Comedy Hoe

WHERE: Hudson Theatres (Hudson Guild) 6539 Santa Monica Bl

WHY: Because black women producing changes the game – it raises the bar! Jil Chrissie creates a new genre, while giving fellow comedians of color a platform to share their material and have a louder voice.

Comedy Hoe is stand-up comedy meeting high art. You will not find many who would say these are a good match but after seeing Comedy Hoe I saw the possibility, the magic of combining spoken word, fictional storytelling and stand-up into a compelling and powerful piece of new theater. This is a fantastic, innovative show which also features comic Angelica Mackey, who is hilarious – a true comedian with a simmering presence on stage. And Jil can bring a room from uncontrolled laughter to stillness, where reflection takes hold. As an audience member you sense you are witnessing something special, that you are a part of the future. Comedy Hoe belongs in galleries and clubs from the U.S to Europe.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5605

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe” in Encore Performances

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: The Living Room

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Amrita Dhaliwal + Gemma Soldati

WHAT: The Living Room

WHERE: Theatre of NOTE, 1517 North Cahuenga Bl

WHY: A woman in a black dress with her face hidden from the audience marks lines on a chalkboard. Silent. We see only the bounce her body makes as she writes on a small board. There’s something about this action that becomes unsettling but, but your fears are set aside as an abrupt entrance brings  the room to immediate laughter. This Dynamic Duo’s energy, chemistry and timing are a theatrical treat that will take you outside yourself and on an unexpected emotional journey with a room full of strangers. The Living Room is a place where many families gather together in joy and sorrow. A room of memories.

This show is a wonderful examination and celebration of life and death. By the end of the show you won’t quite understand how, but you’ll find yourself speaking aloud.

HOW: https://www.dhalidati.com/thelivingroom (The HFF19 show has closed but The Living Room will be performing as part of the Edinburgh Fringe)

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe” in Encore Performances

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Aisha Kasmir

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists from all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make space, open doors wider for women from all cultures to have a chance to have their voices included in the future of theatre.

Selfie stars Aisha Kasmir, in a cabaret revue honoring the songs of seventies sensation Minnie Riperton. It’s been forty-five years since the hit song “Lovin You” climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 list and forty years since Minnie passed on. This  is an ode to  Minnie and a celebration of Aisha finding her voice and  her way back to herself through the discovery of Minne Riperton’s music. #HFF19’s Selfie promises to take you on a musical ride through self-discovery, self-love, self-actualization and accepting your true identity.

Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? What led you to Fringe?

Aisha: I started sketching out this cabaret in 2016 when my vocal coach suggested I create a tribute concert to better showcase my vocals. What started as a traditional cabaret – storytelling and singing – became something more avant garde. A friend and stage manager then pushed me to try to put my show up at the Fringe Festival. 90% of the music was done, I was in the middle of writing the talking points, so I said, “It’s now or never.”

Constance: The work is now out there. How does that feel?

Aisha: It feels liberating that I’m no longer the only one hearing the genius of Minnie Riperton and her eclectic music. If at least one person per show starts streaming and downloading her music and keeps her voice alive, I’m happy.

Constance: What are you enjoying most doing your show? What has been the most surprising discovery?

Aisha: I enjoy singing those whistle tones! I guess people really like them and it gives me a heady rush every time. The most surprising discovery is how different each audience is, but I have to remain true to my story and confident in my show. I can’t change tactics because there wasn’t as big a laugh in one show versus another. I like it, and I’m not going to apologize!

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development process?

Aisha: Getting the music done. Minnie Riperton didn’t leave behind a lot of sheet music or even tracks, so I had to transcribe (with the help of a transcriptionist) and recreate and reproduce all the tracks with my own twist and embellishments. That part took two years to complete.

Constance: What do you hope audience members take away from your show?

Aisha: That expectations and boxes are for test takers and rule makers, and as artists, we have to break free from those constraints, and as audiences, we have to allow people to give us something different.

For more information on SELFIE in HFF19, visit https://fringemeter.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5758

Aisha Kasmir

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Chi Le

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists from all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make space, open doors wider for women from all cultures to have a chance to have their voices included in the future of theatre.

Introducing the one and only Chi Le! If you happen to be a Toy Story fan, then you most likely know and love the story of Woody and Buzz, yet are unfamiliar with the story of Sid and Andy! No worries, Chi’s got you covered in her adaptation of the Toy Story Fanfic, Under The Table And Dreaming by Holly Combs.  She’s manifested her dreams and directed the #HFF19 production, giving ALL proceeds to the LA LGBTQ Center, an organization that is close to Chi’s heart.

Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? What led you to Fringe and why now?

Chi: I’ve been working on this for a year now! I had been thinking of adapting Under the Table for a long, long time, but was worried about getting a cease and desist. Then I went to see the extended run of 19 Years Later, the Cursed Child remake! It really encouraged me to just go for it since this was a fanwork that was being showcased!

Constance: The work is now out there. How does that feel?

Chi: It feels really good! When you’ve been working on something for as long as I did, sometimes you feel stuck with it or you lose sight of why you began/fell in love with it in the first place. It’s nice to receive feedback from an audience or just rediscover things about it as the process goes on.

Constance: What has been the biggest discovery doing your show? What are you enjoying most?

Chi: I’m learning a lot about what people take from the story and how difficult but rewarding it is to translate something to stage! It’s also just been such a blast working with my very talented cast, seeing how they change little things every performance and how they just really embody their characters. It’s WILD seeing that happen

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of this production?

Chi: Money. Hahahahahahahhaa.

Constance: What do you hope audience members take away from your show?

Chi: I hope that the straight audience members can see a queer story unfold that isn’t tragic or about coming out or even about being queer, necessarily — that we have rich, full lives and that our stories are just regular love stories. And for other queer folk, I hope they get some comfort in the thought of a real, true love and get to see a reflection of themselves in these works.

For more information on UNDER THE TABLE AND DREAMING in HFF19, visit https://fringemeter.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5904

Chi Le

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: No Child Left Behind

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Mathka Mthembu

WHAT: No Child Left Behind

WHERE: Thymele Arts (Kansas Room) 5481 Santa Monica Blvd

WHY: As soon as you enter the theatre you’re immediately swooped into a classroom. What occurs after the teachers enter the space is a whirlpool of unexpected emotions as you begin to understand the heartbreaking realities of Apartheid. We all have heard the legend of Nelson Mandela, but not so familiar is the story of the children of Apartheid who grew up trying to understand how their country was not theirs, and maneuvering in their world with white voices echoing around them and stealing their rights. In a short amount of time, you learn many South African truths, you hear history in Mathka’s voice, and you begin to see just how funny the absurd can be… if it didn’t want to make you cry.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6252

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Fight or Flight

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Maty Cameron

WHAT: Fight or Flight

WHERE: Underground Annex Theater 1308 N. Wilton Pl.

WHY: Marty writes as well as directs Fight or Flight, a bold play showcasing a young girl full of grit. It’s not an obvious play but it is a play of the times. We discover Zoey Jones, a young female fighter, looking for a gym to train at. Through Zoey – who is about to have her first professional boxing fight – we get an interesting look at female fighters finding support in/out of the ring, how much it takes mentally to fight with your fists in a ring, and how we build bonds and friendships with the coaches in our lives. This is a unique new work full of heart!

HOW: http://hff19.org/5806

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Odunayo Majekodunmi

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists of all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make room, make way for women from all backgrounds to have a chance to be included in the future of theatre. It is with great excitement and joy, I introduce Odunayo Majekodunmi, the GIRL FROM SCHENECTADY! Odunayo’s #HFF19 show received an Honorable Mention from the Fringe. Odunayo takes us on a personal journey from her Nigerian roots to finding love in her hometown of Schnetady, NY… in the most unexpected of places. Does losing your virginity need to include true love? 

Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? What led you to Fringe?

Odunayo: I started writing my show about 8 years ago. I was advised by my director, Danielle Mone’ Truitt,  to open the show at the Fringe. I started attending Fringe one-person shows in 2017 and 2018, which gave me confidence to move forward.

Constance: The work is now out there; you’ve given it away. How does that feel?

Odunayo: It feels amazing! I’m so excited to keep up my show and to continue performing it for audiences. I’m happy with the feedback that I’ve been getting; most of it is from women stating the story is very relatable and they have experienced similar situations. Audience members have also mentioned the story is funny, entertaining and heartfelt.

Constance: What are you enjoying most doing your show? What has been the biggest  discovery?

Odunayo: I am enjoying performing my show and perfecting it each time I get on stage, believing each performance  will be better than the last one. I was nervous about how men would react to the story because I didn’t want them to think it was male bashing of any kind. Luckily, I haven’t received that response from the male audiences.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of the Fringe?

Odunayo:  Producing and marketing the show myself. Writing the script, rehearsing, finding the right director was one thing. However, deciding to produce it and pay for everything was challenging – but I’m so proud of myself that I accomplished it!

Constance: What do you hope audience members take away from your show?

Odunayo: I hope audience members are inspired, encouraged and empowered in their lives, especially in believing in true love – women in particular who have experienced any kind of pain in relationships, or just haven’t had the best luck in finding Mr. Right.

For more information on THE GIRL FROM SCHENECTADY in HFF19, visit  https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5754

Odunayo Majekodunmi

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Catharsis

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Megh Gwinn

WHAT: CATHARSIS

WHERE: Actors Company, 916 N.Formosa Ave

WHY: CATHARSIS is a meditation on the (de) stabilizing effects of adoption. With paint, a canvas, a hammer and a wood board, CATHARSIS captures the spirit of the Fringe!  Megh will steal your heart with her carefree dancing and the way her voice crawls up behind your neck as she sings, like a secret you’ve been hiding. The time she takes within the space – no rushing, using pauses as action – will stir your soul. And when she begins to break the comfortable use of language while reading a letter from her birth mother, you, too, will never quite understand why she Meg was given up for adoption. But you do see a magical, beautiful artist who will thrive and who wasn’t afraid to say aloud in a room full of strangers, “Why me?”

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6235 (Fringe performances have ended. One can only hope Megh Gwinn extends this show then expands this show!)

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”