by Kitty Felde
A week or so ago, I was honored to be invited back for a second year to serve as dramaturg to a group of playwrights in Lincoln, Nebraska. And as usual, I learned more about my own shortcomings as a writer. It’s always easier to see the problems in someone else’s play. It’s one of the reasons I so enjoy attending new play conferences, like the annual gathering at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. “If only they’d tackle this” or “fix that” I say to myself, knowing full well I should be saying that to myself.
Here are the two big take-aways from my Nebraska seminar. I should tape them to my wall:
– Theatre is about present action, what happens NOW onstage, not about working out past trauma. Certainly the past informs the present. But if the biggest event in your play happened twenty years ago and all we get to do is hear about it, we, the audience will feel like we didn’t get our money’s worth.
– Every monologue must operate as its own mini-play. What does the character want? Why is she/he telling this story? What do they want to get out of the person they are telling it to? What challenge or problem is the character working out in that monologue? Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Again, is it just about the past? Is it just exposition? Make it necessary to the play as a whole.
These two points were a particular challenge to my class of hopeful playwrights. They are also challenging me.
I got a commission to write a one-man show that will serve as a tour for the neighborhood around the White House. A company here in DC commissioned three playwrights to build one-hour shows around a historic character who lived or worked in the White House. My character is Quentin Roosevelt, youngest son of Theodore.
There are challenges I’ve never had to worry about in previous plays: when will the Secret Service arbitrarily shut down the tour route? Do you need to build in bathroom breaks? How much walking can an audience take before it tunes out and thinks of nothing more than the next bench?
But I’ve also had those two big challenges to tackle: how do you make present a story that is mostly (by design) intended to inform about the past? And how do you do this with a 50 page monologue?
My own solution for QUENTIN was to set the play on the day he came to DC for his Army Air Corps physical – the one where he memorized the eye chart to hide his poor eyesight. It was to be a reunion with his “White House Gang” – the neighborhood kids he hung out with during the years his father was president. The gang doesn’t show up, but he encounters a group of tourists…whose tour guide has also stood them up. Quentin offers to take then around, sharing his own stories of life in the White House and bits of Washington lore. But he’s also having an internal struggle about coming to terms with enlisting, not disappointing his father, the very real possibility of death, and the excitement about his secret engagement to Flora Whitney.
We’ll see if it works. The show is in rehearsal right now. If you’re in DC this summer, you can join a tour – er, performance – and see for yourself.
As I continue on my journey to be a playwright, I try to surround myself with like minded people, so I can ask questions and pick their brains. I started writing my first play by accident. I was trying to work some stuff out and would write random thoughts, collecting stories, and poof a play.
Ok, not exactly poof, more like a volcano that has blown and the lava is slowly inching its way to the sea, and when it hits the salt water a cloud of volcanic yuck fills the airs with a sizzle. That’s where I’m at. Volcanic yuck. My first play completed, workshopped and performed but no idea what to do next. The sequel that I had started hangs over me like ashfall, with no end in sight. I have been again collecting bits and pieces of writing as I try to figure out this next show. Trying to write for a specific topic to be performed in a specific venue. So many options for stories to be told, where do you start?
Sitting alone at my computer doing endless research, I am no further along, with the exception of a few dozen avenues to explore. My goal is to find a writers group to just sit with and write. I don’t have to share with anyone, I just need to feel the pressure of others actually writing and I think it would work. When I do have the opportunity to sit with real writers, I feel like a fan girl gushing and asking non-stop questions. Writing with other writers and then sharing is a an opportunity to understand the process of writing by their comments and how they ask questions. They don’t offer up suggestions for your characters or “maybe you should change the location so then your protagonist escapes the bad guy, you can change this and you can change that”. They tell you what they liked and what they didn’t understand and what they wanted to know more about and it makes you want work harder.
I can feel the tradewinds blowing and the ash lifting. The only way to get past the yuck is to just keep writing. Sit down, turn off your internet connection, so you won’t be able to do “research”. Or better yet, go old school, grab your notebook and find a comfy, place to write, and just write. Don’t worry if it’s good, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be.
by Diane Grant
I now know how difficult it is to send those rejection letters we all hate to receive.
Seven years ago, a small group of us started the Palisades Playwrights Festival at Theater Palisades, wanting to introduce new voices to a community theater that is still convinced that plays like Chapter Two, The Foreigner, and You Can’t Take It With You, are the only plays that people will come to see.
We have readings of new plays for three Tuesdays in April with a Q&A after and wine and refreshments before. We’ve found some really well written, entertaining – even crowd pleasing – new plays. They are well rehearsed and staged and the actors throw themselves into them. (A friend from ALAP came and although she didn’t say whether or not she liked the play, thought the acting was stupendous.) And even though we have yet to convince the powers that be to add any of these new plays to a season – we’ll keep trying – our audience for the readings has continued to grow and people come back every year.
We initially had submissions from only the Westside but alarmingly for such a small crew, our submissions have increased too, and this year we had seventy plays to read! We had to open up the process to more readers, and from October to February, we read, read, and read.
With only three slots, choosing the plays was very difficult.
Then came the writing of the rejection letters! It is so hard to reject good scripts and really awful having to turn friends down. Some people ask for notes and that’s OK. I’ll do that when I can think again. And some people don’t take it well at all! One playwright sent me a message that said, “Your financial institution has important information for you. Click here.” (Fortunately, he neglected to remove his photo from the side of the email.)
Surprisingly, we had far more submissions from men than women. We chose two plays by men this year, a romantic comedy about a novelist being dragged into the 21st century; a play set in 1947 about PTSD and the then new idea of putting small offenders into community service; followed by a dark hilarious comedy by a woman, Virginia Mekkelson, about how a surprise delivery of a crocodile solves a couple of problems with bad corporate bosses.
I hope that we have more plays from women next year and that lapfiers will make our work even harder next year and submit.
by Diane Grant
A while ago, Nancy Beverly, a fellow lafpier, sent me a link to a YouTube series called The Calamities of Jane, which is about a 50’ish actress who is still trying to make it in the biz. Nancy wrote a lot of the episodes on this show which stars Rebecca Klinger, who produced and plays the title role.
Each episode, and I’ve seen three so far, is sharp, honest, very funny and so painful.
And all released a flood of memories. I remembered the time I was auditioning for a commercial in which a woman who has won a big prize throws a bunch of cash in the air. I had made everyone laugh and I knew, just knew, that I’d booked it, when some demon inside me spoke up and said, “But wouldn’t they have given her a check?” End of story. There was a game show I thought I was sailing through until a guy came up to me and whispered, “Relax, sweetheart, and pull down your skirt.” Didn’t book that again. There was always something. I was too fat or too thin, too young or too old, or “too short for a two shot.” Strangely, whenever there was something I was absolutely right for, the daughter of my agent would get the part.
Then, my husband, a filmmaker, and I wrote screenplays together. And of course, pitched them. We pitched our little hearts out. And kept at it until we had holes (not diamonds) in the soles of our shoes. We worked for Amway distributors and phone rooms and wrote a charming little story that could have made the studios millions, called The Blini.
Like Jane, we always had car trouble and one day on our way to a studio, we heard a thump and a clunk and a rattle and a horn honking. A woman in the next lane yelled, “You’ve got a flat tire.” We kept on, flat tire or no. (We found out on another occasion, that the spare tire in the trunk is smaller than the other three and when you put it on the wheel and drive off, you feel like clowns in an impoverished circus troupe.)
We limped into the studio, and pitched our charming little story with great verve and sparkle and passion. The producer told our agent that she was “underwhelmed.”
We were sent out again and while waiting and waiting in the anteroom of yet another producer, told an assistant that we had to go soon to pick up our daughter from school. When the producer finally appeared, she said, “Make it quick. We don’t want your daughter to be abducted on the street corner.”
We were sent to another studio. We’d had to change the date and our agent assured us that that hadn’t been a good move. While we waited, sitting in two tiny chairs, in yet another anteroom, which was the size of one of those walk in closets you see on reality shows, the producer’s “girl” talked on the phone. “Well,” she shouted. “So what if he had a gun? What’s so wrong about that? What is your problem?”
Finally, we were waved into the producer’s enormous office, where he was watching the stock market figures moving across an electronic band at the base of his office walls. He might have said, “Go ahead,” but we weren’t sure because he was talking over his shoulder. However, we pitched our little hearts out and then he said, “I think I heard that pitch before and passed.”
We did have a little run of luck and after winning with a short film at Cannes wrote another charming little script, this time for a studio, a complete rewrite of one of their films. We called it Cannes Artists. I have to make this short because I might START SOBBING. It did make millions for the studio but not for us because the head of the studio who had employed us left and the project was passed on to a new writer who rewrote it and called his script Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Now, when I send out my plays and receive a rejection in two seconds flat or don’t hear back at all or get that “not for us at this time” email, I don’t blink. I pour myself a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio, turn on the TV, put up my feet, and watch Chopped.Tweet
What I have learned these past 4 months during my yoga teacher training is that yoga is not only about the poses (asana in Sanskit). Yoga is a practice, and like other practices every day is different. The regularity of the practice varies from person to person. What you put into the practice is what you’ll get out of the practice. I am almost near the finish line of this yoga teacher training journey. I wish I could honestly say it was a good journey in that I am coming though it with a happier perspective, but instead I am coming through with a broader perspective and disillusionment.
Los Angeles has grown to be a yoga mecca outside of India. If you google the studios that have proliferated in the Los Angeles area in the past recent years you might see a concentration of studios have budded and matured mostly in the west side. It has grown into a glamorous industry far away from the grass roots yoga images and institutions from where it was birthed. There’s aerial yoga, water yoga, pre-natal yoga, maybe one day yoga flavored ice cream. There’s even a social justice motivated yoga where I studied for my training.
My earliest practical experience of yoga was in a Bikram studio in Vancouver. I really liked it, and practiced yoga regularly there and also here in Los Angeles. Then my practice became dormant while I explored other parts of myself with acting, writing and music. All these other traditions take time so yoga fell off my radar. To revitalize my interest in it I chose to enroll for 200 hour teacher training for myself, without any immediate intention to teach yoga. In my enthusiastic haste to embark on this project the studio I chose to study was the one closest to where I lived in South Central Los Angeles. The cost was reasonable compared to other places offering 200 hour teacher training and the schedule was workable for me.
The course material is Yoga Alliance approved which is what most students would like to do as it gives their training credibility should they choose to audition and teach at a studio. The 13 weekends spent with my fellow classmates covered material from the basic asanas, yoga history, anatomy, ayuvedric nutrition and the different styles of yoga (kundalini, Iyengar, hatha, vinyasa, etc.) There was one module on social justice which was a very difficult class because of the discussions that came up. The primary divisor between the students was the topic of race. The subtlety of yoga is that people are drawn to it for a variety of reasons, but most of what I learned is that people were drawn to yoga for its healing aspects. A professional doctor or therapist may have prescribed to “try yoga” to alleviate an injury from an accident or to help someone manage stress and depression.
What can happen in a yoga class for those unsuspecting of its deep tension releasing asanas and “breathing into that space” is it can bring up emotions related to trauma that has been buried in the tissues of the body. This can happen with deep stretch poses that opens up the hip area. This is the part of our anatomy where we carry the most weight of our traumas related to family and our relationships with others. It is the area of the first or root chakra, and also the second chakra (our creativity). During the eleventh week of our class, the module social justice started with a brief apology from the instructor for not having more people of color teach other modules. The reason was yoga is a new practice that have mostly been learned and taught by white culture.
There’s already an inherent risk in raising a differentiating factor by using a person’s color. What surprised me most was yoga does not differentiate in any form – not color, not age, not body type, not socio-economic reasons, not religion. Certainly yoga is not always affordable and someone curious or really intent on practicing yoga in a shared environment would need to dig to find “free yoga” or “yoga by donation”. They do exist, and there are more and more of these places available. Some students began to rattle names of people of color who are qualified to teach yoga. Then the instructor further explained that the experts she brought in offered their teaching and time for free.
I asked people in the class to clarify what “people of color” meant to them. I have my idea of what it means to me, but I wanted people to express and hear for themselves what they were thinking and saying. The answer most commonly said was that “people of color” meant not-white. When I looked at the ratio of the people that answered vehemently on describing the expression, my observation was they were also the people in the class who seemed to live in their vocabulary of woundology. It is a word created by Carolyn Myss (a medical intuitive, author of “Anatomy of the Spirit” and “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can” http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/myss-heal.html).
“Woundology is the tendency to insistently hold on to old traumas. You define yourself by your hurts, not by your strengths, and there in those hurts you stay stuck forever.” – Source (Victor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy in Israel. He is the author of a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning”. He was a neurologist and psychiatrist and a holocaust survivor.)
Of the 14 students in the class there was only one non-person-of-color and I will call her Wendy. Wendy bravely spoke out on her views and feelings. I’ve observed her to be a sincere and loving person, and I knew where she was coming from when she said that she does not see people of color, because she sees people by their behavior. I get it when she said that. I am reminded of song by George Brassen called “Quand On Est Con”. The message of the song is when you’re a jerk you’re a jerk (When you were a zygote you were a jerk, and when you were a kid you were a jerk, and when you’re old, you’re still a jerk.) It’s funny and it’s not funny which makes it even funnier to me the way life is (and I’m probably the only one laughing.)
The responses towards Wendy included “well, if you don’t see people of color then you don’t really see me.” It went as far as the teacher admonishing to her that as white women it was their responsibility to teach others about this lack of awareness in society. I was taken aback by this landslide of peoples’ emotions and lack of discrimination between emotion and reason. What I saw was an alienation of someone who had been part of the group from the beginning that was coming to its end. The woman’s eyes welled with tears. I spoke up. I said “Wait. Whatever happened to personal choice? What about respecting peoples’ capacities? It’s my personal choice whether or not I turn on the TV. I don’t like it when people shove their beliefs and ideology down my throat. I came here to learn about yoga and not talk about politics.” Someone rebutted passionately with “Yoga is everything!” And that response made me see that there were many wounds in the midst of the students. I’m not immune to wounds. I’ve had snowballs thrown in my face as a dark skinned islander in the midst of a mostly white community in Northern Alberta. I’ve been beaten and called “chink” and “china man”. There are other wounds too, but I’m not going to bring them into a yoga teacher training environment. People came to this class for a different purpose.
I consulted privately with others in the class after that event. Some agreed that the topic should not have been brought up, especially to those unsuspecting. Racial discrimination issues in this city is not an easy topic and it should be facilitated with thought and finesse. One black student gently reproached me for standing up for a white woman. I thought hmm? I stood up for a human being – one of us who belongs in that class like anyone else. Wendy resolutely pressed on till the last class of the course. That class was spent at the beach. Near the end of the day as we packed our things I gladly ran to my motorcycle to put my things away and dress in my riding gear. As I walked back to the group for a group photo by the water’s edge I saw Wendy walking towards the parking lot. When I asked her what happened she tearfully said, “I’m so done with this class. I can’t even say anything without someone making a case of it.” She explained that she said she needed to get out of the sun soon, otherwise she would turn purple like an eggplant. One person in the class told her that it was a derogatory remark. I wasn’t there to hear this and watch whatever happened unfold, but the result it exactly the opposite of what yoga is supposed to mean – “Union”.
If you’ve tried yoga, a good teacher will begin the class by asking students of injuries or pain that need to be addressed, so that the teacher can offer a modification to a pose to make it gentler or simply to ask the student to refrain from doing a pose that could aggravate the injury. The point is to take care of oneself. So another characteristic I would add to yoga is self-reliance. We all have built in capacities for survival. Unfortunately, some of us may have been exposed to harmful environments that suppressed that natural instinct. I believe that yoga is a tool that can be used as a practice to learn self-reliance to give our mind, body and spirit the vitality to enjoy life. One of the virtues spoken in the bible of yoga “The Yoga Sutras” by Patanjali is ahimsa.
“Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.” (source Wikepedia)
I am grateful for what I have learned in this journey to become a yoga teacher. Learning does have a price and over time I hope that everyone in my yoga teacher training class, will heal. The process will make us all better teachers. We can begin with practicing ahimsa.
I had a thought today that maybe in the script of life your 20’s are the rough, first draft, and your 30’s (and beyond) are the re-writes. Maybe there is an age, though I’m sure it’s different for everyone, where you feel like the vision you had for yourself is fully realized, and maybe that age never arrives. This is the kind of introspection I’m sure most people face in the final inning (really? a sports metaphor? eh, sure) of their 29th year. That first decade of adulthood fading off into the sunset and the big 3-0 slapping you in the face with “like-whoa, I guess this adult thing is really happening.” It’s really sort of incredible all the different lives we lead…married, divorced, single (hello, again–I am), children, no-children, successful, struggling, etc. 30 looks so different on each of us, yet signifies, as all landmark birthdays do, that ever present passing of time.
It’s been an interesting and, as usual, utterly unpredicted few months since I blogged last. A break-up sparked an insane art binge that created well over 100 paintings in less than 3 months and just as many poems. The painting then evolved into ink line drawings, all of which, along with my paintings, are now for sale in my recently re-activated Etsy shop: www.andiebottrell.etsy.com Did not see that coming. I’m working on trying to get a handwritten and illustrated poetry book published (no idea how to do that, everything I’ve read has said basically “poetry is dead” “there is so little money in it no publishers will ever read your submission” “seriously, when’s the last time you bought a poetry book?”–actually, I bought, like, 5 last month, but I’m learning I’m more unusual than I ever expected). And I have my first art show coming up in May (my 30th Birthday month)…it’s called the “Break-up Art Show” (;
In June, I’ll be going back to Tent Theatre–I wrote about my first experience there on this blog. It was a momentous experience for me. It got me my EMC card. I am so excited to be a full-time actor for an entire month again! The play is Unnecessary Farce which not too many people seem to know about yet, but it’s hilarious and has a lot of great, quick, fast-paced wit and creative physical comedy (haha, I couldn’t think of the term “physical comedy” so I googled “body humor”).
There hasn’t been much writing aside from poetry. It’s been just poetry and painting and acting lately. Which at times I struggled with feeling guilty about–I should be writing a script. I should be re-writing that play. I need to make a feature film. But, you know what? Screw what every writing blog says about writing when you’re uninspired. I’ve hated almost everything I’ve written when I forced it. I feel blasphemous even saying that because I feel like that just becomes an excuse for the undisciplined, but I truly think you have to just listen to your heart/inspiration talking-piece when it comes to creativity. And there are other ways to access your creative geiser–sometimes being uninspired to write something just means you need to find another way in. At times I also feel a lot of pressure from people to do just ONE thing. To only focus on acting or only focus on writing, etc. When you split your focus among lots of different things, how can you ever get really great or successful at any of them? And I don’t disagree necessarily. It’s annoying saying all the hyphenates of my artistic endeavors (actor/writer/director/editor/artist/photographer). It sounds pompous and it takes a long time to list. But those ARE the things I do on a regular basis–those are the ways I express myself and use my voice as an artist.
I’m learning that my personal artistic flow is cyclical and that my obsessive nature means that I often clamp down hard on one or two things for a time, while doing all the other things in smaller frequencies, and then rotate out to another skill set and do the same. I thrive when being surrounded by many tools to express myself and giving myself the freedom to go from one to the next as inspiration strikes. And I will no longer allow myself to feel bad or pigeonholed into “picking” just one thing when my heart demands the space to speak through several different instruments. I am an Artist. That is my life. My creations take many forms. That’s just who I am. I think part of turning 30 will be saying “That’s just who I am” a lot more. Not to say I’ll quit evolving (god, no, never!), but just that I’ll no longer feel bad about those few core parts of myself that I know to be true.
As I enter 30 I wonder if my art will ever sustain more than just the will to live, but become my actual livelihood. I’m struggling to figure out how to price my work, how to say that my art is valuable and you will have to pay me to have the privilege of using/seeing/working with it. At the same time as I’m struggling to tell others it’s worth paying for, I am also more confident than ever in my work. I can access things easier. I have more control over my skills. It doesn’t feel as hit-or-miss as it has for the majority of my 20’s. I have a lot more life experience to draw upon. My perspective is constantly expanding. I care less and less what I look like, but am working harder than ever to feel good in my body and take care of it as I have started noticing how quickly the body can start to deteriorate if you don’t. I’m more and more impressed at how resilient people are and their capacity to adapt to situations beyond their control–and the incredible things people have achieved. I see now, more than ever, the amount of work and sacrifices people make along the way to realize their dreams. I’m inspired by the massive guts (figuratively speaking) on so many people–and am constantly telling myself I’ve got to be even braver.
My new motto: Forward only, backward never.
by Robin Byrd
Listening for “First Words” – took me to a poem I started 10/26/12:
he got the tattoo
–so they would leave him alone
across his face
the skin once
smooth and beautiful
as he was marked
–for things no one should ever have to see
Today, 3/29/16, I continued:
he got the tattoo
across his face
–so they left him alone
the skin elsewhere
–by things seen in places no one should ever have to go
he got the tattoo
–in a place no one should have to go
marring the skin
once smooth and beautiful
across his face
it, the self-marking of himself
–with words that say leave me alone…
he got the tattoo
–for things no one should have to see and places no one should have go
across his face, across the smooth beautiful skin
in loud display
–leave me alone, it said, i will not take lightly to any more disruption
I title it “On the Occasion of Going to Jail…” and I wonder if there is a story trying to get out…
by Robin Byrd
I have mentioned this before but lately, it been getting more pronounced. Ever had someone tell you that they don’t mind if you talk to yourself but will have a problem if you answer? That is when – at that moment — I have to say that I do in fact, answer myself but “only when I’m writing…” They usually catch me answering anyway… What writer do you know who can carry on conversations with the characters and not “appear” to be talking and answering their own self? I get the best inflections when I hear:
(Off stage whisper) the voices
(SOUND: loud clearing of a throat) THE VOICES!
Yeah, them. Only profession I know where you can actually have more than one personality speaking out of your mouth almost simultaneously and not be labeled a “Schizophrenic” – or rather, be committed…to an institution. Whole worlds going on in your head and you ain’t crazy, just a writing somebody. J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, and C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, were friends – both of them had some really strange and fascinating worlds in their heads. Octavia Butler’s Kindred blew me away especially the part where (spoiler alert) the arm got stuck in the wall — read it.
I can always tell when I need to sit down and write, the talking gets a bit much. Stories busting at the seams need to be fitted for the page; they get tired of walking around in bloomers and say so. If I stuck to a regimen, I would have it down to a minutes but I like to write wherever…, whenever… I break up the wildness with little structured writing windows from time to time, letting the voices put on formal wear and heels or formal wear and combat boots. Fehlge Burt is wearing combat boots — literally — and she’s ready to speak. I have no idea when and where she enters but am looking forward to hashing it out… I looking forward to hearing her voice that has been growing down inside of me for a few decades and I am hoping she does not slack on her words….
by Robin Byrd
There is a place for all of us – writers… on the page, on the stage, on film… We may not get into the venues we want to get into but there is a place for our stories. Don’t give up. Don’t settle for not writing your stories down or telling them out loud… record them somewhere – the library of congress, your website…
I think of this because of the book “Sounder”, the author’s note in the beginning admits that an old black man told him this story – an old black man that was his teacher and was sometimes allowed to pray in the white church from the balcony – a sign of the times. The author couldn’t even remember the old man’s name but he remembered the story. William H. Armstrong recounted the story of Sounder omitting all the names of all people in the book, the only name given was Sounder’s. The old black man was probably the boy all grown up. The lack of names gives the story a very poignant universal air now I can’t forget the story.
I am about to read Tennessee William’s first play, A Candle to the Sun. Why? He can tell a good story. I’m working on Suzan-Lori Park’s Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1,2 & 3. Why? She can tell a good story, too. They do it so well…this thing called writing… so well, it makes me try harder… Makes it a little bit easier for me to just do the thing and let come what may…as long as I telling a good story and doing my best to tell it well… someone somewhere will read it.
I finally finished a play I’ve been mulling over for about five years, Fiddler’s Bridge. Felt good to get it out and even better to see my evolution as a writer — not so much that I am different but I know my craft better and it’s easier to just do the thing… Now all I have to do is stop putting Fiddle, Fiddlin’ or Fiddler in the title…but then again, titles have to fit the piece. I imagine after I have completed more of my 80 plus projects there will be an evolution to the handling of subject matter that can be seen. Or not… All I need to do is keep telling good stories… How about you? Told any good ones lately?Tweet
by Laura Shamas
“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….”― George Orwell, Why I Write
This election year, I’m concerned about the erosion of women’s rights on a number of fronts; that’s why I’m participating as a playwright in the Reproductive Freedom Festival on March 20, 2016. Featuring 25 short plays and poems, the event will stream live from New York’s TACT Studio this Sunday from 6-9 p.m. EDT/ 3-6 p.m. PDT via Virtual Arts TV.
As described on the RFF site, it’s: “a festival of short works celebrating the fundamental right to human reproductive autonomy.” Created and produced by Choice Theater (run by the amazing Cindy Cooper), its stated purpose is “to support reproductive freedom, rights, health and justice and to generate new conversations on these subjects.”
It has six parts, guided by six female directors. Here are the format details: “Half-hour sets, each completely different, of short theatrical works and poetry collected from across the country and presented by talented New York actors under the guidance of six directors. Artists and activists will describe their works every half hour.”
Each grouping has a theme: 1) Heroines; 2) Next Generations; 3) Conflicts; 4) Body Politics; 5) Discoveries; and 6) What We Know. There’s also a “Pre-Show” from Ireland at 5:30 p.m. EDT/ 2:30 p.m. PDT. You can watch just some of the festival or all of it—and it’s free.
I have a short comic piece in it called “Papyrus” about the discovery of an ancient scroll; it’s scheduled in the fifth half hour. Other LA FPI writers participating in the festival are Allie Costa, with her work “Two Girls” (in the second half hour), and Mildred Lewis, with her play “Chained Labor” (in the fourth half hour). For a complete performance schedule, with the writers and directors listed, please click here.
Costa’s piece, “Two Girls,” is a haunting, poetic duologue in which two women emerge from a violent attack. The play was first performed in London in 2015 at the Unheard Festival, produced by Goblin Baby Theatre Co. at The Bread & Roses Theatre. It has also been presented at the Clear Lines Festival and the Keble Arts Festival in London. This will be the first time “Two Girls” has been performed in the United States. Costa’s play “She Has Seen The Wolf,” which is thematically linked to “Two Girls,” just had its first staged reading this week in Hollywood at PlayGround-LA. Costa is a Los Angeles-based actress, writer, director, and singer working in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover.
Costa, when asked about why she’s part of the festival, observed: “Victims of sexual assault often have questions posed at them – ‘What were you wearing? Why were you out late at night?’ – that are tinged with shame and blame. We need to stop blaming victims and start listening to them, and give them a safe place to speak up and speak out. I am honored that my piece was selected for this festival, and I can’t wait to see it!”
In Mildred Lewis’ piece, “Chained Labor,” an African American woman reveals to her daughter that she gave birth to her in chains while she was incarcerated. Lewis notes: “That experience sadly continues. Facing the reproductive freedom issues that women face in jails (e.g., forced sterilization) demonstrates how urgently the conversation around reproductive freedom needs to broaden. It’s not just about abortion or birth control.”
Lewis is excited that “Chained Labor” will premiere at the RFF. “I can’t think of a better platform, particularly since it’s being filmed in my hometown (Go Stuy Hi Peglegs!) I’m also grateful that it follows a run of my piece, “Bleed Black Bleed Blue,” at the Secret Theatre’s Act One Festival.” Explaining why she’s participating in the festival, Lewis responds: “I am a beneficiary of the women’s movement. I had access to great sex education from my mom, an RN, and my junior high school. Watching old battles being fought again over not just abortion, but birth control(!) is maddening. Sometimes I write purely to entertain. But there are some points in history where I believe we must pick up our pens to fight. This is one of them.” Lewis writes and directs for theater, film, television and the web; she is also a full-time film professor.
The Reproductive Freedom Festival is officially part of SWAN Day, Women Arts’ famous international celebration which aims to “Support Women Artists Now.”
RFF will send you a reminder notice to watch the performance online on March 20, if you’d like. You can catch the livestream and sign up for the reminder notice here. There will be a live chat function during the Festival, for online users. Please join us on Sunday, March 20, for a look at some female-centric plays and poems about reproductive freedom (and more!), and let’s continue the conversation.Tweet