UNDOCUSTORIES: Free Theater Workshop for Undocumented Community in Los Angeles!

by Kristina Wong

Jennie Webb asked me to write a blog post about this free workshop I’m teaching for the undocumented community at the Dream Resource Center.  But I really have no time to craft an essay.   Sooooo… In true solo performer form, I am interviewing myself about Undocustories:  Journeys of Justice and Freedom which starts up on September 3. 

What are the basics what, where, when?

UndocuStories: Journeys of Justice and Freedom is a twelve-week theater workshop facilitated by myself, Kristina Wong, with guest artists Yosimar Reyes and Kat Evasco! We engage in powerful conversations regarding issues impacting the undocumented immigrant community and transform those stories into an original theater piece for the public. Participants will learn skills in comedy writing, Theater of the Oppressed, movement, and performance.  We meet once a week, Tuesdays from September 3- November 19.  And our final show for the public is November 19.  It’s all free!  All meetings happen 6-8pm at the Dream Resource Center at the UCLA Labor Center in MacArthur Park.  675 Park View St.  Sign up here.  

The workshop is open to all! No prior experience with performance is necessary. Free dinner will be served at every workshop!

FREE workshop with free dinner?  How the hell is such an amazing workshop free?

It’s supported by a generous Artist-in-Residence grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.  The Dream Resource Center is our host venue and supports this project with staff support, outreach, food and helping with the curriculum.

Ana and Edwin perform a sketch called “What NOT to do when ICE arrives”.

You aren’t undocumented.  Why are you teaching a workshop for the undocumented community, Kristina? 

That’s right.  I’m not undocumented but I am very conscious of my privilege in facilitating this space.  I am a third generation Chinese American, and I have personally witnessed in my own family how much shame and secrecy there can be in immigrant communities.  There’s always been a lot of misinformation about what rights immigrants have and that misinformation has been used to suppress immigrant communities from speaking out and advocating for themselves. I’ve seen how much fear there is to report injustice because of the fear of deportation or arrest. I’m also super sick about what’s happening to undocumented immigrant communities and especially to migrants being detained at our Southern border.  Like many people, I want to change the conversation around immigration because the current narrative is literally being used to justify the heinous torture of immigrants. This workshop will hold space for folks to learn about these issues and also explore them in theater. 

Is this workshop just for undocumented immigrants?

It’s meant specifically to serve folks who are undocumented but is open to everyone!  Last year when I facilitated the workshop, we had participants who were undocumented, DACA recipients, permanent residents, folks who were part of mixed status families and allies.  The workshop will specifically center the experiences of undocumented immigrants.  Last year, our allies were really great about stepping up to support the storytelling of our undocumented participants and de-centering themselves when necessary to keep the focus of storytelling on the experiences of undocumented participants.

What happens at this workshop?

We meet once a week for twelve weeks. Every week we learn about a topic that specifically affects the undocumented community. These issues include things like “Know your Rights,” healthcare in undocumented communities and unaccompanied minors crossing the border. That information will come from Dream Resource Center staff or a guest speaker. Then we play theater games and exercises and we create some performance work incorporating the information we just learned. 

The topic seems too depressing.  What kind of work will we be making? Skits?  Drama?  Public Service Announcements?

The workshops are a mix of improv and sketch writing in this workshop. I also have training in Theater of the Oppressed, movement and writing autobiographical work. Our guest teaching artists are themselves undocumented and will teach poetry and personal narrative.  I don’t dictate what the final show will look like, but I am responsible for guiding us there. Last year’s show was a combination of comedy sketches, poetry, movement work, first person testimonials and a cover of Vanilla’s Ice Ice Baby called “Abolish Ice Ice Baby.” 

Is it ok if I’ve never performed before?  What if I’m terrified of being in public?

This workshop is completely for folks who’ve never performed before and just want to learn.  I find that folks who have no experience but the willingness to try new things are the most compelling performers.  But also, seasoned performers and writers can join us.  Come as you are and take what you will. 

If someone is not “out” about being undocumented, is it safe for them to join?

Yes.  Just let us know if you don’t want your name published on materials or if there are limits as to what you want to share with the group or publicly. We establish community rules at the top of each meeting so that everyone is on the same page about how to work together.

UndocuStories: Journeys of Justice and Freedom is held September 3 – November 19. Click Here for info and to sign up. 

Kristina Wong is a performance artist, comedian, writer, and elected representative of
Koreatown. She facilitated previous Artist-in-Residence projects at the UCLA Labor Center, Los Angeles Community Action Network, and the Bus Riders Union. Her solo shows and plays have been presented across the US and internationally. Center Theatre Group honored her as the 2019 Sherwood Award recipient for her exceptional contribution to the Los Angeles theatre landscape and her work as an innovative and adventurous artist. www.kristinawong.com

The FPI Files: East West Players and Fountain Theatre Team Up for Jiehae Park’s “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo”

by Carolina Xique

It’s an exciting time to be an artist. In the last few years, the arts industry has been experiencing a high production value in diverse storytelling aimed toward better representation of people of color, and more specifically, Asian and Asian American representation. With groundbreaking films such as Crazy Rich Asians, Netflix’s Always be My Maybe, The Farewell, as well as the successful theatrical production of Cambodian Rock Band, people everywhere are becoming more exposed to the nuances of the Asian/Asian-American experience.

With a cast that is almost entirely made up of Koreans and Korean Americans, Jiehae Park’s Hannah and the Dread Gazebo takes a family on a funny, heartbreaking adventure to reconnect with their roots in South and North Korea, and also into the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides them. Hannah premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2017, and is now set to open at the Fountain Theatre in association with East West Players, directed by Jiehae’s longtime collaborator, Jennifer Chang. So we thought we’d grab the chance to talk with them about their own adventure with this play.

LAFPI: First, let us say that we’re thrilled to hear about this new piece and that it’s making its way into Los Angeles!

Jiehae, as playwright, can you talk about how the idea for this play came to you? And Jennifer, as the director, what drew you to take on this piece?

Jiehae Park: I didn’t know I was writing a play! I was primarily a performer at the time.  There were quite a few big questions I was trying to figure out—and I think the unusual shape of the play reflects that. I would sit down and write down stories that came to me in that moment, not realizing it was all going to add up to something bigger.

Jennifer Chang: I am a huge fan of Jiehae’s and have been following her career with personal interest for some time as we share an alma mater: we both went through the MFA Acting program at UCSD and have both diversified our careers.  She is a significant talent and I am so thrilled to have this opportunity to collaborate with her on Hannah and the Dread Gazebo. The musicality of the language and the inherent theatricality that emerges from her ability to weave a multiplicity of thought and theme are all very exciting and honestly a dream to be able to dive into.  Also, I love being able to support the telling of Asian American stories in their universality and three-dimensionality.

Playwright Jiehae Park

LAFPI: What kind of research did you do when writing Hannah, Jiehae?

Jiehae: I didn’t research much initially, but I did do quite a bit before finishing the play (that’s been a recurring pattern in my writing process these last few years). The research didn’t directly go into the play, but provided a richer historical and cultural context that helped me complete it.

LAFPI: A follow-up to that, in terms of your other plays and writing process, was anything different for Hannah and the Dread Gazebo?

Jiehae: Broadly, I seem to have two general types of plays—super-quick, freight-train-speed linear ones; or messier, slower-baking plays where the structure is far less predictable. Hannah is definitely in the latter category.

Director Jennifer Chang

LAFPI: Jennifer, what in your directing process is helping you with Hannah?

Jennifer: Regarding research, the usual dramaturgical work of researching was involved: Korea, the DMZ, politics of North and South and Kim Jong Il. I wanted to lean into the magic-realism of the play, and early on knew that I wanted to consult with an illusionist, and also started doing some research into magic (I’m currently reading Spellbound by David Kwong). It’s been so great to have a cast that is almost entirely Korean and Korean American.  There are some points of commonality amongst Asian Americans, but being able to tap into specific details, nuances, and experiences that the cast has so generously shared with the company and has contributed to the making of the show has been invaluable.  It’s illuminating to discover the tiny nuances of how gestures and thinking sounds differ for Koreans in, and those from, Korea. I love new plays and really view myself as a locksmith in my approach to collaboration.  I want to know what the play wants to be, the playwright’s intentions, what’s resonating with the cast and how they approach the work, and how best to facilitate the conversation and “the ride” so to speak, with the audience.

Actors Monica Hong and Gavin Lee – Photo by Jenny Graham

LAFPI: Where does this piece fit in this new age of Asian/Asian American storytelling? How is it different?

Jiehae: I think it’s an exciting time for bold, uniquely Asian American storytelling that takes up its own space, written for audiences that include—though not exclusively—Asian Americans. Hannah is a play about the in-between-ness of a certain kind of Korean American immigrant identity, where the “homeland” can seem just as foreign as America. It’s written deliberately for a mixed audience—of Korean speakers and of non-Korean speakers—of all ethnicities. A lot of the work I’m excited about lately takes the old binaries and exposes them for what they always were—convenient fictions, with the far richer textures lying in between.

Jennifer:  I think the new age is a function of capitalism producers and production companies are recognizing that an underserved market exists and that if production companies and theaters want to keep making as much money as they have been while building and creating new audiences, the Asian and Asian American audience will have to feel represented in the storytelling.

LAFPI: Is there anything you’d like to share about the casting process?

Jennifer: Only to say that I was looking for actors who could really capture the essence of ‘Han’—which is defined as a certain melancholy that is specific to Korean culture and people. I don’t mean to say that people of other cultures can’t possess Han. A western analogy would be the sadness and longing found in Chekhov’s plays. At its core, the play is about a family and reflecting on what this family’s particular family story is and how inextricably linked it is to the culture upon whose bedrock the family’s roots lay. Everybody comes from some place and has a family story.

Actors Hahn Cho and Monica Hong – Photo by Jenny Graham

LAFPI: We’re looking forward to seeing both sides of the coin of this dynamic show: the funny and the tragic. Jennifer, how does this show find that balance and how do you design that into the show?

Jennifer:  It’s really about honoring the text and mining the emotional wells that exist because of the circumstances that the characters find themselves in. And hopefully the audience can recognize those moments and respond. Laughter and tears are universal and unconscious and bubble up because of a recognition. The company of actors and I are working on the text with an eye and ear on the specificity of the rhythm of the play and essentially choreographing to the music of that language.

LAFPI: East West Players is a theatre company known for its work lifting up Asian-American stories. How do you feel about bringing the LA premiere of Hannah in collaboration with EWP and the Fountain Theatre?

Jiehae: Honored. I had a reading of my very first play—which had been my college thesis—at EWP over a decade ago… In the time since, I figured out I wasn’t a playwright, went to grad school for something else, then re-figured out that I was.  And Stephen Sachs at the Fountain reached out about the play very soon after the OSF premiere—I’ve long admired the scripts he brings to LA area audiences. Additionally, Jen directed an early reading of the play at EWP years ago, and I acted in a show with Jully Lee [who is in the production’s cast]  that Howard Ho (Hannah‘s Sound Design/Composer) music directed when I was right out of school. I’m bummed to not have been able to be out there for rehearsals, but happy that it feels all in the family.

Jennifer: I think it’s really smart theatre-making to cross-pollinate and support the universality of human experiences and good work regardless of color.  A collaboration like this signals that this isn’t just work by people of color, but that it’s good work worth supporting, period.

LAFPI: And what do you want audiences to take with them when they leave the Fountain Theatre after seeing Hannah and the Dread Gazebo?

Jennifer: Garlic in their pockets.

“Hannah and the Dread Gazebo” opens August  17 at The Fountain Theatre, produced in association with East West Players. Visit www.FountainTheatre.com for reservations and more information.

Know a female or FPI-friendly theater, company or artist? Contact us at lafpi.updates@gmail.com & check out The FPI Files for more stories.

Want to hear from more women artists? Make a Tax-Deductible Donation to LAFPI!

Donate now!

Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of LAFPI must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax‐deductible to the extent permitted by law.

The FPI Files: She NYC Back in LA with Cool Summer Theater Festival

It’s no surprise to any of us in who work the LA Theater scene that the City of Angels is full of major talent – artists who work on and create for the stage, NOT just film and TV. But it’s always satisfying when artists from New York agree with us! Last year, the ladies behind She NYC Arts came to the West Coast to stage their first Summer Theater Festival here under the banner of She LA Arts.

It went so well that they’re back! The 2019  She LA Summer Theater Festival  features productions (not just readings!) of full-length plays by Nakisa Aschtiani, Karen Lukesh, Allie Wittner, Ali MacLean and Tiffani Dean, July 30-Aug 4 at the Zephyr Theatre. So we figured it was about time to have a little chat with the organization’s Artistic Director, Danielle DeMatteo.

LAFPI: Can you talk a bit about how She NYC Arts began? And are the Theater Festivals in NYC and now in LA your main focus?

Danielle DeMatteo

Danielle: She NYC  was founded back in 2015 after I had some experiences in the industry as a young, female composer/ rehearsal pianist that were, to say the least, difficult. When I spoke to other early- to mid-career women writers, composers, musicians, and music directors, I found that we all had really similar experiences. It was great to know I wasn’t alone, but was also infuriating. And that made us want to actually do something to fix it.

We found that as a writer starting out in NYC, you had two options to get your work up in full for an audience: self-produce and potentially empty your savings account doing it, or sell your work to a producer who you may or may not trust (and who were usually rich older men). My colleagues and I wanted to find a way to bridge this gap by giving women a way to self-produce and retain control and agency over their own work, without having to take the huge financial risk. So we built on the idea of a festival, where the writers can share the costs associated with producing, giving everyone subsidized and free resources to get their work fully produced. We do some smaller events throughout the year (short play staged readings, concerts of songs by women composers, etc.), but the Festivals in NYC and LA are our main projects.

LAFPI: And just what was it that brought She NYC Arts out to LA?

Danielle: Our second year in NYC, 3 of our 8 shows flew from California to participate. That made it pretty clear to us that there was a need for a program like this on the West Coast, too, and that there were a ton of talented writers in the Los Angeles area who we could invest in. Our first year in LA, 2 of those 3 writers actually became a core part of our producing team to get She LA up and running.

LAFPI: Was there a learning curve setting up camp on the West Coast?

Tech for “The Legend of Bonny Anne” by Chandler Patton, 2018 She LA Summer Theater Festival

Danielle: In NYC, almost everyone in the theater community has worked on [this kind of] festival at some point (often more than once). So everyone – from writers, to directors, to the actors – fully understands how to put up a show when you have very limited tech and load-in time. In LA, we found that the shows’ teams were not always used to that – and rightfully so, because it’s totally crazy! Because of that, we’ve created more wiggle room in our schedule in LA.

LAFPI: Most new play festivals in LA feature readings or workshops. But you wanted to do more?

Danielle: At She NYC and She LA, our mission is founded on supporting the writers, who are often the first to start work and the last to get paid. When we started in NYC, we had the same situation: There were lots of programs focused on providing staged readings, workshops, or concerts, but no programs that let specifically women writers see their work put up in full. As a writer myself, I know that’s a vital part of the writing process – to see how your scenes work next to each other when you have to do a set change in the middle, or to see how your music works when choreography is added to it.

Carol Weiss conducting her musical “The Door to America,” in rehearsal for the 2018 She LA Festival

We want to provide a platform for writers to be able to take that step in full productions – which we define simply as the cast being off-book – but we encourage our writers to do whatever level of production quality they feel will best help them where they’re at in their writing process. If that means you want to do your show black-box style with just a few chairs and blocks, great! If you feel you really need to see your show done in full period costumes with a 5-piece band, we support that, too.

LAFPI: Each year, you have an open submission call  for scripts. What has been your experience with the plays and artists who have participated in the She LA Festivals?

Danielle: We are so floored by the level of talent in LA. I won’t name names, but my two favorite shows that we’ve ever done on either coast were She LA shows. I think what’s also refreshing about LA is that our artists out here tend to have a lot of fun with their experience. In New York (again, because folks are really used to the festival lifestyle out there), it can sometimes feel like it’s all business. Which is very important! But in LA, our participants are more likely to have lots of fun WHILE doing their business. They’re also great at self-promotion and social media on the West Coast.

LAFPI: What kind of experience and support can female playwrights who participate in a She LA Festival look forward to? 

Danielle: Basically, [for a participation fee] She LA provides all of the technical/logistical things, so the writers can focus on the creative parts of bringing their show to life. The writers provide, and have full control over, their cast, creative team, set design, and costume design. She LA provides the theater space, all of the equipment that goes inside of it (from big things like lights and curtains, to small thinks like spike tape), insurance, and the staff to run their shows.

We provide an amazing Production Manager who runs all tech and performances, as well as her Associate; a Lighting Designer who programs the lights for every show (at the direction of the show’s creative team); front-of-house staff to manage all things that happen in the lobby, including ticketing and printing programs; and a marketing team that helps each creative team promote their own show, as well as making a video ad for each show which we pay to run on social media and other digital outlets. My favorite part of the program, too, is that we provide a Show Mentor to each production. This person is a She LA staff member who is there to guide the writers and their teams through the process, offer advice, help out whenever an extra pair of hands is needed, and make sure they’re prepared and ready to go for their tech and performances.

LAFPI: She LA (and She NYC!) Festivals seem look like they’re very much a team effort. How do you manage to keep a cohesive team together working on either end of the country? 

She LA 2018 Staff

Danielle: “Team effort” is almost an understatement! Pretty much everyone on our team works another day job in the entertainment industry, and we handle She NYC and She LA on the side. On the one hand, that means we’re all crazy busy, with an all-hands-on-deck mentality as we get close to Festival time. On the other hand, it means we all have active contacts in the upper echelons of the entertainment industry, so we can involve some great industry contacts in our program to get our writers’ work in front of them.

For Emily Rellis (the She LA Executive Producer) and I, it’s been a fun ride to build a team in LA. It can be challenging that Emily and I are not on the ground in LA, but they’ve been awesome with being available on the phone, and even FaceTiming us in to a walkthrough of the theater.

LAFPI: Now that the 2nd She LA Summer Theater Festival is around the corner, what are you most looking forward to?

Danielle: This year, I’m very excited that we have one show coming in from Philadelphia (Between the Colored Lines and Other Black Girl Tales, by playwright and poet Tiffani Dean). They actually were a part of the 2018 She NYC Festival, and now are flying out to LA for their West Coast premiere! That’s our first time doing a show on both coasts, and we can’t wait to see how it goes.

That being said, we’re so excited to see all of the shows! We’ve been reading the scripts on paper and talking to the writers via email for so long (we first read their scripts last November!), so finally getting to see them up on their feet is thrilling.

LAFPI: Anything else you want to talk about or share?

Danielle: Thanks to LAFPI for all that you do and all your support! We hope to see you all at The Zephyr Theater. And if anyone wants to get involved with She LA, we’d love to hear from you! Reach us at info@shenycarts.org, and there’s more information about all of our programs at www.SheLAArts.org.

For Tickets and Info about the 2019 She LA Summer Theater Festival, presenting 5 new full-length plays by women writers and composers July 30-August 4, visit www.SheLAArts.org/she-la.

Know a female or FPI-friendly theater, company or artist? Contact us at lafpi.updates@gmail.com & check out The FPI Files for more stories.

Want to hear from more women artists? Make a Tax-Deductible Donation to LAFPI!

Donate now!

Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of LAFPI must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax‐deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Continuing the Journey of “Rag Head”

By Sundeep Morrison 

On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist entered a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and opened fire in the main prayer hall and murdered six people. Soon after, I received a frantic call from my younger brother telling me that he was unable to reach our parents. My parents are members of that temple and every Sunday, like millions of their fellow Americans, they go to a place of worship and bow their heads in prayer.

For an hour that felt like an eternity, we were unable to reach them. My younger brother had arrived at the scene – a place that was once filled with calm and solace now reeling with chaos and sadness sectioned off by yellow police tape. I was in LA with my young daughter, feeling completely helpless and preparing myself for the worst. Then finally the phone rang; it was my mother telling me that they had gone to a different temple that morning and she and my father were safe. This would not be the reality for my uncle and several family friends who were shot and killed in the shooting. 

Sundeep Morrison in RAG HEAD

I found myself in a deep state of depression, feeling a mixture of anger and sadness. Having something horrific hit so close to home put me in a constant state of worry over my parents. I picked up my pen and began to write as a release, and as a result, my one woman show RAG HEAD An American Story was born.

Set in a small American town and inspired by actual events, RAG HEAD explores hate, hope and American identity. I portray seven inextricably linked characters whose lives are forever changed by one hateful act. All the characters in the play are inspired my family and friends. It’s a deeply personal piece, about how ignorance can be deadly.

I will be performing the show at the The Complex Hollywood on Saturday July 27th. This performance will be filmed and proceeds will go toward taking my show on the road in hopes to educate and foster understanding about the Sikh community.

Sundeep Morrison portrays a Sikh doctor in RAG HEAD

And on Aug 3 & 4 I will be performing the show at the Broadway Theatre in Milwaukee to support the Interfaith Conference of greater Wisconsin and to honor the seven-year remembrance of the Oak Creek Sikh Temple tragedy.

With your support, you could help raise awareness and become an ally to the Sikh American community. According to the Sikh Coalition there are roughly 500,000 American Sikhs; many of which have been subjected to xenophobic harassment or violence. Sadly over 70% of Americans do not know who Sikhs are or what their faith entails. This is a story that must be shared and with your presence we can spread our message of unity.

Thank you again for your support, I hope to see you at the show.

RAG HEAD An American Story plays in Hollywood Saturday July 27th at 7pm – Tickets tiny.cc/RAGHEAD

SUNDEEP MORRISON is a Punjabi Sikh writer, actress, director, author and activist. A graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy NY, her work focuses on social justice, cultural friction, inter-ethnic family dynamics and feminism. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

“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