When Everyone Hits the Pause Button

by Cynthia Wands

Opening Night of “ALL THE WAY” at the Neil Simon Theater, 2014

Occasionally I’ll get pictures as “Memories” on Facebook (I know, I know) that will make me pause and remember places and performances that were part of our pre-pandemic history.

When I look at these images:

I’m shocked to see so many people crowded together in an audience. No one is wearing a mask.

There are actors singing onstage with their mouths open wide right next to another actor who is also singing with their mouth open wide.

At a long ago party, there are wine bottles and glasses scattered across a table where anyone could just pick them up. I mean anyone could touch anything.

I don’t remember so many hugs, and embraces, and funny elbow nudging moments with the people I love.

So there’s that pause button. I know it may or may not come back that way.

In the meantime, I’m reading articles about the cultural cost of this pandemic to our industry. Specifically, The Fear of Jerks.

The New York Times May 27 2020 Polls Show One Hurdle to Reopening Broadway: Fear of Jerks

And I’m reading stories of those performers, like all those performers in all the shows, that were nipped in the bud by the pandemic. The pictures in this story really got to me.

The New York Times: The Universe Hits Pause, The Ripple Effects of Broadway’s Shutdown

But I’m also remembering what it was like to be in an audience, alive with energy that creates a cathartic performance.  I found this YouTube video of Patti LaBelle singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from CAROUSEL. And, yes, it is over the top, way over the top, and it could only happen in a theatre with an audience that was unafraid of being together.

You’ll Never Walk Alone – sung by Patti LaBelle at the Apollo in 1985

So. Yes. I’m looking forward to “live” theatre again.  When it’s safe. When it’s fearless. When we can be together.

Facial Consequences While Zooming

by Cynthia Wands

I don’t know about you, but I find I get perturbed when I look at my own face on a Zoom call. If the call includes a lot of people, and I’m looking at the group on a “Gallery” view, I have a face the size of a postage stamp, and I’m fine with that.

But I get disoriented when it’s a Zoom conference with just a few people, and there is my face, hanging on my monitor screen, like a lost animal in a cage at the animal shelter.  I see my Pursed Lips Reaction when I’m skeptical of something that’s said. Then there’s my Upward Facing Eyebrows when I’m surprised or combative or uncomprehending. The Eyebrows get a lot of the facial reaction exercises.

I don’t like being surprised by my own facial contortions. I’ll hear someone say on the call: “Cynthia, you seem surprised.”

I don’t hear that very often in my life. I’m like a Girl Scout: I’m prepared, I’m motivated, and I adapt. But don’t call me surprised. 

And I get thrown about what I looked like when I was surprised. (Was it the mouth? The eyebrows? A slight frown on the forehead?)

Usually I’ll try for a reply that diverts the attention. (“No, no, not at all; I’m not really surprised, but I am very interested in what you were saying. What were you saying?”)

So, I’ve come to realize that there are facial consequences to zooming: you’re seen in a spontaneous, perhaps faux dimensional reality that can catch you in unexpected moments. A little bit like real conversations in real time with real people.

The attached article by Dipika Guha about our current awareness of how theater artists live is a great read. Even with some surprises.

Can You Hear Me?

By Dipika Guha

“Suddenly everyone in the world is discovering how theater artists have always lived. From month to month, with no financial security, making our own schedules, relying on our own motivation, seeking solace with our friends and leaning hard on our networks without whom we are nothing- as artists or as people. Little has changed for us in some ways. We were born, raised and sustained in a field in scarcity and crisis. Some questions thoughts and questions remain the same, others are a virtue of the moment… “but it was broken to begin with” and “will anyone want to reconvene in a closed space together?”- “Perhaps we all will? Perhaps we absolutely won’t.” “Perhaps we should make stories and film them with our cell phones at home and upload them to YouTube.”

“Can you hear me?” and “Is anyone there?” is the refrain of Zoom calls and conference calls and Skype calls with friends, collaborators, and colleagues. What is clear is 
yes we are, in fact, here for each other. Our instinct is to connect- and to keep connected. Where once square boxes held the ephemeral – it is now the territory of the daily. We’ve all had a lifelong practice with sitting with the temporary present- the heightened moment that hangs pure in memory.”

The Lark Theatre Blog: Can You Hear Me?

Inspiration from Sugar Flowers in Amsterdam

by Cynthia Wands

Photography by Natasja Sadi

The world seems small these days. Although we’ve been living a quarantine style life here in my house for quite a while, it aches to see the rest of the world in such subdued, grieving and restrained circumstances. But here’s a surprise.

I discovered a woman who makes sugar roses in Amsterdam, and she spoke directly to my idea of writing plays. (The capriciousness of inspiration…) This Instagram posting spoke to me how tediously long the rewriting process is, how you risk experimenting with unknown characters, without names or a history as you try to create their world and identity.

I used to work in a French Bakery in Berkeley many years ago – the French Confection on Hopkins Street. We made cakes for grand events, following the recipes in the tradition of French chef Alain Ducasse. I peeled apples. Strained raspberries. Rubbed the skins from hazlenuts. I loved the architecture and the formality of the cakes made there: Boule de Niege, The Marjolane,  The Polonaise, The Nuit St. George. All created from a history of risk, experimenting, and the revelation of a surprise or two in the final form. I was an actress working to get my SAG card, happy to have a job that helped subsidize my struggling actor lifestyle. I had no idea of the impact of working in that bakery: how the impression of discipline, form and generous artistry would follow me in my future.

I found this inspiration in an Instagram article, written by Natasja Sadi, the force behind an account called cakeatelieramsterdam

She collects bouquets of flowers, and photographs them, and uses them for inspiration in her sugar work. Her sugar work is impossibly beautiful, unworldly and inspired. The world seems a little more wide-reaching today. 

Here is the posting from Natasja Sadi: 

The world’s most exclusive tulips at my table. I’m still dreaming of all the fields I was so fortunate to visit. (Thank you @passionfortulips for the tour and meeting all the amazing Dutch breeders at 1.5m/6ft distance.) I was so lucky to go home with these incredible tulips.

Some tulips here are straight from the grounds of what they call the breeding chambers. Bulbs that are still in their experimental phase. Some seen here don’t even have a name yet. Only a number. Did you know that it takes 5 years for a bulb to become a new tulip and another 10 years to hit the market? These breeders taught me an incredibly important lesson. Patience. I sometimes get restless planning ahead. Thinking of projects that will take several months.

These breeders work so hard, take an incredible risk cultivating new tulip variations and know that they are in this for the long run. 15 years… They are in no rush. They just continue with their passion to produce the most exclusive, most beautiful tulips the world has seen…

Spring in Holland is like nothing else. A magic carpet of colors everywhere. A fairytale that sometimes seems too unreal, the mind doing it best to process all the beauty…

The Cake Atlelier Amsterdam, an Instagram Account by Natasja Sadi

Extroverted Introvert?

Where has the time gone? In March I was poised, full of energy chomping at the bit to write a post, with a week’s worth of ideas and thoughts and here it is the weekend and my time is almost done.  I am always at a loss of what to share and what to write about playwrighting.  But this go round, I have so much to say I can’t contain it and it is coming out in bits and pieces.

I never really thought much of the difference of Introverts and Extroverts, thinking of it as if it were some placebo affect that I was feeling and acting upon.  I didn’t want to read of what an Introvert was because then, of course I would think I was.  And I really never thought of myself as an Extrovert, but could certainly embody some of the characteristics should the occasion present itself.  But with the world closing its doors and forcing people inside the definitions came screaming out.  People needed an outlet to share their energy and ease their anxiety.  I could clearly see the defining line in people and myself and how we are dealing with it all. 

Depending on the class I’m in, I wonder how this would be different if it were in person. Does it change the dynamic of the class because we can see each others faces as opposed to sitting in classroom style. Do people hesitate to talk and be the first to talk because they are truly an introvert, or are they just feeling the effects of quarantine.

I hesitate to share my joy of writing as I know of others who have be stymied by this time.  The weight of the world on our shoulders and anxiety of it creeping in.  For me writing during this time has been marvelous.  I have always been a stickler for rules and following how-tos, so the mechanics of playwrighting always hampered me.  I am thankful for the teachers out there who reached out and shared their classes I would not have otherwise been able to attend.  The joy of sitting at home in L.A. and attending a class in NYC with far-away friends was freeing.  Being able to connect with people outside of my sphere and being able to explore writing has been a treat. So much so that I have written two short plays.  I found the joy and laughter again of why I want to write.  Tips and tricks to get past the rules of structure I suffered with and to just sit down and write.  A mantra I try to repeat to myself as a quiet motivation and just now realizing the flippantness of the statement.  

I am wondering if I am an Extrovert because of all the classes I’ve been taking and all of the participating I have been doing. My head is full of information and my computer holds bits and pieces from a variety of classes. My notebook, that I usually carry with me and takes months to fill, has only a few blank pages left. Full up from a month of opportunity and ideas and unfinished scenes.  

Lessons learned during this time:

Set aside 15 minutes to write and do it daily. Consistency helps.

If you’re looking for something to write about – think “what am I curious about?”

Think of the intention of every scene. What do your character(s) need?

What is the action of your scene? Your character needs something from the other.

Now when I get lost in the weeds, I just start out with a random line that I’ve collected from the books I read.  I usually write these sentences down because as I’m reading them a voice is commenting on them in my head and they speak to the subjects of my current writings.  As I write the scene I consider what do the characters want to get to the end of the scene.  The plays that I have finished during this time had constraints that had to be included in the play, which made it fun and I included things that made me giggle, like lines from 80s movies.

I gotta go. I have to finish some homework for class and I’m entering another #Bakeoff and it’s due tomorrow.  

Take care of you. 

Jennifer

The FPI Files: “Ageless” in a #BraveNewWorld @ Santa Monica Rep

by Carolina Xique

“We’re living in unprecedented times…”

How many times have you heard that in the last two months?

Living in the thick of Los Angeles County, one can’t deny the effects that COVID-19 has had on the LA community, especially within the arts. Before the pandemic, theaters were getting ready to launch their 2020-2021 seasons, clean their venues for incoming Hollywood Fringe productions, and hold long-awaited annual galas, festivals, and workshops. Now? Companies are relying on Zoom and other streaming platforms to continue providing artistic content to the community, including readings, webinars, and even full-blown theatrical productions – some prerecorded, some live!

Because these times are unprecedented, because we’ve never had to bring theater into a virtual space, we’re left with the questions: What is theater now? Is it changing? And what does our future look like now that this has happened?

We (virtually) sat down with Tanya White, artistic director of Santa Monica Repertory Theater, to talk about SMRT’s upcoming 2nd Annual Playreading Festival; the eerie relevance of the Festival’s predetermined theme, #BraveNewWorld; and the reading of AGELESS by Bridgette Dutta Portman, directed by SMRT co-founder and resident director Sarah Gurfield. The Festival, held on May 16th via StreamYard, includes a Special Kick-off Conversation on May 14th, a playwriting workshop, and pre- and post-show discussions concerning Portman’s intriguing piece.

LAFPI: Tell us a little bit about Santa Monica Rep’s mission and why it’s important to you.

Tanya White: Our mission is using theater to tell stories and also engage our community in the process, both in the creation of work and also in the discussion with the artists & production. Whatever it is that we are doing, we always have a post-show discussion.

Tanya White

We’ll be actually talking about why that mission is important at our Kick-Off Conversation next Thursday, preceding our Festival . The panel is going to discuss what theater is and why it matters. I believe that theater is kind of an essential piece of a society that allows people to step out of their own experience and look at something from somebody else’s point of view.

Of course, you have the playwright’s point of view and the director’s perspective of the piece. But what you’re also seeing is walking, talking people who are experiencing things that you can mostly identify with, even if you are different than the character. We all experience the same kinds of feelings. But it’s communal in the fact that we’re all witnessing the same thing. It’s how it’s expressed, I think, that makes us unique.

LAFPI: This is Santa Monica Rep’s 2nd Annual Playreading Festival, spotlighting women artists. What has it been like transitioning from providing the event in-person to providing it online?

Tanya: Before this, we really didn’t focus on recording a live theater event. If we did, usually it’s for archival purposes, not actually to rebroadcast or stream.  People are at different levels of comfortability with technology. So that that’s been challenging.

And one of the things we were challenged with before this pandemic was getting the word out about us. We’re a really small group of people, so our capacity is limited. Our audience has largely been people who have followed us for the 10 years we’ve been in existence, which has been great. But the exciting thing is that now we have more reach. The idea that somebody can be anywhere in the world and see this is really exciting. We can say, “You don’t have to be in Santa Monica to come see us!” So having suddenly having a virtual space is great for us.

LAFPI: The theme of #BraveNewWorld was decided well-before the global pandemic. What kind of new questions do you think have arisen that are going to be a larger part of these conversations because of what’s going on right now?

Tanya:  Right now, we’re having a shared experience. We’re in the same space and time together. I mean, this is not a recording. To engage at this level, we have to be present. And so maybe the question is, “what is space” versus “what is theater?” But that’s what we’re jumping off from. So what is theater? And does this count as theater?

A question that comes up for sure is “how can we help each other?” Not just on an individual level, but also how we talk about theaters. How do we support each other? How do wesupport arts and each other? I feel there’s gonna be a lot more collaboration, a lot more people working together, because there used to be the feeling that everybody’s competing for the same audience, and the idea that that’s a finite thing. Like, if somebody comes to see a play in Santa Monica Rep, they’re not going to go see something at LA Women’s Shakespeare. So I think it is the question of how open and loving people are to helping each other? How can we cross promote? How do we how do we help each other get what we need to keep doing this work?

Maybe people will start also looking again at who our audience is. Because people do target, right? We look at who we’re reaching out to. Or if we’re selling tickets, we get in front of people who can afford to buy them. But the other day a friend of mine was saying how they’ve been to every museum in the world because they can now, virtually. I mean, access becomes a whole a whole new thing.  So now somebody who doesn’t [ordinarily] go see a play has access to theater in this way. We have a Festival ticket where you can participate in a playwriting workshop and a panel with two playwrights, or you can just register for the reading, which is free. You know, we say a suggested donation, but it’s not a ticket price.

LAFPI: What in the programming for the Festival are you most excited for audiences to take part in?

Tanya: The reading of AGELESS. I think we’re using the technology really well (God willing, it works!). I’m really excited about the about how the play translates into a virtual experience, and how we’re using the technology to tell the story. So I’m excited for everybody to log in and be part of that.

And it’s a good play. The subject matter is great and interesting, but it’s a good story. Well-told.

LAFPI: That rolls in right into my next question – Why this play right now?

Tanya: Well, we put the call out to women playwrights to send us stories of dystopia or utopia. We got several plays that we were going to do and, originally, we were set for June. Then we had to pare down and look at taking it online. We decided to do it sooner, not knowing when the stay-at-home order would be lifted, and we picked AGELESS because it had more roles for company members. We always serve our company members first.

And the theme of aging seems to be not just relevant, but especially of interest to women, as well. We’re highlighting plays written and directed by women. And again, it’s a good play. And really that’s always what it comes down to. Also, will it get some discussion going? We like to pick things that we know people want to talk about.

LAFPI: Who should attend this Festival and why?

Tanya: Anybody who’s really interested in examining what our future could look like. Such a great time to do that, when we’re all in a place where we’re reflecting. We have to. We’re alone. And we’re all aging. So I think anybody could come in and find themselves in this play because it follows characters as they age and characters as they don’t physically age, which I think is kind of an LA thing, too. The whole idea of not aging is a big deal.

So, yeah, I really think anybody anybody could enjoy the play. Maybe not young children, but I would say anyone from maybe fifteen or sixteen. But particularly, young women should come,  because the play examines so many women. So who should see it? Everybody. Right? Except toddlers. No toddlers! Don’t bring your toddlers to your Zoom.

Santa Monica Repertory Theater’s 2nd Annual Playreading Festival will start with a Special Kick-Off Conversation on May 14th, and officially begin May 16th at 11am. The Festival features a virtual staged reading of AGELESS by Bridgette Dutta Portman, directed by Sarah Gurfield.  With a $25 Festival Pass, audiences can participate in the Kick-Off and all events. The reading alone is free with a suggested donation. For more information, visit santamonicarep.org/bravenewworld.html

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.

Berlin!

by Diane Grant

I’ve been the box office lady at Theatre Palisades now since 1988, saying over and over into the phone, “$22 regular, $20 for seniors and students.”

Fifty years ago, I met my husband when I was a member of Toronto Workshop Productions in Ontario, Canada, with George Luscombe, producer and director. The company produced plays that were often improvised and written from contemporary and archival material.

We played in several cities in Canada, in Venice, Boston, and New York, and thought ourselves as being wild radicals, engaged in the world and dedicated to change of a positive kind. Among many others, we wrote a play called Mr. Bones, about the assassination of Lincoln, produced a Durrenmatt play called A Visit From An Old Lady and a new play about people moving back to East Berlin (not out of but back!).

One of our members was from Chicago and had a friend who passed him the transcripts from the trial of the Chicago 7, activists who were arrested and accused of inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. ( They were originally 8 – Bobby Seale was bound and gagged and removed from the courtroom for calling Judge Hoffman a racist and a pig. Over and over.)

Along with testimony from witnesses like Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg and Jerry Rubin, we incorporated Alice in Wonderland into the play, interjected vaudeville and dance, and turned the trial into performance art. I played Linda Morse, who was on the Student Mobilization Committee against the Vietnam War. She was passionate and articulate. I also played the entire jury, an elementary school teacher, and Alice. The judge objected to some of the clothing the witnesses wore so there was, of course, a fashion show, too.

My husband, Kerry Feltham, loved the play and made it into a film called The Great Chicago Conspiracy Circus which was invited to the Berlin Film Festival in 1971.

Fifty years later, this February, he was invited back. The film was to be shown again – twice!

We were thrilled and went to Berlin in February for the festival where I had the best time I think I’ve ever had in my life!

We were treated with such kindness and courtesy and were put up at the beautiful spacious Berlin Hotel (room 547) which had two huge white ceramic bears at the front door, a delightful lobby with a curved staircase up to the upper floors, and a buffet dining room. It was just down the block from the huge and beautiful Kino Arsenal and the Berliner Kunst Museum, where the film was shown with a Q&A to follow.

The audiences were warm, knowledgeable and attentive. They liked the film.

I must confess, I was in the theater, but couldn’t watch the film. I was shell shocked, I think, by the prospect of seeing myself fifty years ago. I could do the Q&A however and was asked if American politics had changed much since that time. (Not much, I think.)

It was so wonderful to feel like a performer again. To feel that creative spirit surge. I was asked for my autograph. Whoa! Not once did I say, “$22 regular, $20 for seniors and students”.

I think we’ll get the film up on the web, just for fun and history’s sake. Am looking forward to actually seeing it again.




Creatives Check-In, Part III

by Zury Margarita Ruiz

For the final installment of my “Creatives Check-In” series, we welcome and hear from…

Maia “Vik Floyd” Villa (top left), Lelde Cauka – Bracken (top right), and Nahal Navidar (bottom).

Before we get into the interview, I just want to say how thankful I am to everyone who participated in this series. I know that the times we’re living in are not easy and we’re all in taking in the days as best we can but I am so thankful that you took the time to share your story with me.

Featured Creatives – A Short Bio:

Lelde Cauka – Bracken is a Latvian born visual artist living and working in Los Angeles, CA. Lelde comes from a background of classical fine art training since the age of 10. Her work ranges from a realistic still life and portrait illustrations to exploration of color and shape. Her current work voices abstractionism and simplicity. It is deeply rooted in her northern European upbringing while intertwining with the exposure of her surroundings. Mostly working with watercolor and acrylics, Lelde finds these mediums the most soothing allowing the audience to connect and find harmony through her work.

https://www.visualintermission.com/

Instagram: @visual.intermission

Nahal Navidar is an Iranian-born playwright raised in upstate New York. Her plays are motivated by the exploration of social issues while employing magical elements to embody the expanse of human emotions.  Nahal’s plays have been developed at Boston Court, Silk Road Rising, Ensemble Studio Theatre LA, The Vagrancy, Rogue Machine, Coeurage Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Playwright’s Arena, Troy Foundry Theatre, The Last Frontier Theatre Conference, Golden Thread Productions, Company of Angels, The Kennedy Center, and The University at Albany. Nahal holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from USC and is a member of the Dramatist Guild of America.

www.NahalNavidar.com

Maia “Vik Floyd” Villa is a fifth generation Chicanx Los Angeleno, most at home between taco trucks and boba tea. They’re a lifelong performer and writer, particularly in love with sketch comedy, ancestral reparation, and rock’n’roll. Passionate about liberating marginalized voices through creative expression and cultural enrichment, Maia has worked with various non-profit arts organizations throughout Los Angeles to empower others through storytelling. You can catch them in sketch/improv shows in Hollywood and performing rey metalero drag all over the Eastside—after quarantine that is. 

www.maiavilla.com

Instagram: @maia.villa (For Maia stuff and comedy) and @mx.vikfloyd (For more openly queer, mentally ill stuff—oh and drag!)

How have you been spending your time at home during the quarantine?

Lelde Cauka – Bracken (LCB): Quarantine has certainly raised awareness of what is essential in our lives. Whether it is food or a creative outlet to sustain your mental wellbeing. The current time and circumstances we have discovered ourselves in, is simply another reminder that the beauty of life is its unpredictable ways. Yes, the future may seem uncertain, especially if one’s routine has been disrupted, but it has always been this way! This is how I continue to look at my day-to-day life in the creative field as well as in my domestic life. I try not to put a pause on everything simply because we are leading a more simple and isolated life. In many ways, I find it more inspirational and motivating than ever before despite the crisis. With that being said, I am also aware of the negative side of this virus and the different degrees of impact it’s leaving on so many lives around me – seeing so many people around the world including my family and friends be so deeply affected is heartbreaking without a doubt, but we also have to find a way to function for ourselves and others. I feel like we have been given an opportunity to re-establish values for ourselves and decide how we want to continue this journey. I am a strong believer in “less is more”. Letting go of what I have no control over, is my gasoline that keeps me moving forward. It is also strongly reflected in my artwork. 

This might sound cliché, but I’ve been focusing more on my mental and physical health by staying active through late-night running and my continuous yoga practice as I did before the quarantine. Once you discover it in your own unique way, it really does wonders to your body and mind and this is something I put a big emphasis on because all of these aspects are connected and play a tremendous role not only in my happiness but also in my creative flow. I strongly recommend it!

Being lucky enough to have full-time job during this pandemic, I have also taken the time to get back to my roots and focus more on cooking. I grew up in the luscious Latvia and preparing your daily meal with homegrown ingredients runs in my DNA. It has always been a passion of mine, but now that my current “office” is around the corner from my kitchen, it makes it that much easier and brings me so much joy. This time has most certainly brought renewed love for many simple things in my life and has made me appreciate what I have and how far I have come.

Maia “Vik Floyd” Villa (MVFV): This is almost everything I ever wanted—but with a horrific societal landscape. To explain: Since I was preteen age, I had this recurring vision of a brick wall always slowly moving behind me, as I had to keep up and move forward. In deep spells of depression, I’d get the vision of my little body jogging slowly and getting tired—or worse, falling completely limp in exhaustion as the wall pushed on. 

I grew to realize that this is not only a metaphor about time, but a metaphor on societal pressures—not to mention anything my young psyche had picked up from loving Pink Floyd’s concept of The Wall. 12 years later, I’m grateful we live among communities working and collaborating to decolonize. Now, before you think I’m just going to go into a rant about how white supremacists or capitalism is the root of all evil…well I slightly am, and also very much not. I believe that, in the lifetime of any society throughout history, more often than not the structures used to build a large scale society are the same structures that eventually stop working until the society collapses or revolutionizes itself. 

How is this an answer to your question? HA. 

I do not feel I have extra time. I still feel the wall moving. Above is the beginnings of the thoughts I’ve been having while trying not to let the stress take over too much. Despite being in a personally privileged position (I’m able to work from home, and I am grateful to have time at home because I’m normally running around all over the place), my arms are aching all the time and I do not feel as though I have any extra time to spend. I still feel like there isn’t enough time to release all the spinning thoughts, I still feel like there isn’t enough time to get ahead of that wall, I still feel all the pressures and anxieties — and the silver lining gift is to be able to observe those emotional patterns removed of some factors that normally keep me distracted and busy. 

Did the quarantine affect any of your creative projects or plans? 

LCB: It has most certainly left an impact – public shows in galleries might be out of the question for a while, but this situation has also expanded my creativity and made me search for alternative ways to make my art accessible to others, for example, utilizing the mighty worldwide web, especially social media has been a great tool. I am definitely very thankful for technology. 

Daylight plays an instrumental part in my creative work and it has been wonderful to not spend any time in traffic and have easy access to it daily. So overall, I must say the quarantine has made a positive impact on my workflow.

Nahal Navidar (NN): The world premiere of my play My Dear Hussein was cancelled on what would have been the first preview performance. We were in tech week when we had the initial conversation about COVID-19 and things rapidly unraveled from there.  

MVFV: It pushed forward a plan: to stop doing theatre. I’ve been a “Yes” person in the theatre world for 12 years, and funny thing is that a project was ending on March 10th. So all throughout February and beginning of March, I was telling myself, “March 11th, you start saying no; March 11th, you get rest and focus on your solo work. March 11th you start spending more time at home—“ and WHOOP! Look what happened!

I was about to say no to all creative projects so that I can narrow my focus to a dream that’s been dear to me for a very long time:  I auditioned for and got accepted into Second City Hollywood’s Grad Revue. After 8 levels of improv, this is the final 6-month program in which you build a sketch show with an ensemble. I’m telling you, Zury, this is the number one fucking DREAM—the road to the dream—and I am tearing up that it’s been put on pause. 

I work for a nonprofit I’m very passionate about (I’m an emerging actor who sees having a platform as an opportunity for social progress), so March and April haven’t been easy. Trying to catch relief fund opportunities like flying dodgeballs. I’ve been laughing about the March 11th thing; this is almost what I wanted…But it’s very much not. 

How, if at all, has this time affected your creativity?

NN: With the cancellation of my production, I can’t anticipate when I’ll have the emotional fortitude to write again.  As an immigrant, woman, and artist of color, getting a theater to commit to producing my work has been a grueling task.  To come this close and then watch it fall apart during tech week has been devastating. Unearthing my childhood memories of war for the rehearsal process was intrinsically a trying experience, but the point is to share in the communal experience of catharsis with an audience.  Otherwise, there is no release, like a hand is squeezing my larynx.  My body is anticipating the breath, but my mind knows that air is not coming. I will channel this into my writing one day, but right now I am in shock.

MVFV: I’m being kind to myself. Of course I want to shit out the album, the solo performance, the comedy sketch that will break open our bipartisan divide…I want to create and release and produce all of that. But I can’t have that expectation when this time is uncertain and scary for all of us. It’s tiring. 

I’m allowing myself to take everything slowly. To sit in my backyard and breathe, and instead of having the pressure to practice guitar via scales or metronomes, just deep listening to the sound and to the wind. 

I’m part of the drag community, and I must mention how wildly impressive and beautiful it is how quickly and strongly and innovatively the drag community has created and produced digital drag nationwide. It’s fucking beautiful! It’s been frustrating for artists like me who have more theatrical skill than digital, but all of us punkass bitches at least are enjoying ANY quality of digital drag. I said no to some digital drag opportunities at start, and am now gradually creating some videos whenever I feel the need for release and have the time. What a beautiful action to use this time to join together globally. 

SIDE NOTE, From Maia: I really would love it if people were able to catch the following drag shows, because I am releasing personal healing that I hope is good for everyone else:

May 5th at 7pm, Drag Kings of the World @dragkingsworld

May 7th at 7:36pm (full moon sunset time), Golden Hour @goldenhourdragshow

May 14th at 7pm, Mandemic by @mancandykings

*All streaming on Twitch

Personally, do you feel that it’s necessary/important to keep creative during this time?

LCB: Yes, absolutely! It’s part of my ecosystem. For me, personally, it’s something irreplaceable and essential. It has always been that way.

NN: No. I don’t think it’s important to do anything but follow the stay-at-home order, keep social distance, and be present with the shared trauma that humanity is experiencing. If one wants to process feelings through creativity, then of course, create, but a global pandemic shouldn’t be treated as an extended writer’s retreat.  It’s an offense to the millions of people who have lost their lives, are sick, and to the essential workers who don’t have the privilege to stay at home and protect their families.

MVFV: Hell no. Priority is self-care. Society is not going to go back to “normal” — if you look at the natural course of history, you know that more painful change, more eye opening to weak structures—all of that is coming.  We need rest.  Only rest will make us stronger. If creative collaboration brings you rest, comfort, and strength—great! If spinning around your bedroom throwing paint at a poster brings you, rest, comfort, and strength—great! But is “keeping creative” necessary? Hell no. 

What have you found most frustrating about this time, creatively or otherwise? 

NN: I have a deadline coming up for a commission.  I’m three scenes away from finishing the play, but what I need now is to process the fallout of production and digest the reality of the world around me.  However, my integrity as an artist and commitment to deadlines are very important. It’s a frustrating conundrum.

MVFV: The crowds of people deeply believe that Newsom’s initiatives are a ploy to entrap us in a communist police state. That this can be a global issue—with multiple countries having shelter-in-place guidelines or restrictions—and I still have 2 MAGA family members on both sides who believe this is an exaggeration to fuck with Trump’s election. And even more frustrating, Zury, is that the Democratic Party is a fucking disaster, and I don’t blame anyone who decides to join the #WalkAway movement and become a patriot focused on freedom. Nearly every politician has some personal interest, some money to go into their pocket. I’m losing my mind because we have one side screaming about communists, and the other side screaming about fascists, and all the radicalists are either moving further to the left or further to the right—without anyone finding any common root belief or behavior. 

Once our young nation has citizens who, during a GLOBAL PANDEMIC (geez, I have to say “global” when pandemic does mean global), are holding up protest signs reading, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” Oh, man, it’s over. This country was founded on the concept of Liberty (a false liberty) and no one even knows what liberty means. 

I’ll continue to collaborate with people who will work tirelessly “until justice is truly for all” but I am tired and pessimistic. 

What is something that you’ve learned about yourself during this time?

LCB: I have learned how adaptable I can be to this ever-changing life and cope with disruption. Instead of feeling frustrated about the current situation in the world and any other newness that comes my way, I simply accept the change and most often transform it into a case study, a creative process. Life is constantly full of hidden gems and other rocks. I have learned to appreciate them all equally.

NN: I’m too immersed in the experience and can’t see beyond the muck.  I do feel exhausted and know that we will all feel the impact of this pandemic for generations to come.

MVFV: Observing my bipolar patterns removed of all the busying/distracting factors is pretty fascinating, and also a little scary. On the one week a month that I’m in an optimistic mood, I worry it’s going to spiral into mania, yes, but also my nervous system is just such a fucking nuisance. I’ve been breathing, grounding myself, staying patient and forgiving for the most part. I am in a safe environment, with little stress. Whenever I do have stress spikes where I act grouchy, I am grateful I’m with my family where we’re all just used to our behaviors and laugh at each other. 

I am still worried about my anger. I have been for many years now. So I’ve said Fuck it to traditional workouts, and now I am essentially combining my “at-home gym” time with Viewpoints in order to release anger. 

What is something/someone that has brought you joy during this time?

LCB: I feel extremely lucky to share this time with my partner in creative journeys and life as well as play with our always-comical husky pup. We actually got engaged the other week. This came as a wonderful surprise and is another great example of how to continue your life despite the quarantine.

NN: Making new Iranian recipes I’ve never attempted before.  Reading.  Practicing my violin.  Consuming mindless content.  Spending time with my husband and our new puppy, Pashmak.  Checking in on my cousin, Emily, who is a NYC nurse and texting her silly gifs and YouTube clips.  Being thankful every day for the health of my family and loved ones.

MVFV: My friend Daniel Luna reached out to our team for Borracho: Spanish for Drunken Bum (a play by friend Abe Zapata Jr. I directed in February—I fucking love that play; I’d be tired all over again for that beautiful, hilarious play—) so we could read a script he’s working on all together via Zoom. That was my fave. It was a very low pressure, one-time commitment scenario where we all get to enjoy Daniel’s comedy, and I loved it. (Shout out to @luna.tico and @abe_zapatajr — peeps should follow their work!) Also, I highly recommend taking an incredibly aimless walk around your neighborhood without any technology on you.  

<3

Creatives Check-In, Part II

by Zury Margarita Ruiz

For the second installment of my “Creatives Check-In” series, we welcome and hear from…

Valerie Gibbins (top left), Christine Hamilton-Schmidt (bottom left), and Amanda Harmon Koppe (right).

As relayed in the previous post, my goal with this series is to highlight how creative folks are reconciling with their creativity during this precarious time. In the spirit of creative camaraderie, I aim to highlight creatives from various fields as I strongly believe we fuel each other’s work. I am so thankful for their participation.

Featured Creatives – A Short Bio:

Valerie Gibbins is a textile and industrial designer from Oakland, CA. Her work straddles many disciplines, attempting to highlight the intersections of feminism, sustainability, art, function, and design thinking. 

www.vmgibbins.com / Instagram: @villusionary and @sewdemhanz (Professional Account)

Christine Hamilton-Schmidt is a Los Angeles based playwright and screenwriter. Her work has been developed and produced at Skylight Theatre, Ammunition Theatre Company, Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, The Blank Theatre, Team Awesome Robot, The Parsnip Ship, and more. Her full-length play, CHARLOTTE STAY CLOSE, had its world premiere production at Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA in September 2019. She is the founder and co-program director of New West Playwrights, which was created to give voice to and foster the work of young playwrights in Los Angeles. More information at www.christinehamiltonschmidt.com

Instagram: @christinehamiltonschmidt / Twitter: @christinejhs

Amanda Harmon Koppe is an Actor, Writer, and LA native. Amanda’s passion lies in empowering others through her art, as well as coaching others to create their own work.  She received her BFA in Performing Arts: Acting from AMDA College & Conservatory of the Performing Arts, has written a feminist-comedy feature film screenplay, as well as the short film Siri 2.0, depicting technology’s intrusiveness in our daily lives. She’s starred in a number of commercials and short films and when she’s not acting or writing, you can find her as a Production Manager, Teaching Artist or Yoga Instructor.  

Instagram: @amanda_harmon 

How have you been spending your time at home during the quarantine?

Valerie Gibbins (VG): There’s been a lot of eating, baking, cooking, staring into space, staring at screens, laundry, watering plants, having no clue what I’m doing, watching ’90s Disney movies, stressing, sewing, making masks, playing with fabric, and eating chocolate. There’s never enough chocolate in this house.

Christine Hamilton-Schmidt (CHS): I go to bed between 1:30 and 2:30am and wake up between 9:00 and 10:00am. I make big batches of cold brewed hibiscus tea and bake cakes. I bought a dry erase board, and I write a to-do list for my weekdays and feel really good every time I cross an item off the list. I write in notebooks in an attempt to spend less time in front of a screen. I talk to my cat a lot and call my mom every day. 

Amanda Harmon Koppe (AHK): I am the kind of person that needs to stay busy and I’m still learning to forgive myself when I don’t finish everything on my to-do list. I started thinking about what I could do from home that would take my mind off of our current global crisis and would help others do the same. I ended up creating Arts & Crafts tutorials on Youtube for kids. I was surprised to put my acting, writing, filming, directing, and teaching skills into use by developing these holistic crafting lessons for children from my kitchen table. 

Amanda’s Arts & Crafts with UPSTAGE.

Did the quarantine affect any of your creative projects or plans?

VG: I teach sewing classes, so those were all cancelled. Thankfully, I did not have any major plans this year since I was looking for full-time work anyway. That effort went down the tubes, obviously. 

CHS: This is WILD, but my “career” has never been better. Quarantine has opened a magical door to working on other people’s projects and being encouraged by others to write. I have collaborators getting in touch with me and giving me deadlines in a way I never have. I feel really lucky, but also tired and worried about letting people down because some days I just can’t write.

AHK: In early March, I had been going on auditions, developing a few TV pilots, working on an ebook and outlining another feature film, but once our reality came to a screeching halt, it was much harder for me to focus on any of my creative endeavors. It was exhausting to even try working on projects I had once been passionate about. Everything I had been doing felt really small in comparison to an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty and dread. It made me think of the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” 

How, if at all, has this time affected your creativity?

VG: On one hand, I feel like an amorphous semi-sentient blob most of the time. But then on the other hand, this time has actually pushed me to sew more and look at growing that more as part of my work. It’s given me time to waffle and question, but also time to sit down and sew for hours on end. This is definitely not to say that quarantine = start a business! It’s more about clearing away the cobwebs in my case. Now is not the time to pressure or shame yourself into doing something you do not feel equipped to do. 

CHS: I want to sit around all day. I feel very lucky when I have an urge to write, but most of my writing has been a result of deadlines and I am so grateful to my creative partners for that. I think reading books and scripts and watching film & tv is a way to be creative and so I’ve been indulging in art intake.

AHK: I stopped judging myself for not accomplishing what I had planned on doing and that helped my creativity return in waves. It’s difficult enough for me to keep track of what day it is, so instead of giving myself a usual incentive deadline, I keep all of my projects circulating in the ether of my mind.  Almost everything in my apartment is organized (for my own sanity), but when it comes to my ideas and thoughts– my creativity can get messy. When an idea hits, I write it down on anything I have on hand. If you walked through my front door right now, you would see random post-its, paper towels, napkins and journals floating around everywhere. It feels great to get my thoughts on paper and I could tell you exactly what is written on each one. It’s almost as if I’ve designated different areas of my apartment with a certain idea and when I’m in that area, that project/idea is what circulates in my mind and word vomit comes out. It’s like going to an amusement park and choosing what ride you want to go on that will make you toss your cookies (but for fun).  

Personally, do you feel that it’s necessary/important to keep creative during this time?

VG: This is an absolute given. In normal times, this would be part of a larger conversation on the importance of arts education. Not only is it important to those of us who choose a creative field for work, being creative nurtures the brain and can provide distraction and comfort. For me, just doing something as simple as looking at my fridge or pantry, sparks creative problem solving and switches my brain on. I think it’s so vital to put a creative filter on everything you do—and it just makes everything more fun.

CHS: No. No, no, no. Nothing is necessary other than staying safe. I think it’s important to take time to think about who you are when you aren’t working, what your values are, and how you can contribute. I think it’s important to reach out to people you love. Rest so you can be creative when you’re ready.

AHK: As crazy as my creative process does sound at the moment, if I didn’t have it, I honestly don’t know where I would be putting that frenetic energy. I’m a big advocate for the need to express yourself. I believe it is just as important to be seen and heard at this time of universal societal trauma as it is when dealing with an individual’s trauma. If you can take whatever you are feeling right now and translate that into a drawing or painting or monologue or video, you will find that it is not only healing, but it will connect you to others who feel the same way. No matter how isolated I may feel, I find solace when I remember that I am not alone in this experience.  

What have you found most frustrating about this time, creatively or otherwise?

VG: Oh, well, I mean…the “governance” of this country is utterly enraging. Anger can definitely be a motivator, but it’s turned very obsessive during this time; I’ve had to step away from watching news clips and be very conscientious about the time I spend on the internet. Though, I’m very grateful to even have access to information and the internet (#netneutrality).

Otherwise, I miss hugging my friends and family. It’s very frustrating to not know if they’re sick or I’m sick or if we should be going to the grocery store, etc. Everything and everyone has been in limbo for nearly two months. It’s not a comfortable or natural state for most humans. I think in some ways I had an easier time than most adjusting to sheltering in place because I’m a homebody and because I’ve been in a precarious limbo state (job-wise and mentally/emotionally) for a while. 

CHS: I miss my friends and my family. It frustrates me that I can’t hug them. 

What is something that you’ve learned about yourself during this time?

VG: I am a pretty self-aware person in the first place, so there haven’t really been any new revelations. However, I have definitely started being actively more forgiving and kinder to myself. I would say there’s been a lot more affirmation than fresh learning, which is truthfully what I’ve been struggling with for years. So, I guess, thank you Madame Corona for holding myself accountable to years of therapy!  

CHS: I’m a lazy Taurus. I will always find something to clean. I want to write a novel (I knew this as a joke before quarantine but now I know as a serious thing). 

AHK: I learned to be creative with finding purpose in my life. I never thought I would be making Arts & Crafts videos, but here I am. When it felt like the world was ending, Amanda was crafting. I also learned that it’s ok to not be productive. My body and mind have needed more rest because I’ve been in a constant state of stress since I started self-quarantining. I always thought accomplishing long-term goals was a great achievement, but now I think accomplishing little tasks feels just as great. I had the courage to get up this morning and take out the trash with gloves and a mask– yay, gold star! 

What is something/someone that has brought you joy during this time?

VG: Communication with friends and family has always been number one. The past few years, I’ve cultivated amazing friendships by having epic phone chats and this time has allowed that to blossom since no one has a schedule anymore. I’ve been fortunate that I have been able to see my sister and brother-in-law (we’re basically one “household”) and therefore play with their dog. They joke I only come over to see her, which is not entirely untrue. 

CHS: I don’t play Animal Crossing, but I like to listen to my husband play because the music and the voices of the characters are incredibly soothing. 

AHK: Every Friday night, I visit another era by lighting a pair of candles on my great-grandmother’s candleholders and watch them flicker. I am reminded of how grateful I am for the technology and medicine we have today and that this too shall pass. 

<3

Creatives Check-In, Part I

by Zury Margarita Ruiz

Pretty early on during this time of isolation, something that I quickly came into my attention where social media posts that talked about all the new skills, tasks, and hobbies we should either be mastering, acquiring, or working on all while at home.

At one point I truly started hyping myself up about all the things that I needed to do, but my feelings and energy never seemed to match up with those ideas.  Pandemic aside, its already hard enough to get myself in a creative state, so hearing things like this, even when they are meant to be encouraging, ended up being frustrating, even offensive. I think that everyone has their own unique experience of what’s going on are able to work creatively, or not, from that awareness, so my goal with this and other upcoming posts this week is to highlight just that—how other creative folks are reconciling with their creativity at this time.

For this small series, I wanted to hear from all creative types, as I strongly believe that everyone’s creative work is linked—something another artist might say or do can inspire me (or you, Dear Reader) and vise versa. We all fuel each other, is my point. That all being said, for a little context—these creatives where all messaged the same questions, which I asked them to answer (or not) as they saw fit. Personally, it was great to connect with them at this time, check-in, and read their responses. I’m so thankful they agreed to be part of this series.

Ashley Shine (top left), Margie Gutierrez Lara (bottom left), and Rosie Narasaki & her dog, Sophie (right).

Featured Creatives – A Short Bio:

Ashley Shine – I grew up in San Francisco, I currently live in Santa Monica and will be moving to Boulder CO in August. The outdoors is my happy place, where I find myself again. I currently work as a Strength and Conditioning Coach and I am a full-time student at Colorado State University online program for Human Development and Family Studies. One of my biggest passions in the world is prison reform and fighting social injustice. After I graduate I hope to get a dual degree in law and public policy. 

Instagram: ashshine_

website: www.shinestrengthandconditioning.com 

nonprofit: www.rebuildinformgrow.org

Margie Gutierrez Lara – I am a young at heart forty something year old. I have been acting and doing theatre since the 90’s. I currently working for Kaiser Permanente Educational theatre and have been there for 15 years touring schools from Delano to San Diego. I am a mommy of one energetic 5-year-old boy named Charlie

Rosie Narasaki – Rosie’s theatre highlights include acting in IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT and TWO MILE HOLLOW with Artists at Play, as well as a pre-Greta Gerwig turn as Amy in Playwright’s Arena’s multicultural transposition of LITTLE WOMEN. As a writer, her work has been developed/produced by MeetCute LA, Artists at Play, the Road Theatre Company, and more. In her spare time, she is the managing editor of TotalBeauty.com.

@rosienarasaki

New Play Exchange
IMDb

How have you been spending your time at home during the quarantine?

Ashley Shine (AS): During this quarantine, I have tried to maintain my fitness and continue to workout 5-6 days a week. I also am still working and still balancing being a full-time student. Something I found to be new is that I am letting myself sleep in past 6 am which has been really nice. 

Margie Gutierrez Lara (MGL): I have been working at home trying to create virtual content for our ever changing world and balancing being a mommy/teacher.

Margie, a member of Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre suggests, “If you are a parent you can follow our Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre family programs where you can find tips in both English and Spanish on stress management, literacy, and nutrition”.

Rosie Narasaki (RN): For my day job, I work as an editor at a website. Luckily, this type of work translates super well to telecommuting — though I definitely miss my co-workers.

The biggest gap in my life is all my theatre and acting “extracurriculars” — I used to keep pretty busy with auditions, readings, workshops, rehearsals, and classes (and spending hours on the freeway, of course). I felt lonely at first without it all, but I’ve been trying to do online stuff in the interim.

Did the quarantine affect any of your creative projects or plans?

MGL: I was going to start auditioning outside more and then this pandemic happened and I felt like all my creativity left me. I find it hard to create because I have to for work and for my child.

RN: Yes! I spent the first few weeks intermittently moping over a reading of my play that got cancelled… and scolding myself for moping (since I’m super lucky, all things considered). The reading was postponed for fall, and I’ve had other opportunities crop up since, so things are going well (again, all things considered).

@artistsatplayla

How, if at all, has this time affected your creativity?

AS: I have found myself to be going in waves with creativity and work during this time. I either feel incredibly motivated or just want to lie on the floor and not speak. 

MGL:  I just feel down and out and see others creating magic and I’ve just been working at home and dealing with a 5 year old that wants all my attention.

RN: Like a lot of people, I found it hard to work at first. I’m kind of a results-driven person, and with so much uncertainty surrounding the theatre scene/when it’ll reopen, creating stuff right now kind of feels like shouting into the void (even more than it usually does, anyway).

To give myself short-term goals, I enrolled in a couple writing classes, which has been great. I’ve also been meeting with a writing group — New West Playwrights at EST/LA —on Zoom, which has been a real highlight. Oh, and I do weekly play readings with my parents and some family friends.

Personally, do you feel that its necessary/important to keep creative during this time?

AS: I don’t think it is necessary to be anything during this time. Our mental health should always be at the top of our priority list, so I think if anything we should all be constantly checking in with how we are doing. Creating a space of vulnerability and maybe even sometimes set aside to heal from things we haven’t had the chance to face.

MGL: I think it is important to do what you love and share it with others. I love seeing my creative, talented friends posting videos.

Margie Gutierrez Lara plays Giggles in the upcoming comedy horror series, “Bloody Maria”.

RN: I think this is a case of “you do you?” I totally understand that some people feel driven to create to curb their anxiety, fill the gaps in their schedules, etc. But I also get that some people feel kind of overwhelmed by it all. I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

Something I’ve started to accept as I’ve gotten older is that, while it ebbs and flows, creativity is always going to be something that’s part of my life. Some years will be more fecund than others, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop. And that helps me feel better when I’m facing writers’ block and/or an acting dry spell (or, you know, a global pandemic).

What have you found most frustrating about this time, creatively or otherwise?

AS: I have found the pressure to hustle and be this unrealistic person during this time to be so frustrating. It is okay to not be okay and its also okay to just be okay. This new pressure to be creative or fit or whatever all while being locked in the house seems unfair. 

MGL: I’m just busy creating things for work that I haven’t sat down to create something for myself.

RN: Honestly? I’m a bit lonely. Zoom interactions just aren’t the same! And over the past several years, I’ve always kept up a fair amount of momentum with theatre stuff, so it’s been tough feeling literally stuck in one place; static.

What is something that you’ve learned about yourself during this time?

AS: I have learned that I need to take more time to pause and breathe and see what I want out of life. I sometimes forget to evaluate where I am at and am I chasing my dreams or somebody else’s? 

MGL: I’ve learned that I am flexible and willing to pivot and change where our new normal is headed.

RN: I didn’t realize how social I was! I’m not a party animal or anything, but between classes, supporting friends’ projects, and my own gigs, I’d be out 4-5 nights a week on average. Add that to working a 40-hour week, and I was pretty much never home, pre-shelter-in-place.

What is something/someone that has brought you joy during this time?

AS: My girlfriend Kailey has brought me so much joy. Being together 24/7 has given a lot of space for great conversations, planning, bumping heads, etc. We have had to find creative ways to have date nights and all that. She is such an incredible human being and I am nothing short of lucky to spend my time with her. 

MGL: My son Charlie and the tik too queen Rosa aka adamrayokay

RN: My favorite thing about working from home is that I can now stalk my dog full-time. I love her more than she loves me, but we’re both (mostly) okay with that. God, I didn’t realize how creepy this would sound until I started writing it down, but my phone is full of pictures of her sleeping…

<3

If you want to know where to find me…

by Zury Margarita Ruiz

Much like fellow LAFPI blogger, Leelee Jackson, I too was already a homebody and a hardcore introvert. It’s not that I don’t enjoy socializing—I do—but if I overstep my bounds, I can feel depleted of energy, which unlike Leelee, I require to rush home and watch YouTube clips of Sid the Cussing Bunny.

Sid the Cussing Bunny

That all being said, there are most definitely things I miss doing, people I miss seeing and communities (theater and otherwise) I miss congregating with. And so, like a great deal of folks, a lot of my interactions have now happened online. I wasn’t entirely sure how engaged I’d be in these conversations, especially when I have the option to mute myself, turn off my camera, or just get up and walk away for a bit, but I’ve actually been absorbed in these interactions and have found myself participating and expressing my opinion a lot more than I normally would. Additionally, I’ve realized that a lot of these gatherings are not something I would have even been able to attended before because, far more than just my being introverted, I’d been working long hours most every day. There’s been a heavy emphasis on work for me for quite some time, which you know—is necessary, but it has definitely kept me from events and people/communities that matter to me. And so, being able to do that right now—engage with what’s important to me—has definitely been an upside during this time.

On that note, I want to talk about two particular communities with whom I’ve been interacting with which have made me pretty happy during this time. There are still some upcoming events with both of these groups, so links will be provided, in case you’re interested in joining:

East Los Angeles Women’s Center

ELAWC’s model

The East Los Angeles Women’s Center (ELAWC) is an organization that I’ve had the pleasure of training and volunteering with for some time now. With the mission to “ensure that all women, girls and families live in a place of safety, health, and personal well-being, free from violence and abuse, with equal access to necessary health services and social support”, even now through the Covid-19 crisis, the staff of the ELAWC have been honoring their commitments by keeping their hotline running, operating a food pantry program and creating awareness of the distress this time of isolation has had on people experiencing Domestic Violence at home. Additionally, during the month of April—Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)—the ELAWC has been holding a series of workshops and film screenings via Zoom, ranging from topics like “Coping with Overwhelming Emotions” to “Loving with Consent”.

Tomorrow, 04/30/2020 at 4pm PST, is their final workshop via Zoom for SAAM.

SAAM Workshop: Engaging Boys and Men to end Sexual Assault #2

Tune in to This workshop and discuss the role of boys and men in the fight to end sexual assault. Facilitators: Ozzie Cruz, Prevention Specialist and Luis Mendoza, ELAWC Outreach/Advocate

Here is the link for that event:

https://www.elawc.org/engaging_boys_and_men2?recruiter_id=20799

Please note that although there is a deadline to sign up, there is still some availability!

I also just briefly want to mention that today, April 29th, is Denim Day, so I hope you got to rock a little denim in support! And in case you don’t know what Denim Day is, here is a little backstory: https://www.denimdayinfo.org/history

Latinx Superfriends Playwriting Hour

Can you spot my mug?

Curated by Tlaloc Rivas and peer-produced by HowlRound, Latinx Superfriends Playwriting Hour is a five-week, hour long, playwriting series led by various guest writers/theatremakers throughout the U.S. I have been able to be part of 2 out of three of these workshops so far and let me tell you—they’ve been super fun, engaging, and encouraging. This past Monday’s workshop, led by writer Christina Quintana, was particularly special, as we talked about our inner critic and even gave them a name (mine actually ended up being named after a family member of mine so I’m not going to name any names here). There are only two more workshops left in this series—Monday, May 4th led by Georgina Escobar and Monday, May 11th led by Jose Rivera—I would more than encourage you to take part!

For more information on this series and to sign up for the remaining sessions, check out this link: https://howlround.com/happenings/latinx-superfriends-playwriting-hour

So now, Dear Reader, if you want to know where to find me…