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SOSE Solo Creation Festival Brings Women Artists Together
If you’ve been hanging around the LA theater scene and feeling a burst of cozy femme energy lately, it might very well be coming from Son of Semele.
Yep. SOSE has been on LA FPI’s radar for awhile now. For the last five years, well over 50% of the company’s productions have been written by women. Add to that their annual Company and Solo Creation Festivals, and we’re seeing a whole lot of women artists at work at their tiny space on Beverly Boulevard.
The 2016 Solo Creation Festival runs from July 14-31, so we decided to chat with SOSE company member and Festival Manager Ashley Steed (who is, herself, a femme force to be reckoned with!).
LA FPI: How long has the Solo Creation Festival been around?
Ashley: This is the third year of the Solo Creation Festival (SCF) and I’ve been producing it since day one. The Company Creation Festival (CCF) began back in 2010 as a way to incubate new, ensemble-based work that was bold and innovative. In the first years, we had solo artists apply and it didn’t feel like that was the right avenue for solo work. That’s when SOSE Artistic Director Matthew McCray asked me to produce the SCF. The first year the application was completely open, with very little requirements. Since then, we’ve fine-tuned the application specifically looking for shorter pieces and with either brand new works or works in progress.
LA FPI: This year’s SCF features 9 works, 5 written by women, 5 directed by women and 6 performed by women. How does that stack up against the first two years?
Ashley: Although I don’t specifically seek out to have any sort of quota for women, I am very mindful of the types of voices we’re giving a platform to. My main focus is having a wide range of voices, experiences and styles of performance. Last year we only had 3 written (and performed) by women, however we also had more artists of color. The first year we had 6 out of 9 written (and performed) by women.
The thing I love most about this festival is that no two shows are ever alike. Each week is programed with 3 very different pieces that somehow manage to complement each other – we try to make it so that you’re experiencing a range of styles and content. The artists also have a chance to build connections and friendships and many go on to support each others’ work. We’ve had a number of participants go on to other fringe circuits or get produced by other theatre companies – which is exactly why our festivals exist.
LA FPI: How did the women writers involved this year come to you?
Ashley: Everyone selected this year are first time applicants, most of whom heard about us through company members, past participants, and through social media. I’m also delighted to say that all of the participants created work specifically for our festival, which means solo artists are coming to us with the sole intention of presenting new work. Something that I’ve noticed about the pieces from our women this year is that they are unabashedly from the female perspective. They show women as strong, yet sensitive; as curious, broken, yearning, and brave. In other words, they each showcase the vast array of what “womanhood” means and how we can use our voices and bodies and imaginations to tell stories.
LA FPI: Insofar as supporting different artists and stories, is gender parity and diversity something SOSE is working toward, intentionally?
Ashley: I don’t think it’s necessarily a conscious choice for gender parity, although we do talk about it as a company – our main focus is producing work that speaks to us and there are a number of women out there writing exciting, nuanced, and juicy material – the kinds of things we like to sink our teeth in to. We have a lot of women in the company (including Literary Manager Barbara Kallir) who are very active in terms of leadership and opinions so I think that’s probably an unconscious force leading the company.
For me, personally, it’s more a question of diversity – does the stage reflect this wonderfully diverse city (which automatically include gender parity. After all, we are half the population!).
Featuring works by women playwrights Kate Motzenbacker & Sal Nicolazzo, Svitlana Zavialova, Jasmine Di Angelo, Kelsey Rose Siepser and Brenda Varda, SOSE’s Solo Creation Festival runs July 14-31 at Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Boulevard (@ Hoover) in Silverlake. Performances are Thursday-Saturday @ 8PM; Sunday @ 5PM. For more info, visit www.sonofsemele.org
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