All posts by Constance Strickland

LA Has a Theatre Problem

PART B
by Constance Strickland

LA has a theatre problem. We live in a city where hundreds of theatre artists are cooped up in small spaces trying to find ways to create new work.

We are lacking hub spaces, safe spaces such as the Judson Church, BAM, Performance Space122, HERE and GIBNEY – all in New York – where one can develop new works. We need to continue to build houses that allow artists room to take risks while naturally creating work that reflects the people in our city.

In approaching the communal arts space Hauser & Wirth to present work, I was told that their relationship focuses on residencies with CalArts students and alumni. REDCAT’s quarterly studio program has a history of featuring new works by CalArts alumni. But it is vital that local institutions, theatre houses, and galleries open their doors to independent artists not affiliated with academic institutions. The more academic qualifications get in the way of the arts, the more we we lose the organic expansion and find that the same artists in rotation at the same spaces are the only ones getting supported.

We have programs that are being funded by the Center Theatre Group (CTG) and the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), including the DCA COLA Fellowship program, providing support to individual artists who can show 15 years showing on their resume or emerging artists – choreographers or dancers who went to post-secondary instruction only need to show 8 years on their submission resume. Yet we still need to make room for independent theatre artists who are not affiliated with a theatre and have not received extensive support.

The DCA also has the Performing Arts Programs, where they currently manage four City-owned theatres: the Warner Grand Theatre (San Pedro), the Vision Theatre (Leimert Park), the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre (East Hollywood), and the Madrid Theatre (Canoga Park). I addition, they oversee two City-owned, operator-managed theatre: the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center (West Adams, managed by Ebony Repertory Theatre) and the Los Angeles Theatre Center/The NEW LATC (Downtown Los Angeles, managed by the Latino Theater Company). Yet how much are these theatre houses charging to rent out space to independent theatre artists?

The rising cost of renting space is the number one battle theatre artists are facing. Many of us are hustling – using parks, our houses, gyms, or begging to use educational spaces. Yes, everyone has to pay the rent but what can the City do to make these City-managed theatres more affordably accessible to theatre artists building new work? The conversation in theatre for a long time has been, “How do we get people into the seats? How can our audience members reflect our city?” The question now needs to be: How can we support independent theatre artists, many of whom are artists of color and already underserved, and underrepresented in the arts? Many of us have only been surviving by the constant support we receive from our communities, but how do theatre artists here who have no support and are not being nurtured via theatre houses have the chance to rise to the next level? We need even more City and State funding that understands not all theatre artists are part of a non-profit, have fiscal sponsorship, or can show a fifteen-year producing resume.

Congratulations to A Noise Within for taking a risk on its community of storytellers with Noise Now. This is a pioneering move that is leading the way to break monopoly within our theatre community. Theatre companies throughout the State should be finding ways to create programming that makes way for new voices. It is not enough to just add “diverse” programming to your season with the same playwrights being continuously being redirected. We need to widen the lens of what theatre is and can be. The times are changing and artists and audiences of all backgrounds are hungry to hear new voices that capture the human spirit. It’s no secret that we are losing a generation of artists due to theatre artists having no time, space, and financial resources to imagine, experiment, develop, then share with our communities.

We are missing theatre artists Made in LA., local playwrights writing beautiful plays, avant-garde artists daring to create socially relevant, brave new works… who are able to get suitable financial support for doing it. What are the programs that are out there, and how much actual funding do they give artists? It is vital to the City that politicians find a way to say our theatre artists matter, too. Queens, New York offers the Artists for the Creation of Original Artistic Work Grant. From Minnesota to Seattle, we’re seeing artists given the opportunity to grow and contribute their voices on a variety of local stages. What will LA do rise to the occasion?

I’m calling on the LA City politicians to step up funding for independent theatre artists and to nonprofit theatres who do not usually get any funding at all so they can risk helping new artistic voices. I’m calling on Mitch O’Farrell, David Ryu, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Governor Newsom, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris to focus, invest and fight for the arts and artists living in Los Angeles.

I’ll say it again. We are losing a generation of artists to other professional fields, or who are moving to affordable states. Or they stay and struggle to create what they can with the little resources available and their own funds. With this becoming a regular occurrence, we are not able to gauge the times accurately – a multitude of artist’s voices are not being cultivated. There are state grants available but the scope is not wide enough and the requirements can often be limiting, leaving many artists out of the application pool.

There are days I find myself scared, terrified that the work will not get done. That my ideas will disappear with time and memory if there is not a change in how we consider, support and nurture theatre artists.

Diep Tran recently stated in American Theatre Magazine, “The price for total and complete artistic freedom is that almost nobody makes a living wage, let alone a living, doing it. If they do, they either have personal money or they have a partner who can support them and allow them to do the work.” This is true, and if this continues to be so, we will be left with a skewed perspective of our artistic truth during the 21st century. 

Department of Cultural Affairs Grant + Richard Sherwood Grant Links for Individual Artists:

http://dcaredesign.org/cola/

https://www.centertheatregroup.org/programs/artists/sherwood-award/

How Are You Surviving

PART A
by Constance Strickland

It’s no secret that L.A housing is skyrocketing while continuing to affect the most vulnerable of our communities. Single-parent homes, college students, our elderly along with low-income households, but without pause, I will shout ARTISTS are included in this category. We are losing a generation of artists due to theatre becoming more and more inaccessible to Artists. 

We often hear of Artists living in roommate situations, working two or three side jobs, needing government assistance or worst of all, must quit creating new work, no longer able to tell stories due to an ever-expanding culture that increasingly finds new ways to silent and deem unworthy the truth seekers of our society. Boldly telling the future being an ARTIST can only be sustainable if you fit into pop culture.

I know for myself I’ve applied to hundreds of part-time jobs that end in “no’s” or the good ole, “you’re overqualified” or that magic nothingness. I’ve had to clean houses, work day labor jobs or hope I received a phone call from the long list of staffing agencies signed up with.

Yes. We are living in provocative times. Yet the voices who are trying to find the truth within the noise are being considered not worthy enough.

How do we come together to find new ways our communities can thrive, grow and reach new levels while also creating sustainability for those who try to capture the heart of the times we are living in?

How Are You Surviving

What jobs or gigs are you doing that are solely allowing you to pay bills so that you can create work, eat oh and have a roof over your head?! How are you finding time to create new work & produce your work within a constant battle of survival?  


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

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Odunayo Majekodunmi

By Constance Strickland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odunayo Majekodunmi

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Amrita Dhaliwal

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. I am humbled, inspired and overall ecstatic to introduce Amrita Dhaliwal! Amrita debuted Lady Love in the 2013 Fringe, and now returns for #HFF19 with Gemma Soldati in THE LIVING ROOM, a physical comedy about death that is a modern day reflection on how grief affects one’s soul and body. 

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

Amrita: It’s hard to say how long I’ve been sitting with this work really – perhaps my whole life, death has been there. But I think I can cleanly say that after my mom’s death in November of 2017, I was flattened in a way that I had never experienced. My pain and immense grief felt so universal, and yet in our American world, I felt so alone. I started to see how much we hide death in our culture and communities. Slowly that started to include writing and reading about loss in other cultures and their practices around death. And then very slowly I started having conversations with fellow devising artists about their experiences. And that’s where The Living Room was birthed. My creative partner, Gemma Soldati, also a doula, and I shared a deep curiosity and desire to express this through our work as clowns. Gemma had lost her boyfriend, as well very suddenly, so we shared a deep understanding of each other’s journeys. We started with “work-in-progress” shows in October 2018 in which we asked for feedback from the audience. And through that process  we had a final product by March of 2019. We are taking the show to Melbourne Fringe and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so the Hollywood Fringe run is really for us to prepare for those festivals.

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

Amrita: It’s strange because to me it doesn’t feel like we give it away, it feels like the audience gives us something every time, too. Because there’s no fourth wall in our work and everything is direct address, it feels as if in every show we – the audience included –  create something together. And we leave it in that space when it ends, but we are changed because of that shared experience. I would love to ask audiences this same question!

Constance: What are you enjoying most doing your show?

Amrita: The play and the growing love, trust and commitment with Gemma. The show requires so much for us to be in sync and really be in alignment and it’s been so deeply rewarding to continue to grow with Gemma, which in turn makes the show so much more powerful, vulnerable and a gift for everyone to unwrap and enjoy.

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

Amrita: As a woman of color doing comedy and self-producing theatre, it is a challenge to exist in these arenas. We do not receive the same systemic support, credibility, respect and access to resources as cis white men. These challenges – again, because they are systemic in nature – exist within the Fringe and will within the ecosystems ahead of us. That is, unfortunately, the nature of our world. However, we have been particularly fortunate to have the support from our community of clowns, Idiots, and artists as we’ve developed the show. What has also really helped us meet these challenges the most have been other women and organizations like LAFPI supporting us and shining a light on our work.

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

Amrita: Due to the nature of this work, it’s really up to them what they take or leave with us. We don’t have designs on what they need to feel. If I had to say one thing I hope for, I suppose it’s simply that they go into the world just a little bit more curious about death. And then maybe we as a collective society can have more difficult conversations about our loved ones and our own end. After all, it’s where we’re all going.

For more information on THE LIVING ROOM in HFF19, visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6206

 

Amrita Dhaliwal

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Shari Walker

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists of all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make room, make way for women from all backgrounds to have a chance to have their voices included in the future of theatre. It is my delight to introduce the yummy yummy Shari Walker! Shari continues to defy stereotypes and expectations. A #HFF19 Scholarship recipient, Shari states, “SUGARFREE FOSTER CARE combines the difficult journey of foster youth through my perspective as both a social worker and foster child, using poetry, personal narrative, humor, and real-life experiences.”

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

Shari: The work has been consistently a part of my journey since exiting foster care, and I was inspired to put the work in my heart and mind on paper this past six months because of the high epidemic of homeless foster youth and the lack of housing resources available. As a social worker student interning for United Friends of The Children, working with youth emancipating out of the system, I see that the same obstacles I met are even more difficult for the youth transitioning into adulthood today. I was led to the Fringe by my mentor Kathy Rubin who met me after I had transitioned out of foster care; she shared that my story was powerful and could help bring awareness and create social change. Fringe is such a beautiful place for storytelling, shows, inclusion, and diversity and I just knew SugarFree: Foster Care Cognitive Dissonance would have a place at the Fringe.

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

Shari: It feels absolutely amazing. I have learned that I am not alone and that many have stories similar to my own; others who do not are open to volunteering with nonprofits and getting involved. I am so grateful. Though each show is difficult because it is my journey, it is also beautiful because it opens the door to others sharing their truth, inspiring the community to take action and support children and youth to push through obstacles and barriers.

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

Shari: I enjoy being able to see the progress I have made. I am on an emotional rollercoaster with the audience as I share the various impacts on my life before, during and after foster care, and I enjoy the ending. The biggest surprise from the show is that I still have much to learn. Even as a social work student and foster youth advocate, I have in no way arrived. I am am happy to discover that that’s okay as long as I continue to learn, grow and consistently advocate for change.

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

Shari: Reflecting back on the trauma and going back to some of the most frightening moments in my childhood. I think acting and writing is one thing, but to have my real-life journey and experiences both on the stage and page brings so much up, internally, and requires me to emotionally, mentally and spiritually stay grounded before, during and after each show. I am grateful to have a great support system in my heart parents, Stephanie and Neil, and my amazing husband Matthew.

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

Shari: I hope that audience members can hear my journey and take action to volunteer, mentor, donate and outreach to transition age foster youth within Los Angeles County. I also hope that if audience members have experienced or are currently experiencing – or witnessing – abuse, neglect and violence that they will reach out to gather help. At the end of the show, I give out resource booklets from an amazing agency that is located in LA county that can refer emergency services and support that may be needed.

For more information on COMEDY HOE in HFF19, visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5839

Shari Walker

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Crystal Bush

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists of all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make room, make way for women from all backgrounds to have a chance to be included in the future of theatre. It is with great esteem I present Crystal Bush! In her #HFF19 show CHRISSY METH we discover a woman who has come out of the dark into the light. A woman who found her way to herself and shares her story to remind us all that we can rise above our deepest battles and thrive. Crystal, you’re a powerful example of never giving up on oneself.

Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? 

Crystal: I went into recovery in July of 2003.  So I wanna say somewhere around 2001, when I was right in the thick of my addition, I was trying to capture it.  But I found it very difficult to talk about or regurgitate what was happening as it was happening. And besides, I was in it… so I just couldn’t.  I remember I was living in Oakland, and I did a short stand-up about losing so much weight at the time – I went from a size 14 all the way to a size 0.  But even then it was still very difficult to  tell the story;  I was so in my addiction, that I really could not think clearly.

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

Crystal: Oh, wow. After leaving in a clean and sober house for three years, group therapy, individual counseling, years and years of yoga and prayer, my healing has been profound.  Sitting down and writing my story, acknowledging it and letting it go has lifted a weight that is indescribable. I feel so free, I feel love, I feel peace.  I feel like there is so much more to come: a book, a film, a series. This has definitely been a wonderful surprise.

Constance:  What has been the biggest  surprise or discovery, doing your show?

Crystal: It’s been so  freaking amazing!!  My last show, twenty-six people were in the house;  twenty of those people stood in line to wait to embrace me afterwards. It was so deep; I was stunned at how impactful my story has been for others.  It’s so difficult to know how other people are going to think and feel,  so I was really nervous about putting my story out there.

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

Crystal: Gurrrrl…THAT’S MONEY!  You know, I remember at times when I would always say, “Oh, I can’t do that, I don’t have the money, wow, that’s too expensive, I ain’t got no money,” etc. Not receiving one of the Hollywood Fringe scholarships was definitely devastating. But I knew this story had to be told.  So, despite my own fears, my worry, self sabotage, procrastination… I just put one foot in front of the other, I asked the Universe to please guide me, and some really beautiful angels showed up and helped me financially.  This has never happened to me ever in my life so, needless to say, I am in awe of the entire situation.  It has been a magical journey. But to be clear it was ALL challenging:  Writing, directing, and self producing ain’t no joke, but I did it, and I feel so blessed.

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

Crystal: My whole life people have made assumptions about who I am,  and where I come from.  I’ve had some very humble beginnings in my life.  I talk about this in my show – I was abandoned by my mother as an infant, raised by my father’s parents, my father was a heroin addict.  And so I was set on my path in this life and world and I did the best I could do with what I had.  You never know what people have been through, so it is so important to not judge people.  And you never know, you could help save somebody’s life if you just open your heart, and have love and compassion for the other person. I want my audience to walk away with love and compassion, and the will and courage to make an impact and change this world in their own way. 

For more information on CHRISSY METH: A DANCE WITH THE DEVIL AND THE JOURNEY BACK in HFF19, visit  https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5629

Crystal Bush

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Makha Mthembu

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists of all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make room, make way for women from all backgrounds to have a chance to be included in the future of theatre. I feel so lucky to introduce you the wonderful Makha Mthembu! Makha grew up during Apartheid and her #HFF19 show, NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, centers on the changes South Africa was going through in 1992 as Nelson Mandela was being released from prison.

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

Makha: I wrote this piece in Grad School; it was my Graduate thesis. Despite a lot of positive feedback, I put it away. Yet, even though my piece takes place very specifically in 1992 Apartheid South Africa, its relevance to America now and even the world at large is why I decided to re-stage it. When I first moved here in 2007, the answer to the question, “Is the US a lot like South Africa?” was no! Now, not so much. The US and SA are way more similar than they used to be, and it’s not because South Africa has caught up with America. America is just a little bit more like my Post Apartheid South Africa, isn’t that sad?!

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

Makha: I feel so relieved! Getting this thing moving was tough. I wrote it, I’m in it, I had to find my space, pay for my space, find a costume, get my props, cultivate an audience. This was exhausting. It is beyond delightful to just get to perform it. Yes it’s just me, but it’s only about twenty minutes and then I get to have great conversations with people. And then, which is even better, I get to go and see someone else’s awesome Fringe Show!

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

Makha: My director this go around is an amazing director and friend of mine based out of Chicago named Michelle Altman. She challenged me to actually find the fun of performing it. And who knew I could actually enjoy performing a comedy about Apartheid? Meeting other Fringers has also been beyond a delight! I feel like I’ve made more friends in the past two months than I did living here for two years. I’ve learnt that LA actually has a very vibrant clowning scene. There are a bunch of theatre artists here. And everyone is as terrified and exhausted as I am; doing the Fringe definitely helped me find more of my people.

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

Makha: Doing everything myself, that was stupid. I’ve learnt that next time I take on a project like this, I should have another collaborator in the same city as me.

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

Makha: Well first it’s FREE, so I hope people just see my show! I feel as though we are in a time where people are not able to listen. We don’t listen to each other, or people who don’t agree with us. And I think listening is the crux of conversation, you can’t just be thinking about what you’re going to say next or your rebuttal. I just hope people listen, and feel how they want to feel. I don’t think anyone one person is to blame for everything, but we are all present all of the time and that makes us responsible. So let’s just listen and take it from there.

For more information on NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND in HFF19, visit  https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6252

Makha Mthembu

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Jil Chrissie

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists of all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make room, make way for women from all backgrounds to have a chance to be included in the future of theatre. With deep pleasure and enthusiasm I introduce comedian Jil Chrissie! Jil’s one-woman show  at #HFF19, COMEDY HOE, is a one of kind public announcement, an unwavering in-depth look at womanhood, using fictional storytelling, comedic spoken word and stand-up comedy. Without fear she addresses the hyper-sexulization and adversity women face in America on a daily basis.

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

Jil: I’ve been working on Comedy Hoe for about 2 years on and off. The script includes fictional storytelling, spoken word and standup comedy. All art forms I’ve performed separately at different times of my life. I was attracted to The Hollywood Fringe festival because as a comic, I’ve produced several shows for my friends around Los Angeles. Producing with the Fringe festival this year felt like a natural progression.

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

Jil: I performed Comedy Hoe for the first time October 2018. Since then I’ve taken it to New York and back to LA in January of this year, and now the Hollywood Fringe Festival. It feels unfamiliar to be able to perform my original work so unapologetically. It’s awesome to have put together an hour I can showcase anywhere, anytime and in any era.

Constance:  What has been the biggest surprise doing your show?

Jil: Having to consistently level up in our marketing has been challenging but rewarding. My team and I are having the most fun thinking of creative ways to promote the show. We have several adds, postcards, stickers, clothing and I even made a playlist! Although we’ve been selling tickets, I am never not surprised that people in LA like paying for shows 15 mins before it starts.    

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

Jil: I’ve had to learn how to wear several hats in a small amount of time. Developing Comedy Hoe‘s brand has created budget issues and it’s been nearly impossible to find press for a show with the word “Hoe” in the title. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

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

Jil: I hope when people see my show, they leave thinking it was delightfully unexpected. The show is called Comedy Hoe, sure, but I touch on subjects like substance abuse, mental illness, stereotypes and cultural vulgarity. Although most of the show is rooted in punchlines, I want to make sure my audience leaves with something to think about.

For more information on COMEDY HOE in HFF19, visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5605