All posts by Constance Strickland

All Hail Fringe Femmes! Meet Natalia Elizabeth

By Constance Strickland

This Fringe season welcomes a thrilling group of women from varied backgrounds and experiences, making this an exciting and by far one of the most diverse Hollywood Fringe Festivals ever! I wanted to take this week to share the voices of these women who will be sharing pieces of themselves this June at a variety of local theatres along Theatre Row.

The power of the LAFPI is the ability it has to bring women of all ages and different backgrounds together to share our love for the theatre. Our last blog features a powerful and rarely spoken of history told from the heart by Natalia Elizabeth. 

Fort Huachuca:

A debut production, written by emerging actress and playwright Ailema Sousa.

Set in Arizona, on an army base camp. The play is a looking glass into the contributions and sacrifices made by the first African-American women’s army auxiliary corps (WAAC’s) during the Second World War. A concept created two years ago, ignited by the lack of representation of women of color during this pivotal point in history, the playwright discovered some of their untold stories. The stories of five, African American women who were the first among few to enlist in the 1940’s amidst a still-segregated America. Battling racism, sexism, discrimination at a time when a woman’s voice had little to no value. They managed to withstand all of the obstacles and went on to change the course of history, contributing greatly towards the war efforts. But where are they in the history books? In any books? In any movies? For too long the voices of black women have gone unheard, undervalued or quite simply ignored. This is something we no longer to choose to accept. We are resilient and have been for many many years, history proves this and in recent times we have been leaning towards this truth and our strength. With the success of stories like ‘Hidden Figures’ and more recently ‘Black Panther’ a story like ‘Fort Huachuca’ is needed now more than ever. Their success reflects the voice of the people, a people who are hungry for change, a people ready to see a different narrative, to see themselves represented in all aspects, on screen, on stage in the history books. It is our time!

Ailema and the rest of the cast (Natalia Elizabeth, Nicole Sousa, Ashlee Jones, Benjamin Colbourne, Charles Nkrumah Jr, Resheda Terry, and Tiera Dashae with voiceovers by Kandace Caine & Kenneth Shook) will perform at the OMR Theatre @The Complex in Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd, here in Los Angeles for the Festival in June.

With four more shows left this is a show you cannot miss come and support the history of Fort Huachuca!

please go to  http://hff18.org/4897 to select your date and get your tickets

 

All Hail Fringe Femmes! Meet K Butterfly Smith

By Constance Strickland

This Fringe season welcomes a thrilling group of women from varied backgrounds and experiences, making this an exciting and by far one of the most diverse Hollywood Fringe Festivals ever! I wanted to take this week to share the voices of these women who will be sharing pieces of themselves this June at a variety of local theatres along Theatre Row.

The power of LA FPI is the ability it has to bring women of all ages and different backgrounds together to share our love for the theatre. It is a pleasure to introduce K Butterfly Smith, a spiritual being who creates art exploring the self and lives understanding we are all interconnected. 

Navigating the Fringe with Art and Healing

We are living in scary times. It often feels like there is no way out with all the shooting, terror and violence happening in our homes, schools, workplace and even our technology and entertainment. These are just symptoms that all this chaos exists inside of us. The only way out is through – through our own pain, our own terror and our own violence. Room No9 at the Chrysalis Inn invites you to experience a healing journey.

Healing is scary. It’s like the future. We don’t know anything about it really, except for what we want the outcome to be. Art is fun. It’s the sugar that helps the medicine we need for healing go down. Using art as a healing tool gives me focus, a sense of accountability to myself, the community and the world. It allows me to heal the wounds in myself share with the world in hopes that it will inspire healing in others. AND it’s fun.

In order to change our world, we are going to have to do something. It’s important to start with self. Creatively addressing our own issues, so that when we get where we want to be, our inner chaos is not waiting for us. It does get easier and easier. Remember “You must go into the darkness to find the light. You are the key. Little ole you.”

Check out my promo video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDREFBg37H0

 

To witness this 30-minute healing journey, please go to hff18.org/4966 to select your date and get your tickets. All Advance Purchases Tickets are PWYC! 

Please allow time for parking. Shows Start On-Time.


 
 

All Hail Fringe Femmes! Meet Francesca Gamez

By Constance Strickland

This Fringe season welcomes a thrilling group of women from varied backgrounds and experiences, making this an exciting and by far one of the most diverse Hollywood Fringe Festivals ever! I wanted to take this week to share the voices of these women who will be sharing pieces of themselves this June at a variety of local theatres along Theatre Row.  The power of LAFPI is the ability it has to bring women of all ages and different backgrounds together to share our love for the theatre. It was a wonderful delight see Fringe Femme Francesca Gamez at Samuel French! Her youth, fire, passion, as well as hunger for the work, was energizing and contagious!

The History We’re Trapped In 

“I feel that my white friends are grossly unaware of the racial inequalities that occur within America and it was very clear that white women were a large part of why the president got elected. This was a heartbreaking truth for me to come to terms with as a white woman and I began questioning the role of white women in society.”

It was at this moment, on the first day of rehearsal for our new play, Othello & Otis, I realized that my co-writer, Tinks Lovelace, and I had labored over a piece of theatre for completely different, yet wholly connected reasons.

Othello and Otis is a spoken-word dreamscape that uses the words of James Baldwin, Shakespeare, Otis Redding, Solange and others to explore white apathy towards the African American community and the true history of the racial divide in the United States.

From a young age, my mother began teaching my brother and I how to see and navigate the separate worlds that my white counterparts and I lived in. She made sure I knew that the history we were learning in school, was not historically accurate but had been altered by those in power to minimize their wrongdoings and highlight their “victories.”  That we would have to try twice as hard to scarcely qualify for the same benefits my white friends would receive freely, and that we should always, “Act right! Cause you can’t get away with the same things your white friends can.”

Those fundamental lessons my twin and I learned along with every other black child in America are the reason why I wrote the show. For me, it’s a love story to those who have come before me and who are here with me. It’s my chance to say, “I see YOU, I see what you went through/are going through, I’m here with you & I thank you.” I’m here to tell a history that’s been overlooked. To shine a light on the reality that this country was founded on a system of oppression and continues to thrive off a culture of micro-aggression. To exclaim, that we are here and denying the truth of our existence won’t change that.

As opposite as Tinks and my motivators may seem, they’re actually two sides of the same the coin – history. Director and co-writer, Tinks Lovelace wants her friends to open their eyes, work through their ego & privilege and see the reality of racial inequality in this country and their implicit role in it. I want to validate and my own experiences and represent the experiences of those who look like me. Both of these goals require us to acknowledge an ugly history and explore a 400 year-old, deep-rooted pain in this country.

As James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced is can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

We hope you’ll join us on our journey

“Othello & Otis” opens June 5th at Three Clubs. Tickets and more information: http://hff18.org/4904

All Hail Fringe Femmes! Meet Rasika Mathur

By Constance Strickland

This Fringe season welcomes a thrilling group of women from varied backgrounds and experiences, making this an exciting and by far one of the most diverse Hollywood Fringe Festivals ever! I wanted to take this week to share the voices of these women who will be sharing pieces of themselves this June at a variety of local theatres along Theatre Row.  Today I am ecstatic to present the resilient, vibrant and hysterical returning fringe femme Rasika Mathur!

Fringe Alum Rasika Mathur in Psychodelicate’s Magical Mystery Comedy Show

This was the one month death anniversary of Larry Harvey, the founder of the Burning      Man Festival. And I wasn’t sad because I knew that he got to live a full life and give it all away and that made me feel so good, that his body could be free of pain. He basically had a terrible breakup as a young man and then decided at his breaking point to build a       wooden effigy of a man and burn it in a bonfire, a few close friends as witness. He asked      they bring something to also toss into the fire. The next year they did it at the beach, and 88 people showed up! It got some attention and every year it grew until they realized it was growing too big for the city of San Francisco. So every year thereafter, an entirely new city and culture are born once a year for 10 days out in Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

 

And what I learned from this playful, magical, synchronistic, art-nature- spirituality-inspired, “hunger games” dress code-having, “leave no trace” and let it all burn in the fire philosophy-spreading movement, was to bring that sense of play out there out into this world and share it every day. Not just perpetuate stories about drugs and being naked. Though on the right drugs out there you can indeed learn to embrace yourself as a naked being. Primal, warty and all! Over there, two people on bikes crash into each other, dust themselves off and hug. And I’m sure there are fewer and fewer people who can ignore, optimally function and/or abide by what is happening more and more at this very dark moment in our country’s political climate. It’s clear we could all use some Appreciation for Life, Childlike Wonder and Inner Peace.

Creatress, Producer, Performer and Fellow Burner Alayha Aquarian, in Psychodelicate’s Magical Mystery Comedy Show is “here now to spread the good news of the Multiverse, opening hearts and expanding minds through interdimensional travel demonstration and practicum.” We are all fools bringing the feeling of Utopian inclusivity complete with sound bath, metaphysics, and a clown band to a small black box theater on Santa Monica Blvd.

 

For myself, I will be having an existential crisis, but as my longtime performed spinster (but don’t tell her that) character Nilam Auntie. It leads to a nervous breakdown. And in classic Rasika fashion, I turn to you, my audience, to participate in evoking her healing. Last year, I was new to Hollywood Fringe, and as a scholarship winner for my OWS Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD, I felt like “Wow, I’m worthy of my misfit story also belong on stage! I wanted to cast my audience to go on my horrible and hilarious self-revealing journey with me. People would play my dad and imagine themselves as dads, it was insane! And Alayha was there on my closing night, cast as “The Understudy” and she lit up!

I love Fringe’s ability to do that. To keep lighting the candle for each other, and making you see yourself in these other amazing women, doing things that we maybe hadn’t dreamed possible before since all my idols growing up were men. Women who lit the Fringe candle for me: Deana Barone (2016’s Metafam, also Directed and Developed ADHD), Lauren Flans (her shows ALWAYS sell out before May 1-also interactive theater) Chris Farah, Miss FANCY! Herself. Chris was my mentor – and this year, I now mentor scholarship winner, Camille Jenkins, Producer, Director and Playwright of “The Goddesses Guide: Adura for the Women of African Diaspora.” So many stories that need to be told.  In June there’s no place I’d rather be than Los Angeles. Because it’s summer, the theater kids have come out to play, and that sets the stage for all kinds of ✨magic✨

 

Written, Performed & Co-Directed by Alayha Aquarian “Psychodelicate”
Co-Directed/Co-Created by Jessica Lynn Johnson
Cast Hymnal, Joe Borfo, Princess Giggles, & Brother Silence, Matthew Godfrey, Grayson Morris, Alan Rich, Michael Soldati, Steve Chang, Rasika Mathur, Josh Berkowitz, Corina, Niaz Navidi, Em Hoggett, Richard Michael Johnson, Jennifer Jonassen, James Kyson, Helene Udy, Jacqi Bowe, Kina Sinewave, Sierra Sullivan, Paul Reimers, Maxwell Rich, Michael Rayner!

 

PSYCHODELICATE’S MAGICAL MYSTERY COMEDY SHOW” opens May 31st @ 7 pm at Studio C.  Tickets and more information: http://hff18.org/4958

All Hail Fringe Femmes! Meet Camille Jenkins

By Constance Strickland

This Fringe season welcomes a thrilling group of women from varied backgrounds and experiences, making this an exciting and by far one of the most diverse Hollywood Fringe Festivals ever! I wanted to take this week to share the voices of these women who will be sharing pieces of themselves this June at a variety of local theatres along Theatre Row.  Today I welcome the powerful and poetically gifted Camille Jenkins to the blog, where she reveals how her show manifested.

Conjuring up “The Goddesses Guide: Adura for the Women of African Diaspora”

The Goddesses Guide first appeared in my consciousness like a dream that lingered in my mind the next day. It’s whispers echoed around my head, buzzed through my thoughts. What is it that you want Camille? What art do you want to see in the world? How can I create it? Am I able to manifest this dream?

The answers to those questions were discovered upon reflection of my own identity. My identity as a black person in a predominately white society, as a woman finding her voice, as a human in a beautiful mad world. A human who is searching for their own palace of peace and empathy like anyone else. A human who realizes that art is one of the biggest, if not the biggest vehicle for understanding in this world.

Ahh there it is. That buzz, that whisper. Identity, black women, a search, a journey. Then out of those themes came: Africa, Yoruba, Orishas, Goddesses. And still more: empowerment, divinity, consciousness, peace.

I believe that theatre is a continuum of ancient rituals. In this play, summoning the past to converse with the present brings new perspectives on the experience of black women in America. This play is a love letter to black women and all people who support our search for individuality, mindfulness, empathy, and freedom.

I invite you into the world of The Goddesses. It may surprise you with the ways in which their world reflects your own.

“The Goddesses Guide” opens June 22nd at The New Collective.  Tickets and more information: http://hff18.org/4934

All Hail Fringe Femmes! Meet Ayesha Siddiqui

By Constance Strickland

This Fringe season welcomes a thrilling group of women from varied backgrounds and experiences, making this an exciting and by far one of the most diverse Hollywood Fringe Festivals ever! I wanted to take this week to share the voices of these women who will be sharing pieces of themselves this June on a myriad of local theatre stages.  I introduce you to a playwright whose writing style is delicate, distinctive and unique… Ayesha Siddiqui!

Coming Full Circle with #FringeFemmes for “Baba, Jee (Father, Yes)”

As I sat in the Green Room at Samuel French this past Saturday for the annual Fringe Femmes Gathering, I was struck that just a year ago, I was in this room for the very same event. I remember walking in and noting that the space was filled almost entirely with women, all of whom appeared to have shows in the Fringe. As I walked to the stage to drop my Micro-Read off, I was awed that an entire table was covered in show postcards exclusively by female playwrights. I shyly introduced myself and the work I had brought, picked up as many postcards as I could hold, and left the event feeling hopeful. “So much work by women,” I kept thinking, “Maybe next year that could even be me.”

The week after the Fringe Femmes Gathering, I felt inspired to write a one-act play called Baba, Jee (Father, Yes in Urdu.) The show is based on the true story of the time my dad came to visit from Pakistan and stayed with my boyfriend and me in our tiny New York City apartment. Then Hurricane Sandy struck, and we were all trapped inside for days. The setting felt perfect to explore themes of culture, belonging, and the experience of being a bi-racial, white passing woman in America. Yet when I first decided to do the Fringe earlier this year, I wondered who I was to even be taking this on. It felt daunting.

But as I walked into the Fringe Femmes Gathering on Saturday, I felt so much more confident dropping my Micro-Read off. A year ago, I would have never imagined myself capable of writing, producing, and acting in my own work. This is due, in part, to the LA FPI community and the willing help and expertise I have found within. So many Fringe veterans were ready to read my script, provide advice on producing, and answer questions. It is not always easy – your inner critic and self-doubt are loud. I often wonder if my work is too female, too much, too rooted to my own life and experience. And yet, as I sat in the Green Room looking to the stage, I heard unique, female voices writing to share, connect, expose, push, and to take our rightful space. The Fringe Femmes event was and is a reminder of why we do this. After all, a year ago I left so inspired that I wrote a little play.

“Baba, Jee (Father, Yes)” is a Hollywood Fringe Scholarship Winner, opening June 4th @ 7pm at Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre. Tickets and more information: http://hff18.org/4943 

Authenticity

by Constance Strickland

Authenticity: Letting the work go.

This is the word that I have lived with and tried to honor over the past few months. The word has become an ode of sorts as my theatre company’s new piece Medea: A Soliloquy or the Death of Medea has undergone a workshop.

Theatre Roscius is me. Although I am lucky to have a loving partner whose consistent help is often needed – for as we know in the theatre the work is continuous, at times overwhelming, when trying to do so much alone, no matter how satisfying or beyond worth the work is.

Entering my first workshop, the process has been a gift as well as a huge adjustment for an independent theatre artist who produces work not so easily defined, who has no artistic home. Nor are there consistent sponsors, donors or a team with whom I work with on a daily basis. Nor is my theatre company a nonprofit… so I’ve learned to do the work my way by any means necessary. Which has its faults while allowing room for magic to manifest in an organic fashion that lacks structure.

Yet the workshop process requires order, roles, structure… all that do not necessarily come together when you are playing all the roles. I have gotten used to writing, producing, directing along with acting in my work. When the work takes a toll on the self it does not allow your best work to shine through. One can also miss what makes theatre so beautiful: The collaboration, the merging and discovery of ideas.

So I have practiced during this workshop giving the work away in order to let it fly. It has not been easy. I have had to ask myself if I am trusting enough? Am I giving pieces of myself, money, giving time, taking time and not trusting the ensemble and director fully? Will I allow the director’s vision to flourish?  Can I allow the piece to develop beyond my images? It has not been easy for me to answer these questions.

During these forty plus fast paced hours of workshop development, the script has morphed into many faces, with the dialogue and movement just beginning to mold as well as fuse into one, yet the conversation is still being had between the two. I have discovered my strengths as an actor, producer and writer. I’m quick on my feet, my body is strong, I give 110% to the space and can adapt to direction. I have also been told and found my weaknesses. As an actor I can be easily distracted, as a playwright I can be defensive and as a producer I procrastinate and can lead with fear instead of fearlessness.  

Workshop is a rigorous process that has allowed the play to reveal itself in many forms that could not have manifested without the players bodies or our director’s leadership. I reached out to everyone I knew. One woman whom I had never encountered before responded to my email, met, and agreed to helm the work. I’ve learned from this gesture deeply when approaching the work inside and out.

Ultimately as playwright I’m excited, uncomfortable, and honored that our director Caitlin Hart, Artistic Director of the Vagrancy Theatre Company along with the players: Carolyn Deskin, Madison Nelson and Meredith Brown have embarked on this experiment together and that we will have a chance to share Medea with an invited audience. This opportunity to hear feedback from audience members on January 22nd after sixty-two hours of development will be quite rewarding. 

As the new year approaches I will not let fear lead the work. None of us must. So let us all Go Big & Be Fearless this 2018!

Constance