On Awards, and Fringe Accolades

by Jennie Webb

I’m not a big awards gal. As in, I don’t personally watch the Academy Awards and if you have an Oscar party I probably won’t come. Tonys are not really on my radar, and I pretty much stay away from local theater awards & ceremonies. (How clever of me to personally avoid any recent nominations, huh? Right. Let’s not go there.)

Awards MarqueNow I know awards are kind of a necessary not-so-evil. They’re a very useful tool for artists. In the best sense of the word, I think they can celebrate our art. And they mean a lot to a whole lot of people – just because there are winners does not mean the rest of the world (read “us”) are losers, right?

Okay.  Admittedly, I have not been above posting awards on my own damn resume. So I should just get over my fine socialist self, keep an eye on my over-developed empathy gene (why can’t everyone win?) and put this all into perspective.

Which brings me to the Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards. And a question about LA FPI’s contribution to them.

Awards are a big deal at the Festival, and when we first began to partner with the Fringe (thanks to an introduction by the incredible, soon-to-be-leaving-LA Cindy Marie Jenkins – thank you, mama!), the subject of sponsoring a Fringe Award came up. But wait: LA FPI can’t be choosing one artists or project over another! (See “socialist,” above.)

Still, we didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to celebrate female artists.  So we tried to  figure out how to give an award that would let us highlight numbers, give accolades and create some good old gender parity awareness.

NOTE Fringe Award

Thanks to Tiffany Antone for her “Most Wanted” design

Here’s what we thought up: We’ll give our awards to venues, not artists. We’ll tally the numbers to determine the overall percentage of Fringe shows written by women, and give “Most Wanted” Awards to recognize venues that had over 50% shows by female playwrights.

Well, we’ve done it for the past four years, and the numbers we got each year told us that about 39% of the scripted Fringe shows each year were by women. We gave away a few “Most Wanted” Awards every year and that was all well and good.

But for the first time, this year over 50% of the venues got LA FPI Awards – 10 total, the most ever. Also in 2015, we found that over 46% of the overall Fringe shows were femme-penned. Statistically, that’s a pretty significant leap… in the right direction!

I was ridiculously excited about this – thrilled at the reaction by the Festival peeps (Ben, Stacey & Meghan are my heroes for making this madness happen every year) and the Fringe Femmes. And so grateful to Madison Shephard & Julisa Wright (Constance Strickand behind the scenes) for graciously presenting the 2015  “Most Wanted” Awards.

Award Presenters

Julisa Wright & Madison Shephard at the Fringe Awards

I heard the Fringe Awards Ceremony this year was a blast and then some. Hooray for accolades, congrats to all of the “winners” and so glad LA FPI was a part of it, again! (Even though my ass was conspicuously absent, again – see “over-developed empathy gene,” above.)

So here’s where I am now with Fringe award-ness: When we first thought up the LA FPI Award we dreamed that in the best of all possible LA theater worlds, venues would proudly post them on their walls and compete for women artists to book in their spaces so they could get them. I’m not sure that this is quite happening, but I am gratified that theater operators have come up to me and told me that they deserved one, despite the numbers (tee hee hee).

What are your thoughts? Especially if you have a healthier attitude towards awards than some of us, is the “Most Wanted” Award something that gets our message out in the best way? Is there another way we can celebrate the work of the Women on the Fringe, and the theaters and theatermakers that are actively supporting that work?

Let us know. We’ve got awhile to think about it. And in the meantime, accolades to all the Fringe Femmes from LA FPI – you’re all winners and we want you ALL!

 

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With Cindy Marie Jenkins & my favorite, award-winning, honorary Fringe Femme – we’ll miss you CMJ!

And the Fringe Goes On: Encore!

by Jennie Webb

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Fringe Femmes Katelyn Schiller & Robin Walsh

Seriously, June is always one of my favorite (and craziest) months in LA theater. And that’s because of the Hollywood Fringe Festival and – more specifically – the amazing work of women artists at the Fringe, and the community that’s created each year. Yep, the Fringe Femmes. It’s a fabulous, gooey, full-of-kindness-and-generosity-and-inspiration hot mess that I can’t get enough of. It’s a month where women artists laugh at the “You must be threatened by other talented women!” edict that still pops up now and again when we least expect it, and come out of the woodwork to actually SUPPORT each other.

I also find that many of us spend most of June cursing because there’s just too much to see and only so many places we can be – especially me, if I’m to grab any sort of admittedly loose hold on my often questionable sanity.

So good. July means Encore! extensions, and that we have a second chance to catch stuff we missed. (Or see stuff a second time!) Nice to note that nearly half (46%) of the extended shows are written by women. (2016 Encore! producers: 50% please?)

It’s only got one more performance on July 2, so don’t miss Bella Merlin’s turn in “Nell Gywnne: A Dramatick Essaye on Acting and Prostitution” – Bella is a polished pro and her sassy Nell shines in an admirably tight package (pun intended), beautifully directed by Miles Anderson.

Also returning for one show only (July 3) is Penny Pollak’s dark and wonderful “No Traveler: A Comedy About Suicide.”  LA FPI’s Constance Strickland was lucky enough to see it during the Fringe run. Read her thoughts here: http://wp.me/p1OFoi-48I

Was really glad to find Abby Schachner’s “U and Me and My Best Friend P” on the extension list, as well. I didn’t make it to Abby’s show last Fringe, so I was truly blown away by her rock-em sock-em performance and smart, insightful, ridiculously funny verses. (What? Just one Encore! date on July 9? Not fair.)

And this year I also became a huge fan of two female directors. The first is Rosie Glen-Lambert, who brought fantastic and fantastical touches to Veronica Tjioe’s evocative “Dead Dog’s Bone: A Birthday Play.” (Will be terrific to see how this transports to Bootleg Theater July 9-11 – love the action there!)

Then there’s my brand new acquaintance Kate Motzenbacker, director of Savannah Dooley’s all-femme “Smile, Baby,” a super savvy snapshot of what it’s like to be woman today in a man’s world. (Relate much?)  Kudos to stand-out actors Jessica DeBruin, Sonia Jackson, Linda Serrato-Ybarra, Molly Wixson and Madison Shepard, all puttin’ the V in Versatile. (Only performance is July 3.)

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Jennie Webb, Alex Dilks Pandola & Liz Hinlein

Last (but not least) on my list of “Encore! Shows by Women I (and/or Others) Managed to See” is Megan Dolan’s irresistible “Snack,” directed by Chris Game. (Oh.  Chris is a man. But he gets major props on this cracker-jack show.)

Book tix now for the July 12 show.

I could go on and on about why, but take it from  GreenLight ProductionsAlex Dilks Pandola, a writer/director/producer you should all get to know, who guest blogged for LA FPI during the Fringe.

Don’t miss SNACK! From the moment I read that Megan Dolan wrote “Writing is an act of defiance” on the top of each page as she penned SNACK I knew I was in for a real treat. The painful yet hysterical tale of Dolan’s childhood connected with my entire sold-out audience on so many levels. If you don’t love this show there must something wrong with you. Thank you Megan Dolan and Christopher Game for bringing SNACK to my world.

Check out the Women (Still) on the Fringe here: http://lafpi.com/about/women-at-work-onstage/women-on-the-fringe/

(Ladies: if your show’s not listed above, send LA FPI the info! http://lafpi.com/about/submit-show/)

Here’s a full list of all Encore productions that have been extended: http://www.theencoreawards.com/

And here’s Mick helping himself to my post-“Snack” Lorna Doones which I’d saved to enjoy at home with my Jameson’s:

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Encore! of “No Traveler: A Comedy About Suicide”

by Guest Blogger Constance Strickland

IMG_0450-1We rarely find ourselves aware that every 12.95 minutes a human being commits suicide… unless we experience it directly.

Penny Pollak is a wonderful physical performer who, in her solo show “No Traveler,” combines intensity and prowess as well as having the ability to seem familiar. Watching Penny, you recognize the girl drinking too much who can’t seem to finish the puzzle, you recognize the pain of feeling completely lost. Then all of a sudden you find yourself laughing because that, too, is what occurs when we we are able to step outside ourselves and can see the bigger picture – we laugh, for we have found the humor within our pain.

“No Traveler” reveals what Hell sounds like, how glorious Heaven will ring upon our arrival and the questions that can arise if we find ourselves in Purgatory. Penny goes in between characters with stealth and ease and has a great co-actor in a vintage metal bucket onstage; it was a pleasure to see the bucket have a life of its own – I fully heard it talking.

What “No Traveler” does also does quite powerfully is remind us to listen, really listen, to those around us for we just may have the chance to save a life.

This piece can take many forms from an installation piece to theatrical staging so it will be quite interesting and beautiful to see it adapted into a feature film!

“No Traveler” is receiving one Encore! performance on Friday, July 3rd, 8pm at the Complex Theatres. Info Here: theencoreawards.com/projects/2385

A few numbers to call if someone you know needs to talk:

Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Crisis Line
877.727.4747
caring counselors are available to talk 24/7

Teens Helping Teens
(310) 855-HOPE or (800) TLC-TEEN [toll-free in CA]
from 6pm to 10pm PST

No Traveler: A Comedy About Suicide
Written & Performed by Penny Pollack
Directed by Lindsey Hope Pearlman
Lights & Sound by luckydave
Music by Mike Milazzo & Lee Goffin-Bonefant

A Little #FringeFemmes Instagram Action…

Thanks so much to Gina Young. Are you following us? https://instagram.com/thelafpi/

  More great shows by women at the @hollywoodfringe — what are YOU going to see tonight?? #fringefemmes #LAthtr #hff #hff15   A photo posted by LA Female Playwrights (@thelafpi) on

Do We Really Need This?

GLO 2014 Casting

Jen Bloom, Allie Costa, Liz Hinlein, Alex Dilks Pandola & Katherine James casting for GLO 2014

Guest blog post

by Alexandria Dilks Pandola

I started Green Light Productions in 2003 to create new opportunities for women in theatre. As of 2008, Green Light has exclusively produced plays written and directed by women.

This year, Green Light completed The Shubert Report to examine the 349 theatres that received $16.4 million in grants last year from the nation’s largest private funder of the performing arts. We found that only 26% of the plays being produced were written by women and that 125 of those 349 theatres weren’t producing ANY plays written by women.   Foundations, especially those as large as The Shubert Foundation, play a huge role in sustaining American Theatre – most of which is classified as nonprofit. Imagine the impact it’d have if they required applicants to produce seasons that had 50% female writers and directors?   Imagine the impact if just one major theatre a year decided to do a season of plays by women.   Just that one step…

In 2005, I took that step. Heather Jones sent me her one-act play “Last Rites” about a life-long friendship between two women.   It’s a beautiful play and I walked around with Heather’s script in my bag for month thinking about how it could be produced. I had the idea to create a festival of one-act plays all written and directed by women: GLO,  Green Light One-Acts.   And since the first GLO in, we’ve given world premieres to 15 one-act plays with productions in Philadelphia, New York and now Los Angeles.

In GLO 2014 we introduce to the world 4 new plays written by female playwrights based in Los Angeles – Allie Costa, Jennie Webb, Julianne Homokay and myself – with directors Liz Hinlein, Jen Bloom, Ricka Fisher and Katherine James. I have met the most incredible women just working on this first Green Light show here and I am so excited to plan our next steps here in LA.

Alex with artists at first GLO 2014 Read Thru

Alex with GLO 2014 Artists at First Read Thru

Getting here wasn’t easy. While I’ve had the absolute pleasure to work with hundreds of women who support our mission, over the years I heard a surprising amount of negative feedback – much of it from women who felt that the theatre didn’t need companies like Green Light. A female journalist actually responded to one of my press releases with “Do we really need this?”

Yes, we do. And we need YOU!

I hope that by forming new collaborations, asking lots questions, challenging those who need to be challenged and producing work by women, Green Light will continue to have a valuable impact on artists and audiences. And I hope you’ll be part of it.

Mark Your Calendars: November 6-9, GLO 2014, 4 plays written and directed by LA women artists at Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica. www.greenlightproductions.org.

Be part of Green Light Productions first foray into the LA theater scene (after mixing it up in NY and Philly).  Join the FB Invite here (LA FPI tix for only $10!). This femme-fest is Green Light Production’s annual event, but the company is looking for more women artists moving forward. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact alex@greenlightproductions.org.

 

RADAR L.A.: Staging the Political as Personal

By Diane Lefer

A stirring doubleheader of RADAR L.A. productions last night at LATC gave me a lot to think about, including this: I am left wondering if it was coincidence, curators’ choice, or larger cultural influences that gave Los Angeles an international theater and performance festival at which only two plays (of 14 scripted pieces, many involving female artists) were written by women; both women are Latin American; both of their plays look at generational trauma in the aftermath of defining tragedies in their countries; both temper their documentary materials with poetic license as they explore the intimately personal in the political. Whatever. I can thank the forces – occult or otherwise – that brought Mariana Villegas and Lola Arias to town.

image-3For Villegas, in her supertitled 55-minute solo performance Se Rompen Las Olas, the disaster is the Mexico City earthquake of 1985 – evoked through video news clips –  that left tens of thousands dead, discredited the government, and briefly brought together the woman who would be her mother and the man whose absence and abandonment would shake the performer’s life to the core. Villegas holds the stage with a powerfully expressive physicality as when her exuberant and uninhibited dance shifts in an instant to a vision of abuse. At one point, a recorded song asks Where did the earthquake catch you? and goes on to answer dancing with Catalina, shaking the floor so hard, the singer explains, he never noticed the quake. (Can anyone imagine a comparable song in this country citing 9/11?) In Se Rompen Las Olas, these lyrics with their upbeat tune and danceable beat offer a compelling truth of daily life and human desire going on in the midst of catastrophe while Villegas, through her body and her words reminds us that people born in the aftermath of disaster continue to feel the reverberation in their lives.

arias01For Lola Arias, the disaster is the coup in Chile that overthrew the government of Salvador Allende and led to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The supertitled script of El Año en que Nací (The Year I Was Born) is drawn from the actual lives of the 11 performers all of whom were born (or were infants) at the time of the coup and who seek to understand the roles their parents played during years of repression, violence, prison, and exile. Notably, the performers come from families all across the political spectrum from participants in the armed struggle on the left to the authoritarian paramilitary organization on the right along with those who had political preferences but tried to go along with the status quo. While the opening scenes of the play suggest the new generation’s commonalities, the picture becomes more complex and fractious (and comical) when the players are challenged to line up to show their political stance, their economic position – When it comes to poverty, does having a dirt floor at home trump going hungry? – and their social status as reflected in skin color. Simple yet inventive staging keeps the production lively with tonal shifts and surprise.

Arias, from Argentina, previously created a similar program exploring the post-dictatorship era in her own country and if you’re familiar with Latin American politics, her work shouldn’t be missed. Know nothing about Allende and Pinochet? The production still fascinates. It runs two hours without intermission without ever inducing fidgets.

Final performances of both productions are Sunday, and then they are gone. See the RADAR L.A. schedule here: http://www.redcat.org/festival/radar-la-festival-2013

Villegas and Arias made me think of another Latin American woman at the head of a company that uses documentary material – Claudia Santiago who writes, directs, and performs with Mexico City-based Espejo Mutable. Their most recent production, Náa-Gunaá, looks at the lives of indigenous migrants (including children) from the south of Mexico who are exposed to exploitation and pesticides as they harvest GMO crops in Baja California. The company would love the opportunity to share this work and explore the lives of indigenous migrants from Oaxaca in our own California fields.

logo_radarla_transparent_0_0And a quick shoutout to three additional RADAR L.A. offerings that have women at the helm if not in the playwright’s chair:

Puppet designer extraordinaire Janie Geiser directs Clouded Sulphur.

Franco-Austrian director Giselle Vienne chose to employ simple hand puppets to create the unnerving effect in Jerk, the story of a serial killer.

Theatre Movement Bazaar, with Tina Kronis as director and choreographer, continues its reinterpretation of Chekhov with Track 3.

 

Diane Lefer is a playwright, author, and activist whose collaboration with Hector Aristizábal, Nightwind, has been performed in LA and in 30 other countries around the globe. Also in LA, her work has been presented by Grupo Ta’Yer at the Frida Kahlo Theater, Indie Chi Productions, Playwrights Arena, Three Roses Players, and Triumvirate Pi. She is co-author with Aristizábal of The Blessing Next to the Wound: A story of art, activism, and transformation as well as several anthologized essays about Theater of the Oppressed, and she has worked with theater groups in Colombia and Bolivia. Her works of fiction include the historical novel, The Fiery Alphabet, published this month, and the short story collection, California Transit, which received the Mary McCarthy Prize. Visit www.dianelefer.weebly.com.

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