All posts by Jennie Webb

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

stal

The FPI Files: “Mama Metal” is Ready to Make Some Noise

by Desireé York

Sigrid Gilmer

Sigrid Gilmer’s “Mama Metal” packs an emotional punch.  A testimonial to a life turned upside down, Sigrid takes us on a raw, unapologetic journey full of vulnerable heartbreak, stabbing humor and cold metal fury.   “Mama Metal,” presented by IAMA Theatre Company, runs May 23-June 23 at Atwater Village Theatre.  LAFPI was fortunate enough to speak with this hard rock writer before opening night.

LAFPI:  How did your partnership with IAMA ignite and can you share  this play’s development process?

Sigrid: I wrote “Mama Metal” in 2017, when I was a member of the Humanitas’ PlayLA Writer’s Group. About six of us would meet monthly for a year to write on a new play.  At the end of the process we were paired with a local theatre and I had the good fortune to team up with IAMA Theatre Company. Then I began my magnificent collaboration with director Deena Selenow and she staged a beautiful reading at Open Space Cafe on Fairfax. 

LAFPI:  Why did you choose to tell this intimately personal story now? 

Sigrid: Five years ago my step-father died suddenly and my mom was diagnosed with Lewy-Body Dementia/Parkinson’s. I went from being a struggling – albeit carefree – artist, to being my mother’s primary caregiver.  “Mama Metal” was written four years into that journey. The process of watching my mother decline, called anticipatory grief – thank you therapy – was disorienting. My emotions were constantly shifting – sadness, rage, confusion, guilt. Memories were assaultive and relentless. Everything was surreal, overwhelming and terribly funny. What makes you laugh will make you cry, right? That openness, when we laugh or cry feels like the same emotional neighborhood and I was living in that raw, emotionally naked terrane. I wrote the play to navigate, sort and understand that landscape.

LAFPI:  Why heavy metal?  How were you introduced to it and how does/did this style of music speak to you? 

Sigrid: I like metal for its naked aggression, rhythm and rage: that’s what I feel like on the inside. I think my attraction to metal started when I was about 7 or 8.  I had a babysitter who constantly played rock – Journey, ELO, Styx, the Eagles, The Stones, The Beatles, Queen, Kiss, etc.  From there it was just a slippery slope to Metallica, Sabbath, and Maiden.  I like any music that rages against the machine.  Metal also has a strong theatrical element; it is over the top, deeply orchestral and complicated.  Different melodies and rhythms running throughout them all coalescing into this magnificent tapestry of sound.

LAFPI:  What advice do you have for your fellow women playwrights, advocating for their voices to be heard onstage?

Sigrid: Write plays. Then write more. Send your work everywhere. Say yes to gigs. Get your plays up, by any means necessary. Self-produce. Find your artistic tribe. Write and write and write. Develop your own voice and view of the world until it screams. Until it is undeniable. Nurture your desires and idiosyncrasies. Create your own space. Write. Write. Write.

Cast members Chris Gardner, Jamie Wollrab, Lee Sherman, Courtney Sauls, Graham Sibley, Rodney To. Photo by Jeff Lorch

For tickets and more info about “Mama Metal,” visit iamatheatre.com

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.

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Jacqueline Goldfinger

Jacqueline Goldfinger

January, 2019

Alyson Mead speaks with Jacqueline Goldfinger about designer babies, scientific advances, and her new play Babel, presented in a staged reading by Sacred Fools for one night only, on Sunday, January 27th.

Listen In!

What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LAFPI Podcasts

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Jami Brandli

Jami Brandli

December, 2018

Alyson Mead speaks with Jami Brandli about Greek mythology, theatrical mash-ups and manners in the time of Trump in her play Bliss: Or Emily Post is Dead!Moving Arts premiere at Atwater Village Theatre. (Her new play Sisters Three opens in LA on December 14th,  produced by Inkwell Theater at VS. Theatre.)

Listen In!

What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LAFPI Podcasts

The FPI Files: Wendy Graf’s “Exit Wounds”

Wendy Graf

 by Desireé York

Women writers aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions and neither is Wendy Graf in her play Exit Wounds, one of two recipients of the Moss & Kitty Carlisle Hart New Play Initiative Silver Medallion, playing through December 16 at GTC Burbank. So LAFPI decided to ask Wendy some questions of our own.

LAFPI: What inspired you to write this play from this perspective?

Wendy Graf:  I became interested in what happens to the families and love ones of evil people and/or people who commit evil acts. I started watching a number of documentaries like Hitler’s Children. Then there was, of course, another mass shooting and that story opportunity kind of clicked in my head. I wondered what if anything was the effect on the shooter’s loved ones and families and if that effect bled out to future generations. I also felt it was a vehicle for me to vent my anger and frustration and desperation about the ongoing lack of gun control in this country, even in the face of every day tragic massacres.

LAFPI: We love when women writers tackle current social issues from a woman’s perspective. How do you view gun violence as a feminist issue?

Wendy: I view gun violence as an EVERYONE issue. As a mother I suppose I view it through a feminist lens, for when I see all those children and families affected I do relate to it as a mother and as a writer, putting myself in their shoes. But please let’s not make it only a feminist issue. If we do that I’m afraid that, sadly, it will be diminished in the eyes of the gun lobby and supporters, for whom it is already so diminished and dismissed. Attention must be paid!

Dor Gvirtsman and Suanne Spoke  – Photo by Ed Krieger

LAFPI: How do you see the nature/nurture debate playing a role in your play?

Wendy: One of the things I was also interested in exploring in this play was the notion of viewing a family member through a lens of another family member. Is this legitimate, do they actually see these qualities in another family member or are they projecting these qualities onto them? In the case of Exit Wounds, does the father actually see the qualities of the troubled brother in his son or is he projecting in hopes of early identification? Does the past dictate the future? These are the questions I love exploring!

LAFPI: What message would you want victims of mass shootings to receive from this play?

Wendy: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry we could not do enough to stop this madness, but we will keep trying in every way possible.

LAFPI: The woman character of this play shares certain rules to live by which were passed down to her from her father. Do you think there are still universal rules which have molded the current culture of American society and what rules do you live by?

Wendy: I think there are definitely rules that have molded the current culture of America, but the trouble is we are not in sync anymore in America about what those rules are. We no longer agree what universal rules are molding us and which we are adhering to. It’s like my character in the play says “Guns are a Rorsharch test, Danny. Or like one of those drawings that you see one thing when you look at it one way and then you turn it, look at it from another angle, and you see something else.” Sadly I’m afraid we have come to a point in America where the “universal rules” are like that. We seem to be seeing different things completely. I feel like my universal rules are moral and based on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, as we all are created equal, but the other side feels those are their universal truths, yet they see things completely differently. We have hit a very tragic time in America when we don’t all see our universal, fundamental truths as being the same.

Dor Gvirtsman and Suanne Spoke – Photo by Ed Krieger

LAFPI: What would you like audiences to take away from this play?

Wendy: I don’t presume to offer answers, only questions. I have no agenda for what I want the audience to take away, other than to see the truth of human behavior and something of their own humanity. To see something of themselves reflected in the characters and, without necessarily condoning or accepting them, to somehow understand their actions. I leave it up to the audience to answer the questions. I hope it will start conversations about why, and maybe if we can talk about why and try to understand, change will become possible. Maybe we can move toward seeing our fundamental, universal truths closer to being the same.

LAFPI: Is there anything else you would like to share with your fellow artists of LAFPI?

Wendy: Keep on writing. Keep on questioning. Keep on asking “what if”?

For more information and tickets to EXIT WOUNDS  visit www.hartnpi.org

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.

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Suzanne Bradbeer

Suzanne Bradbeer

November, 2018

Alyson Mead speaks with Suzanne Bradbeer about politics, ambition and her new play Confederates, one of two Hart New Play Initiative winners now playing at the Grove Theater Center in Burbank.

Listen In!

What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LAFPI Podcasts

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Maureen Huskey

Maureen Huskey

October, 2018

Alyson Mead speaks with Maureen Huskey about finding your voice, identity and her play The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, opening October 27th @ Son of Semele.

Listen In!

 

What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LAFPI Podcasts

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Inda Craig-Galván

Inda Craig-Galván

August, 2018

Alyson Mead interviews playwright Inda Craig-Galván about questionable mothers, Carrie as a role model, and a better Scott Baio. The Playwrights’ Arena premiere of  I Go Somewhere Else plays at the Atwater Village Theater through September 17th.

 

Listen In!



What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LA FPI Podcasts

#HFF18 #FringeFemmes: Making It Count

by Jennie Webb

Well, this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival is over… although the energy is still palpable along Theatre Row, what with the great group of shows extended in Encore! performances through July.

And, yeah, there are SO many shows that I missed during #HFF18, which I swore I’d catch if they were extended but… Argh. July was supposed to be saner than June!

But enough of that. (Why are we always obsessed about what we don’t manage to do?)

This year during the Fringe, as in years past, the work and camaraderie of women artists was pretty damn impressive. Those amazing Fringe Femmes wasted no time kicking ass big time. So great seeing LA FPI badges and logos all over the place in June – thank you for all the love!

Also great to be able to give LA FPI’s “Most Wanted Awards” again at the HFF18 Awards Ceremony to venues who staged 50% or more works by women onstage during the Fringe. (Many thanks to fabulous presenters Fiona Lakeland and Katt Balsan, and Olivia Butaine and Lisa K. Wyatt who helped tally to find this year’s figures!)

Fiona Lakeland & Katt Balsan – Thx Matt Kamimura for this super shot!

And now, the numbers.

The “Most Wanted” Awards went to 12 venues this year: 2nd Stage, Actors Company, Art of Acting Studio, Assistance League Playhouse, Lounge Theatre, Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre, Studio C, studio/stage, The Broadwater, The New Collective, Theatre of NOTE and Thymele Arts.

Also pretty pleased that 70% of the community-voted “Fringe Freak” Awards went to works created by women. And 53% of the Sponsored Awards were given to femme-penned projects, including “Fort Huachuca” by Ailema Sousa, receiving The Inkwell Playwright’s Promise Award.

And then there were the overall numbers. This year, 49% of the scripted Fringe shows were written by women.

So a big yay there, considering the year-round #LAThtr average is probably still around 20%.

But I was a bit bummed that we didn’t hit 50%, a bar we’ve reached for the last two years. Hmph. Sure, the percentage is up from 39%, when we started counting. And I don’t know if 49% vs. 50% is statistically significant; last year we did hit 52%. However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s an important reminder: We still have work to do, ladies… and allies!

Right. We, as theatermakers, must make a conscious effort to put more diversity onstage. And we, as artists, must take positive action so that untold stories are heard and celebrated, in all shapes and forms.

Because here’s another number: only 47% of the Producers’ Encore! Awards, with extensions, went shows by female playwrights. Grrr.

So who’s with me? We continue to spread the #FringeFemmes energy & support each other as a community throughout the year so that we get our voices out there, and our plays into the hands of decision-makers!

Aaron Saldana & Kelly Egan at Theatre of NOTE (proudly displaying a “Most Wanted” Award – love it!)

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: I Came to Make Noise

by Chris Farah

Quick peeks at #HFF18’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Carrie Mikuls

WHAT: I Came to Make Noise

WHERE: Lounge Theatre 1 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. LA, CA 90038

WHY: Hurry! Only 1 more performance left of this fringe diversity scholarship winning feminist show! Powerfully blending beautiful choreography, spoken word and a fierce yet supportive beatboxer, I Came to Make Noise speaks to the struggle, diversity and universality of the American woman. Get tickets now for Saturday, June 23, 6:00 PM and you can get 20% off with discount code: MAKENOISE

HOW: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4903