LA Women’s Theatre Festival–Solo Voices, Solo Bodies, Solely Wonderful

Guest Post by Diane Lefer

The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival came of age last week, marking its 21st year. Given how hard it is to keep an arts nonprofit thriving, it would be remarkable enough that co-founder and president Adilah Barnes has presided over more than two decades of an annual presentation of solo works by women from LA, around the country and sometimes from around the world. The quality of Giving Voice–this year’s offering of  performances from 20 artists at the Electric Lodge in Venice from March 28th-30th–was cause for celebration, too.

Yes, all women. Yes, all solo shows, often excerpted to fit the time, but nothing repetitive about this festival. Just to give some idea of the range and variety, audiences saw Cynthia Ling Lee’s “rapture/rupture” through which she engages postmodern dance with classical Indian dance; Kate Rubin’s multi-character comedy, “How I Died”; spoken word from The Lindz; Tia Matza’s aerialist performance;  Mwanza Furaha’s jazz cabaret; social commentary via physical theatre in Dacyl Acevedo’s personal take on the economic crash, “Will Work For”; and more. Besides stylistic diversity, the festival is committed to racial and ethnic diversity onstage which carried over to the audience where, incidentally–please take note–there was age diversity as well.

On Saturday, putting Ciera Payton and Karen A. Clark on the same afternoon bill was an inspired pairing. Payton’s excerpt from her full-length show focused on her relationship with her incarcerated, crack addicted father. When “Ciera” transformed into her father, she didn’t just put a light blue denim prison shirt over her white tank top. Her voice, her posture, her face transformed as well. Their prison visit captured the complexity of emotion: the joy Ciera feels in her father’s embrace, the awkwardness, the anger, the pain and confusion.

Ciera Payton Photo by SCOTT MITCHELL copyright 2012

Ciera Payton Photo by SCOTT MITCHELL copyright 2012

Here’s where I give a shoutout to the POPS club at Venice High School which offers a platform for creativity to kids with a parent in prison and where I think that onstage, Payton’s joyfilled and charismatic presence provides reassurance that the little girl from New Orleans grew up strong, beautiful, and able to laugh in spite of all the troubles she encountered.

 

Clark, compelling in her own way, proved you don’t have to go through a traumatic or dysfunctional upbringing to have an engaging story to tell. Combining family stories with song, she shared positive memories of family life, a “legacy of love.” Her warm and intimate performance style kept the audience invested in her parents’ happy and devoted 57-year marriage–in spite of which her mother, Ora Christine, kept eight bank accounts in her own name. Her counsel to her daughter, that women should always hold onto some money of their own, led Clark into her own memorable song styling of God Bless The Child.

Karen A. Clark

Karen A. Clark

I felt lucky to have been introduced to their talents, glad they were scheduled alongside the performance that initially brought me to the Electric Lodge: Estela Garcia’s “Remedios Varo, La Alquimista” (in Spanish with projected English supertitles).

Many years ago, I walked into the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City and was stopped in my tracks by a painting: Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista (Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst). The woman’s white hair rises, curved, like horns. Her eyes are deepset, haunted. Her face is partly covered, a mask hangs beneath her neck, and another mask or face dangles, about to be dropped, from one hand. I had never before heard of the artist, Remedios Varo.

Garcia’s performance not only filled in much of Varo’s life-story for me, but like the painting, took my breath.

Estela Garcia

Estela Garcia

In a brown, almost monastic robe, she portrayed a woman traumatized by Franco’s dictatorship, war, exile in France and then Mexico, and the submersion of self in her lover’s world. Varo struggles to find her place as an artist and as a woman haunted by “cosmic loneliness.” Garcia leaves the stage to return elaborately masked as the artist/alchemist. Slowly, ceremonially, she brings Varo’s dream imagery to life as she grinds up a star and feeds it to a reluctant crescent moon which she rocks like a baby until the full moon is revealed.

The magical process of creating art brings about theatrical magic. Words capture the artist’s contradictions: the uneasiness of being lonely and the excitement of being alone.

That uneasiness and that excitement–a woman alone on the stage–seem a fitting way to talk about the anxiety and joy at the creative root of the festival’s triumphant solo acts.

*                                   *                                   *                                   *

Other performers this year were: Karen Bankhead, Sofia Maria Gonzalez, Ingrid Graham, Jennifer S. Jones, Jozanne Marie, Ansuya Nathan, Marlene Ondrea Nichols, Anita Noble, Sloan Robinson, Lisa Marie Rollins, and Tracy Silver.

You’re too late for 2014 but if this whets your appetite, don’t miss out again next year. The 22nd annual festival is already scheduled for March 26-29.

Artists wishing to perform in 2015 should check out the application requirements at www.lawtf.org/ The deadline for submission is August 31.

After SWAN Day…

SwanLogo2

The SWAN Day Action Fest was a success!

 

We will post highlights in the coming week or so.  The room in Samuel French Theatre & Film Bookshop was packed, the plays were well written, entertaining, thought provoking, etc., etc., etc., the actors were talented and the audience was great!

Thanks to Little Black Dress INK, The Vagrancy Actors, Samuel French Theatre & Film Bookshop for partnering with LAFPI and to everyone who pitched in and participated.   And, a very special thanks to our fearless, faithful, get-it-done leader — Jennie Webb!

 

Support Women Artists Now…

SWANDayLogo2

 

 

Today

10:30 am – 4:30 pm

 

SWAN Day Action Fest

 

 

Samuel French Theatre and Film Bookshop

7623 Sunset Bl (just east of Fairfax) in Hollywood (at Stanley)

 

Are you there yet?

SWAN Day Action Fest – this Saturday, 29 March!!

The SWAN Day Action Fest is a FREE day of play readings and connections open to all, featuring the work of women playwrights and directors in celebration of Support Women Artists Day. Presented by LA FPI and Little Black Dress INK with the support of Samuel French Bookshop. Special thanks to The Vagrancy.
 
Join us this Saturday, March 29, 2014 from  10:30 a.m – 4:30 p.m. at Samuel French Theatre & Film Bookshop,7623 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles , CA 90046  (at Stanley, east of Fairfax in Hollywood).
 
There is street parking for the event; there is also limited parking in back of the bookstore (off of Stanley).
 
EVENT SCHEDULE:
  • 10:30 a.m: Refreshments + Connections / Deadline to Submit Micro-Reads Pages
  • 11:00 a.m.: Playreadings -
Civilization by Velina Hasu Houston, Directed by Laura Steinroeder
Douds, Iowa by Debbie Bolsky, Directed by Katherine Murphy
The Stiff by Kathryn Graf, Directed by McKerrin Kelly
  • 12:00 p.m.: Micro-Reads - Directed by Lynne Moses
  • 1:00 p.m.: Refreshments + Connections / Deadline to Submit Micro-Reads Pages
  • 1:30 p.m.: Playreadings -
Over Ripe by Becca Anderson, Directed by Gloria Iseli
Awesome Big Somebody by Sarah Tuft, Directed by Holly L. Derr
  • 3:00 p.m.: Micro-Reads - Directed by Laurel Wetzork
 
For more information, visit lafpi.com/events
Follow us on Twitter @theLAFPI

 

What’s on Your Viewing/Reading List?

I have listed some of the plays I like to frequent.  Some I have never seen on the stage and some I have read and seen; all are very good plays.  Have you seen or read these plays by these female writers?

 

Yellowman  by Dael Orlandersmith (2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist)

“Alma and Eugene have known each other since they were young children.  As their friendship blossoms into love, Alma struggles to free herself from her mother’s poverty and alcoholism, while Eugene must contend with the legacy of being “yellow” — lighter-skinned than his brutal and unforgiving father.”  From back cover*

My Red Hand, My Black Hand by Dael Orlandersmith

A young woman  explores her heritage as a child of a blues-loving Native American man and a black sharecropper’s daughter from Virginia.”   From back cover*

*”Alternatively joyous and harrowing, both plays are powerful examinations of the racial tensions that fracture families, communities, and individual lives.”   From back cover Vintage Books  play publication YELLOWMAN & MY READ HAND, MY BLACK HAND

 

How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel (1998 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1997 Obie Award winner)

A wildly funny, surprising and devastating tale of survival as seen through the lens of a troubling relationship between a young girl and an older man.  HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE is the story of a woman who learns the rules of the road and life from behind the wheel.”   From the back cover of Dramatists Play Services, Inc. play publication

 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Adaptation by Lydia R. Diamond

“Nobel Prize-winning Author Toni Morrison’s THE BLUEST EYE is a story about the tragic life of a young black girl in 1940′s Ohio.  Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove wants nothing more than to be loved by her family and schoolmates.  Instead, she faces constant ridicule and abuse.  She blames her dark skin and prays for blue eyes, sure that love will follow.  With rich language and bold vision, this powerful adaptation of an American classic explores the crippling toll that a legacy of racism has taken on a community, a family, and an innocent girl.”  From the back cover of Dramatic Publishing publication

 

Ruined by Lynn Nottage (2009 Pulitzer Prize winner, 2009 Obie Award winner)

“A rain forest bar and brothel in the brutally war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo is the setting… The establishment’s shrewd matriarch, Mama Nadi both protects and profits from the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds between the government soldiers and rebel forces alike.  RUINED was developed through the author’s pilgrim to Africa where countless interviews and interactions resulted in a portrait of the lives of the women and girls caught in this devastating and ongoing tragedy.” from the back cover of Theatre Communications Group publication

 

Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley (1981 Pulitzer Prize winner)

At the core of the tragic comedy are the three MaGrath sisters, Meg, Babe, and Lenny, who reunite at Old Granddaddy’s home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi after Babe shoots her abusive husband. The trio was raised in a dysfunctional family with a penchant for ugly predicaments and each has endured her share of hardship and misery. Past resentments bubble to the surface as they’re forced to deal with assorted relatives and past relationships while coping with the latest incident that has disrupted their lives. Each sister is forced to face the consequences of the “crimes of the heart” she has committed.  From Wikipedia.org

 

Tea by Velina Hasu Houston

Four women come together to clean the house of a fifth after her tragic suicide upsets the balance of life in their small Japanese community in the middle of the Kansas heartland.  The spirit of the dead woman returns as a ghostly ringmaster to force the women to come to terms with the disquieting tension of their lives and find common ground so that she can escape from the limbo between life and death, and move on to the next world in peace — and indeed carve a pathway for their future passage. Set in Junction City, Kansas, 1968; and netherworlds.  from the back cover Dramatists Play Service, Inc. publication

 

Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks (2002 Pulitzer Prize winner)

“TOPDOG/UNDERDOG, a darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity, tells the story of two brothers, Lincoln and Booth, names given to them as a joke by their father.  Haunted by the past and their obsession with the street con game, three-card monte, the brothers come to learn the true nature of their history.”  From the back cover Theatre Communications Group publication

 

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler (1997 Obie Award winner)

“THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES introduces a wildly divergent gathering of female voices, including a six-year-old girl, a septuagenarian New Yorker, a vagina workshop participant, a woman who witnesses the birth of her granddaughter, a Bosnian survivor of rape, and a feminist happy to have found a man who “liked to look at it.”  From the back cover Dramatist Play Service, Inc. publication

 

HEADS by EM Lewis (2008 Francesca Primus Prize winner)

An American engineer. A British embassy employee. A network journalist. And a freelance photographer. As hostages in a war zone, each responds to the unbearable situation differently, with stark reality and difficult choices. HEADS is a heart wrenching story about finding hope and intimacy in an environment with seemingly no way out.  From the Pittsburgh Playhouse website.

 

Note: not all awards are listed for the plays or playwrights.

 

SWAN Day Action Fest Plays Selected!

SWANDayLogo2

Plays Chosen for the SWAN Day Action Fest are:

 

Civilization by Velina Hasu Houston, Directed by Laura Steinroeder

 

Douds, Iowa by Debbie Bolsky, Directed by Katherine Murphy

 

The Stiff  by Kathryn Graf, Directed by McKerrin Kelly

 

Over Ripe by Becca Anderson, Directed by Gloria Iseli

 

Awesome Big Somebody by Sarah Tuft, Directed by Holly L. Derr

 

And

Micro-Reads  by “your name here“, Directed by Lynne Moses

 

And more

 Micro-Reads by “your name here“, Directed by Laurel Wetzork

 

(for the SWAN Day Action Fest Schedule go to the LA FPI Events page, for information on how to submit for Micro-Reads see the Micro-Reads Guidelines.)

 

WHEN is the SWAN Day Action Fest:

Saturday, March 29, 2014 10:30 a.m – 4:30 p.m.

 

WHERE will the SWAN Day Action Fest be held:

Samuel French Theatre & Film Bookshop

7623 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90046

(at Stanley, east of Fairfax in Hollywood)

 

PARKING:  Limited parking in back of the bookstore (off of Stanley) or street parking.

 

TICKETSFREE; donations graciously accepted.

 

HOW do you find out more about the SWAN Day Action Fest:

Visit lafpi.com/events

Connect with us on Facebook/LAFPI

Follow us on Twitter @theLAFPI

. little black dress INK logoPresented by Little Black Dress INK with Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative and Samuel French Theatre & Film Bookshop

Celebrate Women…

 

What are you doing to celebrate Women this month…?

 

Join us at the LAFPI SWAN Day Action Fest to be held at Samuel French Bookstore in Hollywood.

 

Cate Blanchett – Academy Award Best Actress Winner

In her speech upon winning the 2014 Best Actress Award for her role in Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett said, among other things, the following:

“…those of us in the industry who are still  foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women in the center, are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and in fact, they earn money.”

 

DITTO for Theatre!

 

For Cate Blanchett’s entire speech on Oscars.com listed under the Best Acceptance Speeches section.

http://oscar.go.com/video/2014-oscar-winner-acceptance-speeches/_m_VDKA0_1ytith5b

 

SWAN Day Action Fest

SWAN Day action fest2

Join us to celebrate the many voices of women artists.  Bring a friend!  See LA FPI Events for more details.

Download (PDF, 163KB)

Happy Anniversary: LA FPI Turns Four!

Four years from March 6, 2010 and still going strong!  We’ve grown a lot, learned a lot and stayed the course…

 

The Los Angeles Females Playwrights Initiative (LA FPI) was started by Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb.  We thank these ladies for their leadership and greatly appreciate them for igniting the fire…

LA FPI started with the Study to see what the figures were in gender parity in theater in Los Angeles, we still find ourselves  taking Stock and looking at/for changes regardless of the size.  We continue to celebrate women on stage, we question theaters with seasons void of the female voice, and always look at the numbers problem and why it matters to us and should matter to everyone else.

Thank you for joining us.

https://www.facebook.com/lafpi

https://twitter.com/TheLAFPI

Support us by donating at Fractured Atlas:

http://lafpi.com/contact-us/donate/

 

 

WordPress Themes