Category Archives: playwriting

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 

Adieu to DC’s Theatre Scene

I’ve escaped to the bedroom while a quartet of hardworking young men pack my lamps and my pictures and drag more than a dozen bins of fabric out into the hallway of my high rise. It’s moving day here in Washington. After nearly a decade, living within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol, my husband and I are finally returning to Los Angeles.

It seemed like a good time to look back at my D.C. years as a playwright.

No, Arena Stage did not invite me to participate in their Playwrights Arena playwriting group or commission me for one of their Power Plays. No, Studio Theatre didn’t fall in love with my work. Nor did Olney or Signature or Synetic. In many ways, I felt like I’d arrived in DC about ten years too late. Like the rest of D.C., the theatre scene is very much a relationship game. And those relationships had been formed long before I got here.

But I did find other opportunities. And so could you.

Several D.C. theatres give a nod to local playwrights by selecting new ten minute plays that thematically relate to their mainstage production. My short L.A. riots play got an airing at the Jewish themed Theater J. A development group The Inkwell offers rehearsal space at Wooley Mammoth, actors, a dramaturg, and a director to work on 20 minutes of a full length play. I met my favorite D.C. director Linda Lombardi through this experience. (She was directing one of the other plays.) Another group Theater Alliance hosts what it calls the Hothouse New Play Development Series. It offers a commission, a week of rehearsal, and terrific actors for a one-night staged reading of new full-length work. My full-length L.A. Riots play WESTERN & 96th got an airing there.

That same theatre teamed up with California’s National Center for New Plays at Stanford and Planet Earth Arts to commission playwrights for an evening of ten minute work about the Anacostia River watershed. The plays got a second performance on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center. My new ten minute play KENILWORTH – the story of a woman who fought the government to preserve her water lily farm – was read at that festival. And then the story grew and grew into a full length.

Unlike Los Angeles, where big corporations moved out years ago and took their arts money with them, the D.C. government sets aside a huge amount per capita for arts grants. A grant from the D.C. Arts & Humanities Commission and Planet Earth Arts made it possible to produce a staged reading of what is now called QUEEN OF THE WATER LILIES on Earth Day this spring. The cool part is that it was done in a National Park on the footprint of the house where the heroine lived most of her life, surrounded by the water lily ponds she loved.

The D.C. Arts & Humanities Commission also has an annual award for playwriting. I’ve come in second two times for D.C.’s Larry Neal Award. (First place comes with a nice check. Second place comes with a glass of wine and some cheese at the reception.)

Another commission came my way courtesy of the artistic director of one of the very fine children’s theatres here in D.C. The commission wasn’t for Adventure Theatre.  It was to create a one-person show for an organization called Pickle Pea Walks to be performed every weekend on the grounds around the White House for all those tourists who didn’t get their security clearance. My play QUENTIN is about the youngest son of Theodore Roosevelt on the night before he reports for duty in World War I. He’s hoping to reunite with his pals from the years when he lived in the White House. They don’t show up, so instead he takes tourists down memory lane to help him say goodbye to D.C. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Quentin Roosevelt’s death (his plane shot down by German fliers in World War I) and rangers from Sagamore Hill (the Roosevelt home) are coming to D.C. to see the production this July.

D.C. is also home to the fabulous summer Capital Fringe Festival. As an audience member, I’ve seen an opera based on the War of 1812, a 45 minute version of “Moby Dick,” and more political plays than even Washington could imagine. My own entry was a production of ALICE: an evening with the tart-tongued daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. Alice was famous for her bon mots (“If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone, come and sit by me.”) and lived most of her life here in Washington. The show played to sold-out houses and was named critic’s pick by The Washington Post.

There are also odd opportunities for playwrights in this town. I was once asked to write a play in 40 minutes based on an audience suggestion. The wonderful artistic director at MetroStage – the first person in D.C. to fall in love with anything I’ve written – invited me to take over her theatre on a Monday night for a public reading of my controversial play with a character in blackface THE LUCKIEST GIRL. I was challenged to write a one minute play for a festival at Roundhouse Theatre – one of dozens being performed for one night only. I knew I wanted mine to stand out, so I wrote a naked play METAL DETECTOR. It was great fun to see the sign warning of “brief nudity” in the box office window.

I also served four years as a judge for Washington’s version of the Tony’s – the Helen Hayes Awards. This meant free tickets to some of the best – and some of the worst – evenings of theatre in America. (I’ve learned to ask: “will blood be spilled on the audience?”)

Finding community has been the most difficult part of living in D.C. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. I was lucky enough to find a writing group – Playwrights Gymnasium – and a terrific crew of writers. Unfortunately, the group has been on haitus the past several years. We’re all too busy. And frankly, all that business has left me lonesome here in D.C.

So I’m coming home.

I’m nervous about rejoining the L.A. theatre community. It’s likely that many of the literary managers reading scripts today were still in high school when I was last living in Los Angeles. Most of the artistic directors I know have retired. Or died. It will be like starting all over again. Just like it was ten years ago when I moved to Washington. But Southern California is home for me. I’m looking forward to re-introducing myself.

AGATHA

A couple of days ago, a friend at work gave me a book by Agatha Christie called Passenger To Frankfurt. And I thought, “Goody. I can romp through that.”  In the Introduction, I found one of the best articles I’ve read on how to write.

I think most of us forget that Christie was a woman playwright. She’s become more of an institution than a writer. People say, “Oh, an Agatha Christie play, ho hum,” as if they know all about it – dated, formulaic, boring. Community theater. “I mean, The Mousetrap,” they mutter. (Not long ago, I wrote a ten minute play called Name Recognition, in which I trashed all those community theaters that refuse to look at a new play and instead produce The Mousetrap over and over.)

She wrote nineteen plays, eighty crime novels and short story collections, two memoirs, and six novels under another name. She invented characters that stick in your mind,  Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple to name only two.

How did she do that? This same friend who gave me that book, also came up with a quote from Christie about how to start to write. “All I needed was a steady table and a typewriter.”

To the question of “Where do you get your ideas from?” Christie answers, “You merely say firmly, ‘My own head.’” You look. You listen. You keep up with what is going on in the world – the great events and the passing events of the day – bad and good.

She insists that the setting in any work is real.  It can be described.  It can be felt and seen.

She goes for a ride on the Orient Express. Ah hah!

She has tea in a Chelsea cafe.  In the cafe, she sees one girl pull out a handful of another girl’s hair.

The setting is real – the cafe.  The characters will be invented.  The girls become hers.  Who are they and what  were they quarreling about?  She begins to have an idea about them. If an idea seems attractive, she tosses it around, works it up and gets it into shape.

And then hard part begins – writing it down and turning it into a plot.  But she has something to work with,  something to build on.

It doesn’t happen overnight. In her autobiography, Christie talks about how strange it feels to have a book growing inside you, building up all the time. For one of her books, she says, it took six or seven years before it all fell into place. Suddenly, the characters were already there, in her head, just waiting in the wings, and she wrote the book in just three days.

I’d forgotten the thrill of observing something, some interaction, some conversation, some quirk, some incident, and putting it in my notebook for use later until suddenly, it becomes insistent. (Agatha Christie sometimes had five or six notebooks!) I’ve been thinking instead, “I have nothing to say, nothing to write about.”

So, thanks for Agatha Christie, I’m getting out my notebook again. If only I could take a ride on The Orient Express.   Well, there is always the Metro line. There are lots of stories there.

Mindfulness – Quilting and Motorcycling?

By: Analyn Revilla

On my desk are two books that have “Mindful” in the titles:  “Mindful Meandering” by Laura Lee Fritz.  It’s a workbook containing 132 original continuous-line quilting designs.  The second book is “Mindful Reflections – Patterns of Hope” by Antoineta Edwards.  It is a journal for reflection, growth and relaxation.  Interestingly, both use quilt patterns and mindfulness concepts.  A copy of the May issue of LA YOGA is close by.  Inside is an article on a “Call for Education Around Mindful Communication”, by Adam Avin, a 14-year old who founded the Wuf Shanti Program.  The theme of mindfulness abounds.

Antoineta attends my yoga classes at the library.  She got interested in the classes because I teach mindfulness.  She wrote a dedication in the journal I purchased, “Analyn, thank you for inspiring us to be mindful in our lives…”

After completing the first mindful exercise from her book I felt a sense of accomplishment without really doing anything.  I followed the steps of reflecting on the quote, writing down what came to me, then followed with two writing exercises on what I like about Analyn and what I am grateful for.  (It’s key in the exercise to write “I like <your name>”).  The last step is to color in the quilt pattern.  Optional is a final step to write an afterthought, like a celebratory thought.

Perhaps a lot is being accomplished in a state of doing nothing – in that mindful stillness.  In allowing a pen in hand to meander and to color I achieved a state of relaxation and surrender – a natural state of equilibrium. 

Laura Lee Fritz’ book is designed for quilt makers to use the 44+ meandering patterns.  “Meandering” is a terminology in quilting to describe lines that do not intersect other lines.  She notes at the end, “A word about art… Throughout history, quilts have represented people’s lives, often expressing a love of story as well as a love of color.  It is sufficient to practice your craft in an expressive way, and follow the path of just ‘doing it’.  You will begin to see the world with a greater attention to what it truly looks and feels like, and those observations will appear in your work.  Now you are an artist.”

Meanwhile, Adam Avin says “As a 14-year old, I’m striving to live my life to the fullest.  But it’s hard when…” and he lists the distractions of the discouraging news on the TV about danger and shootings.  What can we do? he asks.  “I think we can look at education.”  Wuf Shanti program is a team that visits schools and children’s hospitals to teach how to practice yoga, meditation and positive thinking.  “Yoga, meditation and mindfulness can improve the healing process, help us handle stress and have better interaction with others.”

A beginning exercise of mindfulness is to observe the breath.  Tuning the attention to the breath, the seer can also watch how the mind wanders away from observing the breath.  The seer reminds the mind to watch the breath.  It is a continuous observation of the flow of the breath and the flow of the mind.  In doing this exercise the practitioner begins to understand the nature of the mind – how the mind can move from one thought to another and another so easily like a gamboling goat on the side of a mountain. 

What is the connection between the mindful books, the LA Yoga article and mindfulness exercise on the breath?  I summarize it to a conversation I had with Alex, the owner of a motorcycle maintenance and repair shop on Pico Blvd.  He’s a racer and also a mechanic, the kind of mechanic any motorcyclist would want to go to when you’re cruising and zooming along on two tires.  Alex knows and has the feel for motorcycles and the rider.  I venture to identify Alex as a mindful person.  He’s the Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance.  He’s the observer and the doer.

He specializes in motorcycling and as a seasoned racer, mechanic, entrepreneur and mentor –  his education is a process that can be applied to other areas in life.  Mindfulness is a process of revelation; and in peeling off layers to reveal the true nature of things there is also an accumulation of more light – an illumination that brings about clarity and a sense of peace.  His process of accumulating a body of knowledge and work from years on the track, the shop, running a business and being an artist can be transposed to the “human condition”.  The “human condition” is what is.

We came to the conclusion in our conversation over a bottle of Pacifica when the shop work had wound down, and my Suzuki was ready to go.  The bike was scheduled for a fork job.  The seals had been worn and rust had started to corrode the forks.  He gave the bike extra TLC:  he lowered the seat so that I don’t have to be on tippy toes; fixed a slow leak on the back tire, oiled the kick stand.  I noticed he also polished my mirrors – a finishing touch like putting the sprig of mint on a strawberry parfait.

We talked about the education of police officers who are trained to shoot a person posing a threat.  The example was a mentally imbalanced sixty-year old woman who is wielding a knife.  If she moves to threaten a police officer then the officer is trained to shoot her once she’s within a defined perimeter – say 16 feet.  It is baffling why the officer is not trained to contain the situation, rather than pull the trigger as the first line of defense.  The officer could call for backups or at worst shoot to disarm the woman (say aim at the feet), rather than aim to kill.  Then upon containment of the situation call on an expert to deal appropriately with the hysteria of the woman, and perhaps begin to understand the root cause of the problem instead of shutting off the possibilities of beginning to understand why she’s mentally imbalanced and carrying a knife.

“The main purpose of education should be to enable us, as John Dewey said, to come into the possession of all our powers, to help us grow as human beings, and to locate our potentialities so that we can better develop them” – interview with Norman Cousins from November/December 1984 posted on Mother Earth News.

A practice on mindfulness is a path that leads to seeing the possibilities and the potentialities within an individual.  As an example, to control your breath as means to direct and extend the prana (life force) within you has a direct effect on the mind and anatomically the brain that secretes hormones that brings a sense of calmness and even euphoria.  In a state of equanimity we can make better choices.  Mindfulness is a practice.  It is not medicine.   It is exercising your free will to choose to attend and to be present to regularly practice mindfulness.  There are other methods of practicing mindfulness and it need not be in a yoga studio.

“What is the eternal and ultimate problem of a free society? It is the problem of the individual who thinks that one man cannot possibly make a difference in the destiny of that society.”  – Norman Cousins from his book “Human Options”.

Alex White is practicing mindfulness just being human and doing his work of calling.  His mindful practice resolves to showing compassion to a fellow rider and being a steward of human kindness.

I express a deep gratitude to Alex who has helped me deal with all of the motorcycle work and dealing with the situation of Bruno’s fatal accident on his bike.  Alex is a solution to the problem of a free society.  He made a positive difference in my life and that will have domino effect that I can make a positive effect on others too.

When you’re seeking motorcycle advice, repair, maintenance, performance tuning and purchases of bikes and accessories go to MPS –  Motorcycle Performance Services, located at 4150 W Pico Blvd 90019.  Phone number:  323-939-2370.  You’ll find Alex there and his sweet and friendly staff including the two gorgeous German Shepherds.

Further Along the Road Less Traveled

By: Analyn Revilla

I am self-conscious in my new outfit, a widow of a tragic accident, but my self-awareness is still intact.  I will shush the self-conscious one and let the self-aware wise woman on the hill write so that I can get on with the task of living authentically.

The last three and half months has been an inward and outward journey.  I feel I’ve exploded and imploded at the same time.  To make sense of death the way it came upon Bruno and our life is still beyond making sense to me.  Maybe someone else has the answers so I talk to others who’ve been through this and I read a lot.  I found a copy of “Further Along The Road Less Traveled” by psychiatrist and educator M. Scott Peck. The third chapter, “The Issue of Death and Meaning”, speaks how society has a tendency to turn away from the reality of death.  He observed, “Of course, most people have very little taste for struggling with the idea of their death.  They do not even want to think about it.  They want to exclude it from their awareness thereby limiting their consciousness.”

Yesterday, Monday morning, I racked my head for what to blog about.  I struggled with not writing from the shoes I’m wearing; one who has just lost a dear loved one, my husband.  But nothing else has occupied my mind other than that loss.  What can I contribute from my perspective? I asked myself.  At this moment I can share that the pain, suffering and sorrow have expanded my consciousness.  It is a loss of innocence, not unlike losing one’s virginity that opens a new dimension to living and dying.  Losing sexual innocence is not just the ecstasy of a sexual relationship but the wholeness of losing oneself in a relationship – the whole gamut of sharing inner and outer space together with someone you’ve chosen and whose chosen you.

There was supreme joy in finding that special one, Bruno, who loved me for who I am and not what I am.  His joie de vivre and compassion attracted all kinds of people and he accepted them all.  We were enthralled by his burning bright flame till one day that light was snuffed out.  The pain of the loss is confounded by the suffering of the suddenness and unexpected death; and deepened by a hit and run accident on his motorcycle, only five minutes away from home.  All that is a tape that plays over and over.  I get relief by meditating, gardening, eating, drinking and trying to get on with life again.

Death is a shadow on my shoulder, but I don’t carry it in a morbid sense.  I appreciate the circle of support I’ve received from friends and family.  I encounter loving and caring words and gestures from strangers whose heard about it, or with whom I’ve shared the news with directly.

In Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ book, “On Death and Dying” she identifies the stages a person who is dying can experience and these are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  These stages are also the same process that a person experiences in steps towards psychological or spiritual growth.

I cannot say it better than how M. Scott Peck ends the third chapter other than to quote him directly:

It is not an easy journey.  The tentacles of  narcissism are subtle and penetrating and have to be hacked away day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.  Forty years after first recognizing my own narcissism, I am still hacking.

It is not an easy journey (he repeats), but what a worthwhile journey it is.  Because the further we proceed in diminishing our narcissism, our self-centeredness and sense of self-importance the more we discover ourselves becoming not only less fearful of death, but also less fearful of life.  And we become more loving.  No longer burdened by the need to protect ourselves, we are able to lift our eyes off ourselves and to truly recognize others.  And we begin to experience a sustained, underlying kind of happiness that we’ve never experienced before as we become progressively more self-forgetful and hence more able to remember God.

I hack away at the weeds daily, throughout the day and the night, hoping and hoping that light will pour in through the crack.

The Impossible Play

by Chelsea Sutton

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with fellow playwrights and students about the demands put on a new play. There can only be such-and-such amount of characters. There can only be this many locations. There can be only this amount of demanding tech requirements like puppets or sets or costumes or music (see: zero). The play must address this or that “issue” and let’s make sure there’s a long speech explaining exactly what that issue is and how we should feel about it.

Here’s the thing. The plays that get me excited tend to scoff at all these rules. They have just as many characters as they should have. They go to far away locations and very intimate spaces. They have puppets and video and music and sets that break your heart. They are about something, sure, but they don’t cram it down your throat. They have spectacle or sometimes they don’t – whatever they have is in service to the story.  If it needs an empty stage or a ten foot puppet – great. Bring it on.

The plays I’m talking about are the “impossible” plays. And so often in MFA programs and the like, we’re told we have to keep our imaginations and character lists in check.  Don’t go too crazy, we’re told – you want to get produced, don’t you?

In undergrad, as I was working on my first one act play, I found myself thinking as a director or producer. In my play , there are day-dream sequences – the main character can’t express her emotions clearly to a friend she’s with as they are waiting for a train at Union Station – so she goes into fantasies. And crazy things happen in these fantasies. And I was scared of them.

 

A sea monkey follows a guy around in 99 Impossible Things.

Mostly I was scared someone would read it and say “there’s no way to do that on stage.” And then the play would never have a chance. I wrote a fantasy scene in which she sings a song and it starts raining and there’s a orchestra comes on stage or something – and I wrote long stage directions explaining to the reader exactly HOW they could do this easily and simply. I wanted to make sure they knew it was possible.

My teacher at the time, Naomi Iizuka, seemed to know exactly what I was doing. She pointed that scene out and told me to relax, to not feel like I have to do the work of the directors and designers. She said to not be afraid to write “the impossible thing” for the stage. If it needs to rain, say it rains. If the whole theatre needs to turns inside out, then write it. There is always a way to do it. If it is important to the story, it will happen.

And that’s when I let go and began to write that way. My first full length play had a sea monkey and a guardian angel, and an invisible friend for characters and the play was called 99 Impossible Things (see what I did there?) The show I’m working on now opening May 12, Wood Boy Dog Fish, has an underwater dance with fish. It has a marionette show. Kids turn into donkeys. A puppet comes to life. Someone dies, someone is burned up, a trip in a carnival ride is the climax. It is completely impossible. And yet. And yet.

Some weirdness happening in Wood Boy Dog Fish in 2015.

And I’m not saying every play needs spectacle and chaos. Some plays need a living room. Some plays needs an empty chair. But some plays need the Abominable Snowman or upside down world or a runaway train. And that’s okay.

Do me a favor. Don’t be afraid to write the impossible play. Because it doesn’t exit.

On Second Productions

by Chelsea Sutton

There’s a system to these things. You sit in a room alone and create something. Let’s call it a “play.” If you’re lucky or have some friends who will hang out with you for some free pie, you get actors to read that “play” either in your living room or in a little black box theatre or a rehearsal room downtown. If you’re super lucky, maybe you get a “workshop” of the “play” where people walk around and maybe hold props or something. And then, if the theatre gods are smiling upon you, you get that premiere.

Most of the time, we’re stuck in a revolving door of readings and rewrites, with no premieres in sight. And if the premiere does happen, it feels as if everything is riding on that one production. One false step, and that’s the end of that.

The point of course is that a second production is often a unicorn. This is why the National New Play Network and Block Party and all that are so sought after. When the unicorn comes around, it is a gift for the art-making.

I’m in the middle of rehearsals for a show I wrote with Rogue Artists Ensemble, Wood Boy Dog Fish – a dark reimagining of the Pinocchio story first produced in 2015. As a playwright, this first production was unique and full of struggles. Though the company had been working on versions of the show for many years, the time from when they brought me on as the playwright and when we started rehearsals was about nine months. It was a very short gestation period in playwright years. The premiere was already looming. The “play” and I were never alone together. We skipped that entire step.

Rehearsals were lots of new pages (so many pages), rewrites in the room, changes to whole plot lines and concepts. I was tweaking up until opening week. And still. While we overcame a lot of obstacles in the way of the show, and created something to be proud of, it always felt like there were things we had to ignore or let go of because there wasn’t time. Because we were CREATING. When you’re giving birth, you’re not worrying about the name of the kid or whether they are going to like Spiderman or My Little Pony. You’re just hoping it enters the world alright and you both survive.

Wood Boy Dog Fish, 2015

So now it’s round two. Wood Boy is rising from the ashes for a new production at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank. Since 2015, I’ve rewritten almost every page of the script with the exception of maybe one or two pages in Act Two. We cut songs and added new ones (writing songs with composer Adrien Prevost is a joy.) Puppets and masks and costumes and props and sets are being reimagined, upgraded, polished. Dances are being tweaked and perfected and laser-tight on the storytelling. And we’re doing it with less rehearsal time, less prep time, even MORE obstacles, all of it. But there’s no longer a question of WHAT story we’re trying to tell, which is what premieres are so often about. Now we’re focused on HOW we want to tell it, and HOW to improve and deepen our choices from 2015. The choices, I think, are smarter now, more specific, more grounded in the heart of the play.

This path to a second premiere was not a traditional one, nor was the play’s birth, but I am learning how vital it is to the life of any new play. It’s all about the details now. It no longer needs me or any of us to figure out how to breathe. It’s ready to get out there and LIVE. I hope more theatres are willing to take chances on new plays – and if they don’t land right away, I hope they get a second shot. Don’t we all deserve one?

Rogue Artists Ensemble’s Wood Boy Dog Fish is being presented at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, May 12 – June 24. Info and tickets here!