Posts tagged: Amy Tofte

The FPI Files: Female Playwright in Space

When we heard that LA’s Fierce Backbone, home of some amazing women playwrights, was collaborating with the femme-friendly Drive Theatre on a new production, our ears perked up. And after learning the project was Amy Tofte’s murder mystery on a mission to Mars, WOMEN OF 4G, we felt we had to find out a bit more about what went on behind the scenes before this collaboration blasted off.

LA FPI: Love that a female writer is venturing into what’s often thought of as a male territory – space, the final frontier. What draws you to science fiction?

Playwright Amy Tofte

AMY TOFTE: I’ve always been into Star Wars and read tons of sci-fi. Even my plays/stories that aren’t sci-fi usually have an element of the fantastical or the famous “what if” being asked. I think I’m drawn to it because classic sci-fi is often related to allegory and challenging ideology. I’ve read somewhere that all sci-fi examines religion. I’d go further and say it questions what we know now by offering up an alternative of what could be. I was also raised and educated on truly magical theater experiences and I’m inspired to create moments that will be fun for an audience to experience together. I love seeing the impossible staged when I go to the theater.

LA FPI: Tell us a bit about the role the Bechdel Test played in the creation of this work, which has all an female cast.  

AMY: I think The Bechdel Test is important to all story telling and I think every writer should think about it. Novels, films, plays…it doesn’t matter. It’s important because I think we are brain-damaged as a society. All of us. It’s not just a divide that puts men on one side and women on the other. When you don’t have a society that represents true equality, the dominant (which is currently white male) becomes the default. It’s a real problem in stories and scripts. You’ll see a character described as “African-American” or “Chinese”…but then everyone else is given personality traits because the default is white.

Janlyn Williams, Jane Kim – Heidi Marie Photography

I give a lot of feedback on scripts and you still see really good writers who are very much about empowering women but their story somehow doesn’t give their female characters all the things a “default character” might get: the women in the stories will be denied making decisions and choices, denied making mistakes and having moments to learn, driving the action. I say we’re brain-damaged because that’s ingrained in us as children. I’m not saying anything new here. That’s why diversity is important in story-telling. If we don’t see women playing super heroes or leaders in our stories, we don’t expect them in our lives.

I’m also pissed off. I’m pissed off about the election. I’m tired of knowing that women are over 50% of the population and we still write less than a third of all produced plays and have so few reps in congress or as CEO’s of major corporations. It’s ridiculous we’re still even talking in these terms. But the best thing I know to do with that anger is to write a play with all women. And make them all complicated, interesting characters who get to kick a little ass when they feel like it.

LA FPI: Let’s talk about Fierce Backbone, a development lab that seems to be very supportive of women’s voices onstage. 

AMY:  Fierce has been the single most important artistic home I’ve ever had. The focus is on development and we produce when we have the resources and a script we want to produce. We’re now in our 10th year! Fierce has consistently boasted over 50% female playwrights in our Writers Unit. So it’s easy to also say the majority of our productions, workshop productions and readings have featured female playwrights. We’re very proud of that. I also have so much respect and gratitude for our actors. They are an incredible resource.

LA FPI: How did Fierce Backbone connect with Drive Theatre for this project?

AMY: Drive has been a friend of Fierce for a few years now. We’ve supported each other’s work and they did a workshop production late last year of one of our other writer’s plays (Defenders by Cailin Harrison). We’ve also shared development ideas and were always looking for projects that make sense to partner on.

I shared the first draft of 4G with Doug and Kat [Drive Theatre Artistic Director Doug Oliphant and Kat Reinbold, Curatorial Producer] in late 2015 and they got involved in the development process.  That was really energizing as we had a lot of new voices joining the conversation. Like any playwright getting produced, I feel very, very lucky! And I’m particularly lucky to see this through with people who have given so much to help the script grow.

[NOTE: This is Drive Theatre’s is a longtime friend of LA FPI and WOMEN OF 4G is its seventh straight production by a female playwright!]

LA FPI: What was it like in rehearsals, with such a femme presence… and and a male director?

AMY: OMG. It’s so amazing. And so noticeable. It also felt like the cast bonded immediately. It was like a room full of passionate, unruly schoolgirls one minute and then intense intellectual conversations about life and being a woman in this post-election world. It reminded me so much of all the great female friendships I’ve had over the years, where you can bond so quickly.

During our table work we all shared stories prompted by events in the play…times we were afraid, things we have to do as women that men don’t have to think about. It was also great having Doug there as our director because he was like a reality check that men are clueless about certain things in the lives of women. It made me realize that the making of this particular play could be just as important as the story and performance. I think we’re all taking away something special. These women feel like sisters to me, like we’ve all been through something together.

WOMEN OF 4G opened May 19, and plays through June 17 at the Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood. For more info visit the production’s Facebook Event  or http://www.drivetheatre.org/women-of-4g.html 

 

Jane Kim, Janlyn Williams, Samantha Barrios, Lily Rains, Cady Zuckerman, Jully Lee – Heidi Marie Photography.

 

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.

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Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of LA FPI must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax‐deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Because Plays Take Time

 by Guest Blogger Amy Tofte

Amy Toft

Amy Tofte

My play—originally called The Rules of Affection—started with a vague idea of a relationship involving an addict. I did a lot of research about addiction, including talking to any kind of addict willing to speak to me. I eventually finished a draft but didn’t feel it was complete enough to do anything with it. So off it went to the back burner as other projects took priority.

A year or two later I went to graduate school at CalArts for playwriting. I was writing even more new projects, exploring different forms of story-telling and meeting new artists, including dozens of wonderful actors. In my final year of school I connected with two actors—we decided we wanted to work on something together. I pulled out my addiction script.

I had been through a major break-up, dated (mostly unsuccessfully) for a couple years, and tackled a few personal dilemmas. I had more perspective and more life under my belt. I also had a new, more appropriate, title for my play about addiction: FleshEatingTiger. I wasn’t just a different human being, I was now a better writer.

The actors and I met regularly. We read at the table, worked on our feet, tried some staging with bare bones props. I re-wrote and re-arranged scenes. I wrote new scenes. We eventually shared the work as a workshop performance for our fellow students. People talked to us about the play. More re-writes, more rehearsals and we took a revised version of the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then another revision which we performed at the Hollywood Fringe in 2012. Professional reviews, audiences, more feedback from fellow artists.

Early this year we were invited to perform the most recent (and final version) of FleshEatingTiger at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. The script has had even more re-writes, including a new scene or two. We have a terrific new director and an outstanding team of designers. Each member of the team brings more insight and growth to our final script.

It’s been about two and a half years since the very first table read of the first draft. In so many ways, it’s still the same exact story. But it has also changed so much. What we will present June 21st and 22nd is the culmination of months of work combined with time away to process and germinate ideas. We are all very proud of the show and I am happy with where the script has ended up.

It takes collaboration. It takes revision. It takes time.

 

TigerHighways2013-1

FleshEatingTiger Release

http://amytofte.wordpress.com/

 

HIGHWAYS LINK:  http://highwaysperformance.org/highways/event/flesheatingtiger-written-by-amy-tofte-directed-by-vincent-paterson/

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