Tag Archives: Jennie Webb

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!

 

2015-06-17 13.32.17
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

2015-06-14 18.27.48
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.)

2015-06-18 20.22.20
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:

2015-06-25 17.58.12

Women, Writing, and Mimosas – LAFPI #FringeFemmes Gathering

by Guest Blogger Samantha Emily Evans

In the backroom of the Samuel French Bookstore on Sunset Boulevard surrounded by brilliant manuscripts, a group of forty or so women came together to support each other in their Hollywood Fringe endeavors. It was inspiring. The place was buzzing with pre-Fringe excitement, as postcards and smiles were exchanged.

Jennie Webb introduced the meat of the meeting, the Micro-Reads, where the writers and actors are able to promote their work and receive encouragement and feedback. At the front of the room was a box where writers had dropped a page to be read. The writer, when picked, would introduce the piece and select actors to perform it. This was my first Micro-Reads, my first LA FPI meeting, and my first time in the Samuel French Bookstore. I was astounded and warmed by the respect and enthusiasm of the audience and the writers. People eagerly volunteered to act and the responses were energetic and encouraging.

2015-05-30 13.50.15
Micro-Reads in Samuel French Green Room

The pieces read were eclectic and promising, most were excerpts from the plays going up at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, a taster to get us to the theatre. From a mother addicted to smoothies and in love with her blender (Snack) to a woman in love with an elevator (a short story excerpt) to a woman falling from an elevator (Susan Tierney) – each preview was so very different, and yet I wanted to see them all. And, I could. I could see them all at the Hollywood Fringe!

Each performer was asked to introduce herself, what she was working on, what she needed, and what she could give. The concept of stating what one could give was beautiful and electrifying, concreting the firm support system of LA FPI – we need to work together in order to succeed. Most writers just wanted their play to be seen, their message to be heard; they wanted to support other women’s plays, and in return be supported. They offered comp swaps and PWYC. They offered to help run the box office and Front of House. Constance Strickland has even created a facebook group where women can ask for and offer support. I had a fantastic time at the LA FPI meeting, and was truly inspired.

Flyers
TY  Tara Donavan for the pic! #50ShadesofShrew

I left in a fuzzy, happy cloud of dreams, amazed at the encouragement, support, and commitment of the LA FPI, and wanting to get involved. The excitement for the upcoming month of June was palpable. The Hollywood Fringe is just around the corner with previews starting Thursday June 4th, and performances all throughout the month (and even into July and August for whoever wins the Fringe Awards!). I am excited to see what presents the #fringefemmes have prepared for Fringe 2015!

It’s Christmas time in Hollywood, the Fringe is finally here!

 

Samantha Emily Evans is the editor-in-chief of thetribeonline.com. Check out her writing and reviews at literarypixie.com.

Great Plains Shout-Out Time

By Tiffany Antone

So many plays!

Arriving at the Great Plains Theatre Conference on Saturday, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.  The itinerary was so intense and so interesting and my head was absolutely spinning at the week I had ahead of me – 29 playwrights, a bevy of workshops and readings, plus evening play festival shows – Oh My!

But here it is Thursday already, and I’m so bummed that this orgy of new work is coming to a close.

There are a lot of talented people here, a lot of passionate writers, and a lot of really cool, innovative, and engaging work being shared.

And while there aren’t any female playwrights in the conference’s mainstage line-up (tsk, tsk), there were certainly a host of super talented female writers showcased in the event’s Playlabs.

So, how about I give a little LAFPI shout-out to some of the fabulous female playwrights whose work I’ve had the privilege to enjoy this week? (FYI, there is no way to see every play at this conference.  There are multiple readings going on at once – so what I was able to see is but a sampling of what was available.)

First up, let’s talk about Minneapolis playwright Anne Bertram.  What a cool writer!  Anne’s play, The Good Fight, takes place in London, 1913, and is about the women’s suffrage movement.  Drawing from history, Anne colors in this frustratingly fem-closed world with panache.  I was so into this play!  It’s smart, funny, and poignant – Brava, Anne!

Another historically inspired piece is Nancy Cooper Frank’s absurdist play, Daniil Kharms: A Life in One-Act and Several Dozen Eggs.  I so enjoyed this weird and wonderful play!  I *believe* Nancy is still developing the piece, but it’s really super interesting and introduced me to the Russian absurdist writer in highly theatrical fashion.

I also got to see We Only Go Home in Retrograde, by Eva Suter, a UT Austin MFA candidate with a serious lyrical streak.  She’s written a poetic and super visually engaging piece.  I was particularly interested in meeting Eva and seeing her play now that I too live in Texas (I just keep moving further and further away from LA, don’t I…) – So how cool to meet a Texas artist at this conference in Nebraska!

And speaking of Texas, another cool writer I’ve had the pleasure to meet is Murphi Cook – creative mind behind the horror play, Birds of America.  With Hitchcockian flare, Murphi has created a seriously creepy (in a good way) play about grief and relationships… and birds.  I was super intrigued by this piece, and – now that I know she’s also a puppeteer – I’m really hoping I can see one of her shows in San Antonio!

I also had the pleasure of seeing Tira Palmquist’s play, Two Degrees – a fascinating look into one woman’s grief as she battles for the climate at a senate hearing.  I was so into the metaphorical landscape accompanying this woman’s real-world battles!  And it was great to meet a fellow LAFPI’er – one whose name I had seen and heard mentioned more than a time or two before.  What a cool person and writer!

And last but not least, I had the pleasure of sitting in our very own Jennie Webb’s Crazy Bitch.  It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Jennie’s, so I won’t spend too much time gushing, but what a cool piece!  I loved her characters – one of which is an immortal jellyfish!  What?  Awesome!   In typical Jennie Webb style, she’s given us a world in which our imaginations get to settle into something genuinely unique.  Kudos, Jennie!

I’ve still got four more readings, a workshop, and one more production ahead of me – this truly is an extraordinary opportunity.  Huzzah to GPTC for creating such an awesome event for playwrights, and for facilitating so many cool new creative connections!

The LAFPI Blog Celebrates 4-Year Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to the LA FPI Person of Interest Blog!  Today we celebrate four years of blogging.

by Robin Byrd

I have enjoyed our diverse group of voices.  I have enjoyed the moments when after reading these ladies or watching a video or film, I break out into laughter or tears – those moments when I am found….  There is nothing like being in a funk and have someone write “Oink! Oink!” or having to leave my desk to shake myself after reading “When Playwrights Get Old” which came about after “Too old?” left me numb and very contemplative.  When I look in the mirror, I see me and have to remind myself that the first set of students at the university where I work my day job have graduated and are in their thirties now.  The few that have stayed on in employment shock me when I run into them yet when I look in the mirror I don’t see age — I see me.  One wonders if after all the “Taking Stock” we do if a change is gonna come – ever – but we keep hoping and pushing and fighting for that “Stillness” that drives us.

Drive, She Said“.

How much more drive does it take for a woman to succeed than a man?  Can it even be measured?   Who cares?  Trying to keep myself moving.  No time to research how a man does it unless it helps me.

Writers are always “On a new path…” to stay motivated and to be able to encourage oneself to do one’s art which is supposed to lead to “When you hear your words in someone else’s mouth…”  You hope.  One hopes.

The goal is to be a working artist.  By that I mean, you don’t have to have a day job to pay the rent, pay for submission fees, or afford you food while you write.  Living in near poverty to be an artist should be against the law especially because that same art could end up being a national treasure; the following terms are not interchangeable:  “Working Artist – Donating Artist – Surviving Artist“.

 

Zora Neale Hurston author of  Their Eyes Were Watching God died in poverty; her work was rescued from a fire after her death (Florida had a habit of burning the belongings of the dead).  Zora Neale Hurston’s life work is a national treasure…

 

There should be no limitations or rules on where or in what form a writer creates story as there are no rules to who can be “The Happiest Person in America” or one of the happiest people – let us do our art and we are there…   Gender does not dictate what shared work will change the world in some way — “And The Female Play at the Tonys was…” and it should not dictate who has access to the stage, the screen or the bookshelf.  Great stories all start the say way — with words and the “Voice…” of the writer.  All are needed, each soprano, alto, tenor and bass…   There should not have to be “The Bechdel Test for the Stage“; there should not have to be a Bechdel test at all – why can’t all stories worth telling be treated equal?  Why can’t the journey be easier?  Why can’t handling “Our Expectations, Our Fears”  as artists be easier?  Perhaps even this tug-of-war on gender parity fits into the “Everything Is A Creative Act” category; it is, after all, fodder.

I especially like what Pulitzer Prize Finalist playwright Lisa Kron said at the last Dramatists Guild Conference “Having Our Say: Our History, Our Future” about what she does when something rubs her the wrong way “I’m going to write a play about this” — The Veri**on Play is what resulted.

 

Just wondering, do you have any favorite LA FPI blog articles?

 

Bloggers Past and Present:

Jessica Abrams, Tiffany Antone, Erica Bennett, Nancy Beverly, Andie Bottrell, Robin Byrd, Kitty Felde, Diane Grant, Jen Huszcza, Sara Israel, Cindy Marie Jenkins, Sue May, Analyn Revilla, Cynthia Wands and special input by Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb.

 

Happy Anniversary: LAFPI 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/

 

 

Persons of Interest “Special Edition” Blog


1.  LA FPI Turns One!

It’s the LA FPI’s One Year Anniversary.  Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative Co-Founders, Laura Annawyn Shamas and Jennie Webb, have a few words to say on the matter.

Read their conversation here.


2.  The Study!

The Los Angeles Female Playwright’s Initiative Study results are posted (LA FPI Study).  Please read the results and leave a comment.  We’re looking forward to corresponding with you.

3.  LA FPI Study Director Comments!

Meet Ella Martin, the LA FPI Study Director. Read Ella’s blog articles here about her experience as the Study Director.  Read her results.  Feel free to comment and ask questions.

4.  What LA FPI Instigators have to say about our first year!

Visit this page to read what the LA FPI Instigators are saying…

 
To read the profiles of other LA FPI Persons of Interest Click Here.

For the Girls Who Tell Stories…

 

My month – last month – started off well, full of good intentions with the exception of scrambling for references for a certain competition.  It’s always hard to ask – again.  It’s not hard to know who to ask just hard to ask someone to write that reference one more time and you hope you won’t have to ask next year because you’ll be successful and there will be no need to ask again – you hope.  Near the middle of the month – September, the heaviness that accompanies the submission period hit me like a brick…  This time of the year is also the most demanding period of my “day job” which causes the inevitable fight to replenish myself in order to just keep up with everything.  For some quick R & R, I found myself sneaking moments with Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” which I had never read and even though I have the beginnings of the perfect play to send…somewhere, I couldn’t stay away from the book.  It was like balm; reading it renewed me…like watching the sun set over the Pacific does.  That’s the thing about a good story, it pulls you into that world and out of yours for a moment.  I found Scout’s voice very comforting even though some of the subject matter was not.  I think it was the pure innocence of the child that grabbed me.  It seemed Atticus, Miss Maudie, and even Aunt Alexandra tried very hard to keep the children viewing the world through unskewed eyes.  As long as I could see the events through Scout’s eyes, I could see the patches of light in the middle of the gray. 

There are things about fiction that I try to bring to my playwriting like the full on description of the world to be materialized in some way in my plays and the lingering of sorts, the way a book lingers with you after you have come to know the characters or come face to face with the clear essence of the piece.  I had that experience this past weekend with Jennie Webb’s play, “Yard Sale Signs” about mothers and daughters (playing at the Rogue Machine Theatre).  It’s a comedy but it is so rich and full of stuff, I have to admit, there was a point early in the piece where I heard myself think, “Don’t you dare do that here and now”.  Who cries at a comedy?   So, I laughed instead, it was easy to laugh because it’s a really funny play.  I wasn’t sure I understood it all till the ride home when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, then I woke up the next morning thinking about it.  I’m still thinking about it.  I had never seen a play like that before, it caught me off guard so I promptly put my guard up.  Didn’t matter, it lingered.

The most important thing I came away with from Jennie’s play is that I need to work my  “Mother things” into the mix with approaching deadlines.  Live theater – it is truly a living breathing thing with a voice.  What really draws me to theater is the “right now-ness” of it – right now you are in the characters’ world and they are flesh and bone and if they stumble, you see it unfold, you feel it jumping out at you and you may even jump with them or in response.  You can’t push pause or sit the actors down till you are ready to get back into it; it’s an “off and running” thing and “ready or not”, it’s a “right now” moment.  But, if it’s a good moment, it lasts a lifetime…

I talk about going there as a writer but the flip side is going there as an audience member.  I should have cried like I wanted to.  Laughing and crying are tied together and sometimes the emotions that cause one to laugh are the same that cause one to cry.  I hope I can get back to see “Yard Sale Signs” again.  I’ll sit in the back and just let the jewels of truth have their way with me… 

It’s all the special moments that make theater so exciting, so spellbinding…like when I saw “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange.  I had forgotten those moments until I saw the trailer for the movie “For Colored Girls” based on Shange’s play; the movie will open November 5th.  I tell you, I have to watch that trailer almost every day.  I had to re-read the play and that’s when I remembered…it was after seeing that play that I really began to search for my voice as a woman which has everything to do with my voice as a writer.  It was the first play I had ever seen at a real theater and there were brown girls just like me up on that stage but they were more than just brown girls, they were women talking about women’s things and feeling women’s feelings.  It is impossible to have a true world view without hearing from the women and the men…

So…

for the girls who tell stories…/ and climb trees alongside their brothers, reaching the upper branches to look out on the world/ who dance in spite of the offbeat rhythms running through their lives/ who sing in the wrong key till they learn the notes were never theirs to sing any way/ for the girls who find their own song and their own way to sing it/ who create from wombs, from words, or from living/ having more than a little “somethin’ somethin’” to give/ for the girls who dare to have a say…

i say… thank you…/ i’m listening…