As an LAFPI blog reader, you are probably already familiar with The Kilroys, the gang of 13 Los Angeles-based playwrights and producers who, in their own words, “are done talking about gender parity and are taking action.” They make news every year when they publish The Kilroy’s List, an aggregation of the most recommended unproduced or underproduced plays by women and trans playwrights. In a way, they do this to call out any theatre that’s lagging in gender parity – simply by saying, hey, look, we did the work for you. Are you saying you can’t find great plays by women or trans writers? Produce one of these plays, to start with.
Earlier this week Joy Meads emailed and asked if I could do The Kilroys a favor – could I deliver a chocolate cake to the Los Angeles Theatre Center on Thursday? It would be part of a nationwide celebration – thirteen theaters around the country would get delicious cake delivered to them by an ambassador playwright, to celebrate their leadership and commitment to gender parity.
As it happens, I have a special connection with the LATC myself since they co-produced my play In Love and Warcraftthis season, in association with Artists at Play. I was thrilled to do it.
So along with twelve other playwrights across the country, I picked up a specially baked cake and delivered it to a theatre that means a lot to me. The lovely people at LATC, under the leadership of Jose Luis Valenzuela and Evelina Fernandez, are doing excellent work for under-represented communities, and they deserve cake every day! (Or whatever treat they please, this cake was DELICIOUS but I might not be able to have it every day.)
Check out all the photos from the various cake drops today by following the hashtag #parityraid and #cakedrop on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In closing I’d like to echo the request that The Kilroys have made today.
Don’t see your favorite parity-achieving theater on the list? We hope you’ll show them some love. Send a social media shout-out (or a cake!) and buy a ticket to celebrate their commitment to producing work by women and trans* writers.
A stirring doubleheader of RADAR L.A. productions last night at LATC gave me a lot to think about, including this: I am left wondering if it was coincidence, curators’ choice, or larger cultural influences that gave Los Angeles an international theater and performance festival at which only two plays (of 14 scripted pieces, many involving female artists) were written by women; both women are Latin American; both of their plays look at generational trauma in the aftermath of defining tragedies in their countries; both temper their documentary materials with poetic license as they explore the intimately personal in the political. Whatever. I can thank the forces – occult or otherwise – that brought Mariana Villegas and Lola Arias to town.
For Villegas, in her supertitled 55-minute solo performance Se Rompen Las Olas, the disaster is the Mexico City earthquake of 1985 – evoked through video news clips – that left tens of thousands dead, discredited the government, and briefly brought together the woman who would be her mother and the man whose absence and abandonment would shake the performer’s life to the core. Villegas holds the stage with a powerfully expressive physicality as when her exuberant and uninhibited dance shifts in an instant to a vision of abuse. At one point, a recorded song asks Where did the earthquake catch you? and goes on to answer dancing with Catalina, shaking the floor so hard, the singer explains, he never noticed the quake. (Can anyone imagine a comparable song in this country citing 9/11?) In Se Rompen Las Olas, these lyrics with their upbeat tune and danceable beat offer a compelling truth of daily life and human desire going on in the midst of catastrophe while Villegas, through her body and her words reminds us that people born in the aftermath of disaster continue to feel the reverberation in their lives.
For Lola Arias, the disaster is the coup in Chile that overthrew the government of Salvador Allende and led to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The supertitled script of El Año en que Nací (The Year I Was Born) is drawn from the actual lives of the 11 performers all of whom were born (or were infants) at the time of the coup and who seek to understand the roles their parents played during years of repression, violence, prison, and exile. Notably, the performers come from families all across the political spectrum from participants in the armed struggle on the left to the authoritarian paramilitary organization on the right along with those who had political preferences but tried to go along with the status quo. While the opening scenes of the play suggest the new generation’s commonalities, the picture becomes more complex and fractious (and comical) when the players are challenged to line up to show their political stance, their economic position – When it comes to poverty, does having a dirt floor at home trump going hungry? – and their social status as reflected in skin color. Simple yet inventive staging keeps the production lively with tonal shifts and surprise.
Arias, from Argentina, previously created a similar program exploring the post-dictatorship era in her own country and if you’re familiar with Latin American politics, her work shouldn’t be missed. Know nothing about Allende and Pinochet? The production still fascinates. It runs two hours without intermission without ever inducing fidgets.
Villegas and Arias made me think of another Latin American woman at the head of a company that uses documentary material – Claudia Santiago who writes, directs, and performs with Mexico City-based Espejo Mutable. Their most recent production, Náa-Gunaá, looks at the lives of indigenous migrants (including children) from the south of Mexico who are exposed to exploitation and pesticides as they harvest GMO crops in Baja California. The company would love the opportunity to share this work and explore the lives of indigenous migrants from Oaxaca in our own California fields.
And a quick shoutout to three additional RADAR L.A. offerings that have women at the helm if not in the playwright’s chair:
Franco-Austrian director Giselle Vienne chose to employ simple hand puppets to create the unnerving effect in Jerk, the story of a serial killer.
Theatre Movement Bazaar, with Tina Kronis as director and choreographer, continues its reinterpretation of Chekhov with Track 3.
Diane Lefer is a playwright, author, and activist whose collaboration with Hector Aristizábal, Nightwind, has been performed in LA and in 30 other countries around the globe. Also in LA, her work has been presented by Grupo Ta’Yer at the Frida Kahlo Theater, Indie Chi Productions, Playwrights Arena, Three Roses Players, and Triumvirate Pi. She is co-author with Aristizábal of The Blessing Next to the Wound: A story of art, activism, and transformation as well as several anthologized essays about Theater of the Oppressed, and she has worked with theater groups in Colombia and Bolivia. Her works of fiction include the historical novel, The Fiery Alphabet, published this month, and the short story collection, California Transit, which received the Mary McCarthy Prize. Visit www.dianelefer.weebly.com.
Sometimes things don’t work out the way you’d hoped.
Some of you may know that I had designs on jumping into the lip-synch craze with a bunch of fellow female playwrights. I was supposed to be filming this Sunday… downtown… but there’s a MARATHON, my choreographer got ill, and I had to make the tough decision to cancel postpone the project.
But I want to take a moment to talk about the theatre that was going to host us this Sunday – The Los Angeles Theatre Center!
I worked at the LATC from 2008 – 2009. I came on as an intern, and then Artistic Director Jose Luis Valenzuela gave me the wonderful opportunity to stay on as Literary Manager. I learned so much working at that beautiful theatre, and I fell in love with their mission of producing work by theatrically under-represented peoples.
And this Spring, they are featuring FOUR new works by female playwrights!
Shades* World Premiere* March 21 – April 14th
Written by Paula J. Caplan. Directed by Jon Lawrence RiveraIt’s 1997, the Hale-Bopp comet zooms overhead, casting its magical glow over a time of relative peace in the U.S. An American family is both haunted and strengthened by its generations of service at home and on the front lines. The politics of war, race, and sex collide with echoes of the past in this compelling drama about what happens to family ties when oppositional politics threaten to tear them apart. Witnesses to life’s fleeting nature, each must take action now or risk losing all. A play about discovering the path to love, laughter, and even some peace beneath the ruins of war. Recipient of the Inaugural Pen & Brush Award for Playwriting.
Habitat *L.A. Premiere* April 12 – May 12th
Written by Judith Thompson. Directed by Jose Luis ValenzuelaJanet and her mother Margaret both live on Mapleview Lanes – the perfect neighborhood until Lewis Chance buys a house on their street to open a group home for troubled adolescents. Raine, unable to respond emotionally when her mother dies, finds herself at this group home, in a community that has little tolerance for its newest residents. The ensuing battle – over whether the group home stays or not – allows Raine to re-awaken her emotions through rage, and a political will she didn’t know that she possessed.
The Anatomy of Gazellas*World Premiere* April 25 – May 12th
Written by Janine Salinas Schoenberg. Directed by Jon Lawrence RiveraAlex, a mysterious teen, arrives at a transitional house for young women run by a charismatic Evangelical leader. As the two women struggle to understand each other, Doña Lydia becomes more determined to save the young girl from herself. But Alex has already devised her own plan for salvation with the help of her imaginary friends.
Beautiful*World Premiere* May 23 – June 16th
Written and performed by Jozanne Marie. Directed by Geoff RivasBeautiful is a solo play about a young girl, an island, and a secret that begs to be told. Told through the spoken word poetry of international artist Jozanne Marie, this harrowing coming of age story will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
Please support this amazing theatre, and enjoy the amazing shows, the beautiful interior, and the four fabulous stages of the Los Angeles Theatre Center!