Posts tagged: Laura Shamas

Happy 5th Anniversary LA FPI Blog!

by Robin Byrd

Today is the 5th Anniversary for the LA FPI Blog.

My excitement over the diverse voices that frequent this blog never wanes.  Pick a few bloggers and read their articles.  Tell me what you think.

  1. Jessica Abrams (past blogger)
  2. Tiffany Antone
  3. Erica Bennett
  4. Nancy Beverly (past blogger)
  5. Jenn Bobiwash
  6. Andie Bottrell
  7. Robin Byrd
  8. Korama Danquah
  9. Kitty Felde
  10. Diane Grant
  11. Jen Huszcza (past blogger)
  12. Sara Israel (past blogger)
  13. Cindy Marie Jenkins (past blogger)
  14. Sue May (video blogger)
  15. Anna Nicholas (guest series blogger)
  16. Analyn Revilla
  17. Laura Shamas
  18. Madhuri Shekar
  19. Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko
  20. Cynthia Wands

 LAFPI Blog 3

 

 

San Marcos and the Conference that Can…Part IV: The Black and Latino Playwrights Conference

by Robin Byrd

 

The Texas State Black and Latino Playwrights Conference is in its 12th year.  Eugene Lee is the Artistic Director for the conference.  Mr. Lee is an established actor, director and writer.  I have admired his work as an actor for years.  A fellow LA FPIer, Laura Shamas, told me about this conference and although my play did not get in that year, 2012, it was a finalist which warranted a call from Mr. Lee.  To have someone actually get your story and be able to pick it apart and see things you didn’t know you wrote into the piece was wonderful.

I went to the conference this year because I was needing to be in the room with other artists at work.  I really wanted to see the process.  I am so thankful that I went.  I learned a lot, made some friends and shook whatever that thing was that was on me keeping me from my computer.  I am hoping this conference stays around for a very long time, its a great place to get things done.

One of the first things Eugene Lee said at the conference was that he had all male playwrights but it was not intentional.  What I found very interesting was that all three of the plays were female-centered and very good vehicles for female actresses and the honored playwright’s play was directed by a woman.  It was a very good vibe.   I believe this conference can be great and am hoping that next year, more theater artists show up like I did just to see what they are doing…

The Black and Latino Playwrights Conference was established to fill a void where the voices of Black and Latino playwrights can be heard, nurtured and celebrated.  The plays can be about whatever the playwright deems stage worthy; it’s the voice of that playwright this is most important to this conference.  It’s a place where student artists can become familiar with the other voices that make up American Theater.  In this vein, the most rewarding part of the conference is to hear those diverse voices, to see those playwrights at work at their craft, and to watch the students jump in fully committed to the scripts.  Eugene Lee has a vision for the Black and Latino Playwrights Conference that can change the way minorities are viewed in Theater; his generous nurturing of the artists is greatly appreciated.  And too, the generosity and foresight of Texas State University at San Marcos to seek out Mr. Lee to start such a conference is awesome.  Thank you, Texas State! Thank you, Eugene Lee!

Every culture, in this multicultural place we call America, deserves a seat at the table. It’s places like San Marcos and this conference that can… that make room and give sustenance to playwrights kicking against the pricks….

Associate Artistic Directors for the conference are Joe Luis Cedillo and Nadine Mozon.  Production Manager for the conference is Shannon Richey (AEA).

Black and Latino Playwrights Conference

 

Black and Latino Playwrights Conference

 

Facing the ghosts: Eugene O’Neill and Tao House

This wonderful article:

Facing the ghosts: Eugene O’Neill and Tao House

by Laura Shamas can be read on the HOLLYWOOD JOURNAL website under the “Industry Impressions” section.  I found Laura’s article to be well written, informative and to be honest comforting.  We, artists, have our ways of being that make us who we are and who we are is what sets the pitch and frequency of our voices and the stories we tell…  Please go here to read it.

 

http://hollywoodjournal.com/industry-impressions/facing-the-ghosts-eugene-oneill-and-tao-house/20140728/

The LA FPI 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: 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/

 

 

Addendum to Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation

The Dramatists Guild Conference, “Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation” was held in Fairfax, Virginia from 9 – 12 June, 2011.  This was the first conference held by the Dramatists Guild.  To hear some of the speakers: Molly Smith, Arena Stage, and Julia Jordan, 50/50 in 2020, Todd London, New Dramatists, go to http://livestream.com/newplay.  You will have to do a lot of scrolling but it worth hearing.

Kitty Felde did an excellent job of covering the events, please read and reread her coverage at http://lafpi.com/author/kfelde/  or at

Day One

Day One continued through Day Three

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 Addendum for the last day of the conference:

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THE DRAMATISTS GUILD FUND

The DG Fund seminar with Fred Nelson and Tari Stratton covered the many aspects of the Dramatist Guild Fund.  There are two types of grants, individual (Kesselring Grant) and theater.  The estate of Joseph Kesselring provides grants to professional dramatists who are experiencing extreme personal hardships, health or otherwise.  The recipients don’t even have to be members of the Dramatists Guild.  It’s a confidential process.  And grant means you don’t have to pay it back.  This is the only program that I know of that helps a playwright in need.

Regarding the theater grant side, a rep from a theater that has received a general operating grant from the DG Fund was present in the seminar (City Theatre of Miami); she said that their City Theatre Summer Shorts Festival was happening due to a grant from the DG Fund.

The other project that the DG Fund discussed was its Legacy Project.  This project films an interview between an emerging playwright and an established dramatist.  The interviewer is one that has somehow been greatly affected by the interviewee.  The Fund realizes the urgency of creating this interview series and started with the oldest playwrights, lyricists and composers.  Carol Hall “The Best Little Whore House in Texas” playwright and DG Fund vice president discussed the feeling of just being in the room with the interviewees and the moments that were caught on film.  She discussed how Horton Foote was scheduled to be the first interview but passed away before it could be done.  Joe Stein was interviewed by Lin-Manuel Miranda; Edward Albee was interviewed by Will Eno.  Lanford Wilson and Romulus Linney were missed…

I met Romulus Linney at a conference in Nebraska, I really wanted to sit down and talk with him about Appalachia and how it creeps into my work though I am two generations removed.  I wanted to just be close enough to see that glint in his eye and maybe just maybe decipher it.  I liked him.  It was 2007 and that was my first encounter with his work and it was excellent, lively and funny…

It would be great if the Legacy Project could find a way to do the interviews (for the artists that passed) anyway using those closest to the artist.  Not the same as an interview with them but something. 

During the seminar, some of the audience members offered ways to create donors for this project.

Volume One of the Dramatists Guild Fund Legacy Project documentary series is complete and work has begun on Volume Two.  For more information see http://dramatistsguildfund.org/programs/legacy.php

*I just went to the legacy site and found out that Lanford Wilson was not missed!!!  8/11/11*

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MYTH ADAPTATION FOR PLAYWRIGHTS: Archetypes and Inspiration

Myth Adaptation for Playwrights: Archetypes and Inspiration with Laura Shamas was a two-hour seminar squeezed into 45 minutes (due to a change at the conference) and she didn’t miss a beat.  Laura discussed why myth matters.  Myth, she said, represents what is eternally true; it’s a tool and it’s active.  For the playwright, myth can be useful in plot, character and theme.  “You don’t find the myth, the myth finds you.”  There are three archetypal planes, celestial, earthly, and underworld.  If you visualize the archetype it is easier to use it in your writing.  Each archetype has props that stand for something in their picture, i.e., Zeus sits on a throne, with a staff topped by an eagle in one hand, always bearded, etc. – each of those things mean something like the fact that Venus was born an adult.  Laura says, “in order to translate a myth, you have to know the props of the myth and update the props for your story. 

Notes on Myth Adaptation Process:

  1. When researching myths, one should look at 1 to 7 versions of the myths because the stories can vary slightly and you need to find the one that best fits the story you are trying to tell. Document and list chronologically.  Note any important rituals or rites.
  2. Identify: 
    •  central archetypes
    •  symbols (including props),
    •  setting and other metaphors,
    •  plot,
    • transformation,
    •  psychological function (thematic): why does it matter for you personally, and why does it matter for humanity at large.

The above archetypal elements are needed to incorporate into your work to update and keep the elements that will make the story mythic.

Laura gave a list of Myth references books.  Some of the books are “The Power of the Myth” Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, “The Heroine’s Journey” Maureen Murdock.  Even though, Laura got through everything, we still wanted more…

For more information about Laura Shamas visit http://laurashamas.com/.  Laura is also co-founder with Jennie Webb of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative (LAFPI).

WHAT IF…..?

Performing Arts High School

What if theatre weren’t seen as a luxury but as central to the fabric of our country?

The Theatre Communications Conference is asking this question and more from June the 16th through the 18th at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Biltmore; and the Central L.A. High School #9, for the Visual and Performing Arts.

LAStageAlliance is sponsoring the conference, which is also celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of TCG. The national organization for the American theatre, their website says, was founded in 1961 with a grant from the Ford Foundation to foster communication among professional, community and university theatres, and now has nearly 700 member theatres and affiliate organizations and more than 12,000 individuals nationwide.

There are 1,084 attendees signed up – playwrights, artists and members of theatres from all over the country – and the TCG has teamed with Radar L.A which will be presenting its plays at the same time, including Moving Arts’ Car Plays, L.A., and a CalArts’ adaptation of Gertrude Stein’s play, Brewsie and Willie.

Here are some of the other questions the conference is asking:

What if artists and other theatre leaders talked regularly and openly about art and aesthetics?

What if theatre institutions and their boards committed to hiring more people of color in leadership positions?

What if a group of billionaires created a “Giving Pledge” initiative for theatre?

What if the US became more embedded in wars around the globe – what would become the role of theatre and artists?

What if there were a new audience engagement model as powerful as the subscription model?

What if theatres and artists could commit to each other for multiple years?

What if we could solidify new business models that would truly lead to the sustainability of our theatres?

Here’s one I wish it was asking. What if more artistic directors were committed to producing plays by women?

However, women and the LAFPI are represented. Hooray! Instigator Laura Shamas, and Paula Cizmar are asking “What if…Social Activism Could Inspire New Models of Theatre?” on Thursday, June 16th at the Biltmore Hotel from 2:30 to 4:00, and instigator Dee Jae Cox is moderating a panel called “What if Women Ruled The World?” on Saturday, June 18th at the Central L.A. High School from 11 to 12:30.

I can’t attend the conference but am part of the National Playwrights Slam on the 19th from 9 pm on at the Biltmore Tiffany Room and will report back. I’ve bought a pair of sandals and may break down and buy a new outfit as well. (Maybe, maybe not. I’m a rotten shopper.)

I know that one rarely makes contacts at any conference that lead on to fame and fortune. (I went to one a while back that was called Reinventing the Future. I’m still reinventing and thank God the future is always a day away.) But the panels sound interesting and may lead to some positive changes, and the explosion of the L.A. Theatre surrounding the conference is exciting.

I imagine that a great schmoozefest will be the heart of the affair. And that sounds like fun. With one thousand and eighty four people there, everyone is bound to meet a few simpatico persons, exchange some good ideas, and have a few laughs.

Day Three: Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation – part four?

What will it take to have gender parity in America?  Julia Jordan says lots of local, grassroots groups are springing up – like LAFPI.  Collectively, they hold a lot of power.  But not as much as artistic directors.  They have the power to break the cycle.  Look at the Blackburn Award winners and runners up who’ve never had a production.  AD’s can aggressively go out there and decide to produce work by women and they won’t be hurt artistically or economically.

Sheri Wilner says AD’s are choosing playwrights not plays.  We need to raise their conscience – take it to the streets and ticketbuyers.

Laura Shamas says she spent a year going to nothing but plays by women.  If someone asks her to resubscribe to a theatre season, she says “no” unless they’ll do more shows by women.  Economic information.

What can I do if I live in a tiny town?  Jordan says it’s almost a PR war.  You’d be hard pressed to find an artistic director who doesn’t know the “right” answer when it comes to the question of playwrights of color.  Not so with gender.  Add to the conversation with those artistic directors, this is something people have thought about and there IS a right answer.  The numbers are so glaring, it cannot be ignored.  Write letters, don’t give them your money.  And it’s not just playwriting.  It’s about all the arts, beyond the arts. 

Sheri says there should be a wider net.  A study looked at children’s books: 33% have a lead female character; 100% have lead male characters.  We need to start early.

Laura says we were so inspired in LA by the east coast work, they did their own study, there’s a listing of plays by women on the website, and a blog as well.  Start a festival!  Address it creatively.  There are LAFPI “agents” who reach out to theatres to ask, “how can we get you to consider more plays by female playwrights.  Mixers.  You can do this in your hometown.  You’d be surprised what you can do with some cocktails. 

Marsha Norman says every woman has to help another woman.  There’s an infinite amount of “antelope” out there – we can be in the business of generosity.  Why do the stories of women need to be told?  Not just because they’re stories of women.  We need to hear the stories of all the people here on earth if we’re to live here with any semblance of compassion and understanding.  Every story that’s there to be told has to find its way to the stage.  People in power have to stop telling the same damn story again and again on the American stage.  We also have to get our own body of work done.  And make it possible for people to come after us.

When Primary Stages did a season of plays by women, it was their lowest grossing season…it was also the season after the market crash.  But did women get blamed for bad sales?  Playwrights Horizons did really well with female playwrights.  Last year, nearly 40% of the plays in NYC were by women, and many were hits.

How about cross-discipline boycotts?  Dancers boycotting theatres that don’t do plays by women.  Is there a Dramatists Guild policy on gender parity?  Marsha said if that’s what’s needed, we’ll do it.

Marsha says the “afraid” part is a huge part of it.  Be not afraid.  Because what?  It’s gonna get worse?  Her two Broadway producers kept asking whether she’d seen any Tony nominated shows.  She said no.  “In a season where’s no work by women, I’m not going.”  Our mouths have to open.  Create an organization, be the artists telling stories who go to the White House. 

Parity: Julie says she met with funding organization who told her what they did for writers of color.  No quotas.  Instead said, “we just want to see the numbers…how many did you produce…just for our own information.”  Suddenly more works by writers of color were getting done.  Something similar could be down the line for women.  It starts with data, which is being compiled now and being available for anyone who wants them.

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