Posts tagged: new play

The FPI Files: Nevertheless, Echo Persists in Giving Women a Voice

Damn them! Just when we’re looking the other way, yet another woman playwright is getting a premiere at The Echo Theater Company, now in residence at Atwater Village Theatre. Over the past three seasons, over 50% of The Echo’s productions have been written by women. And this time out, it’s five women at once.

Nevertheless, She Persisted is an evening of short plays by female writers that explore the treatment of women in today’s political climate.  Well. With a kick-ass title and logline like that, we thought it was about time we reach out to The Echo’s Artistic Artistic Director, Chris Fields, and playwright Mary Laws (whose Blueberry Toast premiered with the company last year, and has a piece in the evening) to see just what trouble this femme-friendly company is getting up to, now.

LA FPI: So… Which came first: the title or the plays?

 Chris Fields: The title. All the plays were commissioned expressly for this evening. The writers were simply told the title of the night. These are playwrights who we’ve worked with before in different ways and/or wanted to work with. Basically, “on our radar.” We were also aware of how different they are which we welcomed.

LA FPI: Five playwrights–Mary Laws, Charlotte Miller, Calamity West, Jacqueline Wright and Sharon Yablon. How did they each interpret the title?

Chris: We gave the playwrights the title of the evening and, of course, it was very provocative. We said that we weren’t asking for overtly political plays but to please let that phrase percolate. Subsequently, the plays are very diverse in subject, tone, and world, but do consistently reflect some aspect of today’s feminine experience. (You’ll see!)

LA FPI: Which direction did you go in writing your play, Mary?

Playwright Mary Laws

Mary Laws: I am a thirty-one year old woman, and this is the first time in my life that I have seen our country so divided.  I think if we can agree on one thing, we can agree that a lot of people are afraid: of the current administration, of the safety and security of our country, and of the dissolution of our basic human rights.  As a woman, the latter is particularly troubling.  When organizations like Planned Parenthood are attacked, our reproductive rights are threatened, and The President of the United States makes openly sexist and degrading comments about our female bodies, it’s hard not to ask yourself: who is looking out for me?  It’s a scary time, and I wrote my play, yajū, as a response to these fears.

LA FPI: Not only are the plays written by women, but four of the five have female directors. Mary and Sharon are directing their own plays, but how were the other directors chosen?

Echo Theater Company Artistic Director Chris Fields

Chris: I engaged the directors from the company I thought would best serve the plays, basically.  [Associate Artistic Director] Tara Karsian directs Charlotte’s play and Ahmed Best, Calamity’s. Teagan Rose had expressed a desire to direct and I thought this program, the play, etc. was the ideal opportunity for her to get started, and Jacquie is wonderful to work with.

Mary: I’ve long wanted to direct my own plays, but in the past when I’ve asked for this opportunity at other theaters or events, I’ve been given a simple and easy no.  The reasons have always varied, but none of them ever seemed valid to me.  When I told Chris of this desire, he was quick to invite me to direct my own play, once again demonstrating that The Echo is the kind of theater that takes risks on new artists and affords equal opportunity to those who seek it.

LA FPI:  How has it been–a room full of women, working together?

Mary: I love working with women.  I want to work with women until I die.  Women are wickedly smart and unapologetically brave and infinitely strong.  Women can do anything.

Chris: Sharon and Jacquie are old colleagues and collaborators, artists I see as very special to the Los Angeles theater community. Mary became part of our “family” last year–Sarah Ruhl sent her to us. Calamity lives in Chicago and is an old friend of Jesse Cannady, our new Producing Director, and we’ve been reading her stuff this year. Charlotte came to us a number of years ago through our connections at the Labyrinth in New York and we’ve been waiting to work with her. And she just moved out to LA.

LA FPI: We love that The Echo seems to have quite the open door policy when it comes to women playwrights! How are you fitting in, Mary?

Mary: The Echo has kept me in the business of writing new plays (which is no small feat in the land of film and television).  Not only are they excited to tell my dark and twisted stories, but they’ve done much to support the work of other incredible female writers: Sheila Callaghan, Bekah Brunstetter, Ruby Spiegel, Jessica Goldberg, and Sarah Ruhl, to name just a few.  Even more, the majority of the theater’s leadership is comprised of women, from the mainstage directors and producers to the literary manager, Alana Dietze, to the inimitable Jen Chambers who runs the Playwright’s Lab.  The Echo is not only “female friendly” but female driven… which is smart, because if you ask me, today’s most thoughtful and provocative theatermakers are women.

LA FPI: Okay, Chris. Are you afraid of getting a rep for staging, god forbid, “women’s plays?” 

Chris: Any institution or person who ghetto-izes plays by women is dumb. I revere and cherish talent, no matter who or how it comes.

Nevertheless, She Persisted —An evening of five world-premiere short plays by female writers that explore the treatment of women in today’s political climate, plays from August 24 – September 4.
yajū, written and directed by Mary Laws
Sherry and Vince, written by Charlotte Miller, directed by Tara Karsian
At Dawn, written by Calamity West, directed by Ahmed Best
Violet, written by Jacqueline Wright, directed by Teagan Rose
Do You See, written and directed  by Sharon Yablon

For information and tickets, visit www.echotheatercompany.com.

 

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.

Encore! of “No Traveler: A Comedy About Suicide”

by Guest Blogger Constance Strickland

IMG_0450-1We rarely find ourselves aware that every 12.95 minutes a human being commits suicide… unless we experience it directly.

Penny Pollak is a wonderful physical performer who, in her solo show “No Traveler,” combines intensity and prowess as well as having the ability to seem familiar. Watching Penny, you recognize the girl drinking too much who can’t seem to finish the puzzle, you recognize the pain of feeling completely lost. Then all of a sudden you find yourself laughing because that, too, is what occurs when we we are able to step outside ourselves and can see the bigger picture – we laugh, for we have found the humor within our pain.

“No Traveler” reveals what Hell sounds like, how glorious Heaven will ring upon our arrival and the questions that can arise if we find ourselves in Purgatory. Penny goes in between characters with stealth and ease and has a great co-actor in a vintage metal bucket onstage; it was a pleasure to see the bucket have a life of its own – I fully heard it talking.

What “No Traveler” does also does quite powerfully is remind us to listen, really listen, to those around us for we just may have the chance to save a life.

This piece can take many forms from an installation piece to theatrical staging so it will be quite interesting and beautiful to see it adapted into a feature film!

“No Traveler” is receiving one Encore! performance on Friday, July 3rd, 8pm at the Complex Theatres. Info Here: theencoreawards.com/projects/2385

A few numbers to call if someone you know needs to talk:

Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Crisis Line
877.727.4747
caring counselors are available to talk 24/7

Teens Helping Teens
(310) 855-HOPE or (800) TLC-TEEN [toll-free in CA]
from 6pm to 10pm PST

No Traveler: A Comedy About Suicide
Written & Performed by Penny Pollack
Directed by Lindsey Hope Pearlman
Lights & Sound by luckydave
Music by Mike Milazzo & Lee Goffin-Bonefant

A Little #FringeFemmes Instagram Action…

Thanks so much to Gina Young. Are you following us? https://instagram.com/thelafpi/

  More great shows by women at the @hollywoodfringe — what are YOU going to see tonight?? #fringefemmes #LAthtr #hff #hff15   A photo posted by LA Female Playwrights (@thelafpi) on

5 Sirens: Women Rock!

By Guest Blogger Alex Dilks Pandola 

I’ve produced over 10 productions that feature short plays written and directed by women. So, I was intrigued by 5 Sirens: Beware of Rocks and excited to learn more about the 5 playwrights (all women) who joined forces to produce this show.

Graduates of the USC Master of Professional Writing Program, the 5 Sirens are: Sarah Dzida (Don’t Panic), Autumn McAlpin (Ten Years Left), Kiera Nowacki (Spock at Bat), Caron Tate (Whatever Works) and Laurel Wetzork (Out of Here). They realized that by pooling their resources and sharing in the production responsibilities they had the skills to tackle everything from advertising and publicity to fundraising (check out their super-successful Indiegogo campaign) and contracts on their own.

5 Sirens: Beware of Rocks features 5 10-minute plays centered around theme of miscommunication and longing for connection. What’s wonderful about the production is that the audience is treated to five distinctly different styles and approaches to the theme.

Director Laura Steinroeder had previously worked with Laurel Wetzork and came on board to direct the five plays. Wetzork says, “she was very brave to take on five different, very strong women and make this show work.” Though directed by one person, Steinroeder allows each piece to live in its own world, so that the audience can experience the progression of a debilitating disease through a rhythmic pattern in one play (Ten Years Left) and move seamlessly into the next play about the inter-species communication between intelligent and not-so-intelligent life (Out of Here).

What I find most inspiring about 5 Sirens: Beware of Rocks is that these five women, a group as diverse as can be, banded together as a community to support each other and produce their own work. Now, they are confident that they can produce a Fringe show on their own, individually. I’m certain that whatever productions they do in the future, 5 Sirens: Beware of Rocks will be an experience that proves to be both unforgettable and invaluable. Through June 27th at Theatre Asylum.

One-Woman Fringe

By Guest Blogger Alex Dilks Pandola

The Hollywood Fringe Festival is a fringe-purist’s dream where content is queen and storytellers work their spreadsheets to self-produce their show.

The first play I produced for Green Light Productions was for the 2003 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. It was a two-person show about the tumultuous and creative relationship between Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald called Boats Against the Current. From rehearsals in living rooms, costumes from Goodwill and one-hour techs to packed houses and standing ovations, I learned how to create magic on a shoestring budget by putting the story first.

This year there are over 20 one-woman shows in the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

At the last LAFPI meeting at Samuel French I was treated to a preview of Snack by Megan Dolan. In the hysterically funny world of Snack, Dolan traces the roots of her smoothie addiction back to her childhood, posing the question “How do you parent yourself and your kids at the same time?” Snack runs until 6/27 at Theatre Asylum.

This weekend I saw Jennifer Bobiwash’s Indians in a Box: There’s No “I” in NDN where Bobiwash sets out on a journey to discover what it truly means to be a modern American Indian. Through the laughs of Bobiwash’s story, we begin to understand the many complexities of her identity and how it’s shaped her life. NDN runs until 6/17 at Lounge Theatre.

There is an electric energy during the fringe, as artists become Olympians and audiences become active participants in the creation of these raw, intimate, now-or-never productions. Check out the “one woman show” tab on the HFF site where you’ll find an amazing group of storytellers who are the true heart and soul of this year’s fringe.

What I Learned About My Writing From A 6 Year Old

by Korama Danquah

Yesterday evening I found a surprise when I walked into my gym’s locker room: a six year-old girl. There were other adults around who seemed to be unconcerned with her presence, so I went with it and said hello. I jokingly asked her if she was there to work out and she told me very matter-of-factly “No, I’m waiting for my Mommy.”

I like kids a lot, so I talked to her as we both waited for the class currently in session to finish. We talked about all sorts of things: birthdays (mine had recently happened and hers is today), our favorite Disney princesses, and her recent trip to Legoland. She was a very polite and talkative young girl. What struck me most about her is the fact that she was an endless font of questions. It started off with my asking my name, guessing (fairly accurately) how old I was, and when my birthday was. But then she began to ask more and more questions: Why do you wear glasses? I have an astigmatism. What’s an astigmatism? It means a part of my eye, called the cornea isn’t shaped right, so my vision is a little blurry. What should it be shaped like? It’s supposed to be round like a basketball, but mine is shaped more like a football. What’s that thing? My asthma medication. What does it taste like? Medicine. Yeah, but what flavor of medicine? And on and on.

A fairly accurate representation of her side of our conversation

 

I wasn’t bothered by her questions. Quite the opposite, actually. I enjoyed conversing with her very much and was sad when her mother came to get her (and not just because it meant that I was about to do what felt like 1,000 burpees). She was fun and engaging in a way that I find adults often aren’t when you first meet them.

Adulthood!

When I was driving home, I realized that I could stand to be a bit more like this little girl I met in my writing. I’m not asking enough questions. Months ago, I started writing a science fiction play called The Fortinian Orbs, but I abandoned it when it started to get difficult for me to continue writing. After my conversation yesterday, I realized that it was only hard because I wasn’t asking myself enough questions; the few questions I was asking, I wouldn’t keep asking until I got the right answer. When I told her that my inhaler tasted like medicine, she kept asking until I gave her an answer she thought was acceptable. There are a hundred different ways medicine tastes and even she knew I was giving a half-assed answer.

I’m going to pick up where I left off with The Fortinian Orbs, ask myself more questions, and give myself more answers. It’s OK if some of the answers are dumb – I’ll just keep asking until I can come up with better ones. And for those of you wondering, my inhaler tastes like chemicals and water that’s been in a plastic bottle in a hot car for too long.

Taking the new car out for a drive

It’s like that first ding in a new car.
It’s all shiny and perfect, those first few scenes of a new play. At least inside your head. Oh, the laughs it gets! How the characters jump off the page. What a clever girl I am.
And then you get that first ding, that hint of criticism. And the bloom is off the rose. The car just isn’t new again. And the play isn’t perfect.
I hate this part of writing – exposing pages that in your heart of hearts you KNOW has flaws. But you’re so in love with it, you can hardly wait to share it with others, confident they’ll love it as much as you do. But they don’t. They see the flaws you blind yourself to see. And they have the nerve to tell you.
I brought 30 fat pages of my newest play – a romantic comedy because I’m tired of writing “serious” plays – into my monthly writing group. (A note about this monthly approach: It’s hard to establish a rhythm when you only meet every month. I much prefer my weekly Skype writing partner for continuous feedback and a weekly deadline for pages.) I was the last to read. There was silence around the table. (I should have prepared questions I wanted the group to answer!) And then our fearless leader asked the question about the king’s clothes: what’s the play about? What’s at stake? Ouch.
It was enough to inspire me to walk the 2 ½ miles home. In the rain. And eat several Trader Joe’s dark chocolate sea salt caramels. And become fearful of even looking at the script again.
At least until today.
It’s still a good car, er, play. It’s just not perfect. But a little polish and TLC and it will still get me where I want to go.

Fringing With Form 2: Project 1979

Another inspiration to me right now is Alice Venessa Bever, who is re-inventing the theatrical experience. Her project Project 1979 is long-form journalism, nostalgia and performance. She’s getting inside the question: How does the way 30somethings grew up affect everyone in the world today?

She began her process at the Indy Convergence last May (where I work as Resident Artist) and has since traveled and broadcast performances/salons throughout Europe. I work with her as the Online Storyteller for each broadcast since Brussels, moderating comments and eliciting questions and conversations through Twitter, Facebook and UStream.

Did I mention there is always Flashdance?

 

 

Here is a check-in we had where I asked her questions over chat and she answered via her UStream.

 

Video streaming by Ustream

Really, follow her @project1979 &  on Facebook. Her last London salon centered around HIV/AIDS, and was very interesting to talk with people around the world while listening to their experiences. It really made me share and consider how HIV/AIDS affected my life.

Some of the questions she asks consistently are:

What inspires you?

When do you remember hearing about HIV/AIDS for the first time?

What is your sense of home?

Join into the conversation!

http://project1979.wordpress.com
http://www.project1979.com

Fringing with Form 1: LOLpera

One exciting theme I saw through my 45+ interviews for the Fringe was the question of form. How, where and why do we create our art? I selected this video interviews from artists who push their own boundaries and deserve a larger audience.

Ellen Warkentine from LOLPERA (co-writer Andrew Pedroza, who unfortunately couldn’t join us)

An absurb opera about cat memes? I initially was snobby about this and so didn’t try to see it. Boy, am I sorry. Not only is Ellen a fascinating mind with whom I want to grab a beer, but tons of people recommend it.

 

 

A Love Vaccine: Believers by Patricia Milton

One of my favorite writing subjects is myth and fairy tale adaptation. Robin Byrd, whose new play The Grass Widow’s Son is part of the DC Black Theatre Festival on 6/28/12, kindly blogged here about a talk that I gave on the topic at the Dramatists Guild National Conference last year.

Award-winning Bay Area playwright Patricia Milton has a new comedy opening in August in San Francisco titled Believers. It’s a fairy tale adaptation, and sounds fascinating—about a love vaccine. I interviewed Patricia via e-mail to learn more about her new show and her fairy tale adaptation process.

Q: Please tell us about your new play Believers. What’s it about?

Milton: In a remote pharmaceutical lab, brain researcher Rockwell Wise works to develop a love vaccine so he will never again suffer the pain of heartbreak. His ex-lover Grace Wright shows up to lead his drug development team, bringing her own agenda — her plan to create a love activator. Their maneuvers to achieve their own aims result in unexpected side effects.

Q: A love vaccine. What sparked the idea? How’d you come up with it?

Milton: I read an article in the NY Times about the brain synapses involved in romantic love, and was intrigued by the article’s assertion that if a love vaccine were made, there is already a large market for it. I immediately wanted to write about this: I think it is funny and touching to follow a protagonist whose desperate, heartfelt goal is totally wrong for her or him. I wanted to adapt a fairy tale as a couple’s backstory. I also was eager to explore the notion of pharmaceutical side effects. Brain-altering drugs are a boon for many people, but when their side effects are ignored or concealed, there are tragic results. In a similar way, sometimes our own actions produce unintended consequences that hurt the ones we love.

Q: Sounds like so many people can relate to this play! When did you start it and what’s your development process been like?

Milton: I’ve been working on it for about two years. I developed it in several writers workshops, including at Playwrights Foundation and Central Works writing group. It has had three public readings: at Playwrights Center of San Francisco, Playwrights Revolution, Capital Stage Company, Sacramento, and Wily West Productions, San Francisco. From the last reading, Wily West decided to produce it. As a side note, the Playwrights Revolution reading was directly as a result of Twitter: Stephanie Gularte, artistic director of Capital Stage, read my tweet about the play and asked to read it.

Q: That’s great that social media helped you get a reading. Speaking of readings, what’s their value in terms of a play’s development?

Milton: I learned so much from each reading. Believers is a comedy, so sitting in the middle of the theatre, listening for the laughter, told me a lot about what was working in terms of what was funny. The play explores a complex mash-up of ideas, and has an intricate plot, so I asked a lot of questions in talk-backs to make sure audiences were following the action. There’s still some juicy ambiguity, but the action has become clearer with each rewrite.

Q: Believers is based on a fairy tale. Please tell us about your fairy tale adaptation process.

Milton: Fairy tales are fascinating to me: layered, deep, and speaking directly to the unconscious. Many of the fairy tales we know here in the U.S. have been “Disney-ized,” removing some of the darker elements.  In “The Frog King,” a princess promises to love the Frog King forever and ever if he will rescue her gold ball from a pond. When he delivers the ball, she refuses to keep her promise. Now, many of us know a version where the princess kisses the frog to change him into a prince. But in the fairy story I found, the princess changes him by throwing the frog against a wall!  To me, this version is not about physical violence. It depicts the power of love to completely, often fiercely and uncomfortably, shatter our psyche as it transforms us. I was challenged to figure out how Grace “throws Rocky against the wall” to bring him to his fully realized self. One other aspect of the play is that the frog is both a religious symbol (as in Egypt’s plague) and a fairy tale symbol. I was prompted to explore the apocalyptic side of the frog as well as its fairy tale side.

Q: Any thoughts on writing comedy you can share with us?

Milton: I want to put in a good word for romantic comedies. For centuries, all comedies were romantic comedies. Hollywood, with its frequent use of stale formulas and generic couples, has somewhat tarnished the rom-com. I’m doing my part to reclaim the genre for smart people. I’d like to also make a plug for Wily West: a fantastic production company, employing talented women artists like our director, Sara Staley, Lead Designer Quinn Whitaker, and Executive Producer Laylah Muran de Assereto, as well as many other talented actors and design professionals. Founded by Morgan Ludlow, Wily West Productions produces only local SF Bay Area playwrights.

Q) A female-driven production company? We certainly want to support that. Thanks, Patricia, for all the good information. Congratulations and we can’t wait to hear more about your show.

Wily West Productions presents the world premiere apocalyptic comedy, BELIEVERS, by Patricia Milton, directed by Sara Staley. August 2-25, 2012. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m. at StageWerx, 466 Valencia Street, between 15th and 16th Streets, San Francisco. For more information: www.wilywestproductions.com 

 

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