The two OC organizations are teaming up to produce the first Page to Stage Playwrights Festival… with an all female line-up. What’s even more exciting to us is that out of almost 400 submissions from playwrights across the country, the works of five local playwrights were chosen: Synida Fontes’ “Butterfly in the Ashes,” Dagney Kerr’s “Deanna and Paul,” Emily Brauer Rogers’ “The Paper Hangers,” Kate Danley’s “Bureaucrazy” and Diana Burbano’s “Gargoyles.” So we couldn’t pass up the chance to talk to the writers about the Festival, and their plays.
LAFPI: How did you find out about and get involved with Page to Stage?
Synida Fontes: Through the LAFPI eBlast, of course!
Dagney Kerr: I saw the posting through the Playwrights Center and submitted my play. I didn’t know anyone.
Emily Brauer Rogers: I have worked with the founders of Project La Femme on other theater projects before and was excited when they announced this Festival. Page to Stage, Curtis Theatre and Project La Femme have been very welcoming and I’m always happy when there are more opportunities to celebrate female artists!
Kate Danley: Pure luck! I was just doing a search for playwriting opportunities and stumbled across it. It was like kismet or something!
Diana Burbano: I was familiar with Project La Femme and I submit to everything I’m qualified for, so it was very nice to get a hit in my own backyard.
LAFPI: Where in your play’s journey are you – and what role will this Festival play in that journey?
Synida: The very end, I hope – this baby is almost legal drinking age!
Dagney: My play has been chosen for a few readings: at AboutFace Theatre in Dublin, Ireland; The Cell Theatre, NYC; and the Road Theatre Summer Playwrights Festival in LA. It also just won the WordWave Festival in Lake Tahoe and will have a reading in September. The only reading I’ve seen is at the Road. It was lovely and a great opportunity to see what worked and what didn’t. This festival will be another opportunity with new actors, director and audience.
Emily: For The Paper Hangers, this is the first reading of the script, so I’m excited to develop it and then begin the process of where it might best fit for a production.
Kate: I wrote this play in 2017 and hosted a small reading on my own. It then proceeded to sit on a shelf for over a year. I submitted it over 117 times and no one would touch it. But suddenly in 2019, within the span of about three weeks, three different theaters asked if they could host a reading, and it was offered a World Premiere at Grande Prairie Live! in Grande Prairie, Canada. This is the final reading before that premiere, so the script that comes out of this process will be the one that is presented to the world.
Diana: I JUST squeaked a second draft under the wire. It’s a very VERY new piece and I’m still not quite sue of the tone or style yet. I’m exploring a historical period that I’m very interested in and I want to honor the period, while distressing the constraints.
LAFPI: One of the great things about a festival environment is making connections, and finding (or re-connecting with) collaborators. Can you talk a bit about the artists who are working on your play?
Synida: I have met my director, Heather Enriquez, but I am mostly happy to stay out of it and let these artists be, and see what they create. I am hoping to watch a rehearsal with the dramaturg [William Mittler] present. But for me, it’s really Heather and the actors doing their thing while I sit tight and then show up on performance night, prepared to be amazed.
Dagney: I’ve been pretty hands off. The director [Angela Cruz] was chosen by La Femme and the actors were chosen by my director. She has worked with them many times in the past. All the staff at the Curtis and the other playwrights are lovely.
Emily: I’ve worked with my director, Katie Chidester, on several plays and love how she is able to visually interpret text onto the stage. The actors in my piece are all new collaborators, but they already have brought amazing ideas about the piece and their characters so I’m excited to see how the work will develop with their insight.
Kate: Rose London is my director, and she works frequently at the Long Beach Playhouse. We met for the first time at the first organizational meeting and completely hit it off. I think this is what makes this festival so special – this team has worked so hard to play matchmaker and connect the perfect teams.
Diana: I have a fantastic cast of Latinx actors, really brilliant people, directed by Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete. It’s my pleasure to write smart, fun, glamorous women for Latinas, who don’t often get seen that way. I think we have some BRILLIANT young actors coming out of the Latinx community (Boyle Heights, Santa Ana…) who, because they don’t conform to what is considered “normal standards,” don’t get to play roles with depth to them. I come at writing not from an academic world, but from the trenches of the acting community. I started writing for myself, but soon discovered that my passion, what I feel moved to do as a playwright, is writing for other Latinx women.
LAFPI: You’re all female playwrights based in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. What’s your relationship with the OC theater community, and with one another?
Synida: This is my first OC-specific project as a playwright, although as an actor I just closed Water By The Spoonful in Long Beach. I made the acquaintance of Diana Burbano when I performed her one-woman short play “Linda” (named for Lindas Ronstadt and Carter), directed by my good friend Kitty Lindsay, for LAFPI’s SWAN Day 2017. Unfortunately, no opportunities to connect in between.
Dagney: It’s such an honor to have your play chosen and to meet other female playwrights. I didn’t know any of the other writers and I knew nothing about the OC theater community before, so it’s been fun getting to know everyone – just like any other theatre community, we do it because we love it.
Emily: I have been active in the OC theater community since I first moved to California in 2002. Friends that worked at Hunger Artists Theatre Company welcomed me to join the company and I served as the managing director from 2006-2008. Through my work there, I’ve seen terrific shows at theaters across the County and love how many of them champion new plays. I know a few of the other writers by reputation, but am thrilled that I was able to meet them and find out more about their work. It’s great to connect with a community of other women who are telling important stories that need to be seen.
Kate: I was a performer in a fantastic show called Blake… da Musical! in Garden Grove many years ago, but other than that, my work has all been in the Los Angeles area. It is a thrill to finally get to work with the OC community! It’s one of those things I’ve always wanted, but never achieved. Everyone is completely new in my circle of friends, and I love that! How exciting to have a festival bring so many unconnected people together and suddenly open the world up to us!
Diana: Our initial meeting was a blast, and I loved being in the room with so many amazing creators. I think ours is the new wave. I want to hear these words, I feel like I’m finally able to breathe with characters, that I understand them better because they are written from something other than a male POV.
LAFPI: And last but not least, tell us about your play. In five words or less.
Synida: Mexicans, mental illness, surreal, hysterical.
Dagney: Poetic. Quirky. Romantic.
Emily: Freeing herself from society’s expectations.
Kate: Death, raisins, and funny ladies.
Diana: Love in the time of monsters.
The inaugural Page to Stage Playwrights Festival – three days of new plays by women, August 30 – September 1, 2019 – is directed by Heather Enriquez and produced by the Curtis Theatre in partnership with Project La Femme. For tix and info visit projectlafemme.com/page-to-stage