#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Carmen Kartini Rohde

By Constance Strickland

June is here and “Women on the Fringe” are again onstage!

There is nothing quite like the buzz that’s created during the Hollywood Fringe. It is a time filled with risk-taking, courage, hope and independent artists creating new work by any means necessary. Each year, I ask women writers a new series of questions influenced by the Proust Questionnaire and Bernard Pivot’s French series, “Bouillon de Culture.” The goal is to understand the artist’s work and their full nature while allowing them a space to reveal their authentic self. It is a great gift and a true honor to introduce women who will be presenting work in myriad genres, exploring a wide range of topics that allow us to examine who we are as individuals and as a society.

Introducing Carmen Kartini Rohde and her show, “Low on Milk.”

Carmen Kartini Rohde

Constance: What do you hope audience members take away after experiencing your show?

Carmen: Low on Milk is a musical comedy about a mother who struggles with breastfeeding and must battle the zombie apocalypse to find formula for her newborn. With this play, I want mothers to feel seen. The invisible load of motherhood can be so overwhelming and is not celebrated enough. Mothers are societally expected to feed the kids and keep a happy home, but we don’t always see the journey it takes to complete a simple task like putting food on the table. During a formula shortage and when you feel like your body has failed you in breastfeeding, it can be ridiculously hard, so we might as well sing about it. I hope broader audiences enjoy the show as well and walk away having laughed, quoting lines and singing show tunes.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge regarding your development/creation process?

Carmen: It all starts with believing in yourself and in your ideas. A lot of internal work happens before you crack open Final Draft and type up your script. You hope that your idea is worthy enough to invite a group of artists to come together to memorize lines, play piano and trust that an audience will find you. Then it’s all the logistics of producing: getting all your ducks in a row and managing all the moving pieces that come with a theatre production. It’s a challenge, but it’s super fun.

Constance: What are you enjoying most as you create your show?

Carmen: I come from an improv and sketch comedy background, so I love allowing space for collaboration and seeing how actors interpret the characters I wrote. I love hearing a musician add magic to the melodies with different instrumentation.

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Carmen: That male audience members who aren’t parents found the show entertaining!

Constance: The work will be given away soon. How does that feel?

Carmen: It’s bittersweet, like sending your child off to college. We did our homework together, and bought all the dorm room supplies necessary for a comfortable landing. Now it’s about trusting the process and letting your art live on outside your womb.

Constance: How long have you been sitting with this work?

Carmen: I’ve wanted to produce a musical since I was 13. And I came up with Low on Milk before even contemplating motherhood, when I kept reading about the formula shortage and thought how terrible that must be. Then I had a baby and lived how terrible that is. I added songs and scenes after experiencing birth, lactation consultants, doulas and all the bells & whistles that come with new motherhood, so this project has been gestating for a few years.

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Carmen: It was probably the worst time in my life to take on a project as big as putting on a musical. I have a baby at home, so I’m not exactly sitting in a field of heather at a typewriter with the winds blowing songs into my ear. With this in mind, I felt like my wit’s end was probably also the perfect time to do Fringe and embrace the joyful and frantic energy that only Hollywood Fringe provides. A theatre production is a lack of sleep and no control over the elements, it needs my constant attention and love. Kind of like a baby. Happy Fringe, everyone!

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10555

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