#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy

by Heather Dowling

Quick peeks at #HFF22’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO:  Almanya Narula 

WHAT:  Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy

WHERE: The Broadwater (Black Box) 6322 Santa Monica Blvd.

WHY: This story, beautifully crafted and performed by Almanya Narula, brings to light the story of an extraordinary woman. Meet Noor Inyat Khan, an Indian princess, Sufi royalty – and a spy who played an important (and until now) unrecognized role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. The show paints an incredibly vivid picture of a piece of history never told. The story is captivating and it offers such a powerful point of view of the Nazi occupation through a lunique lens that just makes you want to know more not only about Noor, but also, about the world from which she came.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7519

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Looking Past Loss

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF22’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Charlotte Galbreath

WHAT: Looking Past Loss

WHERE: Asylum @ Thymele Arts (California Room), 5481 Santa Monica Blvd

WHY: Because you’ll see a young artist use her voice and body to heal a pain you can’t name at first. Because when Charlotte morphs into her mother, in voice and posture, the familiarity nearly broke my heart. Because I understood the anger, the grief and the empathy involved in accepting a once-healthy mother’s new physical reality. Because Charlotte reminded us that the loss of a loved one will touch us all and how we respond to that loss matters – community matters. Because when Charlotte begins to sing, a light shines from her whole being and we see her, we hear her, we are her.

In a time where all seems woeful, it felt good to bear witness to another human’s story of resilience – right here in your own neighborhood there is someone always finding ways to live a full life. May director Debra De Liso’s Theatre of Compassion continue to bring forth original projects from the voices of those who are not always heard.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7605

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Made in America

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF22’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Teruko Nakajima

WHAT: Made in America

WHERE: The Complex Theatre and Studios (Ruby Theatre ) 6476 Santa Monica Blvd

WHY: Teruko! Teruko the Original! This solo show will have the hardest of humans laughing unexpectedly and then, with a whisper of a word, bring you to stillness. As I sat watching Teruko, I was struck by her authenticity, her powerful ability to honor her true self and to manifest her destiny despite the pains and tribulations she has experienced. There was a freedom exuding from Teruko that made me in awe: a freedom that only comes from finding ways to continue out of the dark into the light.

As I left the theatre I found myself still smiling and shouting: Teruko the Hero! As the show came to an end she brought us all to our feet and each person in that audience was not only rooting for her continued success in living her best life, we also came away with a better understanding of how vital it is for each of us to bet on ourselves – the necessity of having empathy for one another and a better understanding of who we are collectively. And perhaps greater care for what it means to be an American. I swear to you: DON’T miss this show!

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7419

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: A Terrible Show for Terrible People

by Eloise Coopersmith

Quick peeks at #HFF22’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Bonnie He

WHAT: A Terrible Show for Terrible People

WHERE: The Broadwater (Black Box) 6322 Santa Monica Blvd.

WHY: Fun!  The playwright/actress, Bonnie He, has created an engaging 45 minutes where the audience is treated to a zany and at times delightfully naughty evening of laughter.  The audience is part of the performance and Bonnie invites (surprising willing) participants onstage to serve as part of the merriment.  Creative and committed to every moment of her performance I walked out refreshed and delighted… The Fringe is back and it is artists like Bonnie that remind us how wonderful individual voices can be. Brava!

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6450

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

Bonnie He – this fabulous image was taken before the show.

#FringeFemmes 2022! Meet Mareshah Dupree & Jairis Carter

By Constance Strickland

Fringe Femmes 2022 are a bold cohort of women who are presenting new plays, original works and solo shows that have raised the bar on what it means to be an artist, tell one’s story and continue the work by any means necessary. Each year I am reminded that no matter the obstacles or the times in which we live, you cannot stop theatre as an art form from expanding, thriving and being a vessel to reveal, heal and nurture. LAFPI has the special ability to connect women from a wide variety of cultures and experiences together in their shared love of theatre.

This year continues to expand on that legacy and it is my honor to introduce you to Mareshah Dupree and Jairis Carter, the creators of Abortion Weekend. These two talents are widening the lens on performance, writing and creating in real-time a new way of existing in the theatre.

Constance Strickland: What’s been your biggest battle in terms of your development/process?

Mareshah Dupree & Jairis Carter: Our biggest battle was quite unique as the script was initially written for the screen. It was challenging to convert it for the stage especially because our show is a two-person show. Since the Fringe process is so fast-paced the script was undergoing edits all the way up until the opening night.

Constance: After the lights and the audience disappear what do you hope one takes away after seeing your show?

Mareshah & Jairis: We hope that everyone who is able to attend gains a better understanding of agape Love. We want them to remember that God is Love and their Love is unconditional.

Constance: What joy did you discover when creating your show? Did you face any obstacles? What has been the most delicious discovery?

Mareshah & Jairis: The greatest joy came on opening night when our loved ones attended and told us how proud and emotionally moved they were of the work we created. The biggest obstacles were self doubt, insecurities, and an aching inner fear that our families would be offended by the production. The most delicious discoveries were the realizations we made about each other. We learned so much about each other throughout the process putting up this production and it’s been beautiful to witness the growth that has occurred within us both.

Constance: How does it feel to have an opportunity to share your work with an in-person audience? COVID expanded in many ways how the work can be seen and done, what personally changed if anything for you in how you approached creating your show?

Mareshah & Jairis: It feels surreal. It’s so incredible that we are finally at the space to share our three-year passion project. We were both like “finally someone can see what we’ve been working on for the past three years.” The major change is the fact that we adjusted the film script for the stage, however we still do plan on making it a feature length movie as it will be our thesis film for CalArts. It is eye-opening to see the reactions in person and very gratifying. We are immensely grateful that we have been blessed with the opportunity to be the vessels that tell this story.

Constance: What influenced this new work? How long have you been sitting with this work? Why now?

Mareshah & Jairis: Our ultimate influence for this work has been from the Great Creator since they placed this idea on our hearts and simultaneously in both of our mouths three years ago. We said the words “Abortion Weekend” at the same time after a conversation with a friend about the multiple methods that women/femmes all over the world have used to terminate pregnancies. Our sisters have also had a profound impact on the work. Their personal experiences made the text more tangible and alive. This show is dedicated to them. Our friendship also bleeds through the text. The Fringe has been a goal of ours for a little over a year now and we both felt it would be the perfect place to bring our idea to life. It was simply a matter of coincidence that Roe vs. Wade had come back into the political debate. It’s all divine timing.

#FringeFemmes 2022! Meet Charlotte Galbreath

By Constance Strickland

Fringe Femmes 2022 are a bold cohort of women who are presenting new plays, original works and solo shows that have raised the bar on what it means to be an artist, tell one’s story and continue the work by any means necessary. Each year I am reminded that no matter the obstacles or the times in which we live, you cannot stop theatre as an art form from expanding, thriving and being a vessel to reveal, heal and nurture. LAFPI has the special ability to connect women from a wide variety of cultures and experiences together in their shared love of theatre.

This year continues to expand on that legacy and I am thankful to be able to introduce Fringe Femme Charlotte Galbreath. Charlotte’s Looking Past Loss is a personal and vulnerable solo show  that explores the traumas that simmer beneath the surface, yet eventually always rise to the surface. How did COVID-19 force you to reckon with yourself and old traumas? Charlotte investigates her own family stories and what she discovers may be a lesson for us all.

Constance Strickland: What’s been your biggest battle in terms of your development/process?

Charlotte Galbreath: My biggest battle has been honoring the accuracy of my relative’s stories and experiences while exercising my own artistic freedom in the process. With an autobiographical show that features key figures in my own life, I want to do justice to their trauma while also serving the play and message being sent at large. Thus, I’ve had to navigate that balance of preserving their truths while expressing mine as well.

Constance: After the lights and the audience disappear what do you hope one takes away after seeing your show?

Charlotte: I hope that my audience takes away the power of what loss can do for us. While it is undoubtedly a painful part of life, it yields new meaning to our existences if we let it, so I encourage the audience to reconsider how the darkness in their own lives can be turned into a motivating factor that gives us a profound sense of purpose in life.

Constance: What joy did you discover when creating your show?

Charlotte: I discovered the joy of life and the preciousness of it throughout my process. Having to reflect on my losses and trauma has allowed me to have a greater appreciation for everyone in my life. It also has reframed my interactions with others as I’m constantly thinking about how I can be the light in other people’s lives. It was definitely a challenging feat having to reflect upon these losses in my life, but it’s also served as a healing process.

Constance: What has been the most delicious discovery as you created your original work.

Charlotte: As an actor, I’ve always been drawn to the power of theater to enact change, but as I’ve created my work, I’ve realized the extent to which I can reach and move audiences. My solo play that explores different memories of loss highlights the highs and lows of this journey, and guides the audience to the light at the end. Bringing the audience on this ride with me, they’re able to see for themselves how to reframe the darkness we feel during the lows, giving hope to a world that has felt so hopeless the past couple of years.

Constance: How does it feel to have an opportunity to share your work with an in-person audience?

Charlotte: It is an incredible opportunity finally sharing this with an in-person audience because it brings everyone together on this journey, creating a support network amongst the entire audience experiencing these memories simultaneously. Since many of these memories are painful to live through, I recognized the importance of finding levity throughout to make the piece more digestible and to capture the highs and lows of this whole process. 

Constance: What influenced this new work? How long have you been sitting with this work? Why now?

Charlotte: I have been working on this solo play for the past couple of years, but had a change in perspective on how I wanted to end the performance and the message I wanted to leave the audience with over the past year. With Covid, all the political tension, racial discrimination, and losses we’ve all experienced over the past couple of years, I feel like this story needs to be told in order to give hope to our world and show that there is a way out of all the darkness. Theater has the power to take audiences on a journey and make them consider how the story being portrayed and message being sent can translate to their own lives, and this is crucial right now with the play I’m performing.

#FringeFemmes 2022! Meet Natasha Mercado

By Constance Strickland

Fringe Femmes 2022 are a bold cohort of women who are presenting new plays, original works and solo shows that have raised the bar on what it means to be an artist, tell one’s story and continue the work by any means necessary. Each year I am reminded that no matter the obstacles or the times in which we live, you cannot stop theatre as an art form from expanding, thriving and being a vessel to reveal, heal and nurture. LAFPI has the special ability to connect women from a wide variety of cultures and experiences together in their shared love of theatre.

This year continues to expand on that legacy and I am so excited to introduce Fringe Femme Natasha Mercado. Natasha has manifested “Tree,” an immersive comedy experience that seeks to remind us and have us question what we all need most during these times: What does it mean to be alive? Part clown show, part game show and part philosophical discussion, “Tree” explores the duality of what it means to be human.

Constance Strickland: What’s been your biggest battle in terms of your development/process?

Natasha Mercado: It was and is this idea of what it means to take up space as an artist. And I felt a lot of growing pains over that. Doing a solo show feels completely different than any of the projects I’ve done because it’s such a declaration of what I hold close to home. I started to observe my mindset while performing in other people’s projects as, “Well, I’m doing the best I can and that’s what’s important”. But when I first started performing pieces from “Tree”, for whatever reason, it felt like much higher stakes in my body and I didn’t give myself the same amount of space to potentially fail in any given moment. And my theory on that is it’s because I’m a human with an ego that’s been socially trained to take up a certain amount of space at any given time. And so it goes! The way I’ve felt like I’ve been winning, or more so managing, this battle is by allowing myself to absorb the overwhelming amount of support I’ve received from my friends and family throughout the process.

Constance: After the lights and the audience disappear what do you hope one remembers or takes away after seeing your show?

Natasha: I am super happy if someone comes up to me afterwards and says, “This show was about people having the capacity to do really beautiful and also terrible things, right?” And in a perfect world, I hope they feel a little more compassion for themselves, instead of judgment, when they inevitably see an example of that sometime soon. In either direction, you know? Appreciating the beauty or holding space for the terribleness. That’s just part of the human experience.

Constance: What joy did you discover when creating your show?

Natasha: Oh man. As exciting as the beginning of the devising process was, I really felt like a little boat in uncharted waters. Deanna [Fleysher, who directed while devising the show] was extremely helpful in that way and always helped me navigate back to the practicality of getting it down on paper. Every rehearsal we had felt like a win. Kind of like a backpacking trip or something. Where I imagine just getting a little further down the trail is awesome, but the best part is seeing everything along the way. And I definitely feel a lot of joy thinking about how all the pieces came together through hard work. I’m proud of that.

Constance: What has been the most delicious discovery as you created your original work.

Natasha: This show is a living, breathing parable for me about how investing time on a project is always worth it. I am so grateful for giving myself the space to create something that I became very proud of. Because trusting the creative process is not always easy. And I think “Tree” in particular exorcised a lot of “perfectionism” for me. It doesn’t have to be perfect or make sense right away and that’s a good thing.

Constance: How does it feel to have an opportunity to share your work with an in-person audience? COVID expanded in many ways how the work can be seen and done, what personally changed if anything for you in how you approached creating your show?

Natasha: I try to tell people every night after a show that it is such a honor to perform this piece. I feel such an overwhelming amount of love and appreciation for getting to be in-person again. Because the process of creating “Tree” was very insulated. Usually, a lot of clowns in the community devise shows completely in front of an audience. But due to the nature of quarantine, I worked with Deanna over Zoom, alone in my room, in a Tree costume. And I can’t imagine what my neighbors must have thought during my rehearsals.

Constance: What influenced this new work? How long have you been sitting with this work? Why Fringe? Why now?

Natasha: I originally bought a “big kids tree costume” for some one-off bit I did in 2019 – which, while wearing it, made me feel fabulous and completely dorky all at the same time. And then the Bobcat fire happened in 2020, which inspired me to make a short film about a tree who was passing as human but wanted to help the trees that were burning. And the other trees were like, “Fuck off.” And then in 2021, I did The Artist’s Way! Which was extremely inspiring and spoke to all of my soft parts yearning for the creative process. So those three things were in my orbit and thankfully smashed together when I reached out to Deanna later in 2021 about this weird tree thing that keeps me up at night.

But I truly attribute the beginning of this work to have started after I saw Natalie Palamides’ show “Nate” in 2018. That’s when I knew that making a solo show could be so damn absurd and inspiring and fun. That kind of work is important. And finally getting to self-produce “Tree” and bring it to the Hollywood Fringe feels like a celebration with other weirdo, sensitive artists who are also unearthing the art they made in the dark. For me, it feels like it’s all right on time.

#FringeFemmes 2022! Meet Teruko Nakajima

By Constance Strickland

Fringe Femmes 2022 are a bold cohort of women who are presenting new plays, original works and solo shows that have raised the bar on what it means to be an artist, tell one’s story and continue the work by any means necessary. Each year I am reminded that no matter the obstacles or the times in which we live, you cannot stop theatre as an art form from expanding, thriving and being a vessel to reveal, heal and nurture. LAFPI has the special ability to connect women from a wide variety of cultures and experiences together in their shared love of theatre.

This year continues to expand on that legacy and by golly I’m over the moon to introduce Teruko [which mean shining girl] Nakajima who is a bright light in dark times. Made in America features Teruko, a first-generation Japanese artist, a brave girl who by her own will shares her difficult journey with us through singing, dancing and stories that she swears we don’t know about Japan and America!

Constance Strickland: What’s been your biggest battle in terms of your development/process?

Teruko Nakajima: Writing “Made In America” was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life because it was my brutally raw autobiography. Facing the truth was super difficult. Plus English is my second language, so that was never easy. Fortunately my lovely director Mr. John Flynn, understood my voice with great empathy, fixed my writings beautifully and created this show for me. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to make it.

Constance: After the lights and the audience disappear what do you hope one remembers or takes away after seeing your show?

Teruko: I do hope that they are all kind to themselves and have compassion for themselves, too, like the show that I learned in America. I also want them to know that Titi (my dog) and I love them super much! (We sent extra love to our Ms. Jennie who was super kindly there for us. She made us super happy!)

Constance: What joy did you discover when creating your show?

Teruko: Honestly I couldn’t enjoy any of the process at all until I did my first preview show. As an overachiever, I have a tendency to be hard on myself. But once I finished it, I realized that I just gave birth to a masterpiece! That’s when I felt joy and relief.

Constance: What has been the most delicious discovery as you created your original work.

Teruko: I learned that being original is the mightiest because it’s vulnerable, challenging and courageous. And no one can take that away from me. I feel so invincible now.

Constance: How does it feel to have an opportunity to share your work with an in-person audience?

Teruko: I’ve always loved performing live on stage because I could feel the real human connections with the audiences. Especially as “Made In America’’ was very personal, it was very important for me to see their reactions too. Since Covid, it has been a true blessing for me to do live shows.

Constance: What influenced this new work? How long have you been sitting with this work? Why Fringe? Why now?

Teruko: “Moonlight” taught me the need to write about violent subjects. I was so related to the protagonist emotionally, and that encouraged me to share my own story of violence. The original play of “Fleabag” taught me the need to write my story in a clear, cheeky and honest way. It took me 6 months to finish writing “Made In America”. Super thanks to The Hollywood Fringe Festival’s scholarship program, I could get to perform my very first solo show this year!

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: The Bearer of Bad News

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF22’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Alex Kingsley & Unladylike Theatre Company

WHAT: The Bearer of Bad News

WHERE: ACTORS COMPANY @ LA Comedy Festival (OTHER SPACE THEATER) 916 N.Formosa Ave

WHY: This was an odd but lovely, heart-breaking, and thrilling out-of-the-box play. It took me on a myriad of emotions when thinking about women who often go unseen – or whose bodies are not being seen as worthy – as the endangered species that they are tasked with saving from extinction. I loved the subject, and while at first this seemed to be a weird play, I soon began to feel a sinking truth sitting in the pit of my stomach. The realism the actors brought to their work made me feel as though I was watching a play that was about to become a new tv show.

What a wonderful gift to the L.A theatre community: a new exciting play from a young non-binary playwright brought to us by a new electrifying theatre company that will no doubt change the landscape of possibility in our theatre community. Go see this play.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7507

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Abortion Weekend

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF22’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Jairis Carter & Mareshah Dupree

WHAT: Abortion Weekend

WHERE: The Broadwater (Second Stage) 6320 Santa Monica Blvd.

WHY: WHOA! I thank our ancestors I was able to be in the same space as Jairis and Mareshah. To see them on stage in the flesh was a true gift. “Abortion Weekend” was more than a piece, it was more than a show. I felt as though I was seeing a play that manifested from deep truths and touched on many issues in the Black community – and our society – including our own personal struggles that can go without words…until now – until the two of them. Jairis and Mareshah have a real way of connecting you to the story; their ability to use real language and address hard issues in a variety of honest ways was beyond refreshing.

As I sat in the audience I knew I was given a glimpse into the future. Future artists who are performing in a space off Santa Monica Blvd and Lillian Way in Hollywood, in a space you could almost mis, just as the Tony Awards were playing live in New York City. Watching this play in space with strangers who all came to see the work of Jairis and Mareshah, I know this is the heart of theatre. This is what it means to be an artist of one’s time. To do the work and then give it away left each and every one of us in the audience so full.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7359

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!