#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Sugar and Shit

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF21’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Lenny Langley and Lori Hoeft

WHAT: Sugar and Shit

WHERE: Hudson Theatre 6539 Santa Monica Blvd + Livestream

WHY: This show left us feeling full, inspired, and not afraid to have a deeper conversation with ourselves. There was a beauty and boldness that revealed itself immediately when we watched –  a softness that comes from hard experiences that did not swallow these women whole. A delicate intimacy filled the space in the midst of dark material; there was room for laughter, a place for joy to still live. 

Ah, there is this powerful energy between Lori and Lenny and you feel lucky to witness this friendship – this love between two women whom the universe knew far before their spirits would merge. SUGAR AND SHIT is a show that has a sense of itself, that understands the need to find healing and freedom, alone or in community. It’s a lovely gem within the 2021 Hollywood Fringe catalogue.

HOW: Keep track of Lenny and Lori @ https://www.instagram.com/theshowsugarandshit

Click Here to Find “Women on the Fringe” HFF21 Encores

A Good, Long, Grotesque, Ugly-Cry Is the Emotion We All Need Right Now #FringeFemmes

by Rasika Mathur

Disconnection is a horrendous plight that can leave us literally disfigured and old.

Connection is not a straight line.

A lot gets in the way.

Emotions are messy.

Change is hard. 

Transitions are hard. 

This has been a hard year for all. A busy year for me. So busy, I only had time to catch one show during the 2021 Hollywood Fringe Festival. My interest in all things Japanese led me to Ren Gyo Soh’s “Ikigai – A Purpose for Living.” [The hybrid show of film and live performances is a Winner of a Producer’s Encore Award.]

Now, I went in thinking it would be a seminar built into a show on how to figure out my life purpose at the intersection of What Am I Good At + What Can I Get Paid For + What Do I Love To Do + What Does The World Need.

Instead, I was treated to the rollercoaster of emotion that takes place in a human connection, as told by two fabulous physical performance art masters, Annie McCoy and Zak Ma, creator/director Saki Kawamura, sound designer Marlfaux, and stage managed by Veronica Ostroski. 

And the intersection was actually Butoh + Poetry + Zoom. 

In a quick wiki search, “common features of the [Butoh] art form include playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments… traditionally performed in white body makeup with slow hyper-controlled motion.”

The facial contortions performed must have been so much fun to rehearse. Nobody’s getting a double chin in this cast! When joy radiates out of the mouth, eyes and chest, we can see it! Even in non-Butoh life! And pain? I concluded that pain mostly lives in the betrayed chest and throat, unexpressed, primed to take over the heart.

And writers will appreciate how “Ikigai” creatively limited its dialogue to truncated versions of a Wordsworth quote. 

What this production managed to pull off with the Zoom platform was also extremely notable and is definitely worth seeing for that reason alone. I’ve been using Zoom for a year and a half and I didn’t know it could do that! 

Annie McCoy and Zak Ma

I cried at the end. I went on the journey with them. And the imagery indeed stayed with me after… in the DREAM I HAD LATER THAT NIGHT …… 

I’ve had a very difficult relationship with my mother my entire life. Now that her body is on the brink of her last years (Is she though? Still resilient enough to have Level 9 meltdowns, so….quite the fighter), getting her a proper diagnosis is the priority. I’ve ratcheted up the “how can I help’s” and done away with the “how can you be so insensitive to me’s.”

But in the dream I had, the night I watched this performance, several of my family members were holding up my mother. I believe my nephew was even holding up her head. Somebody delivered the news to her that a landlady had been sick, or injured, I’m not sure what quite happened. My mother took on such a grotesque, long face, contorting into such pain, just like what I’d witnessed, as she drew out the words… ”Ohhhh, is the Landlady going to be OK?” As she trumpeted out a long wail, it all became too heavy for those holding her up, and my nephew actually could no longer hold up her head. It flopped forward. And she died! 

Upon waking, I was really left with the notion that her last words described her life to a tee. Always so concerned about everybody else. Maybe to her own detriment. It was grotesque, but unforgettable. 

Thank you to the company players of Ren Gyo Soh and “Ikigai” for giving me new understanding of all of our emotions. Sometimes, they just need to work themselves… out.

Ikigai – A Purpose for Living” has an Encore virtual performance Saturday, September 25 at 6:30pm PT – Visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7158

#FringeFemmes 2021! Meet Pamela Paek

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists from all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. This past year has reinforced what we have been doing at LAFPI – putting women of all kinds first! It is vital that we make space and open doors wider for women from all cultural backgrounds if we are to have a bold, forward thinking American Theatre that reflects America.

Pamela Paek’s two person show 1.5 Korean (co-written with Arthur Stanley Chong) was not only a winner of a Hollywood Fringe Diversity Scholarship it is now the 2021 Hollywood Fringe Two-Person Show winner. A series of comedic sketches that center around being Korean and Korean/Black-American and the ways one code switches, tamps down or amps up their Koreanness and who they are. What does it mean to not be Korean enough or not Black/Korean enough? Pamela and Arthur tackled it all while still honoring their identity’s heritage. 

Although the show has come to a close the show now lives forever in space and time and we look forward to seeing how the piece will continue and eagerly await for all the work Pamela will continue to manifest with humor, honesty and ferocity.

Constance: Why Fringe?  Why this year?

Pamela: I’ve been thinking about doing Fringe since September 2018 after I did a month-long training in Pochinko Clown. I wanted to explore the non-writer part of me and see what I might produce if I relied on my 16 years of dance training as well as my few years doing physical comedy. I wanted to see what would open up if I was more somatically focused. Then in late 2019, I wanted to talk more openly about being Korean in my creative work. Even though I do stand up comedy, I don’t talk about race or about intersectionality, or the many ways I struggle through each day with the many different aspects of my identity. So, I came up with this title, “1.5 Korean” and thought it would be great to ask a friend who’s half-Korean to explore what it really means to be Korean enough. And in this work, I was able to merge the physical aspects of myself with this newfound voice to share.

 I’ve been purposefully choosing not to be a comic who talks only about singular identities, which I believe tokenize the complexities of who we are – it’s been a lifetime of being quiet and reflecting on when, how, where, why, and what to share. Like it or not, I live and breathe this work every day, interrogating how I show up as well as how I’m seen and heard. And now, here’s my foray into writing and performing with this lens as the focus.

Constance: What did you enjoy most as you created your show?

Pamela: What I enjoyed most were the epiphanies that continued to arise in my exploration of the impacts of intersectionality. Those gems go beyond anything I can create – I’m transformed at a core level that informs and metabolizes the world around me. And, anytime I can make myself laugh really really hard – those are rare moments that need to be documented with dates and time stamps. Like a passport book!!

Constance: What was the most surprising discovery?

Pamela: How often I can shine a light into, onto, and through some of the most painful and hurtful points in my life – and find a way to reshape that into something (hopefully magical) to share with others.

Constance: What was your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Pamela: The biggest challenge was knowing what to keep and what to let go of – it’s true of any and all writing for me. I know I need to create a clear through line for an audience to follow, and sometimes, that isn’t how I want to tell the story. I want it to be nonlinear and spastic and nonsensical, because often, that’s what life is for me. So, to create structures that are guideposts for folks to follow, I try to be mindful of how to create and develop those, while honoring my want to have none of those road maps.

Constance: And what do you hope audience members took away after experiencing your show?

Pamela: I hope that anyone who’s ever been gaslit, sidelined, marginalized, oppressed, beaten down – in short, made to feel lesser than the magic and beauty they are – all find a way to own and love who they are and all they bring to every space they enter. I hope they realize the power of speaking truth into space. I hope we can be part of a revolution in fully showing up and being seen. I’ll meet y’all there and relish in that kind of depth and connection.

Constance: The work has been given away – how does that feel?

Pamela: I have a sense of relief that the work has been shared with the world. It’s there to be witnessed by anyone who wants to watch. I hate admitting there’s some trepidation, like a little kid peeking out between their fingers while covering their eyes – I want to know if this show lands on people in good ways. And, when it doesn’t, standing strong and hearing the feedback while not shrinking. Because I am tired of playing small. I’m tired of so many of us who’ve played small. I am entitled to take up and own the space I belong in. So many of us deserve more and better!!

Constance: Extra! Extra! Anything Extra Please Share!

Pamela: I always struggle when an ask or question is wide open. So, if I were to share anything, I’ll say this: I fear that anything I share will not be considered interesting. As a result, I often say nothing. It’s easier. Yet, I’ll spill the all-of-me into anything I create – that’s where you’ll find me fully expressed. Thank you to LAPFI for all you do! You do what’s in my heart: shining the light on those who have historically not been centered or seen as they should. And making it so. YES!

Pamela Paek & Arthur Stanley Chong

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Mask and Man

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF21’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Maria Hansson

WHAT: Mask and Man

WHERE: Virtual Performances as part of Hollywood Fringe and Gutenberg Fringe Festival

WHY: This was a beautiful, magical, fantastical show. Although Dance and Physical Theatre is my favorite category during Hollywood Fringe, this piece was a late discovery and, my goodness, I thank the theatre gods that I did not miss this exquisite show. It’s the kinda piece that elevates the entire category and changes everything.

As a performer, Maria is absolutely breathtaking. You’re instantly absorbed, taken on a visual journey but also immersed in an unexpected but much-needed sound experience. Maria uses sound as a revelation; it took me quite some time to realize where and how the sound was entering into the space, like a whole-body treatment for the spirit. She occupies the entire space and treats stillness as a rite; what we receive across the ethers is an astonishing, hypnotic, physical gift. I felt as though I was included in a sacred passage of human exploration.

HOW: Catch Performances September 10 & 12 https://billetto.se/e/mask-and-man-gothenburg-fringe-2021-biljetter-554711

Click Here to Find Hollywood Fringe Encores

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Vice

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF21’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Simone Tetrault

WHAT: Vice

WHERE: Livestreamed from Zephyr Theatre 7456 Melrose Av  

WHY: Look! I was not ready for the vision of what Simone manifested upon the stage with her wonderful cast of actors. This play is a BIG idea piece that asks its audience to think BIG on a multitude of levels which gave the work a thrilling and relevant edge.

VICE asks you to ask questions about the society you are living and actively participating in. How will you exist and can you exist as a whole person within its current structure? I was fully absorbed and allowed myself to be taken into this utopian sci-fi live theatre film that felt like a new form of theatre. VICE felt familiar in that over the past couple of years as a country we have known devastation, yet we also know hope and we remember that human rights are worth fighting for. This play blows up all one’s expectations in the most special and subtle of ways.

HOW: Catch an Encore Performance Online September 10! https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7100

Click Here to Find More Hollywood Fringe Encores

Women (Back) on the Fringe: #HFF21 #FringeFemmes Kudos & Numbers

After a year off, the Hollywood Fringe Festival was back this year, big in energy if a bit smaller in size and a different sort of shape, being a hybrid of live and virtual performances.

But one thing that was not scaled back in 2021 was the Fringe Femmes presence and energy. Nope, the Women on the Fringe rocked it, creating amazing work and a phenomenal community.

This year, instead of giving out awards to venues supporting female playwrights as part of the closing night ceremony, Constance Strickland presented the 2021 numbers (representation of women+ writers and artists of color in scripted HFF Shows) as well as a “Most Wanted List” of venues that staged 50% or more works by women+ playwrights. (Many thanks to honorary Fringe Femme Lois Neville & the fab Fringe Staff!)

We first started tallying 10 years ago, and found that the number was 39%. While that was almost twice as the year-round numbers in LA theater, that wasn’t good enough. But within five years, we hit 50%… and have kept that average ever since.

Big huzzahs that during the month of August, 52% of the scripted Fringe shows were written by women+.

Four venues were on 2021 FPI’s Most Wanted List: Actors Company, Hudson Theatres, The Broadwater and Zephyr Theatre; in addition, over 50% of the scripted shows livestreamed only were femme created.

But the numbers representing artists of color aren’t nearly as celebratory. In 2021, only 36% of the scripted Fringe shows were by writers of color. This is up from 21% overall last year (the first year we tallied race numbers). Interesting to note that of female playwrights, 43% were of color; male playwrights, only 28%.

It was also encouraging to look at the HFF Awards Winners. 50% of the Community “Freak” Awards went to women+, including Makena Hammond’s BLACK WOMAN IN DEEP WATER which took Top of the Fringe. And 100% of the Sponsored Awards and 89% of the Best of Broadwater Awards were awarded to female playwrightswell over 50% of both these Awards went to writers of color.

In spite of the fact that only 37% of the Producer’s Encore Awards were given to female playwrights, and only 37% to playwrights of color

You still have time to catch many of the Women on the Fringe in Encore performances starting this weekend! Click Here for Info

So congrats all.

But let’s just say that numbers count. And we can do better.

  • We, as theatermakers, must make a conscious effort to take note and put more diversity onstage.
  • We, as artists, must demand that the untold stories are heard and celebrated, in all shapes and forms.

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Caught in the Mix

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF21’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Kira Powell

WHAT: Caught in the Mix

WHERE: The Broadwater Black Box 6322 Santa Monica Blvd 

WHY: I cannot lie: my heart broke in tiny pieces as I slowly realized the shame and confusion Kira had carried for years believing she was white. I was hit hard in the gut in a new way that was not familiar because Kira had unleashed an often quiet elephant in the room, the idea of white skin being superior – this gift of whiteness existing on high levels in our country and around the world, simmering still.

This hurtful reality of how Black people are seen by other people of color – and in some instances by other Black people – becomes clearer when we see Kira transform into her Ecuadorian mother, and lean into the audience as her Black father whispers “spooks” to a young Kira. A subtle stillness occurs in some audience members, while an uncomfortable laugh comes from others as the word hits the space. You know that this girl, right in front of you, right now, will not allow her past to hijack her future. Yet just as Kira gently breaks your heart she picks up the pieces in a contagious fervor and we see HER: a beautiful Afro-Latina young woman living her best life, no longer afraid to own her identity. We witness Kira loving herself, a splendid joy that arises deep down in the solar plexus, and when Kira starts to sing “I’m Growing Out my Afro” in all her glory, you start to believe that letting go of societal lies, shedding dead weight, and facing old pains will free your entire being.

This year there was a powerful thread occurring throughout the Hollywood Fringe: No more will we carry falsities of white superiority and propaganda by a white patriarchal system!

HOW: Catch an Encore Performance September 4! https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7054

Click Here to Find More Hollywood Fringe Encores

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: TransSetter

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF21’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Veronica Carey Matthews

WHAT: TransSetter

WHERE: studio/stage (Main Space) 520 N. Western Ave

WHY: There are many moments in the theatre that knock us outside of ourselves, but I dare say it is a rare moment to be reminded of what it means to be human. This is exactly what Veronica does, and in such a naturally commanding way that it takes your breath away.

As Veronica takes us on her journey of transitioning from Carey (not some other person, really) to Veronica (her full self), we share her experiences from couch surfing to having to sleep in her car (with her favorite vices and snacks and a dying phone used as a tv) and we immediately understand the grit it takes to survive in Los Angeles. There is a moment when Veronica decides to go make-up shopping for some damn foundation! (I mean what woman hasn’t felt foreign with the stress of having to “find” your color!) This was hilarious, yet did not steal away from the urgency in which Veronica is fighting for her life. We walk away seeing a woman who was determined to honor herself – a truly powerful moment on stage, as it reinforced that humor makes way for healing. I left this seamless show believing it will save lives. I have no doubt Veronica will continue to be a beacon of light for so many of us in her community and beyond. This beautiful journey she is on as an artist will make the American Theatre richer.

Thank you, Veronica, for your truth.

HOW: Catch a Fringe Encore Performance Friday, September 3! https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7094

Click Here to Find More Hollywood Fringe Encores

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: I Heart Maroc

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF21’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Azo Safo

WHAT: I Heart Maroc

WHERE: The Broadwater Black Box 6322 Santa Monica Blvd (+ Live-Stream)

WHY: Because Azo Safo was a magical sight to behold onstage. Because each time Azo moved her body through space we were swept away to Morocco. Because each time Azo turns in the air like a magician I literally begin to see Khajida’s face, the way she tips her head when she speaks. Because I heard her mother’s voice and found deep laughter (as I know a few Armenian mothers in Glendale!).

Because I, too, fell in love with Mohammed, the villagers (even Sidi), I found I was not quite ready to yet leave these characters, either. Because onstage I saw a whole woman who had connected the dots of her life and was able to find delight and satisfaction, understand the pain, and reckon with the future. Because I Heart Maroc was a beautiful gift to – or perhaps for – the spirit. Because when Azo swallows a tear, no words are needed. We the audience completely understand and honor the story, her story she shared with us.

HOW: Catch a “Best of the Brodwater” Encore Performance September 5! https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7091

Click Here to Find More Hollywood Fringe Encores

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: EGG

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF21’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Erin Fowler

WHAT: EGG

WHERE: Asylum @ Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre (SFS Theatre mainstage) 5636 Melrose Ave (+ Live-Stream)

WHY: EGG was a wild, ridiculous, unexpected ride! Erin investigates the age-old question that women in their thirties battle with, if we have not made a clear decision on motherhood: should I, will I, must I, can I give birth?! Erin undertakes this heavy topic with music, dancing, and absurdity that reveals a tendernerness in approaching a truly sensitive subject that differs and is personal for every woman. Erin’s boldness and bravery made me imagine I was having a real, grown ass conversation with a girlfriend who knows you, really knows you. This solo show really shines when Erin is in her element, moving with no sound. For it’s all there, and through her body we understand all that she could not say with words.

Learn more about Erin at https://www.erinfowlermovement.com

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7185

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe”