All posts by Constance Strickland

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Bethany Hill

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 Bethany Hill and her show, “Femmina Super.”

Bethany Hill

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

Bethany: I think, historically, humans have been quick to judge the decisions made by those that break societal norms, forgetting that a large proportion of those decisions are made as an act of desperation, survival and self-preservation. I wrote this play because I wanted to unpack my own decision-making and to understand why my ancestors would marry difficult men, leave their homes, abandon a child or break rules in order to make art. Through this unpacking, I hoped that I could provide an empathic lens for audiences toward these characters so that they might reflect on the people in their lives and the questionable decisions they have made.

And then there’s the music… Inspired by Barbara Strozzi, a female composer from 17th century Italy, I have used a variety of instruments like the Appalachian dulcimer, shruthi box, glockenspiel, Irish drum, live looping and electronic soundscapes to showcase her music and my own. It’s an introduction to music from 400 years ago combined with modern opera performed in a way that, hopefully, feels accessible and fresh to an audience that may not regularly attend opera or enjoy classical music.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Bethany: While I love writing, this was my first script, and so I had next-to-no experience in crafting a balanced piece of theatre where the story moved forward. I had written moments of poetry and character monologues, but I needed to learn how to write “the glue” that would make it coherent.  I had so much material – I was passionate about the themes I was exploring – but I spent a lot of time cutting it down to a Fringe-friendly 80 minutes while still retaining the essence of the piece I had originally intended to make.

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

Bethany: I have written the words and the music, and then I get to jump on stage and sing and play multiple instruments and be multiple characters! It’s the multi-faceted work that I have dreamed of doing. The discovery of my characters has been such a rewarding process. My women (the different roles) have morphed and changed with me throughout the rehearsal period. For me, that’s been the biggest joy – finding their voices.

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Bethany: To go back to the challenges of this show – the cutting of material, but in a helpful way. I was really stubborn at first about what I was willing to let go of. It was a surprising discovery to realize I didn’t need so much of the material to tell the same stories.

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

Bethany: Terrifying and exhilarating. This has had a gestational period of 15 months! It’s time to birth it and hand it over to audiences.

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

Bethany: For almost two years. It has gone through many formations. It actually began as a story utilising the music of Joni Mitchell and Barbara Strozzi! And then I realised that I wanted to write the music and tell my ancestral stories combined with the story of Barbara Strozzi. That was when I pitched the idea to my (now) director, almost a year and a half ago.

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Bethany: I’ve lived in the US for three years now, relocating from Australia during the pandemic. I wanted to change career paths from full-time opera singer to theatre-maker. I’m an unknown quantity in a new country! I was busting to make this show. I didn’t want to sit on it any longer. The Fringe seemed like a safe platform to launch this show on. The resources needed were easier to access under the umbrella of the Fringe than if I had tried a stand-alone season.

Constance: If there is anything else that needs to be said, please say it!

Bethany: I would encourage audiences to not be deterred by the title, Femmina Super: a Modern Opera. So far, the feedback has been “I didn’t know what to expect, but that wasn’t it!” in the best way possible. If you are an opera lover, this will still satisfy you. If you are not an opera lover, then this is so much more than what your perceptions of opera may be. This is theatre, opera, poetry, folk music, electronic soundtracks and human stories. But, most importantly, it’s the hidden stories of women – relatable, universal, and beautiful.

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10601

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Mayuri Bhandari

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 Mayuri Bhandari and her show, THE ANTI “YOGI”:

Mayuri Bhandari

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

Mayuri: It’s a sensory immersive experience; it is to be felt, not just intellectually understood. At its core, THE ANTI “YOGI” is a call to action, not only to reflect a mirror but to call out our own ignorance through humor and depth. I hope audiences are amused, moved, touched, and awakened.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Mayuri: The writing. Without a doubt. Showing not telling, and getting past perfectionist syndrome to get the writing on its feet… because it changes a number of times anyway! Also, being the director/producer/marketer/etc. in every aspect; the performer and producer at the same time. I learned a lot, but it was definitely a challenge. I had a wonderful team I brought together – but I still have to execute in all areas!

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

Mayuri: The opportunity to combine all my art forms to be a storyteller. I love rhythm; so to be able to express through visual poetry, live percussion, dance, acting and sound in one space with a cinematic feel of the stage has been amazing. I’m a mover, so it’s so wonderful to be able to use my body through all the characters, for my emotions and for the sentiment of the piece.

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Mayuri: At how much I can accomplish even when I think I’ve hit my limit or doubt myself. I have to give credit to my team: directors D’Lo & Shyamala Moorty, producer Jessica Johnson, my percussionist Neel Agrawal, my team at the Zephyr including Nick Foran, and my friends who have been helping my non-stop. Honestly, it’s been reaffirming to see myself bring all the pieces I envisioned together and trust my voice and my gut more – believe in myself more.

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

Mayuri: This piece and experiences have been with me for so many years – so to see it come out in a full body of work is something. Hopefully, I’m able to take it further and go deeper with the work. I also feel proud to see a big project like this through. It’s been a long time coming and gives way for my next piece to come out that has been brewing just as much.

This show is my Part 1 (focused on Spirituality) and my Part 2 is focused on Sensuality.

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

Mayuri: Honestly, since I was in college or probably earlier, maybe even lifelong. I’ve had so many experiences that I didn’t realize were micro-aggressions or issues that needed to be addressed until later in my life. Initially, I thought “To each their own” and learned that what I was feeling was rooted in a much deeper issue. So though I didn’t recognize it then; it’s probably been since I was very little and accumulating over the years.

I’ve been wanting to do a one-person show for nearly 5 years now, and when the strike occurred last year I decided to work on the piece. The script started around the end of last year. I’ve been sitting with it for the past 7-8 months or so.

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Mayuri: I learned about Fringe last year after watching several shows and decided I wanted to be a part of it eventually. And when the strike happened, I knew this was the time.

Constance: Anything else that must be said – please add!

Mayuri: Thank you for taking a look at my show, for your time, and for the opportunity! This piece is a call to action and is about a practice much bigger than I – yet through my lens at the same time. I hope it resonates with many.

https://linktr.ee/mayuribhandari

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10384

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Vee Kumari

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 Vee Kumari, who stars in and produces “Late Sunday Afternoon, Early Sunday Evening” written by Jean Lenox Todie.

Sanchita Malik and Vee Kumari, l to r, in “Late Sunday…”

Constance: Vee, can you share your background as an actress and producer?

Vee: Growing up in the south of India, I loved words and books and wanted to become an English professor, but went to medical school instead. At the UC Davis School of Medicine and the USC Keck School of Medicine, teaching neuroanatomy to medical students was my passion. But I continued to read fiction. Since my retirement in 2012, I have pursued writing and acting as careers.

I am also an actor and have appeared in TV shows, including Criminal Minds, Anger Management, and Glow. In 2019, I produced and was the lead in the short film “HALWA,” which earned the first prize for the directors in HBO’s Asia Pacific American Visionaries contest. In 2022, I was the Executive Producer and lead in the short film “YATRA: The Journey,” which finished a successful festival circuit, winning many recognitions. Currently, I’m working on a feature script based on my debut novel, “Dharma, A Rekha Rao Mystery.”

I live in Los Angeles near my two daughters and their families.

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

Vee: Don’t stop dreaming! Your dream could come true if you put your mind to it with courage, determination, and passion!

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

Vee: Sometimes, working with only one other actor can be challenging. I believe my fellow actor and I did go through this process, but we worked our way through it to a bonding performance!

Constance: What are you enjoying most about your show?

Vee: I want to be able to act my age, respect older women, and never take anything away from their needs, wants, and passions!

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Vee: Originally, it was just a play, but the more we worked through it, the closer it became to real life. This could be my story of transitioning from decades of being a scientist and a professor to an actor and writer after retirement. I will enjoy this run as long as there’s breath in me because it’s a gift! My mom is gone, or I could tell her, “Look, Ma, I did it anyway!”

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

Vee: Great! We are ready to share our discoveries with an audience!

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

Vee: For over a year!

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Vee: I did Fringe last year with an ensemble show, but due to COVID, I was unable to perform. I wanted to give it another try on a smaller scale. Fringe is tough to do!

Constance: Anything else that must be said – please add!

Vee: Enjoy this EPK: Go Here

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10684

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Sunita Param

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 Sunita Param and her show, “Sunita: Back To Me.”

Sunita Param

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

Sunita: My hope is that the audience walks away from my show inspired and having experienced a true emotional journey. Laughter, tears, joy and ultimately spiritually uplifted.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Sunita: Initially, when I chose the stories from my life that I wanted to tell, it was important for me to create a real beginning, middle and end.  In addition, I had to choose songs that spoke to me but that also illuminated or supported the stories I was telling.

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

Sunita: At this point, I’ve done the show quite a bit over the last few years, but in this incarnation, I’m actually on a stage without being married to a standing microphone.  I absolutely love the freedom, in all capacities, that it has provided me as an actor.

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Sunita: Not necessarily a surprise, but more of a gratified awareness, that I am capable of performing a 75-minute show – singing 14 songs and holding an audience’s attention.

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

Sunita: It’s incredibly empowering to have written my personal story.  I will have shared myself completely and allowed myself to be vulnerable.  That is powerful. 

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

Sunita: I have been wanting to do a show like this for over 15 years.  And finally in early 2020, I began writing the show and making song choices.  I’ve performed it several times all over CA and on the East Coast in the last 4 years – most recently in February at the Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest. So when I heard about the Fringe this year, I thought, “Why not?” Especially since I had just performed it.  It was fresh. I also was attracted to the fact that it wouldn’t be a one-off performance.  Having 3 performances over the span of 2 weeks gives me the opportunity to tweak, adjust, or just plain make it better than the last performance.

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10819

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Christina V. Anthony

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 Christina V. Anthony and her show, “I Hope You Heal.”

Christina V. Anthony

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

Christina: The themes of the show are identity, forgiveness, self-love, hope, healing and many more! For one of the most beautiful experiences of my life to turn into one of the cruelest was, quite simply, a mind fuck. There was a lot to process, learn and heal from. I want to give audiences a path to healing. All my work is deeply rooted in my identity and staunch female empowerment. I hope audiences will leave feeling emboldened to be their most honest, strong and vulnerable selves. The message I plan to convey through the show is that even when you feel like you’ve lost your inner strength, you can heal and bounce back stronger!

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Christina: One of the biggest challenges was editing. My first draft was over 30 pages long and I had to get it down to 10 pages. When I started writing the piece, I wasn’t positive if I wanted it to be for print or the stage. I wrote it in a more prose style, so after I realized I wanted to perform it, I had to rewrite the whole thing to work better for a live performance.

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

Christina: I am enjoying the strength I’ve gained by reframing one of the most painful experiences of my life into one of the greatest gifts of my life. It took a lot of time, reflection and self-awareness for me to see the beauty in pain. I now feel like the smartest, strongest, sexiest version of myself. I owe a lot of my growth to the wisdom I gained by writing this show.

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Christina: One of the most surprising discoveries was how much the audience laughed watching the show. I have been producing and performing in comedy shows for 8 years, so I do try to find humorous moments in my writing. This piece can be very sad and I thought that would be the overwhelming tone, but instead I was greeted with laughter throughout the piece. I’m proud of the balance I managed to create and the moments of levity I am able to give the audience.

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

Christina: It feels scary and exciting to debut this show. I’ve never felt so exposed before in my work. Theater gets different criticism than comedy shows, so this is new for me. I hope people like it and understand that this was intentionally the bare-bones version and I would like to keep developing different performative elements. I know there are always improvements that can be made, but for right now I just want to celebrate the fact that I put this dang thing up and put my whole heart into it!

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

Christina: It took me 3 years to write this show. It has gone through over 20 drafts and has changed dramatically from the 1st draft. I would meticulously edit the piece and then not be able to look at it for a couple of months, then repeat the process of detailed revision. After I brought on a director, we went through another 10 rounds of edits. It was exhausting, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. I’m so proud of the final piece. I’d love to share it with as many people as possible!! 

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Christina: I’d been holding on to this piece for years and honestly wasn’t sure if I’d ever have the guts to put it up. A friend asked me to do their show where artists do live readings of something they’ve been working on but have never been in front of an audience. I did a live reading of a cut-down 10-minute version. The audience loved it! I was so overwhelmed by the praise, that I knew I had no choice but to go through with it. I debated whether I wanted to just rent a space and put it up, but ultimately I wanted its debut to be a part of a community. I chose Fringe 2024 because of the community aspect of the festival. 2024 marks the 8th year that I’ve been performing and I approached this year as the year I would do everything that scares me. No fears in 2024!

Constance: Anything else that must be said – please add!

Christina: There are two more shows! Tuesday, June 18th @ 6:30pm and Sunday, June 30th @ 7:00pm at The Broadwater Second Stage. You can find more of my work on my website: christinavanthony.com and the show’s Insta is @ihopeyouhealshow. Thanks!

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10480

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Marisa Ray

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 Marisa Ray and her show, “Amen.”

Marisa Ray

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

Marisa: I hope more than anything that audience members leave with more questions of their own. Our show talks about a lot of big ideas in a very silly and absurd way, which I love, but I hope it can serve as a conversation starter for some of those big ideas.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Marisa: Allowing myself to just let the project go. I found myself still trying to make edits, and it got to a point where I had to just cut it off and give it up to creatives who I could trust to bring it to life.

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

Marisa: Watching my director and actors find new nuances and meanings that I didn’t even realize I was writing into the show. In particular, some of the jokes are being added to both visually and sonically in a way I couldn’t have ever imagined. Though that makes sense – my friends and co-creators are all funnier than me! 

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Marisa: In the rehearsal process, we ended up finding mantras that we started repeating at the beginning of every run. One of those was to “find the love” and compassion in every scene, no matter what was happening in it. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking I suppose, but it served as a reminder that theater is about caring deeply, and even in moments of anger or tragedy, it’s impossible to carry out without a strong core of love – for the characters and for the craft.

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

Marisa: Definitely anxiety-inducing, but also cathartic in a way! I’ve been sitting on it for so long that it’s nice to finally call it done – at least for this phase of its lifespan.

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

Marisa: I wrote the first draft of this play in 2019, and largely forgot about it until recently, when I went back and reread it and found myself genuinely entertained. Since then, I started soft pitching it as just an informal table read, and when we finally did the read this past October, I had actors come up to me afterward asking that I please put it up somewhere. That felt like the kick I needed to actually take the next step and produce it. 

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Marisa: In a world that feels increasingly disconnected from community and the events that shape our lives, Amen questions how things have been, and how we can take back control over our narratives. Who decides the way that things are, or how we think? If they were relevant once, are they relevant now?

Constance: Anything else that must be said – please add!

Marisa: I’ve had a few people come up to me and ask dubiously if the play was religious – and while it sure does feature God as a main character, I’d issue the disclaimer that God is as much a fictitious character as any other in this play. We don’t discuss or touch on any institutional religion at all – so feel free to come ready to laugh and immerse yourself in a world only slightly similar to our own!

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10427

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Rahvaunia Johnson

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 Rahvaunia Johnson and her show, “tHis Is Very IMPORTANT

Rahvaunia Johnson

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

Rahvaunia: My show’s message is layered, much like life itself. I hope that the audience members leave with the understanding that we are all navigating this world, doing the best we can. We don’t always get it right, but if we lead with love, kindness, empathy and non-judgment, we may realize that we are more alike than different. It would truly make my soul smile if women, in particular, embraced self-work, the importance of sisterhood,and emotional work, which would allow them to recognize their immense importance to the world and the human experience. It is also important for all genders to understand how special the woman truly is. We are all here because of a woman.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Rahvaunia: Outside of never writing anything other than a couple of short films and a few synopsis… The biggest challenge in my development and creation process has been managing my grand dreams and high expectations. I envision everything on such a grand scale and my perfectionist tendencies, combined with a touch of OCD, make it even more demanding. I aimed to create something so impactful that the HIV storyline connecting 3 of the 15 characters becomes unavoidable and deeply relatable. Often, we shy away from topics we think won’t resonate with us, but that’s precisely why I created this show… to challenge those assumptions. This journey has been incredibly challenging requiring me to dig deep and find my inner voice, reminding myself to let go and simply create. I had to learn to step out of my own way.

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

Rahvaunia: I most enjoyed the discovery of small nuances that make each character relatable to a diverse audience. It’s incredibly fulfilling to layer the lives of these women beyond their diagnosis, exploring their journeys before, during and after. Creating characters with fragments of all of us, regardless of race or gender, allows me to connect with the audience on a profound level. This process of crafting multifaceted, relatable women was both challenging and deeply rewarding.

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Rahvaunia: That’s been my ability to create something that is both entertaining and, at times, humorous, while addressing a topic that many consider heavy or taboo. Even the most touching and emotional moments are crafted to take the audience on a journey that ultimately ends in hope and a smile, both on their faces and in their hearts.

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

Rahvaunia: I’ve been blessed to share this work before, and each time I put it out there and leave everything on the stage it’s an incredible feeling. Knowing that my contribution is raising awareness and serving the community is immensely fulfilling. As a BIOPIC woman, my work directly impacts my community, but it also resonates with the broader global community. This sense of connection and service is what makes this experience truly amazing.

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

Rahvaunia: For 16 years or so before finally bringing it to life. Life has a way of keeping you busy and pulling you in many directions, but I never let it discourage me. I knew that when the time was right, it would happen. And it did, at the perfect moment, just as the number of diagnoses among Black cisgender women was on a constant rise.

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Rahvaunia: Why not? I’ve been a Fringe audience member for some time, and it’s one of the few times in Hollywood when small theatrical productions get the support they truly deserve. LA might not be known as a “theatre” town, but for 30 glorious days, Fringe transforms it into one. The energy and passion during this festival are unparalleled. I originally wanted to participate in the Hollywood Fringe in 2020, but we all know what happened that year. I decided to step back for a while, observing how theatre adapted to streaming shows to keep the art alive during such trying times. But I had a desire to connect with live audiences and that was a priority for my “important” show. And here I am. Hello, Hollywood Fringe 2024. Thank you for making space for me!

Constance: Anything else that must be said – please add!

Rahvaunia: “tHis Is Very IMPORTANT” is my first written piece for the stage. Stepping into unknown territory this project has not only taught me invaluable lessons but also ignited a yearning to create more theatre work. It is my hope to be able to bring those ideas to a stage near you. In the meantime, I am manifesting that TIVI (short for tHis Is Very IMPORTANT) will be performed on stages worldwide. It’s a human experience that deserves to be seen by all. Beyond its stage life, it will evolve into a mini-series. Many people have expressed a desire to know what happens next for my characters, and I hope they won’t have to wait too long to find out.

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10434

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Joy Regullano

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 Joy Regullano and her show, “Body Count

Joy Regullano

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

Joy: I hope that people learn at least a little something about themselves from my story. Maybe a little a-ha moment of why their relationships ended the way they did or an insight into their own relationship with their parents or family. In my fantasy of fantasies, people who need help would feel inspired to get the help they need, whether it’s through reading one of my recommended books, going to therapy or something else. I also of course hope that they’ll be entertained and laugh.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Joy: It’s such a deeply personal show – more personal than anything else I’ve written and shared publicly, and that’s saying a lot because almost everything I write is very personal. So there’s a part of me that fears that anyone who is mentioned in the show will come to see it, haha! I’ve also been pushed by multiple people to go more into the dramatic and emotional, and as a comedian that’s not always my favorite place to go. But I hope that exploring those areas has helped make it more profound.

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

Joy: It’s always really fun to see what the audience laughs at. What the audience responds to. Especially when it’s something I didn’t even think was funny. It’s a feedback loop – their reaction inspires me to tweak the show, which then hopefully causes them to laugh even more. I suppose what I’m speaking of is the workshopping process. I also enjoy connecting with people after they see the show and hearing what they resonate with, whether it’s a relationship with their parents, a way they’ve moved through the world in their romantic relationships, or something else.

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Joy: Just how many people resonate with what I talk about in my show? A lot of it is such a taboo topic, that it’s not like it’s the typical everyday conversation that always comes up. So I’m really glad to be part of an effort to normalize talking about these issues.

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

Joy: It’s scary!! I already feel the postpartum depression. And once you give it away, you can’t control how people take it. But it will also feel fun, connecting, and… relieving?? Haha. How long have you been sitting with this work? I’ve thought about writing something around this topic for a few years, but I think I needed some distance away from the events that actually happened in my life that inspired it before I was ready to shape it into a public show. So maybe like … 5 years? haha.

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Joy: I absolutely loved my last experience with Fringe in 2019 with my musical SUPPORTIVE WHITE PARENTS and wanted to do it again! I loved all the “fringeships” I made, and I love the community, and I found it to be an incredibly connecting experience. I had just come out of a solo show class at East West Players with a draft of this show, and it was either do Fringe now or wait until next year, which felt like an awfully long time to wait. So I did drag my feet a little bit, but I eventually pulled the trigger.

Constance: Anything else that must be said – please add!

Joy: Hope to see you at the show! I’m on IG @joyregullano and @bodycountsoloshow.n Our first show on Sun 6/9 @ 11pm is PWYC. No code is necessary! (And if you miss me at Hollywood Fringe this year, I’m taking it to NYC for a couple of show dates in late June as part of Pan Asian Rep’s NuWorks Festival! Check out the program here: https://www.panasianrep.org/nuworks-2024.)

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10932

#FringeFemmes 2024: Meet Valerie Lacy

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 Valerie Lacy and her show, “Who In The World Is Valerie Lacy?

Valerie Lacy

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

Valerie: I would like for them to take away that your past does not define you. It’s merely a compass to guide you into the knowledge of who you are.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

Valerie: The biggest challenge was facing the parts of myself I had disassociated with.

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

Valerie: I am enjoying the opportunity to create and share my story with others.

Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?

Valerie: That I can actually do what I started.

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

Valerie: I feel good and ready to give it all I have. It feels so right!

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

Valerie: All my life.

Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?

Valerie: I wanted to give Fringe a try and see what happens. Why not this year I am not getting any younger.

Constance: Anything else that must be said?

Valerie: I am all in to entertain and tell my story!

For info and tickets visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/10707 | “Who In The World Is Valerie Lacy?” plays Fridays & Saturdays at 8:30pm June 14th – June 22nd

Where Do You Stand? What Do You Stand For? 

by Constance Strickland

I received a message last week from a friend who resides between Chicago and New York. She is a playwright, poet, performer, a brilliant witty woman who tells layered stories. You can imagine how it broke my heart to read her words: 

“I’m tired. The limit does in fact exist and I feel like I’m at mine. It just feels too hard and like it’s impossible to change anything. There’s just no money and I don’t know how to sustain any of this.” 

It has been over three years since the pandemic, We See You White American Theater and the righteous fight for justice in the Arts. Yet, the sentiment among Independent Black Artists remains loud and clear: justice has not been served.

Many Black theatre artists are still battling for spaces to manifest our work, we are chasing for a place in the theatre where our voices can be heard authentically, and we are still without funding to complete or create new theatre works. We battle, we cling to a hope that often remains unseen—a quiet spark deep within our souls. We are seeking work beyond a classroom. We do not want an opportunity to be hired in leadership roles at white-led institutions. We are not seeking power. We are not tokens. And we do not want to be one or two of the only Black bodies in the room curated by white institutions. Nor do we want to be invited into spaces where Black curators, who are hired by white institutions, must choose between their Black contemporaries like an open auction. We want ateliers, and our own studio spaces, where we can dream, manifest, and build our collective and individual legacies.

Now, more than ever, there’s a pressing need to advocate for funding for Black artists across various fields and mediums of theatre. Too often, initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion in white-founded institutions merely result in superficial changes, with a handful of Black individuals elevated to prominent positions without any systemic transformation. The occurrence where very few and often the same Black people are placed within the hierarchy of these institutions and nothing radical ever changes. 

It’s no secret that the major funding and monies still lie with these white-led institutions, therefore causing a low amount of resources to a wide variety of Black artists, creating a small pool where we all have to apply to the same resources, where the same advisors, grant readers, and voting teams come from a small group of the same theatre or academic institutions, networks, with a lack of imagination on how to support multi-faceted Black Artists who are creating new works.

In Los Angeles, Ebony Repertory Theatre is the only African-American professional Actor’s Equity (AEA) theatre company… joined by only a handful of smaller companies. To me, this is a grave tragedy and reveals the great amount of work there still is to do for Black theatre in Los Angeles, most certainly for Black women in theatre.  As Black women continue to grapple with the financial fallout of the pandemic and confront escalating rates of racism, the urgency of our mission grows. I have been physically sitting with how Theatre Roscius, my small independent non-profit theatre company, can begin to morph further from developing my physical plays into further uplifting local Black female artists over the next two years and that gives me hope, fuel, and fear. Although I have received numerous grants over the past couple of years (that took over eight years of grant writing) the reality is more funding is required. A further reach of serving is needed. I think of Jackie Taylor, founder of Black Ensemble Theater, Barbara Ann Teer, founder of the National Black Theatre, and Ellen Stewart, founder of LaMama Experimental Theatre Club, who against all odds found ways to survive and thrive.

I ask myself:

How can Theatre Roscius be further of use to women in my community whose stories I tell using my body as the catalyst? How can I uplift Black female artists with resources; financially and artistically? How do I create room for a new canon of experimental/avant-garde Black Theatre that does not have to go through a particular mainstream or commercial route? 

I ask you: 

How can we continue to reshape the American theatre? How do we expand the canon of voices that exist in American theatre? Can we delve deeper? What stories of our community are we not telling? I look forward to asking more questions, and to not being satisfied, while doing the work required to discover and implement these found answers. 

As time moves and the world continues to find ways to breathe together, what Theatre Roscius has always offered and will elevate is a new way. To give female artists time to imagine, investigate, explore, sit with their ideas, and then execute those found connections in real-time. 

My wish is that Black Artists not be afraid of having no money. That we band together even when colonialism tries to separate us. That we refuse to engage in hierarchies and archetypes. Can we disrupt and reconstruct not for personal clout but for the collective and those coming up after and with us? 

May we remember why we do the work, why we have always done the work and it was never to uplift the business of theatre. I hope that we continue to honor our artistic lineages and remember that we have always been the blueprint.