All posts by Constance Strickland

#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 2022! Meet Judy Nazemetz

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 could not be more thrilled to introduce you to renaissance woman Judy Nazemetz. According to Judy her solo show NAZZ-MA-TAZZ was born out of: “My everyday life as a Hojo girl, Pathmark cashier, Santa Claus trainer, polka lover, kielbasy hunter, LA PTA President, 3-pt. shooter in a basketball league for moms 5’3” and under.”

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

Judy Nazemetz: Figuring out the best way to showcase what it is that I do!

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

Judy: I hope the audience remembers the laughs and the fun we had together.

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

Judy: Realizing I came up with the perfect blend of song, comedy, and stories.

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

Judy: The perfect venue (Hudson Guild Theatre) for a truly theatrical experience.

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?

Judy: For me, in-person audience is the only way to go because I can hear the audience’s reactions.

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

Judy: When I was an improv-comedy performer, I’d make up songs on the spot from audience suggestions but, when the scene ended, the song was gone. I decided to write songs and performed these and sketches I wrote in my one-woman show with a cast of 5, ALL THAT NAZ, and in various sketch and comedy shows such as SANTA-THON and Fred Willard’s comedy shows. I realized I should record the songs and, with MEAT BIRD IN BEIGEVILLE released in January 2022, I have 4 CDs being played worldwide. Then Fringe 2022 came along and I figured a one-hour solo show that showed everything I can do, all at once, would be perfect. And, NAZZ-MA-TAZZ was born.

This Grief Will Be of Use

There was a time when we ignored the cries, silenced the pain, and continued. 

There was a time when the collective would gather together and mourn before they could continue. 

There was a time when stillness answered stale questions and healed old wounds.

There was a time when birthing a child was an honor held in high favor by the entire community. 

There was a time when mothers could lay their heads upon a pillow without fear. Instead…

They now pray for the spirits of their children as they lie in the dark fighting for the light. 

There was a time when we didn’t learn to live with grief – a time when grief wasn’t a disorder but a vessel. 

There was a time when we didn’t speak from grief. A time when we didn’t practice grief.

There was a time when grief wasn’t a gateway to joy.

There was a time when the house didn’t hold our sorrows. Instead… it overflowed with love, laughter, and dreams. 

There was a time when we remembered we could fly. 

As we enter this new season may we individually and collectively make room to heal our bodies, our spirits, our minds for the future depends on a healthy society that moves not in fear but with hope.

Do We Really Want Change? Is Real Change too Scary? Or Does It Really Matter?

By Constance Strickland

Guangzhou Opera House

Over the past year and a half, I have listened to, + witnessed artists of color fight, speak out and reveal wrongdoings that had the ability to affect true change in a stale industry. Not stale from a lack of talent but due to a lack of vision and courage. Instead of answers, I have been left with a string of questions that I leave in space to be actively engaged with or not. 

The last few months have felt urgent, suffocating, debilitating yet empowering, and freeing. 

I have been imagining a future where artists reject a hierarchical approach. A future that refutes old PWI institutions as the Top of the Tier and in their places are new spaces that are inclusive and leave no room for tokenism. Instead, they allow all artists of varied routes and backgrounds a space to create and re-imagine. 

Los Angeles theatre. A scene filled with so much talent yet still somehow the same voices are heard and bodies are seen. It feels as though no one is willing to go further still nor even really want to – is it too hard a conversation? Does it cost too much for whites and people of color who are too institutionalized by PWIs and who benefit from them? A part of the issue lies in the elephant in the room: you are left out in the peripheral – existing right outside the edges of support and being uplifted; if you chose to be an independent artist who does not hail from a PWI or any “higher” education institution then ultimately you are forced into a particular route and reality as a theatre artist.

Who really benefits when BIPOC artists are promoted? Are we only uplifting the same artists?

Are we still uplifting the same PWI institutions as long as they let in a few BIPOC artists and have updated their Values and Mission statements?

Brooklyn Academy of Music [BAM] has dedicated its upcoming season to a wide variety of New York artists: that is how a community is built by crafting a space for local artists, and to go further you investigate within that community which artists have not yet been uplifted in any form. Which artists don’t have agents, don’t have grant support, are not connected to an academic institution yet have found ways to continue and produce new work? Which playwrights have been hitting the pavement in the city and need long-time committed support? For there should be no fear when it comes to uplifting new faces / new voices.

I love theatre. I love plays. I love playwrights. I love the manifestation of new ideas. Yet, I need to see my city go further. I need to experience a theatre city that is alive because it uplifts its most vulnerable of artists. I am not alone when I say: We are dying for the quiet artists of Los Angeles to be pulled up, for real support to trickle down and for neglected neighborhoods to have an opportunity, not charity to engage with Live Theatre. 

And no lie. This is personal. It should be for all of us who give our whole spirit to the work in our city that we love.

#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 2021 are Here! Meet Simone Tetrault

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.

Vice is a two act sci-fi live theatre film hybrid that explores the devastation and hope that can arise within imagined futures. The piece ultimately asks: How can you fight to survive when you have been programmed out of existence? How can you reach someone whose vice is a reality where you do not exist?

I’m always overwhelmed with emotion when I discover the many minds of women who exist in our community. That there is space and room for us all to exist and the more space we make the more original pieces that begin to sprout. What I love about Simone is that she is willing to risk and take a unique approach to theatre making and telling stories. In her own words, “The words we say, the things we do, and the stories we tell have immeasurable power to change our world.” Simone approaches her work with great intention and the process is deeply rooted in care for the weight of the work, those who contribute to making it, and those who receive it whether the form be poetry, dance, music, sound or performance.

(And Vice is also playing at at the Zephyr, in a great part of Melrose where cocktails and food go hand and hand –  you’re sure to catch a show that is original and innovative!)

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

Simone: Vice is a piece that asks more questions than it answers: Who will be the new gatekeepers of the worlds imagined? Who will be left out? In the worlds and realities of the future, who will be fighting to be seen and heard and believed? As we continue building fantastic worlds through digital spaces that augment and alter our realities, I hope audiences consider their role in shaping individual and collective relationships to emerging technologies and to our governing systems. I hope they consider how the many choices they make, large and small, affect what is to come. I want folks to sit with the gravity of that responsibility.

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

Simone: Time has certainly been a challenge. I didn’t have a script when we pitched the idea for Vice this spring, but it was a story concept that had been percolating for a while. I wanted to take on the challenge of writing and developing the first iteration of this play for the Hollywood Fringe while the festival was choosing to use a hybrid format. The writing and rehearsal process moved very quickly, but it was important to me that we stage this production at this moment. I’m incredibly grateful for the hard work of our wonderful cast and crew in realizing this piece so quickly.

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

Simone: It was such a joy to write this script and share it with the artists who have been part of the creative process. I am really enjoying making a piece of live theatre again. The actors have been excited to dive in and play, and world building with the design team has been a dream. It’s been a real team effort, and I am very grateful for the wonderful people who have made this show possible.

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

Simone: It feels incredibly exciting to be sharing Vice with the world.

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

Simone: About a year into the pandemic my partner, Rich Johnson, and I decided we really wanted to develop a piece of theatre that was designed for the hybrid film-theatre medium that had been emerging . We talked a lot about what kind of story we could tell that would be enhanced by being a true hybrid  rather than a live-stream of a play done out of pure necessity. Rich and I spent a lot of time working on a shared vision for how a live film could be immersive and push the boundaries of what live theatre could look like in a virtual stream, even on a low budget. For us, it was incredibly exciting to envision a dual production – the live theatre performance and live film – that could be equally engaging for audiences in the physical space and online.

When the Hollywood Fringe Festival put out the call for scholarship pitches for this year’s hybrid festival, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to try our hand at this. We pitched an idea for a play I’d had a while back about a not too distant future where rapidly advancing technologies threatened to erase entire classes of people. It seemed like the right time for this kind of narrative – one that deals with marginalization and invisibility, things I’ve been weighing heavily this year as an Asian-American woman. After Centrifuge Arts received news about our scholarship win, I went full steam ahead with the writing process, and Vice became our first true film-theatre hybrid production. It has been a thrilling creative challenge to carry out, and I hope audiences are as excited by it as we are.

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

Simone: We want as many folks as possible to come see Vice! Folks can visit vice.eventbrite.com and use these promo codes: VICE10 ($10 off in-person shows). VICE5 ($5 off live-stream tickets).

For more information on VICE in #HFF21, visit http://hff21.co/7100

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#FringeFemmes 2021 are Here! Meet Verenice Zuniga

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.

ESTRAWBERY FIELDS FOREVER gets me hyped up and excited for the future of theatre. In this solo show by Verenice Zuniga, a 2021 Hollywood Fringe Diversity Scholarship Winner, we will follow the journey of La Graduada, a young Latina grappling with the difficult truths of a post-graduate life as a brown educated woman. Through her we see the American Dream unravel as she moves back home to financially support her family while also figuring out her own path forward. Via poetry, this piece explores immigrant family dynamics, the financial impact of higher education on first-generation students, and the psychological toll of the American Dream, an issue not often addressed directly. I have a gut feeling this will be a richly poignant and moving show that will highlight the voices of tomorrow. What a gift this will be to us.

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

Verenice: I had this idea about five years ago and would always put it off until I felt “ready.” During the pandemic I found myself feeling really stuck creatively and doubting my journey as an artist. This piece allowed me to rediscover my passion for devising theater. After being stuck inside for a year I just wanted to dive into something fun and new.  Like many, in this past year, I realized life is too short to doubt yourself. I’m very glad I took this leap!

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

Verenice: The biggest challenge of this has been finding movement in the show. The show’s language is very poetic and we wanted to find a way to let the language shine but also create a visual language to elevate that poeticism. 

Constance: What are you enjoying most as you create your show? What has been the most surprising discovery?

Verenice: I’m enjoying the discovery of my own writing.  As I act through the show and work with Kathy Arevalo, my director, I’m finding new meaning to lines and characters. I think this has also been a huge growth journey for me as an actor and writer.  There have been many moments where I’m stuck asking myself  “What the heck did I even mean by this? How do I play this?” It really has allowed me to be on both sides of this play and appreciate how the writing evolves as we workshop it on its feet.

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

Verenice: I hope audience members leave questioning their version of reality and the different levels of privileges that influence their present and future. I also hope they feel seen and hopefully in these 30 minutes we won’t feel so alone in our first-generation struggles.

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

Verenice: It’s nerve-racking but relieving at the same time. I’m definitely ready to share it with everyone and set the work free!

For more information on ESTRAWBERY FIELDS FOREVER in #HFF21, visit http://hff21.co/7092

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