All posts by Constance Strickland

Shape Shifter

by Constance Jaquay Strickland


I’m on an airplane.
Time is shifting.
I’ve shifted.
I close my eyes and I see the face of a woman I cannot name.
Alone.
Here I am.
In an unfamiliar room.
I open my eyes and I remember my granny
Addie Mae Brown.

Now I’m sitting.
Heavy breathing.
Whose breathing?
I’m breathing…..
My breath — is all I hear in this dark theatre.
Fear has found me.
Quietly snuck upon my mind
reminding me that Black Women are often forgotten.
My mind
Her mind
Their minds
combusting in time // with time.
As I walk through crowded streets history begins to speak.
My bones remember names I cannot say aloud

My voice is unable to conjure stories left untold.
So I shadowbox old thoughts as I try to speak the names of women unknown—
yet who look like me. And still go unseen.


What happens to a Black Woman when she goes without care?
Her mind
Their mind
My mind
piecing together new memories // carrying old memories
as I seek a sustainable life.

Revelations in Time

by Constance Jaquay Strickland

For the past six months, without knowing it, I have been finding my voice in new ways that are parts terrifying and exciting. To say aloud what my work is, what it is not, what I do, what I do not do, and with whom I do it has been a liberating and profound gift to myself, those I collaborate with, and my physical work.

My physical work is a form of prayer and comes from a sacred place deep within my bones and solar plexes. It is a form of expression rooted in the memory of my ancestors and my present existence in hopes of constructing a physically free future. It has been a wild and long journey to find authentic ways to honor my artistic practice with integrity.

I no longer allow the feelings of others to dictate how I create and move through space. I no longer hold others’ emotions before my own. I no longer allow anyone to tell me what my work is. I no longer share my work in spaces where the work is not understood, cared about, or believed in. I no longer explain my work. I no longer give the work away without a cost. I no longer let my work settle in bodies that can’t be pushed beyond their own comfort.

As I entered a new space with Theatre Roscius, my small, experimental theatre company, and prepared for our Getty Villa residency, challenging questions demanded long conversations with self, and revelations that may have gone unseen in another season simmered to the surface I found I could not swallow pieces of myself, and so I moved swiftly without fear. To move without fear feels so good! I feel free and open to exploring in ways still unseen as time continues to expand and make room for the work to live in its fullest glory.

An extraordinary and priceless gift time has given me is the opportunity to grow as an artist in my most authentic form. To grow outside a colonized system that holds theatre arts in a chokehold. To innovate the form is to break out of a cycle that smothers, dawdles, and limits the theatre in a multitude of heartbreaking ways. To break out of and away from the norm is not easy; it is not enough to merely shout or post about change but to create a new way that is not connected to an old system requires grit and heart.

I continue the work because I believe in theatre artists coming up now, in spaces not highlighted in magazines, social media, or with awards. Those unknown/unseen artists still unknown are actively engaging in that change. They are not trying to change an old system but manifest a new vision! That keeps me in the work, self-producing and building my own theatre/performance artwork archive on my terms.

These next six months will bring a new performance art installation, training abroad, a new residency in New York, and the gift of being in a play that is not my own. This will require energy, stamina, endurance, and the ability to bend with the wind. It will also call for me to know who I am and what my work is.

I no longer move backward. I no longer tolerate being tolerated. I no longer shrink or silence pieces of myself so that others are comfortable, and my work has become more robust, precise, and potent because I refuse to compromise who I am or what my work is. My work lives in the body and needs + thrives on the truth as a tangible commodity.

Tis the season for all those planted seeds that have just begun to find bloom and new life. May the next six months bring clarity, healing, love, laughter, and stillness. For we never know when our time will reveal our end. May all you see —–Manifest.

Donay AnnaMay Was Here

Donay AnnaMay Cook | 41 years young

Donay AnnaMay is the daughter of Lynn French and Donald Cook. She is the youngest of three siblings (Cayde and Jessica) and was born May 15th, 1981, in Glendive, Montana, and raised in the high heat of Scottsdale, Arizona.

She may have been the youngest of three siblings, but she was most certainly the boss babe of the family.

I first met AnnaMay when we were fifteen years old, and from day one, it felt as though I had collided with a whole new universe. Immediately, I was aware I had come upon a girl who knew who she was. A girl who was a leader and loved unconditionally all those she came in contact with. 

I remember AnnaMay driving me to Los Angeles so I could attend theatre school all those years ago. I remember we were young girls full of untainted dreams and new ideas. I remember we wrote a short play together for a class that AnnaMay was enrolled in. I remember AnnaMay’s smile. I remember the crisp sound of her voice. I remember her courageous fight to be free. I remember the way she would move through space. I remember how happy she was to become a mother. I remember how much I loved her.

It has been two weeks since I received the call that AnnaMay passed away. I can still feel my whole body begin to vibrate as time begins to stand still and slip away, time, a brutal reminder that life is not constant. Losing AnnaMay has been a hard, devasting loss, not only for me but for all of us that loved her dearly, a loss that will never heal with time. 

| Donay was here

A mother

A daughter

A sister

A best friend

A leader

A legend

A storyteller

A survivor

A fighter

An advocate

An original

Brave

Bold

Tough

Yet—

vulnerable, gentle, patient, loving, reliable, and at her best, a truth-teller who would show up and out for anyone who ever needed support. Always there for people. To be friends / to have shared space with AnnaMay will always be a gift and an honor.

To love and be loved by her is a treasure that cannot be quantified. In many forms and mediums, her life will be remembered, honored, and held in high esteem with great respect.

this time / next time / not the right time / there’s enough time / more time / no time / the last time / in time / not enough time—please more time —pain becomes weight // weight, heavy, heavier // too heavy and even the strongest of us must find rest.

I know for sure that telling stories started with my childhood friends. As I enter a play development workshop for the next two weeks in New York, I’ll bring all that AnnaMay was as a bold and fearless spirit into the rehearsal space. I’ll honor her unconditional support and belief that she had in me.  I’ll forever cherish her stubbornness and wild idea that anything is possible and that dreaming is healing.

Because

by Constance Strickland

Because Djuna Barnes’ “Nightwood” has been a safe haven for free thoughts. Because these days I function better with s’mores ice cream. Because I’m occupying a new and unknown space. Because I write physical plays. Because I could survive with a simple dress, vintage heels, and a collection of weathered hats. Because after nine years Theatre Roscius is a non-profit. Because finding financial support to create new work has been an enormous gift. Because I’m proud of the struggle. Because I’ve had to fight for every opportunity. Because without the graciousness of strangers I wouldn’t be where I am today….closer. Because this Sunday came with tight cuddles, moments of silence, uncontrollable tears, and deep laughter. Because there are no words to express imminent joy. Because actions matter. Because I continue to find truth in solitude. Because the past no longer casts a dark shadow. Because this has been one hell of a year. Because Theatre Roscius created five new works. Because community and tribe have two different meanings. Because I know love always heals. Because I know this all to be the truth.

Stonehenge (seen in an aerial view taken in the late 1990s) may have been protected by a green barrier, archaeologists say.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JASON HAWKES, CORBIS

#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.