WHY: Because you’ll see a young artist use her voice and body to heal a pain you can’t name at first. Because when Charlotte morphs into her mother, in voice and posture, the familiarity nearly broke my heart. Because I understood the anger, the grief and the empathy involved in accepting a once-healthy mother’s new physical reality. Because Charlotte reminded us that the loss of a loved one will touch us all and how we respond to that loss matters – community matters. Because when Charlotte begins to sing, a light shines from her whole being and we see her, we hear her, we are her.
In a time where all seems woeful, it felt good to bear witness to another human’s story of resilience – right here in your own neighborhood there is someone always finding ways to live a full life. May director Debra De Liso’s Theatre of Compassion continue to bring forth original projects from the voices of those who are not always heard.
WHY:Teruko! Teruko the Original! This solo show will have the hardest of humans laughing unexpectedly and then, with a whisper of a word, bring you to stillness. As I sat watching Teruko, I was struck by her authenticity, her powerful ability to honor her true self and to manifest her destiny despite the pains and tribulations she has experienced. There was a freedom exuding from Teruko that made me in awe: a freedom that only comes from finding ways to continue out of the dark into the light.
As I left the theatre I found myself still smiling and shouting: Teruko the Hero! As the show came to an end she brought us all to our feet and each person in that audience was not only rooting for her continued success in living her best life, we also came away with a better understanding of how vital it is for each of us to bet on ourselves – the necessity of having empathy for one another and a better understanding of who we are collectively. And perhaps greater care for what it means to be an American. I swear to you: DON’T miss this show!
WHY: This was an odd but lovely, heart-breaking, and thrilling out-of-the-box play. It took me on a myriad of emotions when thinking about women who often go unseen – or whose bodies are not being seen as worthy – as the endangered species that they are tasked with saving from extinction. I loved the subject, and while at first this seemed to be a weird play, I soon began to feel a sinking truth sitting in the pit of my stomach. The realism the actors brought to their work made me feel as though I was watching a play that was about to become a new tv show.
What a wonderful gift to the L.A theatre community: a new exciting play from a young non-binary playwright brought to us by a new electrifying theatre company that will no doubt change the landscape of possibility in our theatre community. Go see this play.
WHY: WHOA! I thank our ancestors I was able to be in the same space as Jairis and Mareshah. To see them on stage in the flesh was a true gift. “Abortion Weekend” was more than a piece, it was more than a show. I felt as though I was seeing a play that manifested from deep truths and touched on many issues in the Black community – and our society – including our own personal struggles that can go without words…until now – until the two of them. Jairis and Mareshah have a real way of connecting you to the story; their ability to use real language and address hard issues in a variety of honest ways was beyond refreshing.
As I sat in the audience I knew I was given a glimpse into the future. Future artists who are performing in a space off Santa Monica Blvd and Lillian Way in Hollywood, in a space you could almost mis, just as the Tony Awards were playing live in New York City. Watching this play in space with strangers who all came to see the work of Jairis and Mareshah, I know this is the heart of theatre. This is what it means to be an artist of one’s time. To do the work and then give it away left each and every one of us in the audience so full.
WHERE: Hudson Theatre 6539 Santa Monica Blvd + Livestream
WHY: This show left us feeling full, inspired, and not afraid to have a deeper conversation with ourselves. There was a beauty and boldness that revealed itself immediately when we watched – a softness that comes from hard experiences that did not swallow these women whole. A delicate intimacy filled the space in the midst of dark material; there was room for laughter, a place for joy to still live.
Ah, there is this powerful energy between Lori and Lenny and you feel lucky to witness this friendship – this love between two women whom the universe knew far before their spirits would merge. SUGAR AND SHIT is a show that has a sense of itself, that understands the need to find healing and freedom, alone or in community. It’s a lovely gem within the 2021 Hollywood Fringe catalogue.
WHY: This was a beautiful, magical, fantastical show. Although Dance and Physical Theatre is my favorite category during Hollywood Fringe, this piece was a late discovery and, my goodness, I thank the theatre gods that I did not miss this exquisite show. It’s the kinda piece that elevates the entire category and changes everything.
As a performer, Maria is absolutely breathtaking. You’re instantly absorbed, taken on a visual journey but also immersed in an unexpected but much-needed sound experience. Maria uses sound as a revelation; it took me quite some time to realize where and how the sound was entering into the space, like a whole-body treatment for the spirit. She occupies the entire space and treats stillness as a rite; what we receive across the ethers is an astonishing, hypnotic, physical gift. I felt as though I was included in a sacred passage of human exploration.
WHY: Look! I was not ready for the vision of what Simone manifested upon the stage with her wonderful cast of actors. This play is a BIG idea piece that asks its audience to think BIG on a multitude of levels which gave the work a thrilling and relevant edge.
VICE asks you to ask questions about the society you are living and actively participating in. How will you exist and can you exist as a whole person within its current structure? I was fully absorbed and allowed myself to be taken into this utopian sci-fi live theatre film that felt like a new form of theatre. VICE felt familiar in that over the past couple of years as a country we have known devastation, yet we also know hope and we remember that human rights are worth fighting for. This play blows up all one’s expectations in the most special and subtle of ways.
WHY: I cannot lie: my heart broke in tiny pieces as I slowly realized the shame and confusion Kira had carried for years believing she was white. I was hit hard in the gut in a new way that was not familiar because Kira had unleashed an often quiet elephant in the room, the idea of white skin being superior – this gift of whiteness existing on high levels in our country and around the world, simmering still.
This hurtful reality of how Black people are seen by other people of color – and in some instances by other Black people – becomes clearer when we see Kira transform into her Ecuadorian mother, and lean into the audience as her Black father whispers “spooks” to a young Kira. A subtle stillness occurs in some audience members, while an uncomfortable laugh comes from others as the word hits the space. You know that this girl, right in front of you, right now, will not allow her past to hijack her future. Yet just as Kira gently breaks your heart she picks up the pieces in a contagious fervor and we see HER: a beautiful Afro-Latina young woman living her best life, no longer afraid to own her identity. We witness Kira loving herself, a splendid joy that arises deep down in the solar plexus, and when Kira starts to sing “I’m Growing Out my Afro” in all her glory, you start to believe that letting go of societal lies, shedding dead weight, and facing old pains will free your entire being.
This year there was a powerful thread occurring throughout the Hollywood Fringe: No more will we carry falsities of white superiority and propaganda by a white patriarchal system!
WHY: There are many moments in the theatre that knock us outside of ourselves, but I dare say it is a rare moment to be reminded of what it means to be human. This is exactly what Veronica does, and in such a naturally commanding way that it takes your breath away.
As Veronica takes us on her journey of transitioning from Carey (not some other person, really) to Veronica (her full self), we share her experiences from couch surfing to having to sleep in her car (with her favorite vices and snacks and a dying phone used as a tv) and we immediately understand the grit it takes to survive in Los Angeles. There is a moment when Veronica decides to go make-up shopping for some damn foundation! (I mean what woman hasn’t felt foreign with the stress of having to “find” your color!) This was hilarious, yet did not steal away from the urgency in which Veronica is fighting for her life. We walk away seeing a woman who was determined to honor herself – a truly powerful moment on stage, as it reinforced that humor makes way for healing. I left this seamless show believing it will save lives. I have no doubt Veronica will continue to be a beacon of light for so many of us in her community and beyond. This beautiful journey she is on as an artist will make the American Theatre richer.
WHY: Because Azo Safo was a magical sight to behold onstage. Because each time Azo moved her body through space we were swept away to Morocco. Because each time Azo turns in the air like a magician I literally begin to see Khajida’s face, the way she tips her head when she speaks. Because I heard her mother’s voice and found deep laughter (as I know a few Armenian mothers in Glendale!).
Because I, too, fell in love with Mohammed, the villagers (even Sidi), I found I was not quite ready to yet leave these characters, either. Because onstage I saw a whole woman who had connected the dots of her life and was able to find delight and satisfaction, understand the pain, and reckon with the future. Because I Heart Maroc was a beautiful gift to – or perhaps for – the spirit. Because when Azo swallows a tear, no words are needed. We the audience completely understand and honor the story, her story she shared with us.