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.
WHY: EGG was a wild, ridiculous, unexpected ride! Erin investigates the age-old question that women in their thirties battle with, if we have not made a clear decision on motherhood: should I, will I, must I, can I give birth?! Erin undertakes this heavy topic with music, dancing, and absurdity that reveals a tendernerness in approaching a truly sensitive subject that differs and is personal for every woman. Erin’s boldness and bravery made me imagine having a real, grown ass conversation with a girlfriend who knows you, really knows you. This solo show really shines when Erin is in her element, moving with no sound. For it’s all there, and through her body we understand all that she could not say with words.
WHY: I may not have enough words in my vocabulary or a creative palette expansive enough to express what a great joy and honor it was to watch Diana sit upon the stage and fill it with her whole being and spirit. She’s a natural actress, but I knew was also watching a talented technician at work as I witnessed her cleverness and her comedic timing, along with her ease of performing like a true theatre veteran. As I learned more about Diana and her personal journey, her quest for love revealed a common thread: that most little girls dream about a prince charming as we dress up as princesses and play “house.” Diana’s show is a huge gift and just the start – or shall I say continuation? – of a long theatrical legacy.
WHY: As soon as Verenice appears upon the stage you know you are in the presence of a truly special artist. Verenice has the rare ability to spin language into poetry, and the way she attacks the stage with her body steals your heart from start to finish of her beautiful solo show. I caught myself holding my breath as Verenice confessed personal truths of family obligations, and stories of facing generational traditions while chasing dreams filled my soul with gentle familiarity. The vulnerability of this young artist makes you feel as if you’re witnessing a sacred rite of passage. After the show, as I got in the car, I sat and sobbed and the only way I could express that overwhelming feeling in my gut was to ask myself, “Have you ever seen a Brown girl fly?” I have no doubt the sensation this show leaves in the body is the spirit of the Fringe. This is what the future looks like in the theatre when artists are uplifted and supported. Go see this beautiful Brown girl manifest her future on her own terms!
WHY: It’s hard to believe as you view Tanya physicalize thirty-five characters onstage – free, beautiful and vulnerable with the lights shining on her – that she was ever uncomfortable in her own skin. Tanya takes us on a global journey into Singapore’s culture as we find a woman battling for her identity, self-acceptance, and self-love… while discovering that colonialism has terrorized, infested and affected beauty standards around the world.
WatchingTanya’s solo show, I was reminded of the magic and necessity of sharing world dialogues onstage. Naturally Tan is a potent testament to how having a variety of bodies – different colors and forms – grace the stage as storytelling vessels expands the scope of American theatre. Multifaceted and multicultural theatre is essentially human and reminds us all of our similarities rather than our differences.