Tag Archives: Hollywood Fringe Festival

The FPI Files: A Solo Show Journey

We first met Kyla Garcia 2014 as a new “Fringe Femme” when she was gearing up for her Hollywood Fringe Festival show, “The Mermaid Who Learned How to Fly.” If you know Kyla you won’t be surprised that we were immediately smitten – her spirit and generosity envelop you – even before we saw her perform. (And she was amazing).

Of course we’ve kept in touch with her over the years, so were excited to check out the show she directed for this year’s Fringe: Samantha Bowling’s “This Was Never Supposed to Be a One Woman Show: A One Woman Show.” This extraordinary performance was such an unexpected gift. And we reached out to Kyla to talk a bit about her own solo journey and connecting with Samantha, as a collaborator.

Every solo show begins as a primal scream into the void.

by Kyla Garcia

At least, that’s how it started for me…

As artists, we so often have to answer to outside voices and opinions of folks who have no idea what the actual reality of being vulnerable onstage in this way truly means.

For years before I wrote my first solo show, I had agents and managers repeatedly tell me ‘Write a one-woman show! Casting directors and industry people need to see your range!’

I’ve never been able to create from that place, that surface place. So, for years I ignored them.

Until I shared a poem, a poem about the most shameful moment in my life, at a solo show workshop. And when the audience leaned in, I could hear a pin drop. And I thought, ‘oh no…this is the thing I have to write about. This is the thing I have to say.’

So, in 2013 I registered for the Hollywood Fringe with a show that was not even fully written yet. I had no ambitions with this show, my only goal was for ONE person in the audience to hear me and perhaps not make the same mistakes I had in life, perhaps not break their own heart and lose love in such a profound way. If I could get through to one person, putting myself in this vulnerable place and sharing my story, again and again, would be worth it.

I wrote my solo show because I had to; because I needed to say something and the person I wanted to say it to wasn’t there to hear it, so I spoke it out into the void for someone else’s heart to catch the message. It was one of the most terrifying and awe-inducing experiences of my life.

The Hollywood Fringe Festival provided the perfect womb; a loving, supportive, and nurturing environment for my idea to develop in. When it premiered in 2014, my show reached that one person and then some. Performing at the Fringe empowered me as a writer and gave me the courage as an artist to share my own stories; not just the words of others I’d been bringing to life for countless years before that.

I also met some of the most AMAZING humans in LA during that process (like Jennie and the badass women of the LAFPI) and I felt so grateful that I was now a part of this community of indie artists – who were also making art because they had to.

After I shared “The Mermaid Who Learned How to Fly,” I retreated.

The show had been received with so much love – awards, extensions, and most importantly, friendships I would cherish forever. But, I felt like a little crab hiding away in a shell as my art took me to other places and new adventures. I never forgot the courage this experience gave me and the love and support I felt from my community showing up for me the way they did during this time, and I kept showing up for them.

Now, almost 9 years later, I return to the Hollywood Fringe in a more powerful way than I could’ve ever imagined: behind the scenes.

In 2023, I made my directorial debut for one of the bravest stories I’ve ever witnessed: “This Was Never Supposed to be a One Woman Show: A One Woman Show,” written and performed by Samantha Bowling – an actor who everyone in this galaxy will know and remember once they see it.

Sam and I met in 2015, shortly after I had finished my last performance of “Mermaid” at United Solo in NYC. We had just become ensemble members at Native Voices at the Autry (Sam and I are both Indigenous, her people are the Cherokee and mine are the Taíno), so a mutual love of theatre and our Indigenous culture connected us.

She was always someone I admired from afar and wanted to get to know better. But, it wasn’t until a Facebook post in 2018, where Sam shared the tragic news of her best friend’s passing that I felt the strong urge to make a more conscious effort to see her. As someone who has navigated my own mental health journey for a while now, I know when people lose a loved one to suicide, there are very high statistics of the grief taking them too. Time and schedules and life had kept us from ever really having the chance to hang out, but I felt a fire light under me at that moment. I wanted Sam to know she wasn’t alone, and I meant it.

We went to a film festival together and talked in her car for hours. Sam jokingly confessed that I had always seemed so happy on the surface and she didn’t know if we’d get along outside of rehearsal. (She didn’t yet know about my own dark sense of humor.) I confessed that my happiness came from knowing my own dark night of the soul, a place I never wanted to go to again. And from that moment on, our friendship began.

Cut to a few years and a global pandemic later; the fear of Covid-19 had us all in lockdown – I was home in LA and Sam was in Boston living in theatre housing for a show she’d been cast in that ended up getting canceled. We talked on the phone weekly, and felt a deep responsibility to each other, especially to check in on the other’s mental health during the isolation of quarantine.

During that time, she had been working on a one-woman show that was originally supposed to be a comedy duo show performed by Sam and her best friend and creative partner Britt. They were writing it together to make fun of their mental illness and de-stigmatize all that comes with it, but when Britt lost her battle with bipolar disorder, Sam was left grieving her best friend and writing a show that was never meant to be performed alone.

Sam workshopped the show on Zoom for some of our Native Voices peers and I remember being BLOWN AWAY. She would run her ideas by me when we would catch up on the phone and I always felt honored to listen to her stories and process. When she came home to LA from Boston, I watched as she interviewed director after director, always thinking she’d found the right person only to realize she hadn’t.

Now, I am a professional director in the VO world… and I have directed some theatre, but I had never been part of a project of this magnitude; a project with this much personal significance. But at some point in early 2021, a tiny voice whispered that it was me, that I was meant to do this beside Sam, to be her champion. I sheepishly shared this with her afterward and rather than laughing in my face – she embraced me with utter JOY as if she too had wanted this all along, but didn’t want to impose if I didn’t have the time.

Kyla & Sam

We rehearsed in our apartments with only our dogs as our audience; and spent hours going over the script continuing to shape and dramaturg what was, in my eyes – already a masterpiece.

Two years later (after Sam had been diligently developing this piece for FIVE years on her own), we brought it to the Hollywood Fringe stage and I was reminded of my own experience with Mermaid.

Sam’s show was received with pure love and support. Audiences were moved to laughter and tears night after night and finally, she was doing what she had dreamt of for so long! She was sharing her story with the world. We originally presented this piece as a one-off outdoor workshop in a friend’s backyard and now Sam is a Jaxx Cultural Arts Envoy Nominee, Best Solo Performance of Fringe 2023 Nominee and Winner of the Encore Producer’s Award. She has come so far from that first Zoom workshop and it has truly been the privilege of a lifetime to be a microcosmic part of her galactic process.

Sam’s mind is brilliant, she is a nonuple threat: phenomenal singer/songwriter, skilled dancer/guitarist, part-historian/scientist, prolific writer/actress, and a hilarious comedienne. Her story is one that every person on this planet could learn from… it’s a story about survival and the daily triumphs we have over our brain. It’s a story about learning to protect and heal yourself and about how we keep going after the unspeakable impacts our lives. I offer every trigger warning to our audiences: mental illness, suicide, sexual assault… and yet, I am able to confidently say this show is still very much a comedy. Only a mind as magical as Sam’s could find humor in all she has lived through. Only a heart as brave as Sam’s could find the courage to step onto that stage night after night and live through it again in the hopes of getting through to one person who may be struggling right now.

Samantha Bowling rehearsing for the Hollywood Fringe Festival

No one is you and that is your power. For a solo show to truly move hearts and minds, you must tell the story that only you can tell, the one you may not want to share, but the one that is whispering quietly from the depths of your soul – that now is the time for you to tell it.

“Shame dies when our stories are told in safe spaces.” I saw this quote by Dr. James Rouse and it really stuck with me. It reminded me of my own journey and the journey I’ve been on beside Sam. Shame disappears when we tell our stories; when we do the work to heal from them before sharing them – when we keep healing as we voice them.

Sam’s story heals me every time I witness it. For so long, I was the only one witnessing it, but now it has been born into the world and I want everyone else to experience it too.

You have one last chance to see her shine at her Encore performance. I will be there with bells on, probably in the front row. Will you come with me?

The Encore performance of “This Was Never Supposed to Be a One-Woman Show: A One-Woman Show is Thursday, July 20th at 8pm at The Jaxx Theatre. For tickets and information, visit hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6625

Know a female or FPI-friendly theater, company or artist? Contact us at [email protected] & check out The FPI Files for more stories.

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#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Getting There!

by Eloise Coopersmith

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Rebecca O’Brien

WHAT: Getting There!

WHERE: Hudson Theatres (Hudson Guild), 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard

WHY: Do not miss the opportunity to witness Rebecca O’Brien’s incredible performance in “Getting There.” Her show has received such acclaim that it has been extended, giving you the fortunate opportunity to see it for yourself. Don’t miss this chance to be reminded of the incredible strength and resilience of the human spirit, and the profound impact that empathy and understanding can have on our lives.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7059

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Rhythm Delivered

by Elana Luo

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Noa Barankin & DrumatiX

WHAT: Rhythm Delivered

WHERE: The Broadwater (Main Stage), 1076 Lillian Way

WHY: “The show’s clown-like, larger-than-life miming and wordless expression is easy to understand and delightful in a childlike way, but the show is enjoyable for audiences of all ages.”

Click Here for more of Elana’s “Fringe Femmes” Review on Gia On The Move!

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9713

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: The Allure of Thug Life

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Mélia Mills

WHAT: The Allure of Thug Life

WHERE: 905 Cole Theatre, 905 Cole Avenue

WHY: As much as this one woman show was filled with humor, it was filled with heart and old truths. The topics explored elevated the humor in ways the heart did not expect. The issues of colorism, racial stereotypes, broken homes, verbal abuse, and the fighting that occurs within a race… Mélia refused to shy away from them and used Tupac and music as thread that connected the joy and the pain. Her smile reminded me throughout the piece that we can manifest our own realities; that the past does not have to hijack the future and the present is an opportunity to dig deep and make amends. The layers that live within this Hip Hopsical will require you to check what you’re laughing at, demand that you examine yourself, and also remind us that what we often seek is not what is best for us and may very well kill us. Catch this show – you’ll walk away with a smile and catch yourself thinking about the piece days later.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9618

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

The Allure of Thug Life

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Winona

by Elana Luo

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Ebony Rattle

WHAT: Winona

WHERE: Asylum @ Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre, 5636 Melrose Ave

WHY: Covering topics from performance to depression to casual sex, the characters explore their inner selves and one another.”

Click Here for more of Elana’s “Fringe Femmes” Review on Gia On The Move!

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9694

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Take Me As I Am: A Joni Mitchell Tribute 

by Azo Safo

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Rainee Blake

WHAT: Take Me As I Am: A Joni Mitchell Tribute

WHERE: Three Clubs, 1123 N. Vine St

WHY: What an amazing tribute to one of the most beloved artists of all time.  Every single audience member either grew up on Joni Mitchell’s music or was inspired by her art in some way.  The stage itself is intimate with a microphone, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and Joni’s famous dulcimer. When Rainee Blake walks on stage, barefooted and with the signature blonde hair and bangs, we immediately step back in time to a bygone era.  Rainee fully transforms into Joni Mitchell – with a fantastic Canadian accent to boot! The music, voice and expert handling of the instruments, was awe-inspiring and brought tears to my eyes. If you grew up on Joni’s music or if you like beautiful, heartfelt singing, this is the show for you. 

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9822

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: The Queen of Bitcoin…

by Heather Dowling

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO:  Margaux Avedisian 

WHAT:   The Queen of Bitcoin: The Rise and Fall

WHERE: Asylum @ Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre, 5636 Melrose Ave

WHY: Trust me, you will want to hear about out how Margaux Avedisian managed to crack her way into the “tech bro” world of cryptocurrency, outsmarting and making fun of these arrogant heirs to the patriarchy along the way – only to find herself aptly named, “Queen of Bitcoin.” The journey starts in childhood with the never ordinary Margaux finding her unique voice, and nearly ends with her losing it, stifled in a world of greed. This show is the reclaiming of her voice with the audience playing the (highly entertained) witness. And don’t worry, you don’t need to know anything about crypto. As Margaux says, “It’s not really about the crypto.”

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9924

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Ode to La Pachuca

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Laurie Munoz & Contemporary Arte in Movement

WHAT: Ode to La Pachuca

WHERE: 905 Cole Theatre, 905 Cole Avenue

WHY: This show blew me away and filled my entire soul. I love a show about women. I love a show that features women of multi-colors, cultures, and ages. I love a show that honors and remembers history. This play uplifts and educates with love and will not let you down. It brings to life the memory of the women of color who joined the war effort while men were away from home during the war – we know them as “Rosie the Riveters.” The play also teaches us through riveting movement, powerful poetry, era-evoking music, and essential oral history how these women, the pachucas, refused to return to the old ways after experiencing the advantages of changing social roles, being the financial providers while the men were away, and upon their return, found it was too high a cost to lose that newfound freedom and independence. This play keeps alive women’s stories. In gentle but intentional ways, “Ode to La Pachuca” reveals to us the pain and joy that come with pursuing and living a life that is authentic to one’s spirit. May we never forget those who died nor those who survived unfair and violent treatment. May the resilience of all Zootsuits linger in our bones; may their actions continue to guide the present into the future.

A Note from the Playwright: “In June 1943, Mexican-American youth were racially
targeted and brutally attacked by white U.S. servicemen and police officers during what is
infamously known as the Zoot Suit Riots. 80 years later, in June 2023, the City of Los Angeles officially condemns and apologizes for the crimes committed against our community and declares June 3 – June 9 as Zoot Suit Heritage Week. We are incredibly grateful to witness THIS moment in history and humbled by the opportunity to present an excerpt of our latest work to honor the Mujeres of the 1940s movement: las pachucas”

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9976

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: The Sentence

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Ainsley Ferrell & Hannah Moore

WHAT: The Sentence

WHERE: Asylum @ Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre,  5636 Melrose Ave

WHY: New work by young artists! Always so thrilling and needed for the American Theatre canon. Ainsley and Hannah both have such a natural, grand way of existing on the stage. It felt so familiar, the way they engaged with one another, allowing for a tremendous amount of trust between them. I was sitting on the bench in the front of the stage, and I could see every gesture and move in their bodies. I could hear them breathing, and there was not a moment when the two were not living the play. An essential aspect of theatre – women coming together to support one another against male violence by any means necessary. This story was about two women, about friendship, and, ultimately, a love story that left you guessing until you walked out of the theatre. Who did it?! I found that it didn’t matter. The most important thing was that the characters were free from terror. Go support young talent telling new stories!

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9833

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Birds and the Curiosity

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF23’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Olivia Xing & Gefei Liu

WHAT: Birds and the Curiosity

WHERE: Hudson Theatres (Hudson Mainstage),6539 Santa Monica Boulevard

WHY: A majestic original new work. Olivia & Gefei, the design team, and their naturally excellent multi-cultural cast of character actors were beyond a delight. A story of a young woman able to visit her younger self is something we all have imagined. Witnessing adult Zhigeng engage with young Zhigeng spoke directly to the spirit. To see her experience life with her friends, grandmother, and her mother from a place of knowing—as this is a time travel play!—gave all of us in the audience a chance to go back in time and tell our younger selves that it will be/we are okay and that they are loved. I brought my nieces with me to see this show, and by the end of it, we all had tears in our eyes. This Theatre For Young Audiences (TYA) play broke age and cultural barriers and touched each one of us because we understood and remembered what it was like to be a kid—not knowing that what you see and believe will shift with time and that you will survive. Wow! What a truly generous gift from the playwrights to young and old audience members.

Oh! And I almost forgot how magical it was when the Ostrich came through the door; the use of puppetry and props in the show made me feel that I was not at a Fringe show but a fully produced play. BRAVO to all. Keep going! We need your voice in the theatre for young children and for those of us who may forget at times what it means to survive childhood.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/9656

For the Community: “We’re excited to announce our AAPI Kids Morning! On the morning of 18th, any Asian American and Pacific Islander children and teens can bring their parent(s)/guardian(s) to see the show for FREE!!”

There is also cool merch available for sale to support the show, payable via Zelle + Venmo @birdsandthecuriosity.

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe!”