Tag Archives: Hollywood Fringe Festival

Grieve Rinse Repeat

by Guest Blogger Gemma Soldati

For most purists, the notion of “live-streamed,” or “on-demand,” theatre feels antithetical to the spirit of theatre. I myself have lamented the inability to look an audience in the eyes and hear them breathe. When COVID-19 struck, Amrita Dhaliwal and I were on tour with our Hollywood/Edinburgh/Melbourne Fringe show The Living Room, a comedy of grief; a two-month long tour across the US and Melbourne, Australia. As everything was cancelled and I watched our careers screech to a halt, I knew what to do. Amrita and I had built a show about it. I had to grieve. 

Amrita Dhaliwal & Gemma Soldati in “The Living Room” – photo by Kevin Krieg

I skipped the denial phase and went straight to anger at Delta Airlines for not issuing refunds initially. It wasn’t long until the depression set in. I laid in bed for days checking the New York Times latest COVID-19 stats, paralyzed by the graphs.  It was around this time I started to see the writing on the wall and accepted that it was over. There would be no shows, no rehearsals, no collective catharsis or effervescence. Theatre was dead. 

But what to do with the dead? Bury it? Burn it? I did both. All summer I stood in soil that held my performative impulses down below the seeds I planted. I lit candles that illuminated a new room in my mind, one that showed me my passion wasn’t dead, just my practice. So, I searched for new practices. I found Batik and began sewing like a mad woman. I drew pictures with an untrained hand. And made shadow puppets. I hunted down music with unprocessed sounds and distant voices. 

Eventually the bargaining stage of my grief came in the form of the new solo show I was hoping to premiere at the (ultimately cancelled) 2020 Edinburgh Fringe. In the fall, an Artistic Director of a theatre in New Hampshire (where I’m currently based) approached me. She wanted to commission me to create a new live show during the pandemic. It felt like a clandestine operation. Like grave diggers in the night, we raised the dead with patience and focus. And thus my latest show came to be. But, there was a COVID caveat. It had to also be live-streamed. I shuddered. It was like performing my show from outer space – like Mike TeaVee in Willy Wonka floating above his parents as a million little signals. Ultimately, I accepted the offer. The 12-person max audience of masked faces was a wonderful sight, but the real gift came from the ether. Friends from Australia writing to say they woke up early to watch. Godchildren in Santa Cruz talking to my character on the screen. They couldn’t see me sweat, but they could see the signs of life.

Now the Edinburgh Fringe, among many, are adding digital elements to their festivities. I will be featured in this new virtual reality. And while I am dismayed that I cannot be present for my show The Adventures of Sleepyhead, I feel that I’ve sent an ambassador to represent me – much in the way a painter must feel when their work is viewed without them at the gallery. Digital audiences will undoubtedly have a different experience of my work and I will too, but just like a person listening to a conversation from another room, curiosity is piqued and for me that is enough.

Gemma Soldati in “The Adventures of Sleepyhead”

When people say, “theatre is dead” they fail to acknowledge the natural cycle of death and rebirth. And to those of us who are worried that this move to embrace digital shows will threaten the life of live theatre, rest assured knowing that it is in our biology to come together, to sing, dance, talk, emote, touch, reenact and play. No human invention will ever replace that. 

Gemma Soldati is an American performing artist. Her focus is clown inspired work developed in front of live audiences.

Read more about Gemma and her work at gemmasoldati.com.

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Comedy Hoe

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Jil Chrissie

WHAT: Comedy Hoe

WHERE: Hudson Theatres (Hudson Guild) 6539 Santa Monica Bl

WHY: Because black women producing changes the game – it raises the bar! Jil Chrissie creates a new genre, while giving fellow comedians of color a platform to share their material and have a louder voice.

Comedy Hoe is stand-up comedy meeting high art. You will not find many who would say these are a good match but after seeing Comedy Hoe I saw the possibility, the magic of combining spoken word, fictional storytelling and stand-up into a compelling and powerful piece of new theater. This is a fantastic, innovative show which also features comic Angelica Mackey, who is hilarious – a true comedian with a simmering presence on stage. And Jil can bring a room from uncontrolled laughter to stillness, where reflection takes hold. As an audience member you sense you are witnessing something special, that you are a part of the future. Comedy Hoe belongs in galleries and clubs from the U.S to Europe.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5605

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe” in Encore Performances

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: The Living Room

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Amrita Dhaliwal + Gemma Soldati

WHAT: The Living Room

WHERE: Theatre of NOTE, 1517 North Cahuenga Bl

WHY: A woman in a black dress with her face hidden from the audience marks lines on a chalkboard. Silent. We see only the bounce her body makes as she writes on a small board. There’s something about this action that becomes unsettling but, but your fears are set aside as an abrupt entrance brings  the room to immediate laughter. This Dynamic Duo’s energy, chemistry and timing are a theatrical treat that will take you outside yourself and on an unexpected emotional journey with a room full of strangers. The Living Room is a place where many families gather together in joy and sorrow. A room of memories.

This show is a wonderful examination and celebration of life and death. By the end of the show you won’t quite understand how, but you’ll find yourself speaking aloud.

HOW: https://www.dhalidati.com/thelivingroom (The HFF19 show has closed but The Living Room will be performing as part of the Edinburgh Fringe)

Click Here to Find More “Women on the Fringe” in Encore Performances

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Aisha Kasmir

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. It is vital that we make space, open doors wider for women from all cultures to have a chance to have their voices included in the future of theatre.

Selfie stars Aisha Kasmir, in a cabaret revue honoring the songs of seventies sensation Minnie Riperton. It’s been forty-five years since the hit song “Lovin You” climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 list and forty years since Minnie passed on. This  is an ode to  Minnie and a celebration of Aisha finding her voice and  her way back to herself through the discovery of Minne Riperton’s music. #HFF19’s Selfie promises to take you on a musical ride through self-discovery, self-love, self-actualization and accepting your true identity.

Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? What led you to Fringe?

Aisha: I started sketching out this cabaret in 2016 when my vocal coach suggested I create a tribute concert to better showcase my vocals. What started as a traditional cabaret – storytelling and singing – became something more avant garde. A friend and stage manager then pushed me to try to put my show up at the Fringe Festival. 90% of the music was done, I was in the middle of writing the talking points, so I said, “It’s now or never.”

Constance: The work is now out there. How does that feel?

Aisha: It feels liberating that I’m no longer the only one hearing the genius of Minnie Riperton and her eclectic music. If at least one person per show starts streaming and downloading her music and keeps her voice alive, I’m happy.

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

Aisha: I enjoy singing those whistle tones! I guess people really like them and it gives me a heady rush every time. The most surprising discovery is how different each audience is, but I have to remain true to my story and confident in my show. I can’t change tactics because there wasn’t as big a laugh in one show versus another. I like it, and I’m not going to apologize!

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

Aisha: Getting the music done. Minnie Riperton didn’t leave behind a lot of sheet music or even tracks, so I had to transcribe (with the help of a transcriptionist) and recreate and reproduce all the tracks with my own twist and embellishments. That part took two years to complete.

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

Aisha: That expectations and boxes are for test takers and rule makers, and as artists, we have to break free from those constraints, and as audiences, we have to allow people to give us something different.

For more information on SELFIE in HFF19, visit https://fringemeter.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5758

Aisha Kasmir

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Chi Le

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. It is vital that we make space, open doors wider for women from all cultures to have a chance to have their voices included in the future of theatre.

Introducing the one and only Chi Le! If you happen to be a Toy Story fan, then you most likely know and love the story of Woody and Buzz, yet are unfamiliar with the story of Sid and Andy! No worries, Chi’s got you covered in her adaptation of the Toy Story Fanfic, Under The Table And Dreaming by Holly Combs.  She’s manifested her dreams and directed the #HFF19 production, giving ALL proceeds to the LA LGBTQ Center, an organization that is close to Chi’s heart.

Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? What led you to Fringe and why now?

Chi: I’ve been working on this for a year now! I had been thinking of adapting Under the Table for a long, long time, but was worried about getting a cease and desist. Then I went to see the extended run of 19 Years Later, the Cursed Child remake! It really encouraged me to just go for it since this was a fanwork that was being showcased!

Constance: The work is now out there. How does that feel?

Chi: It feels really good! When you’ve been working on something for as long as I did, sometimes you feel stuck with it or you lose sight of why you began/fell in love with it in the first place. It’s nice to receive feedback from an audience or just rediscover things about it as the process goes on.

Constance: What has been the biggest discovery doing your show? What are you enjoying most?

Chi: I’m learning a lot about what people take from the story and how difficult but rewarding it is to translate something to stage! It’s also just been such a blast working with my very talented cast, seeing how they change little things every performance and how they just really embody their characters. It’s WILD seeing that happen

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of this production?

Chi: Money. Hahahahahahahhaa.

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

Chi: I hope that the straight audience members can see a queer story unfold that isn’t tragic or about coming out or even about being queer, necessarily — that we have rich, full lives and that our stories are just regular love stories. And for other queer folk, I hope they get some comfort in the thought of a real, true love and get to see a reflection of themselves in these works.

For more information on UNDER THE TABLE AND DREAMING in HFF19, visit https://fringemeter.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5904

Chi Le

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: No Child Left Behind

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Mathka Mthembu

WHAT: No Child Left Behind

WHERE: Thymele Arts (Kansas Room) 5481 Santa Monica Blvd

WHY: As soon as you enter the theatre you’re immediately swooped into a classroom. What occurs after the teachers enter the space is a whirlpool of unexpected emotions as you begin to understand the heartbreaking realities of Apartheid. We all have heard the legend of Nelson Mandela, but not so familiar is the story of the children of Apartheid who grew up trying to understand how their country was not theirs, and maneuvering in their world with white voices echoing around them and stealing their rights. In a short amount of time, you learn many South African truths, you hear history in Mathka’s voice, and you begin to see just how funny the absurd can be… if it didn’t want to make you cry.

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6252

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

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Fight or Flight

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Maty Cameron

WHAT: Fight or Flight

WHERE: Underground Annex Theater 1308 N. Wilton Pl.

WHY: Marty writes as well as directs Fight or Flight, a bold play showcasing a young girl full of grit. It’s not an obvious play but it is a play of the times. We discover Zoey Jones, a young female fighter, looking for a gym to train at. Through Zoey – who is about to have her first professional boxing fight – we get an interesting look at female fighters finding support in/out of the ring, how much it takes mentally to fight with your fists in a ring, and how we build bonds and friendships with the coaches in our lives. This is a unique new work full of heart!

HOW: http://hff19.org/5806

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

All Hail #FringeFemmes! Meet Odunayo Majekodunmi

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists of all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make room, make way for women from all backgrounds to have a chance to be included in the future of theatre. It is with great excitement and joy, I introduce Odunayo Majekodunmi, the GIRL FROM SCHENECTADY! Odunayo’s #HFF19 show received an Honorable Mention from the Fringe. Odunayo takes us on a personal journey from her Nigerian roots to finding love in her hometown of Schnetady, NY… in the most unexpected of places. Does losing your virginity need to include true love? 

Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? What led you to Fringe?

Odunayo: I started writing my show about 8 years ago. I was advised by my director, Danielle Mone’ Truitt,  to open the show at the Fringe. I started attending Fringe one-person shows in 2017 and 2018, which gave me confidence to move forward.

Constance: The work is now out there; you’ve given it away. How does that feel?

Odunayo: It feels amazing! I’m so excited to keep up my show and to continue performing it for audiences. I’m happy with the feedback that I’ve been getting; most of it is from women stating the story is very relatable and they have experienced similar situations. Audience members have also mentioned the story is funny, entertaining and heartfelt.

Constance: What are you enjoying most doing your show? What has been the biggest  discovery?

Odunayo: I am enjoying performing my show and perfecting it each time I get on stage, believing each performance  will be better than the last one. I was nervous about how men would react to the story because I didn’t want them to think it was male bashing of any kind. Luckily, I haven’t received that response from the male audiences.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of the Fringe?

Odunayo:  Producing and marketing the show myself. Writing the script, rehearsing, finding the right director was one thing. However, deciding to produce it and pay for everything was challenging – but I’m so proud of myself that I accomplished it!

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

Odunayo: I hope audience members are inspired, encouraged and empowered in their lives, especially in believing in true love – women in particular who have experienced any kind of pain in relationships, or just haven’t had the best luck in finding Mr. Right.

For more information on THE GIRL FROM SCHENECTADY in HFF19, visit  https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5754

Odunayo Majekodunmi

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Catharsis

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Megh Gwinn

WHAT: CATHARSIS

WHERE: Actors Company, 916 N.Formosa Ave

WHY: CATHARSIS is a meditation on the (de) stabilizing effects of adoption. With paint, a canvas, a hammer and a wood board, CATHARSIS captures the spirit of the Fringe!  Megh will steal your heart with her carefree dancing and the way her voice crawls up behind your neck as she sings, like a secret you’ve been hiding. The time she takes within the space – no rushing, using pauses as action – will stir your soul. And when she begins to break the comfortable use of language while reading a letter from her birth mother, you, too, will never quite understand why she Meg was given up for adoption. But you do see a magical, beautiful artist who will thrive and who wasn’t afraid to say aloud in a room full of strangers, “Why me?”

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6235 (Fringe performances have ended. One can only hope Megh Gwinn extends this show then expands this show!)

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

#FringeFemmes Check-Ins: Drought

by Constance Strickland

Quick peeks at #HFF19’s “Women on the Fringe” by Fringe Femmes who are behind the scenes this year. Click Here for all Check-Ins

Fringe Femmes

WHO: Kate Radford

WHAT: DROUGHT

WHERE:  Asylum @ Studio C, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd.

WHY: Kate will take you on a spiritual journey, using mythological narrative to examine violence women have suffered and will suffer at the hands of men. It is not an attack but a look at old truths rooted in ancient and modern day storytelling. Even Kate’s use of her foot to control the electronic music becomes its own form of poetry as her voice soars and roars through the dark space. Watching footage of old ruins swell the tiny theatre, DROUGHT became a new religion. You have one more chance to this regal being. GO!

HOW: https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6025

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