HERSTORY 2: WE RISE was a success thanks to YOU! We had over 40 members of the community come through the doors of the Silk Road Art Gallery this weekend. Whether you braved the cold to see the show, asked a thought-provoking question during the Q & A, or made a donation to our theatre, YOU helped make this our best production yet. THANK YOU!
Allie Costa’s new play A Moment of Silence will be featured along with four other plays in HERSTORY 2: WE RISE. In this interview with Artistic Director Natalie Osborne, Allie Costa discusses Leelah Alcorn, LGBT representation, and what we as theatre-makers can and should do to raise our voices. You can see HERSTORY 2: WE RISE, March 10th and 11th at the Silk Road Art Gallery in New Haven.
Trigger Warning: Suicide, Abuse, and Misgendering
1.) How long have you been with 365 Women a Year?
I have been involved with 365 Women a Year since the first year, 2014. I connected with Jess Eisenberg on Twitter, and when she spoke of collecting new plays about historical women, I immediately threw my hat in the ring. I have contributed plays to 365 Women a Year every year.
2.) Has your approach to writing about these historical women changed at all?
Whether it’s for stage or screen, I approach each new script in a similar way: stubbornly and honestly. Stubbornly because 99% of the time, I have to think of the ending before I start typing. Before I start typing, yes, but not necessarily before I start scribbling; I still like to write scenes/drafts longhand, and I often scribble down ideas and snatches of dialogue in my notebook and on scratch paper. And honestly because I intend to communicate the truth of the characters and the story.
When I am writing something inspired by real people and real events, I do a great deal of research. I want to honor the person’s real life and experiences. In many of my 365 Women a Year plays, I have incorporated quotes, things that were said or written by the women.
3.) Can you tell me more about the inspiration behind A Moment of Silence?
A Moment of Silence was inspired by Leelah Alcorn. Leelah was 17 years old when she took her own life in December 2014. She posted a suicide note on Tumblr which went viral. Leelah was a transgender girl whose parents refused to accept her identity and her chosen name. In her note, Leelah expressed, “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s *&^%ed up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.”
Leelah’s suicide note was subsequently removed by her parents, but is accessible via the Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20150101052635/http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106447705738/suicide-note It was also shared by City Councilamn Chris Seelbach: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisSeelbach/posts/10152890372978559:0
4.) What was a big challenge for you while you were writing this play?
I decided early on that I would base the story on what I had learned about Leelah, but I named the main character Hailey in order to allow myself to fictionalize some things, to fill in the blanks and create a similar story without feeling as if anything I wrote was false or disrespectful.
5.) Why do you think it’s important for people to hear stories about the LGBT community now?
Love is love is love. The current political climate certainly means we need to keep fighting for inclusion for all, for not only tolerance but true understanding, for open-mindedness and acceptance.
Leelah felt like she was not being heard. In death, more people know her story than ever did while she was alive. That is heartbreaking.
6.) What do you think we as artists can do given the current challenges faced by the LGBT community?
Speak up. Speak out. Support others. Include others. For example, if you are an artistic director or producer who realizes your entire season is programmed with heteronormative stories, make an effort to consider and include scripts that have LGBTQ characters. If you are a writer, add LGBTQ characters to your next script. The same can be said for producing/writing scripts that feature minorities and characters who have disabilities, and stories with an equal number of male and female roles (or more female roles, or all female roles!) Do not write stereotypes. Write something real. Create and find new works that reflect the world’s true population and situations. Use your art and your heart to give voice to people who feel like they have been silenced, who feel like they have to be silent.
7.) What would you like the audience to walk away with after watching this play?
I hope it moves them, and that they make positive moves: “Give me emotion into action,” as Sara Bareilles says in her song Parking Lot.
I hope people will reach out to those they know who might be in a similar situation and offer them their support. Having someone listen to you, having a shoulder to cry on, can make a world of difference.
8.) What 365 plays are you working on now?
This year, I’ll be writing plays about Margarita “Peggy” Schuyler Van Rensselaer; author Zilpha Keatley Snyder; and singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles.
9.) Are there any other thoughts or pieces of advice you have for your fellow writers or the theatre community at large?
Keep showing up.
Keep speaking up.
If you would like to support HERSTORY and NOplays efforts to bring women’s stories onto our stages, please consider making a donation. This interview is part of a three part series. To read the first interview with playwright Danielle Winston, click here. To read the second interview with Lucy Wang, click here.
Danille Winston’s new play Ida and Leonor will be featured along with four other plays in HERSTORY 2: WE RISE. In this interview with Artistic Director Natalie Osborne, she discusses the lives of Ida Lupino and Leonor Fini, as well as the importance of solidarity among women on the path to discovering our true potential. You can see HERSTORY 2: WE RISE, March 10th and 11th at the Silk Road Art Gallery in New Haven.
1.) Have you written plays for 365 Women a Year before?
Yes. Last year I wrote a one-act play called, Stitches In Time about the former slave folk artist, Harriet Powers. I hadn’t heard of her until I was assigned to write her story. Harriet was a natural storyteller who wove elaborate tales into her quilts. Today her bible quilt hangs in the Smithsonian. Unlike my play, Ida & Leonor, Stitches was a recreation of an actual event that occurred in two women’s lives. There was a staged reading of the play in Harlem this past summer, and Stitches was well received.
2.) Tell me more about what drew you to Ida Lupino and Leonor Fini?
I chose Ida Lupino and Leonor Fini because I wanted to learn more about them. In addition to being a writer/director, I’m also an artist myself. Often I write stories about artists, and/or paintings are featured somehow. A while back, I attended an art exhibit about little known female surrealist painters at Sotheby’s in Manhattan. It was mind-expanding… The works were so imaginative and unique! Yet, it felt tragic that many of us had never heard of these artists. I was struck by Leonor Fini’s work. Many of her images were half-animal, half-woman. They were sensual, vibrant and supernatural… I had to know more about the woman who created this world. The 365 Women a Year project seemed like the right opportunity to begin.
As a woman filmmaker, I’m in awe of Ida Lupino, and grateful for what she did to pave the way for women in the film industry. She’s a true unsung heroine. Many know her as a stage and film actress. They don’t realize how radical she was, writing and producing films about subjects other people weren’t touching with a fifty-foot pole. Imagine, in 1949, she co-wrote a film about a young woman who considered having an abortion! Let that sink in… Even now that subject is pretty taboo. And that film, Not Wanted, turned out to be the first film that Lupino directed. She’s such an important woman in film history, a real role model. And proof that you can be in charge and not surrender your femininity. I’ve been wanting to write about her for a while.
3.) One thing I found interesting about this play is that this is a fictional conversation, so what inspired you to put these two women in a room together?
Well… To be honest, part of that was, I had a deadline for 365 Women a Year. I was working on my other scripts, a feature screenplay and full length play. Suddenly my deadline for 365 Women was approaching and I had three historical women to write plays about! Since Ida and Leonor were alive at the same time, it seemed reasonable they could have crossed paths in their theatrical circles. I began to think of what might happen if they had met: how each woman might influence the other… And I loved the idea of such intense strong-willed creative women meeting at pivotal times in their lives. Sparks began to fly in my mind as I heard their voices talking to each other. I see Ida & Leonor as the start of something bigger. I truly appreciate the opportunity to have this play in Herstory Festival. It’ll be the first time the play is read before an audience.
4.) Ida Lupino was one of Hollywood’s first female directors, can you tell me more about that?
There were very few female directors. Alice Guy-Blanche in 1896, Louis Weber is credited as the first American woman film director at the turn of the century, Dorothy Arzner in the 20’s, there were more I’m sure, unfortunately we rarely hear about them. However, Ida Lupino is credited as the first director, male or female, to have ever directed themselves acting in a film for The Bigamist (1953). Two years earlier she had actually directed, On Dangerous Ground (1951) also. Because it occurred out of necessity when her director Nicolas Ray had a nervous breakdown, she took over but was never credited. Think about how difficult it is to direct and act… to see through the camera lens, the entire world of the film, shape the performance of each actor, and at the same time also embody a character yourself. Personally, I think it’s one of the hardest things to do well.
Before the term, “glass ceiling” existed, Ida Lupino didn’t ask for permission to make her films. She created meaningful pictures, took on a massive amount of so-called “men’s work” and was an unstoppable cinematic force. Ida was a writer, producer, and eventually a film and television director. Her passion for telling the kinds of stories she wanted to see, naturally led her to directing, which is touched on in my play, Ida & Leonor. She was constantly evolving creatively, and an expert on the individual parts that go into making a film. Woman or man, that kind of ability is rare, even today.
5.) Leonor Fini was an immigrant, as well as a bisexual woman, I feel those are two groups that aren’t represented often in the media or on our stages, can you tell me more what it was like writing her as a character?
In America, unless we’re American Indians, we are all descended from immigrants. Born in Argentina, raised in Italy, and living in Paris as an adult, Leonor Fini was multicultural in every sense. As a woman who didn’t stay stagnant in any one place, her heritage made me understand her nonconformist ways and wildly original way of seeing the world, reflected in her art.
Leonor seemed to have a fluid sexuality, involved with both men and women and was often polyamorous; Like Ida, Leonor was a woman who wasn’t playing by anyone else’s rules, inventing life as she went along, doing the unimaginable.
In my films and plays, I usually write about fictional characters so writing real people is an intriguing challenge. My stories are very psychological though… so with Leonor and Ida, I learned about each woman’s life and tried to imagine her motivations and feelings. My process is part fact, part imagination… It merges on the page and becomes a kind of new discovery.
6.) What does it mean to have stories about women like Ida and Leonor, who are outsiders and groundbreakers, told given our country’s current political climate?
As a woman it’s easy to feel triggered by our current leadership for obvious reasons. It sometimes feels as though we’re in a time machine going backward. Instead of shriveling up and becoming weak, women are banning together. In turn, our voices are growing more powerful, which is inspiring. I was interviewing a writer/producer recently and she was talking to me about this uprising of female energy and power… And It’s clearly happening now in massive numbers. Women are refusing to be complacent which is a beautiful/powerful thing.
51% of the human race is female and yet, so little of how women changed the world is known to us, that there needs to be a term called, “Women’s History.” That’s pretty wild! Women need to discover other women of influence and power so they can emulate them. Seeing stories like Ida & Leonor, and the ones in HerStory and 365 Women a Year, I hope will inspire women to make their own voices heard.
Ida & Leonor is about two women who don’t realize their own power, until each woman becomes a kind of mirror that brings the other’s strength to light. When we see stories about women doing miraculous things, we have a chance to identify with these women. Not only do we gain role models, but something clicks in our heads and we think, “well, if she can do it, maybe I can too!”
7.) What do you see your role as a writer and a theatre-maker being in America today?
I’m working on plays and screenplays now that feature juicy, wildly complex roles for women and men. It’s my goal to direct and continue to write stories driven by exciting unconventional women that reach a wide audience. Thats the best way I know to challenge and hopefully change female stereotypes.
8.) What role do female friendships fill, both in your play and in the world today?
Ida and Leonor illustrates how a spontaneous friendship between two women can alter each one’s destiny.
The female friends you surround yourself with can teach you to become your truest self. There are women who embrace their own strength and uplift their female friends. That creates the best kind of growth… In a perfect world this would always be the case. However, some women feel threatened by other women’s successes, which in turn depletes their own energy and creates weakness and deprivation. Now, more than ever, I think it’s essential to empower and uplift the women in your life. It’s the only way to become stronger and experience happiness. Widening your circle of female friends is a way to do that. Also, social media, if used positively, creates a tapestry of interconnectedness.
9.) Is there anything else you would like to share? Any advice for your fellow writers and theatre makers?
Tell your stories however you can. Plays are great because unlike films, you don’t need a fortune to stage them. And one-acts are a safe way to explore seeds of stories you may want to expand later on. I’ve written feature films and TV pilots from stories that began as one-act plays. For women… Make your voices heard. View your friend’s success as yours. Read your friends stories, listen to them. Listening is severely underrated and essential for creative growth. One last thing: we need more women working in theatre and film. Women, hire other women to work with on your creative projects. It’s incredibly important!
To learn more about Danielle Winston and her work, please visit www.daniellewinston.com.
If you would like to support HERSTORY and NOplays efforts to bring women’s stories onto our stages, please consider making a donation. Remember to check our blog for more interviews with our playwrights!
Here at NOplays we’re excited to be continuing our mission to produce and promote new works by women and other underrepresented voices!
Due to a lack of submissions, The Milford Young Playwrights Festival will be postponed to later in the year.
We’re looking forward to HERSTORY Part 2 in March and to The Masks of the Goddess later in Spring, as well as other events to promote women in theatre.
Thank you again for your continued support!
This is a list of new productions, workshops, readings, and publications by female playwrights. Our goal is to create greater gender parity in theatre by highlighting the works of female writers and the organizations that promote and produce their works.
Arts Tri-State presents their 2nd Annual New Works Festival in West Virginia, featuring 15 short plays from writers from all over the world.
Thursday, December 1st through Saturday, December 3rd.
Best Chance Cafe by Rex McGregor
Cicadas on a Summer Afternoon by DW Carkuff
Escape from Toyland by Paul Lewis
I, Marshmallow by Matthew Weaver
Prize Fight by Michael Weems
Sustainability by David Jack Sorensen
The Best Seller at Fifty by Ivan Faute
The Drift of Things by Chris Shaw Swanson
The Seven Management Lessons of Macbeth by Dwayne Yancey
Weight by Chris Shaw Swanson
Culture Vultures by Tim Connery
Untitled by Judy E Hamilton
Jolly Time by Jann Hoke
Apres-ski by Allie Costa
THE SUBJECT by Carolyn Kras
Produced by The Blank at Hollywood
Monday, December 5th at 8 PM.
Princess Sophia’s family is one of the most dysfunctional in history, with notoriously mad father King George III, drug-dependent mother Queen Charlotte, sex addict brother Ernest, and agoraphobic sister Augusta. When Sophia is attacked and fights to bring the criminal to justice, her family seeks to mastermind a cover-up of the secret for fear of losing the throne. A take on history that explores the contemporary crisis of sexual assault cover-ups. Starring Allie Costa, Amin El Gamal, Kelsey Griswold, Jennifer Taub, Jennifer Losi, Rosie Mandel, Bill Mendieta, Laura Michl, Briana Price, Thaddeus Shafer, Martin Thompson.
Feminist AF is BACK! Join us Sunday, December 11th at the Samuel French Bookshop in Hollywood as emerging feminist writers and storytellers from the Women’s Center for Creative Work and [Working Title] share their revolutionary original work to inspire social change. Featuring new poetry, monologues, stand-up, and short plays by artists such as Allie Costa, Lucy Engelman, Lindsey Lee, Smaranda Luna, Judy Marcelline, Anne Rieman, and MORE!
Eggs on Ice by Kristine M. Reyes’
Produced by The Bechdel Group
Monday, December 12th brings our final reading of the Fall Series! We will be at the Back Room at Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 E 7th Street in East Village) from 6 – 9pm
“At Eggs On Ice, freezing your eggs has never been more convenient, affordable — or fabulous! Hit the snooze button on your biological clock while you focus on your career, and let us take care of the rest. Your future’s safe with us, ladies – we’ll make sure of that.”
To submit to the January issue of LADIES FIRST, email firstname.lastname@example.org before the end of the month. Send us your name, the name of your play, the name of the theatre producing your work, a sentence or two about the play, the where and when, and an image. Thank you to everyone who participated in LADIES FIRST 2016. We look forward to another year of promoting your productions, readings, and publications!
LADIES FIRST is a list of new productions, workshops, readings, and publications by female playwrights. Our goal is to create greater gender parity in theatre by highlighting the works of female writers and the organizations that promote and produce their works.
THE ROAD THEATRE SUMMER PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL
Currently running in Los Angeles, features 36 plays, 18 of which were written by women – 50/50 representation! One of the selected plays is Two Girls – staged reading August 2nd at the Road Theatre.
In this haunting duologue, two women emerge from a violent attack. Written by Allie Costa, directed by Chelsey Maus, featuring Amber Marie Bollinger and Erica Matlin.
For more information:
HERSTORY produced by TheatreN16
Over 50 years ago Gloria Steinem began to change the world by speaking about women’s rights, fighting for equality and speaking her mind. But despite Steinem impacting the feminist movement and accomplishing so much the fight is still present. What are the issues that women of the XXI century face on a day to day basis? Why is abortion still a taboo subject? Why are we taken aback when we hear a woman saying “I don’t want to have children”? Why are women so constantly objectified? And finally, have things really changed since Miss Steinem led the women’s liberation movement back in the 60’s and 70s? Those are just few of the hundreds of questions that come to mind when one talks about equality and contemporary feminism. HERSTORY, a feminist festival, aims to bring those questions to the stage by creating a platform for political discussion and giving a voice to women. Join us at THEATRE N16 on the 6&7 of August for two evenings full of new writing, performance art and plenty of discussion about feminism.
Featuring Two (August 6th) and She Has Seen the Wolf (August 7th) by Allie Costa.
Check out the tag #WhyHerStoryMatters on twitter!
For more information:
Margaret of Anjou by Lauren Jansen-Parkes
Produced by Those Women Productions
An “undiscovered” feminist Shakespeare play by Lauren Jansen-Parkes and William Shakespeare: Margaret of Anjou is a high-stakes drama of betrayal, intrigue, and medieval power politics – eerily relevant to the present moment in American politics.
August 25-September 11, 2016 at Live Oak Theater, Berkeley, California.
For tickets, click here:
To submit to the September issue of LADIES FIRST, email email@example.com before the end of the month. Send us your name, the name of your play, the name of the theatre producing your work, a sentence or two about the play, the where and when, and an image. Thank you to everyone who participated in this month’s LADIES FIRST newsletter.
The NOplays Cafepress store is officially open!
Need to buy the theatre lover in your life a last minute gift? Want to support gender equality in theatre? Do you just really like our logo and want to have it on a bunch of stuff?
It’s your lucky day!
Every time you buy something from the NOplays Cafepress store, money goes to supporting women in the arts and theatre.
And just look at all the great things you can buy!
Want to see more? Visit the store and have a look for yourself! Click here.