Spotlight Series: Meet Holly Baker-Kreiswirth and Bill Wolski, the Dynamic Duo Who Call Little Fish Theatre Their “Home Away from Home”


Anyone who has attended a production at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro has most likely met Holly Baker-Kreiswirth and Bill Wolski, the dynamic duo who call Little Fish Theatre their “Home Away from Home.” As well as appearing onstage together, the married couple also work behind-the-scenes with Holly managing the theatre's Press Relations and directing shows while Bill often takes on the roles of Director and Producer when not acting onstage.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Bill Wolski (Bill): I'm a veteran of over a hundred plays and a whole host of other projects and performances. I cut my teeth on the small theatre circuit in greater Cleveland, Ohio, where I grew up. I'm primarily known for my work at Little Fish Theatre, which has been my artistic home since 2007, and for being the husband of the equally talented and prolific Holly Baker-Kreiswirth.

Holly Baker-Kreiswirth (Holly): I started out in television before I worked in theater; the very first paid job I had was in the acting category on Junior Star Search which led to various roles in shows such as Chicago HopeGia (HBO), and Private Practice. I studied theater in college, but took a 10-year break to work on a career in TV production, and then had my kid.  In my early 30s, I started with Palos Verdes Players as a sound tech, then worked my way up to directing, producing, and finally acting again.  When PVP sadly went down, Bill and I appeared onstage in The Tender Trap at Long Beach Playhouse (when we started dating!) and subsequently found our artistic home at Little Fish Theatre, where we produce Pick of the Vine and act in or direct roughly 1/3 of the productions every year.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Bill): I was working on a show called Becky's New Car, written by Steven Dietz, and directed by my wife. It was scheduled to open on April 9th. I was playing Becky's steadfast, not-as-dumb-as-he-looks husband, Joe.

(Holly): We were both deeply into rehearsals for Becky's New Car. I pre-block the shows I direct before rehearsals even begin; we had ten rehearsals under our belt with our lead actress, Amanda Karr, already off book.  Costumes/props were bought, lights/sound were being designed... everything was in motion.  Our stumble-through was the last rehearsal we had, and the show was already in great shape.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Bill and Holly): First, the sports teams postponed their seasons. Then, it was gatherings over 250 people. Then, gatherings over 50 people. Being a very intimate theater, there was still a possibility that LFT could limit ticket sales and hold performances, but the conclusion was reached that we didn't want to put our fan base and company members at risk. Emails went out to those involved that everything was going to be put on hold.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Bill): Becky's New Car will open at a later date, once we've been given the all-clear.

(Holly): We're thrilled that the work we've already put into the show will be seen by an audience someday.  I believe the message will resonate with them.

(SB): I have seen the show before and was really looking forward to seeing the production at Little Fish. So I am happy to hear that eventually that will happen. What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Bill and Holly): We are involved at LFT all the time in a volunteer capacity. The shutdown has affected our entire season. Shows and special events that have not yet been cast or started production may be canceled entirely to give the shows that were already in progress a chance to be performed.

(SB): I know Bill is an avid hiker, but how are the two of you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Bill and Holly): Little Fish Theatre and its company members are doing a lot to bring theatre to a virtual audience. We're promoting and reaching out to our subscribers with videos and newsletters, and writing and sharing original content through our social media platforms. Specifically, we have a 5-part original web series called "Little Fish" that features hilarious portrayals of our artists.  We've produced multiple virtual readings of everything from comedic short plays to screenplays to a play about the shootings at Kent State 50 years ago this month.  And coming up next month we have a reading of a M*A*S*H* script donated to us by one of the writers, Ken Levine!  All of our readings are free -- we're so happy to be able to provide the arts to everyone in this format.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Bill and Holly): Please, be safe. Follow the rules and the health guidelines and limit the risk posed to yourself and your loved ones. In Shakespeare's time, theaters were closed due to the plague, and 400 years later, theatre is still alive and well. As long as there are stories to tell, there will be people to tell them. We'll all be together again soon enough. From our theater to yours, here's a big hug from Little Fish. We love you!

Here's how to stay in touch with Little Fish Theatre:


All production photos credit: Miguel Elliot


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Fringe Management Co-Founder Mike Blaha


This Spotlight focuses on Mike Blaha, Co-Founder of Fringe Management, a company that has produced an incredible assortment of shows for both the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Hollywood Fringe Festival. Listen in as he shares his insights on how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected both this year, especially since the initial shutdown occurred just as the Edinburgh event had begun.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Mike Blaha (Mike): I did a little bit of acting in high school, but never really thought about producing.  Then a friend of mine asked me to be his associate Artistic Director at a small, long-defunct theatre in the Valley in the late 80s and I caught the producing bug.

Since beginning in 1989, I’ve produced or co-produced over 100 shows in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Hong Kong, London and especially at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where our company Fringe Management,  LLC (co-founded with my Edinburgh based partner, actor-director Nigel Miles Thomas) has presented approximately 70 productions since 2001.  I have also produced 18 shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival since 2012.

I was also one of the co-founders of Sci-Fest, a festival of one act science fiction plays that ran from 2014-2016 and have served on the Board of New Musicals, Inc. for most of the last 20 years (as President from 2015-2019).

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Mike): I was producing, along with Joel Shapiro of the Electric Lodge in Venice, the Edinburgh Fringe sensation “Hitler’s Tasters,” a brilliant dark comedy by Michelle Kholos Brooks.  We were originally scheduled to run March 12-30, 2020.  We had previews Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13, 2020, opened on Saturday, March 14, 2020 and had to close on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

(SB): Here is “Hitler’s Tasters” promo reel on You Tube. How did you communicate the shutdown to the cast and crew?

(Mike): We communicated the heartbreaking reality of the shutdown in person with the cast and crew after the performance on Saturday night.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(Mike): Fortunately, we made an archival recording on opening night and we were able to negotiate an agreement with Equity to stream that recording for a two-week period, May 8-21, 2020, so audience members who bought a ticket to the live performance, and some new audience members, were able to watch that recording during that window. It is possible that there may be a remount of the play at the Electric Lodge, but it’s tricky because the cast members, who were the actors in the Edinburgh Fringe production, are all from New York.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?  

(Mike): I had five shows lined up for the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival, including three shows from the UK (The Nights, The Tanner and West), a local sketch comedy show Gold Baby and the 7th annual “Combined Artform’s Pick of the Fringe”.  With the Hollywood Fringe now cancelled this year, except for online shows, I have lost most if not all of the planned productions, although they may return for 2021.

We were also producing 7 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, which has been cancelled altogether including Activities of Daily Living, Bard Overboard, Elton John: Rocketman, Elvis: He’s Back, Hiding Anne Frank, Once Upon A Time in Hollywoodland, and Two Girls: One Mic.  Fortunately, it looks like most if not all of the shows want to perform at the 2021 edition.

(SB): I saw Joanna Lipari in her one-woman show Activities for Daily Living at the Sierra Madre Playhouse and believe everyone needs to experience her incredible and very personal observations about life and love in that show. So I certainly hope she will be able to take the show to Edinburgh in 2021. (Here’s the link to my review on Broadway World.)

So now that everything is on hold, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Mike): Well, I’m reading my daily reports from Broadway World, of course, following updates from various theatre companies, as well friends’, colleagues’, and various theatre forums on social media (and occasionally posting myself), and trying to keep up with the amazing explosion of content by artists of every stripe on YouTube, Facebook, Patreon, Twitter . . . the list goes on.  I’m in touch with all of the artists involved with the delayed and cancelled productions referenced above, and working with a couple of them on developing new projects.

(SB): Are there any thoughts would you like to share with L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Mike): Some people think the pandemic will move live theatre online permanently; some people think live theater will return eventually unchanged. I fall somewhere in the middle. I think there may be a hybrid model that combines live theatre with more digital innovation, both with respect to the design and production of live theater, but also respect to the supplemental, possibly complementary exploitation of those live productions.  One thing I am certain of, having witnessed the resilience and creativity of our community over these past few weeks, is that the L.A. Theatre scene will adapt and thrive in whatever becomes the “new normal.”

Of course, this has been a very difficult time for all of us.  One of the things that has kept me sane in spite of all the postponements and cancellations and missed openings is the knowledge that theatre has been around for a couple of thousand years and ain’t going anywhere.  It may be very different or not that different at all; but in a few weeks or months we will all be sitting in a dark black box once again in thrall to the magic of live theatre!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



COVID-19 THEATER SERIES: Reaching for the Stars - An Interview with Edgemar's Michelle Danner


To understand the philosophy of filmmaker, director, and acting coach Michelle Danner, it is only necessary to hear the truth of her own words:

"The craft of acting is as alluring as it is mysterious, and it takes a being of great passion, insight, and determination in order to succeed. But to teach acting – to inspire creative souls to successfully harvest those tools – requires an even great commitment to bring out the best in each and every actor one encounters…the important thing is to keep growing as an artist, to keep raising the bar for yourself.”

Michelle has taught acting for the last 29 years and has worked with many A-List actors privately and on set, including Chris Rock, Gerard Butler, Seth MacFarlane, Penelope Cruz, James Franco, and Zooey Deschanel. In 2020, Michelle anticipates the release of the supernatural thriller Bad Impulse, while prepping her next feature, The Runner starring Cameron Douglas. That’s in addition to running her weekly acting class, keeping watch over the conservatory program at the Los Angeles Acting School (which she co-founded), directing a play starring Anne Archer at the Edgemar Center for the Arts, or cheering on her two high-school aged sons as they pursue their own passions. Michelle took time out of her workaholic’s schedule to interview in April 2020.


Jerry Lacy and Gina Manziello in "Surviving Mama" - Photo by Eric Wade

When did the Edgemar Center for the Arts first begin its long career? What led to its creation? What's your mission? Were you involved from the beginning?

Michelle Danner:  We built the theaters and the art gallery at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in the year 2000. We’re actually celebrating our twentieth anniversary! When I discovered the space, the Santa Monica Museum of Art was there; and it was a big open space. We were able to raise funds to build these beautiful theaters. Ever since then, we have had many many theater productions, musical theater shows, children’s shows, independent film festivals, outreach programs, and exhibits. We have hosted hundreds of events. I was the person who got everyone to believe that this could be a thriving cultural center. I was involved from the beginning, including the construction. I always joke that I know more about drywall, plumbing, and electricity than I would have ever wanted to know. I have been the artistic director for the Edgemar Center for the Arts from its inception. I had a vision for what it could be, and I got a group of similar minded folks to come on board and be part of it.

Rob Estes and Michelle Danner in "One White Crow" - Photo by Sandis Babauskis

When did you close the theater due to COVID-19? Were you in the middle of a run?

MD: We were. Thankfully, we had just finished our film festival, Cinema at the Edge, that takes place every year. We had a great response to our screenings, culminating at the end with our award ceremony. Shortly after that, we had to shut down. I was in the middle of rehearsing a very wonderful show, A Ticket to the Circus, with Anne Archer. It was written by Bonnie Culver about Norris Church Mailer, the wife of Norman Mailer; and we had to cancel our rehearsals abruptly and reschedule them from day to day. When it became clear that we had to cancel everything all together, we shut down completely. Because of the unknown of this, it remains a mystery when we will be able to reopen. We had two other shows that were set to open which we also had to cancel and plan to reschedule.

Over the past weeks, how has COVID-19 impacted your theater?

MD: It’s impacted it tremendously in the way that everybody has stayed home, but we have touched base online and on the phone. People are scared, sometimes isolated, and not close to their families. A lot of our employees were dependent on their paycheck. We have done our best, but it’s not easy.

Christine Dunford in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" - Photo by Teferi Seifu

Are you dong anything right now to keep your live theater going? Streaming? Having virtual meetings? Planning for your next show when you reopen? Auditioning? Fundraising?

MD: We are streaming chats and having virtual meetings with our acting students, but it’s not the easiest. Again, all of this because there is an unknown factor to it. We are, however, starting a GoFundMe page to ask people to help keep the theater open. When it’s time - and if anybody would like to help - we are a 501(c)(3). No donation is too small, and they are all tax deductible. Anyone can reach me directly through our website. I would be happy to talk to anyone about different possibilities.

What do you think will be the impact of COVID-19 on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you foresee any permanent changes?

MD: If we read the history of all pandemics, they all come to an end. So I am hoping that there will be a renewed desire to want to share live theater with other people. There is nothing like a communal experience together. Maybe this will help us appreciate the value of that even more.

What are some of your future plans?

MD: Our future plans are to remount what we had planned for the spring and the summer and develop some new plays that will thematically address what we have all been going through. We will also be preparing for “Cinema at the Edge 2021.” I believe that great art can come out of scary times. This is a moment in our lives that can give birth to great content. From my point of view, the theater can never die. When we are back in action, we all need to support it. Right now, I miss theater and that magical shared experience with others.


This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.



The Hollywood Fringe Festival Scheduled For October 2020 Is Cancelled


Hollywood, CA (June 22nd, 2020) - After deep reflection the Hollywood Fringe organization is announcing the cancellation of the 2020 Festival.

We recognize that COVID-19 is still a rapidly developing health crisis with little certainty of what the future holds. Knowing this, we cannot guarantee a safe festival season. This decision is based on guidance from state and local health authorities and our desire to minimize further financial strain to our HFF20 participants and partners.

“We are all living in a time of forced reflection and altered normalcy. The work our community will bring to our next festival will no doubt bring to light powerful exploration and insight into this shared experience. It will be more important than ever,” said Festival Director Ben Hill.

While this year’s festival may be cancelled, our commitment to our community is not. We will use our platform and passion to support our community through our ‘Fringe From Home’ programming. We'll also continue to offer our website to all artists to aid in ticketing and event promotion free of charge. Our mission of celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community will live online until we can come together in person.

Check out all of the above programming on HollywoodFringe.org.

This decision does not come lightly to our organization. We, like the rest of the world, have suffered financially due to the unforeseen events this year, but are lucky to have a strong foundation as an organization, and look forward to continuing to present our festival for many years to come.

We look forward to serving our artists, partners and all lovers of the performing arts to the best of our ability until we can fringe together again. Please reach out to support@hollywoodfringe.org with any questions you may have.



Spotlight Series: Meet Michael Gordon Shapiro, Composer of Music for Theatre, Film, Games, Television and Concert Halls


This Spotlight focuses on Michael Gordon Shapiro, a composer of music for Theatre, Film, Games, Television and Concert Halls, who I first met during the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival when I attended his The Bully Problem musical, which included not only great lessons against bullying in schools and why it is so important to stand up for yourself, but also his love of robots! The show had its commercial premiere at that Festival, where it earned an Encore Producers Award and was a Pick of the Fringe selection. It was also nominated for seven awards including Best Musical, Top of the Fringe, and Fringe First. And you can bet I was back in the audience during its additional performances in August 2019 – for a third time!


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Michael Gordon Shapiro (Mike): I wasn’t a theatre kid. I regarded actors as magical creatures with unnatural abilities. (How did they show emotion on demand like that? How did they even memorize all those lines?) And I didn’t become serious about writing musicals until my 30s. Age is a great motivator!

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Mike): I’ve been developing a new family musical called Gideon and the Blundersnorp. (The mental image that you just came up with is probably accurate.) We were slated to premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June, and my producing organization, New Musicals Inc., had booked our run at the Broadwater Main Stage. I had reserved studio time for the cast album and was thinking about my wardrobe for the festival awards party. In short, we were looking forward to this.

(SB): I understand.  It will be a very strange June this year without being able to walk from theater to theater and see 3 or 4 shows a day as I have done at the Fringe for several years now. It must have been very difficult to communicate about the shutdown with the cast and production team of your show.

(Mike): The producers and I had kept an eye on the Coronavirus situation as it progressed, adjusting our expectations accordingly. By the time LA announced the closure of theater venues, we had a suspicion that our original production schedule wasn’t going to happen. We weren’t fully cast yet, but we emailed members of the creative team. It was primarily a courtesy; at that point just about everyone understood the situation.

(SB):  I know the Hollywood Fringe Festival has been re-scheduled for this October. How confident are you it will be able to take place at that time?

(Mike): Our star is hitched to the 2020 Hollywood Fringe Festival. The Fringe has tentative plans to open in October. If the festival proceeds, we’ll be there with bells on, running at the originally-planned venue and on dates that parallel those of the prior June schedule. Needless to say, we’ve got our fingers crossed!

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Mike): If there isn’t a Hollywood Fringe this year, we’ll likely move Gideon and the Blundersnorp to next summer. Consequentially, whatever to-be-written show I might have premiered in 2021 will get bumped. Unless I become pathologically ambitious and try and launch two shows next summer… no, that would be unwise.

(SB) Unwise, perhaps. But most welcome to this reviewer!

(Mike): *looks contemplatively into the distance*

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Mike): I’ve taken advantage of the downtime to work on the cast album from my prior musical, The Bully Problem. We tracked vocals last year, but there was such a tremendous amount of editing and mixing that I decided to defer it to when I had sufficient time to hunker down. That time is now. The silver lining for me personally is being able to launch this album much sooner than planned.

(SB): As you know, The Bully Problem was one of my favorites shows at last year’s Fringe, and I look forward to being able to hear the score again. For those who missed my review, here is the link

(Mike): I also contributed to the Hollywood’s Fringe’s premiere Virtual Cabaret. Allie Costa self-recorded herself performing a song from Gideon which was presented alongside videos from other Fringe participants. A lively group interacted in the chat room while the online talent show live-streamed. It was great fun, and certainly helped maintain the spirit of artistic camaraderie while we’re all physically separated. (You can watch the first cabaret installment here:

Jenn Crafts started an online play reading series that’s been a huge success. I’ve enjoyed being an audience member and supporting creators who might need a motivational boost. While online readings aren’t meant to replace live theatre, I think they offer a valuable supplementary experience. I hope this sort of thing continues even as we emerge from the lockdown period.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the LA Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Mike): If you’re nervous on a plane flight, think about what you’re going to do after you land. That is, look past the unsettling present, and make your mind focus on what’s to follow. The same principle applies here.

For more information, please visit the website of my upcoming show's Gideon and the Blundersnorp at GideonMusical.com. Here is the website for The Bully Problem TheBullyProblem.com. You can also find me on Twitter and on Instagram.


The Bully Problem photos credit: Matt Kamimura

This article first appeared on Broadway World.



COVID-19 Theater Series: Robey Theatre Company and COVID-19 - Reflections by Ben Guillory


Producing artistic director and co-founder of Robey Theatre Company, Ben Guillory has long graced the entertainment field as director, producer, and actor in film, theater, and television. Born in Louisiana and raised in San Francisco, Ben has been an advocate for human rights, black culture, and black theater for decades. In 1994, Ben and Danny Glover formed Robey Theatre Company, named in honor of Paul Robeson, the late, great actor, activist, and famed operatic singer. Ben took time from his busy schedule to interview in May 2020.


Dwain A. Perry and Ashlee Olivia in "Anna Lucasta" - Photo by Tim Alexander

When did your theater begin and what led to its creation? What is your mission?

Ben Guillory: The Robey Theatre Company was founded in 1994 by myself and Danny Glover in Los Angeles. We recognized a need for a continued and concentrated representation of black culture in the Los Angeles theatre community. Robey’s mission is to develop and produce plays about the global black experience and to reinterpret black classics.

Robey was Paul Robeson’s nickname. Paul‘s artistry and activism were the inspiration for the theater. Danny and I were both attracted to theater because it was a platform to present social consciousness through this art form. In creating this theater, we honor Paul’s life-long commitment to human rights and his unyielding, outspoken stance on the brotherhood of man. As a result of his uncompromising need to be active, he sacrificed much of what he had earned as a successful artist. He would not rest on this seeming success and remain silent. We were passionately interested in creating and contributing by presenting to audiences a point of view through a black consciousness that contained how we felt about many things. We also recognized the need for an institution that would provide artists of color a place to grow, develop, and mature in an atmosphere that understood, was unhurried, and possessed a sensibility that placed these artists first - and not as an afterthought, which was so often done in the past and is still frequently happens even today. We wanted a company where artistic disciplines could be nurtured and cultivated, where raw talent and gifts could be honed. Most importantly, Robey was founded to produce works that speak to the black experience and through that prism.

Jermaine Alexander and Marcus Clark Oliver in "Birdland Blue" - Photo by Ian Foxx

When did you close the theater due to COVID-19? Were you in the middle of a run? 

BG: We’re not closed. Obviously, production is shut down because of COVID-19; but our developmental work, playwrights’ lab, commissioned plays, Board meetings, and fundraising continue through the internet, zoom, and ongoing meetings and discussions. Given all that has happened in our society in 2020, we are not presenting our program this year. Our 2021 season is being designed for spring and fall productions. We are also planning our summer Paul Robeson Theatre Festival. Those who wish to volunteer, participate, and support Robey need only contact us at (213) 489-7402, and I will gladly speak to them. Right now, we have conversations about our upcoming plans. People can also visit our website to make contributions – something that we need and would really appreciate. We feel boundless gratitude for any support and want to sincerely thank our supporters for their ongoing interest and help. Without that support, we could not continue our work. It is through public grants and individual donors that we find the resources to do this work and fulfill our mission.

Over the past weeks, how has COVID-19 impacted your theater?

BG: Obviously, right now we are unable to bring in our audience to see our productions. We are hoping that will change soon, but we realize that we must wait until it is safe to again perform for large groups.

Elizabeth June and Tiffany Coty in "The Magnificant Dunbar Hotel" - Photo by Tomoko Matushita

Are you doing anything right now to keep your live theater going? Are you streaming? Do you have virtual meetings? Are you planning for your next show when the theater can reopen? Are you auditioning or fundraising?

BG: We haven’t been doing any streaming. We strongly feel that theatre must be a live event. This is the essence of theater. Anything else would not be the same. Of course, we are planning for our 2021 season. But that’s a lot of months away. At the moment, everything is in flux; and we have to wait and see what the future brings.

What do you think will be the impact of COVID-19 on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you foresee any permanent changes?

BG: One has only to look around to see the impact of COVID-19 on all of us. I do not know of any production that is running. Everything is at a standstill. After it is safe – and especially when our audiences feel that it is safe to return – then we can enjoy live theater again. At that point, some companies will be able to continue; but others will not be able to return. I believe that this will happen gradually - with the result that the theater community will diminish somewhat. But then I strongly feel that it will rebound – just like it has always done in the past - because there is no substitute for LIVE theater. Our artists will always have the creative urge to continue - because it is and will always be our nature.

What do you  need right now to keep going forward? What would you like from the theater public? 

BG: We need our audience to understand and continue to recognize our value. When this is all over, we need our audiences to return and continue to support live theater. We also need our artists to weather the storm and continue on their creative path. We know that our patrons will keep supporting us any way they can; and, of course, donations are always welcome.

What are some of your future plans?

BG: As I said before, we’re planning our 2021 season, as well as our Robey Theatre Festival next summer. In the longer term, we will secure a permanent home for the Robey Theatre Company.


This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.



Spotlight Series: Meet Actor and Playwright Wendy Bryan Michaels


This Spotlight focuses on Actor and Playwright Wendy Bryan Michaels whose comedy show, My Sister is so Gay, is now streaming on Amazon Prime, although pre-production for the next season has ground to a halt due to CoViD-19.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Wendy Bryan Michaels (Wendy): I am a lover of all things theatre. From the first time I entered the back stage area and smelled the wood from the stage sets, I knew I was home. There is something so magically intoxicating about live theatre, beginning the first time I had stage lights stream across my face, in college, which actually brought tears to my eyes. There was something about their warmth and the disappearing of the audience which left me staring into a black space that seemed perfectly natural to me.  I knew then, that this is where my soul thrives, my heart opens, and I could become myself.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show? 

(Wendy): My co-writer/co-star and I were preparing for meetings to sell our comedy show, My Sister is So Gay, now streaming on Amazon Prime. Although we are fortunate that we completed post production on the most recent episodes and were able to stream them, our pre-production for the next season has ground to a halt due to Covid-19.

LAFPI (Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative) Swan Day March 2020, is a day devoted to actors, playwrights, and directors to gather together to read new works, old works, and works that need an audience, and that was instead transferred to Zoom. And although nice to see everyone, it doesn’t seem to have near the impact of face-to-face networking and watching live theatre in person.

(SB): Those of us involved in live theatre have always understood that there is no replacement for being with a group of people who have gathered together in person and the impact they have on the actors in a production. It’s what makes every performance unique in its own way, adding to the interactive magic.

Wendy Bryan Michaels' cast in "Loving Mathew"

(Wendy): Absolutely! It’s so important to have that give-and-take during a live production. I just finished a full length play Loving Mathew about a brilliant young man who struggles with addiction and mental illness, and his vulnerable sister fights to keep him from harm over seemingly insurmountable odds. There have been two staged readings at City Theatre in Santa Monica, but in terms of finding theatres to now produce, well that’s on hold indefinitely.

The cast of Wendy Bryan Michaels' play "God and Sex"

My other play, God And Sex about a bride, a groom, and a maid of honor who just happens to be the bride’s ex-lover). So, what could possibly go wrong!?

 

It had its world premiere at the Santa Monica Playhouse from Feb 2017-May 2017. But that’s another project now on the shelf until after CoViD-19 passes us so theaters can reopen.

(SB): How was the shutdown of LAFPI communicated with the cast and production team? 

(Wendy): For the LAFPI Swan Day, emails and Zoom meeting details were constant. You volunteered as an actor via email, got the script via email, no rehearsal though, and then joined Zoom the day of the event. As for my plays, I just told myself “no.” (laughs) My co-writer for the series and I knew we would have downtime ahead of us and communicated that through text and emails.

(SB): Are plans in place to present your productions at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(Wendy): Actually, other than my comedy show, My Sister is So Gay (MSISG) streaming on Amazon Prime, I do not have any future theatre productions scheduled right now. And plans are on hold for My Sister is So Gay, pre-production for next season, as well as any face-to-face meetings to sell the show.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites? 

(Wendy): I am reading plays like crazy as the process amazes me as to the how much comfort reading brings to my theatre soul and imagination. Oddly enough, my ‘Art’ is kept alive through producing self-videos on social media detailing the CoViD-19 quarantine. The videos are experiences that actually happened to me and I find it all so surreal that I needed to document something on video – like finally a friend ‘social distanced’ me. So I made a video which turned into a love story about being reunited.

I am keeping in touch with events with LAFPI and ALAP (Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights) through Facebook and may take a class online with Westside Comedy to keep my creative soul from shrinking. I am also submitting MSISG to agents and casting directors since they might have more time on their hands to take notice of a new show from an unknown-to-them writer. We do have Loni Anderson, Debra Wilson and Rae Dawn Chong in our show, which helps our credibility, but Terry Ray and I are fairly unknown writers in the business. At least for the time being....

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon? 

(Wendy): Keep reading plays! Order plays online. Keep in touch with other actors and theatres to see how they are doing and maintain community any way you know how! I mean, we are creatives and need to keep expressing ourselves and sharing our stories.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Los Angeles-Based Playwright Phil Olson


This Spotlight focuses on Phil Olson who was born and raised in Edina, Minnesota before he moved to Los Angeles. He has won over 30 playwriting and theatre awards with his 16 published plays that have had over 400 productions in seven countries around the world, with ten of his plays published by Samuel French/Concord Theatricals. This past Christmas, his new play, A Twisted Christmas Carol, had its world premieres in eight cities, concurrently, across the U.S. including a production by Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in NoHo. But what’s he up to now with such a vast theatrical quarantine in place?


After graduating from Dartmouth, Phil Olson tried out for the Chicago Bears. After his "summer with the Bears," he went on to receive an MBA from The University of Chicago and pursued a business career while writing stage and screenplays. So far, he has written 16 published plays that have had over 400 productions in seven countries around the world, with ten of those plays published by Samuel French/Concord Theatricals. His screenplay, Sioux Falls, is currently under option. And he has sold two screenplays and script doctored three screenplays that were produced. Phil also went through all four levels of The Groundlings, writing and performing with many talented people including Maya Rudolph.

Phil's play Mom's Gift was set to open at the Western Ontario Drama League Festival in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, on March 20, but was canceled due to COVID-19. The Western Ontario Drama League communicated the cancellation with the cast and crew, and since the entire Festival isn’t taking place, there are no plans to bring back the production.

 

So what's he up to now, I asked. "I wrote a new play and will soon be doing a Zoom reading of it with five actors. If that goes well, I'll do more Zoom readings with theaters around the country. For me, the quarantine has been a good time to write. I'm sort of a hermit anyway, so the shutdown hasn't affected me that much other than motivate me to work a little harder at writing. I would just encourage all the playwrights to keep writing, and don't let the shutdown discourage you. We'll get through this. But it certainly saddens me that theaters are dark right now. It encourages me to see actor and director friends of mine do live Facebook feeds, blogs, and Zoom rehearsals to get through this. The creativity I've seen in using social media to continue with the arts is a shining light."

Phil and I both send a big Thank You to everyone who supports live theatre, and we ask that everyone please continue to support your local theaters so they can remain open to welcome you back when the "Stay at Home" quarantine is over. After all, they need your support now more than ever.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Jessica Lynn Johnson, Founder and CEO of Soaring Solo


This Spotlight focuses on Jessica Lynn Johnson, proud founder and CEO of Soaring Solo LLC, a company dedicated solely to the direction and development of one person plays who has collaborated on well over 100 solo shows and is still going strong despite the current shutdown. And now she is offering free classes on ZOOM until it is possible to perform in a theater again.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Jessica Lynn Johnson (JLJ): Besides encouraging other solo artists to develop their own shows while operating my company Soaring Solo, I am also a solo artist myself and have toured for 13+ years with my own two award-winning one woman shows. I am also on the Board of the LA Women's Theatre Festival and we have been empowering diverse women's voices for nearly 3 decades!

Lastly, I would like everyone to know that I have taught a 100% FREE One Person Play Development Class for about a decade, and while this has primarily been at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, I have now taken my free class online via ZOOM. In addition, I also offer affordable and awesome coaching (one-on-one, small group, and power pair sessions) because as a solo artist myself I know how important it is to get valuable feedback at an affordable price.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the shows?

(JLJ): At any given time, I have 20-30 solo shows up and running with some making their world premiere and others simply continuing to tour since I work with my solo artists for years and help them tour internationally. All of that said, I had close to two dozen solo shows coming up that I directed and developed in three different festivals (Solofest 2020 at Whitefire Theatre, LA Women's Theatre Festival in March, and the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June). And of course, those have all been postponed.

Bryan Rasmussen at the Whitefire Theatre is such an innovative Artistic Director and had been perfecting the Live Stream experience of shows long before this COVID-19 pandemic took over. Therefore, he is planning to begin streaming shows as soon as mandates dictate this is possible. Many of my clients are excited to experiment with this new medium which is planned to begin in June.

(SB): How did you communicate the shutdown with your clients?

(JLJ): Every artist has handled the devastation of this moment differently. Therefore, some clients have processed this news with me on the phone, others have found texting and emailing the best way to process. And many have been partaking in my ongoing free online class, my coaching services, and my free daily Isolate Meditate Create experience, so events were discussed via all those options. My free guided meditation and writing sessions take place on ZOOM at 9am (PT) during the Stay at Home, with more information available on JessicaLynnJohnson.com.

All to say, this is such a challenging time and it is important to respect each person's nuanced way of handling this crisis and hold space for their feelings and the mode in which they feel comfortable engaging.

(SB) Are plans in place to present shows at a future date and how are you keeping the Arts alive during social distancing?

(JLJ): As an eternal optimist, I encourage my clients to "Never Give Up" and "Always Think Outside the Box". We must "Let Go of What Was" and step into the reality of "What Is." Suffice it to say, I am in discussion with several clients about the Live Streaming dates for those who were in the tail end of Solofest, and therefore unable to perform their shows when COVID-19 hit. I am also in discussion with those who would like to wait until we are able to gather in person at Whitefire to resume the production of their shows. I respect both choices.

As it stands right now, the Hollywood Fringe which is traditionally held in June has been postponed until October, and most people are eager to partake during this rescheduled time and I will be there to support them in the Fall.

The LA Women's Theatre Festival is also in talks about next steps to carry on with our programming, and our publicist Philip Sokoloff will certainly make an official statement on that once the Board has agreed upon appropriate next steps.

Lastly, I encourage everyone to TAKE CREATIVE ACTION right now since Art is more important than ever! After all, how many of us are getting through this challenging time by reading a good book, binging television shows and films, or tuning into content being streamed around the globe?  I hope the majority of us are nurturing our souls and entertaining our minds with Art to get through this day-to-day madness.

For example, recently my brilliantly talented client Dana Lynn and I hosted a ZOOM reading of her one-woman show Transcending the Mirror about her journey to accept and love herself as a lesbian woman, and we had 40 people tune in and give us incredible feedback to implement into the script.

We have moved all of our Soaring Solo LLC services online, and I have also transferred all of my coaching services and my 100% free One Person Play Development class to ZOOM so that we can all continue with our Art and not be stopped by this virus. I like to say kill the coronavirus and NOT creativity! As such, I am still coaching solo artists in the development and direction of their one-person plays from the comfort of their living room, offering One-on-One coaching, small group coaching featuring 6 solo artists at a time, and Power Pairs where two artists work together with me on larger excerpts of their solo shows.

With all the fear and uncertainty in the world right now, I know many people appreciate something else to focus on besides the virus and I want to provide that much needed creative outlet for them. And for those who are financial strained and cannot afford my paid services, I have got their back too, offering my 100% free One-Person Play development class on Saturday mornings, as well as my free guided meditation and writing sessions on ZOOM daily at 9am (PT). For more information on my free class and my paid services, please visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com

Yes, we need to keep our physical bodies healthy right now, but our mind, heart and spirit need to stay healthy too. Creative expression is a HUGE part of that overall wellness. This is a season for pioneers, innovators, and trailblazers to come forward and take the lead. We all need to think outside of the box and find ways to serve and connect and share our Art like never before. Yes, it is sad that we cannot perform in a theater at this moment in time, but desperation often breeds ingenuity. So, turn that negativity into new ways of creatively expressing yourself and connecting with others. There are true possibilities here if we can let go of the old and step into the new.

Stay healthy, stocked, safe and healthy everyone. We will get through this together!


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – January 13 - 19, 2020


Theatrical, One-Person, Improv, and Comedy shows, Music, Dance, and Award Shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar!

For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.


Making God Laugh by Sean Grennan

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Human Interest Story

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Ballet Folclórico Nacional de México de Silvia Lozano

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Cirque Éloize

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Ballet BC's Romeo + Juliet

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The MisMatch Game

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RED INK

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More Guns!

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Canuck as F🍁ck

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Earthquakes in London

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Plus One

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Ballet West's Giselle

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The 19th Annual 50 HOUR DRIVE-BY THEATRE FESTIVAL

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Surviving 'MN Nice'. . . and becoming brave AF

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The Los Angeles Women's Theatre festival

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STOMP: 25th Anniversary

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FOUND

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Activities of Daily Living

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Men are From Mars-Women are From Venus LIVE at North Coast Rep

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Theatre 40 Musical Matinee

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JOAN OF ART: Under The Big Top, Flamenco, One Women Show With Music and a Seance

This week has a diverse amount of activities...even one of the unworldly kind.

I'll start with one that first appeared in Los Angeles in 1987 during the Los Angeles Festival. It was the opening night of the Festival and since that time Cirque Du Soleil has blown the minds of everyone including myself who has had the good fortune of seeing everyone of their incredible shows.

Well good news is that they are back in town with their new show VOLTA at Dodger Stadium. VOLTA is based on extreme sports; the principal character is a game show contestant named Was. It is the company's 41st production since it began and it's the 18th show presented under the Big Top.

VOLTA tells a spellbinding story about the freedom to choose and the thrill of blazing your own trail. It's the story of transformation. It is about being true to oneself, fulfilling one's true potential and the power of the group to make that possible. It celebrates the freedom of movement and creativity. I can promise you that this show will not only be spectacular but as many of their shows do, will tug at your heart strings.

I for one can't wait to see this new production and if you would too then go to CirqueDuSoleil.com/volta for tickets and more information. The Show runs January 18th until March 8th.

Dodger Stadium is located at 1000 Vin Scully Avenue in LA 90012.

Now I absolutely love dance. I've studied modern and jazz for years. The one thing I've never tackled despite my deep admiration of the form is FLAMENCO. Luckily I get to attend The Ultimate Flamenco Dinner Show on Saturday January 18th in Long Beach.

Full of passionate dance and vibrant guitar playing, Andalusia native La Sole-Yvette Garcia's artistically diverse show encompasses the culturally rich, technically intricate art of flamenco.

But that's not all. Along with an evening's worth of exceptional entertainment, you'll enjoy Algeria's delicious Spanish and Latin American cuisine which includes classic dishes and deserts. Food and dance...What could be better?

I've been here before and I can promise the cuisine is delicious and the dancing sensational.

Performances start at 7:30pm and run throughout the year. For tickets and more information go to AlegriaCocinaLatina.com. The restaurant is located at 115 Pine Avenue in Long Beach 90802.

Next the WHITEFIRE THEATRE is presenting SOLOFEST 2020, a celebration of the solo journey. I've been an actress for many years but never even attempted to do a solo show because for me, being alone on the stage, is over the top scary. Having said that, I have incredible admiration for those people that do it and pull it off.

I've seen many one person shows at this theatre and all of them have been excellent. Their first show appropriately entitled LADIES FIRST started on January 4th and will be running on the 18th, 25th, 12th, 19th, 26th and February 1st and 8th.

Ladies First is a one woman musical written by Krisy Dennis and Bob Garret and performed by Krisy Dennis.

The show celebrates 14 amazing women from the original suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst to feminist activists Katharine Hepburn and Nora Ephron. Their monologues are inspired by speeches, quotes and interviews with these great women.

Krisy also sings songs by artists such as Alicia Keys, Kate Bush, and Stephen Sondheim.

The Whiteface Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks 91423. For tickets and more information go to WhitefireTheatre.com.

 

Lastly if ghosts are your thing then you must see WHISPERS IN THE DARK where they promise you will find some. This is an Unsolved Murder Séance.

There's a long buried mystery that's been waiting to resurface and they need you to help them solve the crime. This is an immersive experience that will take you on a journey into an unknown world of ghosts and spirits (hopefully friendly ones) that will leave everyone gasping for breath as messages, sights, and sounds emerge from the shadows.

I love to be scared so this sound like the perfect place for me to be this weekend. If you would like a seat at the Séance Table then drive or Uber over to the MAGICOPOLIS located at 1418 4th Street in Santa Monica, where the séance is taking place.

To buy tickets and for more information go to IHearWhispers.com.

Most importantly, whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one. I know I will.


The Second Annual 'She L.A. Summer Theater Festival' Opens at the 'Zephyr'

The 2nd Annual "She L.A. Summer Theater Festival" at the Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood opens Tuesday, July 30, 2019, with five original full-length works by women-identifying writers.

Produced by She NYC Arts, She L.A. "was borne out of the desire of artists in the LA area to bring the She NYC Summer Theater Festival to the west coast", which "supports the creation and production of meaningful, powerful, and commercially viable works by women writers, composers, directors, and actors." As a non-profit,  SheNYC Arts, Inc. receives a generous grant from The Puffin Foundation, which, along with donations from theatre patrons,  enables them to provide a free program for high-school girls interested in producing and writing for the theatre through their CreateHer program.

Rehearsal of "She's Not There" for the 2nd Annual She LA Summer Theater Festival 2019, at the Zephyr Theatre, Hollywood. Photo courtesy of She L.A./ SheNYC.

Here is an overview of the fives shows featured in this year's festival:

"To Each His Own" by Nakisa Aschtiani - A few months after 9/11, Sharzahd Jensen, a caregiver, arrives for her newest assignment: as a live-in aid to an elderly, blind Iranian man. New to the town, she befriends a kind lawyer. A few days in, Sharzahd notices harassing letters and graffiti targeted towards her new patient, but who is the real victim and who can she trust?

Aschtiani returns to the Festival as a part of SheLA, where her previous play, "Children of Camelot," was a part of SheNYC in 2017. In addition to playwriting, Aschtiani has been an active member of the theatre world for over twenty years as an actor and producer. Her third play, "Bismillah," is also playing this summer in the Fresh Fruit Festival in NYC.

The show, scheduled on Sunday, August 4th at 12 p.m., is an enhanced performance for blind and visually impaired patrons.

Rehearsal of "Charlie Boyd" for the 2nd Annual She LA Summer Theater Festival 2019, at the Zephyr Theatre, Hollywood. Photo courtesy of She L.A./ SheNYC.

Multi-award winning playwright Ali MacLean’s "She's Not There" focuses on how a third-party threatens the relationship of a contented couple. That third-party: a shadowy form that seeps into the walls to attempt to kill one of them. "The play anthropomorphizes depression and explores how it can devastate a person and the lives of those around them."

MacLean’s work has been performed and workshopped at the HBO Workspace, Comedy Central Stage, A Noise Within, Antaeus Theatre, and The Ensemble Studio Theatre. "She’s Not There" has been performed in the Screencraft Stage Play Competition, The Garry Marshall Theatre New Works, The Dennis and Victoria Ross Foundation Project, and won the John Gassner Playwriting Award.

The show scheduled on Friday, August 2nd, will have a talkback with the creative team and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services following the 8:30 p.m. performance.

"Do Us Part" by Karen Lukesh is a comedy about a bitter couple who accidentally reunite in their home the day before their divorce is finalized. "A quagmire of egos, misplaced feelings, and stubborn pride" follow, but the future of their relationship is anyone's guess.

Rehearsal of "Between the Colored Lines & Other Black Girl Tales" for the 2nd Annual She LA Summer Theater Festival 2019, at the Zephyr Theatre, Hollywood. Photo courtesy of She L.A./ SheNYC.

Playwright and director Lukesh's "Do Us Part" won the Special Marquee Award in the 2017 American Movie Awards stage play division, and her feature scripts, TV pilots, shorts, and stage plays have garnered numerous writing awards in contests such as Gimme Credit, BlueCat, Page International, Final Draft Big Break, and the Nicholls Fellowship. A seasoned playwright and screenwriter, she provides script consultation on her site KarenLukesh.com.

"Charlie Boyd" by Allie Wittner is a comedy about a college student home from Winter break, whose friend, Charlie Boyd, "re-enters her life abruptly after a shared secret compelled him to disappear. Set amidst a Hanukkah rivalry, this madcap romance brings you love, betrayal, drugs, crossword puzzles, mysterious visitors, and many, many menorahs."

Originally from Salem, Massachusetts, Wittner makes her playwriting debut with "Charlie Boyd."  Formerly a member of the sketch comedy troupe Chocolate Cake City in Boston, Wittner's previous performance credits include "The Donkey Show" at the American Repertory Theatre and "We Are Pussy Riot."

"Between the Colored Lines & Other Black Girl Tales" is a poetic stage play by Tiffani Dean that features a married couple at a turning point, where a wager determines who holds the proverbial remote control during Monday Night football. This innovative stage play with dance, music, and poetry chronicles the next few weeks of their relationship, as the dramas that play out on TV shed light into the real-life relationship that has been happening on their couch all along.

Dean, from Philadelphia, is an author, playwright, poet, executive director, executive producer, co-founder of Family Poetry Collective, co-founder The Collective Mic, LLC, The Collective Mic Productions, The Collective Mic School Of The Arts, and The Collective Mic Art Gallery & Arts Café.

The 2nd Annual "She L.A. Summer Theater Festival" at the Zephyr Theatre:

"To Each His Own" by Nakisa Aschtiani
Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 4, 2019, 12:00 p.m.*

*Sunday, August 4th at 12 p.m. is an enhanced performance for blind and visually impaired patrons.

"She’s Not There" by Ali MacLean
Friday, August 2, 2019, at 8:30 p.m.*

*Friday, August 2, 2019, will have a talkback with the creative team and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services following the 8:30 p.m. performance.

"Do Us Part" by Karen Lukesh
Wednesday, July 31, 2019, at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 3, 2019, at 5:00 p.m.

"Charlie Boyd" by Allie Wittner
Thursday, August 1, 2019, at 7:30, 2019, p.m.
Saturday, August 3, 2019, at 2:00 p.m.

"Between the Colored Lines and Other Black Girl Tales" by Tiffani Dean
Saturday, August 3, 2019, at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 4, 2019, at 5:30 p.m.

The Zephyr Theatre is at 7456 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets are $20 are available at  SheLAArts.org.

SheNYC Arts, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, made possible in part by a generous grant from The Puffin Foundation and from theatre patron donations.