This is a guest post by Diana Varco
The Whitefire Theatre is a beautiful, 90-seat, state-of-the-art theatre in Sherman Oaks. With the support of Artistic Director Bryan Rasmussen and solo theatre teacher Jessica Lynn Johnson, creator of the Soaring Solo artistic community, hundreds of people have been able to develop and share their stories at Whitefire Theatre. To us, it's so much more than a theatre - it's an artistic home.
I am one of those students and now an internationally touring artist - having just completed a 25 show run of my solo show Shattered at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As a result, I’m also starting to pursue work in using the arts to support discussions on mental health and trauma recovery - two themes I explore in my show.
Hands down, I would not have started this journey, had it not been for Whitefire and Jessica Lynn Johnson’s Soaring Solo community. Whitefire is where I first saw solo artist Kimleigh Smith speak powerfully about her trauma in her critically acclaimed solo show T-O-T-A-L-L-Y; it’s where I made the leap to attend Jessica Lynn Johnson’s free solo show class on the Whitefire stage - space donated by Artistic Director Bryan Rassmussen. And in 2017, the Whitefire is where I premiered my solo show Shattered at The Whitefire Theatre Solofest - the largest solo theatre festival on the West Coast.
I return every year to perform at Whitefire Theatre Solofest because Bryan creates a festival that is incredibly supportive for the solo artist; but, more so, I return for the community.
With COVID-19 threatening most small businesses, the impact on the arts will be especially painful. Please consider supporting Whitefire Theatre to continue their great work!
Here are three ways to support:
- Donate to the GoFundMe campaign: gofundme.com/f/support-whitefire-theatre
- Support upcoming live-streamed programming: Best Of Fest (starting May 16), StreamFest (June 13 - August 29) or become an on-line member! Find out more by going to www.whitefiretheatre.com
- Share your love for Whitefire - please follow, like, and comment on social media IG: @Whitefire_theatre, Twitter: @WhitefireThtr, Facebook: Whitefire Theatre
My story is just one of many. I asked fellow artists at Whitefire to weigh in on their journeys and experiences.
These are their stories:
“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke often of his Vision of a Beloved Community - a community that honors the Dignity and Worth of every Individual with no one left out! The Whitefire Theatre Management and Community masterfully activates that Vision in every show it produces. Whether through a solo or ensemble performance - LA audiences experience subject matter from A to Z - uncensored - with no experience left out - honoring the Dignity and Worth and Creativity of All! Edutainment at its Best! Truly, the Beloved Community in Action!” ~ Candace Carnicelli (Ex. Dir., Common Peace, Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence) / Writer/Performer - Becoming Peace, a One Woman Rhythmic Dramedy about Power, Culture, Violence and Nonviolence
“Having found the Whitefire Theatre, and working with Jessica Lynn Johnson, has emboldened me to pursue all kinds of projects just knowing that there is a supportive and encouraging community of artists there. Solofest, in particular, the largest celebration of solo theatre on the West Coast, is incredibly inspiring and diverse, and offers not only the opportunity to take in these incredible performances, but is pretty much a welcome mat for anyone interested in pursuing an adventure in the theatrical arts. Community is what it is about, I have never experienced such close yet far reaching camaraderie.” ~ Lisa Verlo, Writer/Performer - HOLLYWOODN'T
“The Whitefire Theatre gave me a safe place to perform my solo show. Bryan and the support staff are generous, competent and helpful.” ~ Susan Porter, Writer/Performer - Wake Up Little Susy
“I have been part of The Whitefire Theatre for about 10 years. I've had my original works produced many times. Bryan has been a mentor AND a brother to me. He has truly built a loving supportive creative environment for artists of all levels. I perform all over the country, but I'm happiest at home at The Whitefire because of Bryan and his generous spirit.” ~ Toni Perrotta, Writer/Performer - Here’s What I’m Saying: Life Lessons From An Italian Mama
“Bryan Rasmussen and the team at Whitefire Theatre truly brought my life back to the stage where it always belonged. The chance to bring my shows to life in such a beautiful venue, supported by someone with such a passion for solo-performers and a capable crew...well, it was like being at home.” ~ Heather Dowling, Writer/Performer - Unemployed. Finally. & Fertile
“The theatre's artistic director, Bryan Rasmussen, is a kind, generous soul, a visionary and passionate supporter of solo theatre, which he frequently says is the most challenging of all theatrical expressions for any actor to undertake. The Whitefire has anchored, midwived and given me and my one-woman show, 'Wild At Hart', a home to return to and feel loved and celebrated within. It has also given home to the extraordinary Soaring Solo Theatre Community that Jessica Lynn Johnson created - a tribe of tremendously talented misfits who somehow all fit together in answering the inner call to Tell Their Stories. And the world, all of us as the larger tribe of belonging, need these stories!” ~ Kamakshi Hart, Writer/Performer - Wild At Hart
“The Whitefire Theatre has always had a welcoming, special and deeply creative energy for me. Before I premiered my show this past February, I used to take class here and was always in awe of their solofest shows. I wanted to be a part of it, badly.
Fast forward many moons later, thanks to Jessica Lynn Johnson, Bryan Rasmussen and Brandon Loeser, my show was brought into this world with their solid theatrical production savvy. I had zero worries (which made me worry) they knew me and what I needed and proceeded to produce magic not only for my sold out audience, but for me as well. I’m still in awe of how easy they make it look!” ~ Maeria Pae, Writer/Performer - Ma’s Kitchen
“I have quite a few lovely stories to share. I have had the privilege of performing at the Whitefire for the last 21 years and this place has literally changed my life. I came to LA for a 6 week run with all intentions of returning home to New York City. However, people plan and g-d laughs because instead of returning home, my show got picked up and produced for a six months run and won “BEST SOLO PRODUCTION” that year at the ADA AWARDS. I also had the AMAZING fortune of meeting my husband at The Whitefire theater. This phenomenal place has been my lucky charm. I am eternally grateful!” ~ Pam Levin, Writer/Performer - Tales of Modern Motherhood - Parts I & II
“The Whitefire Theater and the Soaring Solo community taught me to be so much more than just a performer. With their guidance, I’ve learned to value my stories, my voice, and my capacity for storytelling. They’ve empowered me to create, and I will be forever grateful.” ~ Brandon Raman, Writer/Performer - I Can’t Indian Good