L.A. Actor, Producer 'Nick Rubando' is Running to Flip the 5th in Ohio for Congressional Seat, Brings Hollywood Fundraiser to 'Three Clubs'

Actor and producer Nick Rubando, whose co-productions of Maddy's Musical and more have been a part of the L.A.'s ever-growing smaller theatre scene—including during the Hollywood Fringe Festival in Hollywood's Media District each June—made the choice to leave his career in entertainment in Los Angeles in order to flip a congressional seat in his home state of Ohio's 5th Congressional District currently held by Republican incumbent Bob Latta.

As Democrat, Rubando, is running against two other candidates in the March primaries. Since announcing his candidacy, he has spent the last 27 weeks of his campaign gaining supporters and volunteers along the way in a grassroots effort to affect change in Ohio's 5th district, an area that has been subject to gerrymandering and resulting legal battles. Rubando, who majored in Journalism with a minor in Marketing at Indiana University, brings a platform that includes national issues such as removing big money and corporate super PAC's from politics and continued national healthcare, to more local issues such as factory farm toxic run-off and algae bloom that is destroying Lake Erie and family farms and the trade wars and tariffs that are damaging Ohio's farming community and economy.

Rubando, who, along with David Ruben and their company R&R Incorporated, produced musical reviews and shows such as "Legends of the Hidden Three Clubs," "Musicals & Mimosas," and "Inspecting Carol" at the Three Clubs in Hollywood. He returns to Los Angeles during the November holidays to both visit family and friends and to hold a fundraiser at the Three Clubs to support his campaign back in Ohio. The fundraiser, "Nick's Hollywood Return Fundraiser," on Saturday, November 30, 2019, will bring together donated entertainment by his family of performers and supporters, whose productions have also been featured at the Three Clubs, to show their support for Rubando.

Via telephone, Rubando spoke clearly and passionately on what prompted his decision to run, his grassroots efforts in his campaign, the people he has met on the campaign trail, working with his team of volunteers, and his vision for Ohio's 5th District as their Congressional Representative.

So let's begin with what was your political background or inspiration that made you consider running for a congressional seat.

"I actually worked for the Katie Hill for Congress campaign in 2018. And there has been some stuff with Katie [in the news] recently, but when I joined up on her campaign she was a young, first-time candidate who moved back to her home town to really take on an unresponsive incumbent. I thought it was really important to be on her campaign. You know, after Donald Trump got elected, we would watch the news, and it was just bad news after bad news—and it felt demoralizing. It felt like there was nothing that I could do, or really any of us could do, to make it change. And then when I learned about Katie's campaign, I was really excited about her message and I wanted to help bring about that kind of change.

Photo courtesy of Nick Rubando for Congress.

This was in the Semi Valley area, just north of Los Angeles. So, I started with the campaign before the Democratic primaries. I would drive up there—sometimes an hour's drive—and knock on doors. And that started to motivate other people to knock on doors with me, and I started teaching other people about best practices. And it felt amazing, because every time something bad in the news would happen, it'd be like, 'It's fine! Because on Saturday I'm going to go knock on doors for Katie Hill and I am going to make a difference!'

Katie ended up winning the Democratic primary and then she ended up flipping that district. It used to be a Republican-held seat, and then she flipped it and it became a Democrat-held seat and it was amazing! It was amazing to see the hard work that we had all put into that race come into fruition and really be something great and be a positive change for that area.

So [later] I started doing some research into my home town after that race. I was inspired by how Katie moved back into her home town and I started looking into my home town—I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. So, I did a little research online and the first thing that came up was toxic algae bloom that had ruined Lake Erie—Lake Erie, this beautiful, pristine, fresh body of water that I used to go swimming in and go tubing in and go fishing in. And now they have these toxic algae blooms that occur every Summer there, which, for a couple of years was so bad that residents couldn't even drink the water that was coming out of the faucet. When I was in L.A., as well as in the theatre programs that I was running and performing in, I was also working for a tech start-up. And they were really big in the American food industry.

And from researching and being a part of this tech startup I was learning a lot about CAFO [confined animal feeding operations] or factory farms—these large-scale warehouses where they keep animals shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder and pump full of antibiotics—and I learned that the wastewater from these facilities gets dumped into rivers. This wastewater then spreads onto fields and then it runs into rivers and it goes into Lake Erie, and that's what causing these toxic algae blooms.

I was so disgusted by it that I wanted to move back to my home town to make a difference there. Ohio is such an important battleground state, and with the 2020 elections coming up, I thought where better to go than to my home town to really create some positive change. When I got there I wanted to work on a Congressional campaign because that is what I had been doing in the past. So I was asking people, 'Who's running against Bob Latta?' He is the Republican incumbent. And people were saying [at the time,] 'You know, I don't think anyone's doing it. No one really has stepped up.'

The district's kind of hard. It's pretty gerrymandered. This guy raises a lot of money, he gets almost 75% of his donations from corporate PACs, and I couldn't let that stand. I have never been someone who asks why something happened. I always ask 'Why not?' So, I thought, 'I'm just going to run myself! I'm going to step up and run this race!' And so far the response has been fantastic. I do a lot of work with the Young Democrats of Wood and Lucas County, the two largest counties in the districts, and the work with the Advocates for Clean Lake Erie—all these groups have been super supportive during our campaign. I've also gotten really close with the Ohio Farmer's Union who doesn't like these factory farms either, because every time one of these farms opens up it usually closes down about ten family farms. It's a crisis that is going on in the American food industry here in Northwest Ohio and we're trying to change that.”

You mentioned about gerrymandering in Ohio, has any of that been undone?

“[Federal courts] have ruled that the districts are gerrymandered—that they are unconstitutionally drawn. But because they will be redrawn at the 2020 census, the courts have decided to wait until the 2020 census is completed to redraw the lines. So, the lines will not be redrawn for this race, but the next congressional race...there'll be all brand new lines!

Ohio, if you look at the voting breakdown, is a 50/50 State where there are just as many people who vote for Democrats as do Republicans. But we have to look at our Congressional Representatives. We have four Democrats, and I believe seven Republicans, so you can see where it really should be a split, but it is not the case there.”

Photo courtesy of Nick Rubando for Congress.

Regarding the tech start-up you mentioned, where is it, and what is it that they are trying to do? How were they influential to you?

“I worked for a company called Thrive Market. They are based in Marina Del Rey. They are a fantastic organization. Their mission is to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone. So what they do is they sell organic groceries online and provide organic foods to your door. It's similar to like a Whole Foods Market, but cheaper. It's a membership model, like a Costco, where you pay something like $55.95 for the whole year, but you get premium discounted groceries, but they deliver them all throughout the United States. You look at places in Northwest Ohio, or some of the rural suburbs that I'm representing, these places are like “food deserts”—you have to drive far to get to a grocery store, and then if you want organic food or really higher quality goods, you can't always find them at regular markets. But this company would deliver them right to your door.

So with regard to the algae bloom issue in Ohio, let's talk more about what you learned was happening there.

"When I lived in California, I was not aware that Lake Erie was having this algae bloom problem even though I was aware of factory farms. But once I started doing some research on my hometown, I noticed these algae blooms were occurring a lot. Literally just a couple years ago people in the whole northwest Ohio area couldn't drink the water, they couldn't take showers, because the water was so toxic and I learned that the reason for that was the waste run-offs caused by these huge, large-scale factory farms.

The problem is that you have the Trump administration rolling back screening protection laws in the EPA which makes it even easier for these companies to dump their waste. So the problem is just compounding upon itself.”

What was the catalyst that propelled you to run for Congress and what kind of background brought you to consider it?

“In college—I was at Indiana University—and on the 2008 Obama campaign, I registered student voters. That was the first time that I got politically active—engaging students and ensuring that we could get a big a turn out in the state of Indiana. When we were working on that campaign, we flipped the state of Indiana from red to blue for the first time in 50 years. That Barack Obama win in 2008 was historic!

Photo courtesy of Nick Rubando for Congress.

At the time that I worked on the Obama campaign, my parents divorced and my mom was kicked off of my father's health insurance while she was struggling with some health concerns.  It was a struggle to see her try to get an insurance card with a pre-existing condition.

I worked so hard for Obama, and then he passed the Affordable Care Act, and at that point in time—for the first time—my mom was able to afford an individualized insurance plan. And that changed her life. She was able to start her own small business because of that. So I saw how the work that we did, on just a small scale, was able to enable a presidential win...Government, in general, really can affect people's lives in a positive direction. And that's why it is so important to get politically engaged—and to vote—and to figure out what is important to you and to get behind it because it affects the lives of millions of Americans.”

What has the campaign trail been like and how many townships and counties have you visited?

"Our district has 14 counties, and we have visited them all. We have gone to Democratic meetings, meetings of concerned citizens, met with farmers, etc. We have gone into coffee shops and talked to people because we really want to know what is happening on the ground level. We've gotten to every single county, multiple times, and we're approaching as many people as possible. You know, our current representative never holds any Town Halls. He's absent, and people can never get in touch with him, so we are trying to paint a very stark contrast. I'm doing my best to meet with people so they can get to know me and learn to trust again. So they are like, 'Hey this guy's available when [Latta] is just sitting in Washington not doing anything for our community. We have been getting out into the community. We've put a lot of miles on the car!"

With your grassroots efforts, and not accepting corporate donations, I assume that the campaign is self-funded. What has your campaign crew been like?

"I didn't have any money to begin with, but we've gotten so much support and buy-in from the community. We have over 600 individual donors and we've raised close to $70,000. I have a campaign manager who is someone who ran in local elections here. Our campaign headquarters is directly across from Bowling Green University, so we have been getting a lot of [help] from the college students. We have about ten college student volunteers who come into the campaign office almost every day and who are intent about making a change.

We are picking up [supporters] everywhere we go, which is a great thing about visiting these counties. We meet with people and talk to them, and they want to join the team. We have now different captains everywhere we go."

“At the end of the day I really have to understand what all of my constituents are going through so I can best advocate for them.” – Nick Rubando

With your background as a working actor and producer in the entertainment industry, and working in L.A. Theatre, how has that experience translated? What have you learned from it and how do you feel it will make you a better representative of the people?

"I think one of the biggest things I have learned in the entertainment industry, especially in theatre, is empathy. When you are taking on a role, you really have to put yourself into someone else's shoes. And think about what life is like in their situation, how they view things, [and] what kind of problems they have. That empathy that I have been able to learn has served me so well [toward] being a representative. I go out into these communities and I'm speaking to these farmers. And I might not have the best understanding of what a farmer goes through every day, but through my work in the entertainment industry, I can put myself in that individual's shoes. At the end of the day, I really have to understand what all of my constituents are going through so I can best advocate for them. And I feel so lucky that I have been able to gain that kind of empathy through the work that I have done in the entertainment industry."

What would you say or feel is your responsibility personally for making change in Ohio, for the U.S., and to the world?

“I think everyone has a responsibility as American citizens. People have fought and died for their right to vote, and their right to make a change in this country and for their voices to be heard. So I think the most American thing that you can do is become an engaged citizen and attempt to make change. This was an opportunity that was presented to me. People wanted me to get involved in this and I didn't have anything else going on.

When you are running for [a political] office it's tough if you have a family, or you have small children that you have to take care of. I'm lucky I don't have that, so I have this big opportunity to step up and fulfill my duty as an American citizen. And I think that everyone who lives in this beautiful country shouldn't take it for granted. If we've learned one thing from the Donald Trump era is that we cannot take our democracy for granted. Too many times we think that everything is going to be fine and that other people will take care of us, but in reality we are all responsible. We are all responsible for this beautiful thing called America. So we all need to step up and get involved wherever we can."

Photo by Monique A. LeBleu ~ Nick Rubando as Le Phantom, Master of Ceremonies, in "Legends of the Hidden Three Clubs" for Hollywood Fringe, at Three Clubs, Thursday, June 10, 2017.

Let's talk about the local fundraising event at Three Clubs coming up. How did that come about and what can people expect from that?

“I have friends and family in the Los Angeles area, and they have been extremely supportive of this race. And they asked, 'What is one thing that we can do to help you out?' As I mentioned, we have a grassroots campaign and we're going up against an incumbent Republican who is taking 75% of his donations from corporate PACs. The worst of it all is that it's the exact same corporate PACs that he is making the laws about in Washington. He sits on the Energy and Commerce committees...oil and gas companies and the pharmaceutical companies, and those are the same corporations that he gets money from. And the pharmaceutical companies are the worst because our state is number two in opioid-related deaths and our [current] Representative gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from opioid manufacturers each year to get elected. And that is terrible!

It's so important that we're able to get support from individuals so we can have snacks and water and materials for our volunteers when they come into the [campaign] office. We need donations so we can print educational materials about our campaign that we hand out to our constituents when we knock on doors, so we can purchase online ads, send out mailers, etc. I'm a first-time candidate, so it's essential that I get name recognition and that my campaign message gets heard.

The fundraising event on November 30th at Three Clubs in Hollywood will raise money towards democracy and at the same time will have great entertainment. The crew from Cherry Poppins will be dancing, singing, and performing and 'MAD😜LIB! The Musical' show will also be there. It's amazing that these individuals that I have worked with for so long really believe in what we are doing and are helping out. They want to see a change and they're using their art to help inspire and create that change. That is phenomenal to see."

Is the Three Clubs donating the evening, in terms of the space, and anything else?

“The space is completely free. We are not paying for it. There will be food included in the ticket price, which is coming from my family, and my friends are helping serve. People have to pay for alcohol, but the Three Clubs is giving us the entire space and the entire night for free. They are such an amazing venue. I have done so many great shows there and they have been a huge supporter of my work! And I believe that a ticket to this kind of show is worth $35, while at the same time supporting democracy and getting some good food. It's going to be a really awesome event and evening!

This fundraiser is extremely important and we want everyone to come out to this event and meet with like-minded people so we can also make some changes in Los Angeles.”

Regardless of the outcome, do you have any plans, either way, win or lose? What is the first thing you would or will do once you'd win and any other plans down the road?

“Well, if we win, we'd be in Congress. And the first thing I would like to do is pass a law to get big money out of politics. And another thing I'd want to do is to ensure that Members of Congress won't be allowed to accept donations from companies that they actively legislating on. So if you are making laws that are about the energy and gas sectors, you are not allowed to accept money from big oil companies. You would think that would be a no-brainer, but that is not the case right now. These would be my first pieces of legislation that I would want to push through."

But the advantages of Super PACs go both ways, or all ways, politically, so anyone can benefit from them, right? Is that something you choose not to accept then?

“We're not accepting any corporate PAC money. But I should mention that our campaign was recently endorsed by an organization called Brand New Congress. They have a documentary on Netflix called “Knock Down The House.” They were very influential in the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, so we are extremely excited about that."

Nick's Hollywood Return Fundraiser is Saturday, November 30, 2019, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Three Clubs located at 1123 Vine St, 90038, in Hollywood. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased here. Donations can also be made here.


The Better Lemons 2019 Fringe Audience and Critics Choice Awards

As of this post, the critics and the audiences have spoken, resulting in almost 99 Hollywood Fringe productions receiving a SWEET #LemonMeter rating and 19 Fringe productions receiving #DoubleSWEET ratings (both critics and audience members agreeing on a sweet production).

It takes three reviews from critics or three reviews from the audience to generate a #LemonMeter rating.

The Better Lemons Fringe Audience and Critics Choice Awards, as well as the DoubleSweet Awards are based on the number of reviews submitted before the time of publication.

The shows with the most reviews receive the Audience and the Critics Choice Awards. The Awards are based on the number of reviews, regardless of the #LemonMeter rating of Sweet, Sweet and Sour, or Sour.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THESE WINNERS who have registered their shows on Better Lemons and encouraged audiences and critics to voice their opinion about their show, regardless of the outcome!

Audience Choice Awards:

1st Place

2nd Place

3rd Place

Critics Choice Awards:

1st Place

2nd Place
FERTILE: A Conversation About the Expectation of Procreation

3rd Place

The DoubleSweet Awards are based on the SWEET #LemonMeter rating by both Critics AND Audience members as of Friday noon, June 5th.

DoubleSweet Awards:

(in order of most audience reviews)

FERTILE: A Conversation About the Expectation of Procreation

The Winners at the 10th Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards 2019

The 10th Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards Ceremony was presented Sunday, June 30, 2019, at the Montalbán Theatre. Here are all of the winners of the Community Awards.

Top Of The Fringe

The Last Croissant


Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady Macbeth

Fringe First (World Premiere)


Cabaret & Variety



Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive The Apocalypse

Dance & Physical Theatre

Tattered Capes

Ensemble Theatre

The Last Croissant

Immersive Theatre

Vote For Murder!

Musicals And Operas


Solo Performance

Mr. Yunioshi

The 10th Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards 2019 Have Been Announced, Awards Ceremony Tonight!

The 10th Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards Ceremony is tonight, Sunday, June 30, 2019, at 6 p.m. at the Montalbán Theatre!

Here are all the nominees for the community and sponsored awards.

Fringe Freaks (community-voted awards) Nominees

Top Of The Fringe
Klingon Tamburlaine
Mr. Yunioshi
The Bully Problem
The Last Croissant

Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady Macbeth
Pretty, Witty Nell
Start Swimming
What Am I Even Doing?
What I Never Told You

Fringe First (World Premiere)
45 Milligrams
Son of A Bitch
The Bully Problem

Cabaret & Variety
Batter Up! My Brain On Baseball
Pick Of The Fringe – Cabaret Show
Squeeze My Cabaret
The Color Collective

Come Back!
Crabbe And Goyle Are Dead
Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive The Apocalypse
The Mayor’s Debate Of Tranquillity Nebraska
Stuff I Think Is Funny And Good

Dance & Physical Theatre
Cirque Du Giselle
Four Clowns Presents: Shakedown At The Dusty Spur!
Mil Grus
Scarlett Fever
Tattered Capes

Ensemble Theatre
Grail Project
Saving Cain
Son of A Bitch
The Last Croissant
The Death of Sam Mobean

Immersive Theatre
Life Plan, Or Living Your Best Life In A Collapsing World
Matt: The Gathering
The Pod
Vote For Murder!

Musicals And Operas
Earth To Karen
Public Domain: The Musical
Supportive White Parents
The Bully Problem

Solo Performance
Meet Me In Mizzery
Mr. Yunioshi
Pit Of Goblins
Temple Tantrum

Sponsored Awards Nominees

2019 Unleashed Awards
Scarlet Fever
Meg Jo, Beth Amy & Louisa
Haddon Park
Sorry About My Friend
The Mayor’s Debate Of Tranquillity Nebraska

2cents Theatre Distinctive Voices Award
The Death Of Sam Mobean
Dear Jeff
Butcher Holler Here We Come
The Institute For The Opposite Of Longing
Scarlett Fever

Aunt Lyla’s Fave Fringe Flyer
Winner announced tonight! Honorable Mentions:

No More Toys
The Mayors Debate Of Tranquility, Nebraska
Cave Girl: The Musical
If We Run
Start Swimming

Fight The Power Award
Greenwood 1964
Start Swimming
No Child Left Behind
Falling On Deaf Eyes
The Bully Problem

No Room In The Green Room Award
Silent Joy
Borracho: Spanish For Drunken Bum
Tattered Capes
The Bully Problem
The Circle Table

O Face Award For Orgasmic Achievement In Theatre: “Most Orgasmic Performance”
Blaire Chandler – The Duchess & The Stripper
Yokko – Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady Macbeth
Jim Hanna –The Mayor’s Debate Of Tranquillity Nebraska
Elisabeth Hower –Four Clowns Presents: Shakedown At The Dusty Spur!
Macy Idzakovich – Flower Society

Showorks Don’t Wait. Create! Award
Oracles & Miracles
Supportive White Parents
The Duchess & The Stripper
Earth To Karen
The Bully Problem

Soaring Solo Artist Award
Squeeze My Cans by Cathy Schenkelberg
Dear Jeff by Callie Ott
Mr. Yunioshi by Jonathan Cho
Mandy Picks A Husband by Amanda Broomell
The One-Man Improvised Musical by Conor Hanney

Standout Song Award
“Smellay Lahk A Turkay” Blackboxing
“Wanted” Pockets
“Love Triangles” Pocketmon
“The Futures Lit” One Hump Heart
“Slapfoc” The Bully Problem

Steve Kent Award
Earth Stories: Our Climate And Our Future
In Conclusion
Ghost Town
Mr Yunioshi
The Last Croissant

The Diverse Diva Award
Squeeze My Cans by Cathy Schenkelberg
(IM)PERFEKT by Jannica Olin
Chrissy Meth by Crystal Bush
Loose Underwear by Dagmar Stansova
Corina: From Lapdance to Sundance by Corina Calderon

The Golden Key
The Pod
Tales By Candlelight
Best Night Ever
Vote For Murder!

The Inkwell Theater Playwright’s Promise Award
The Institute For The Opposite Of Longing” By Lindsay Beamish and Vanessa Peters
Butcher Holler Here We Come” By Casey Wimpee
To Richard!” By Jessica Durdock Moreno
The Circle Table” By Eric Moore

The Outdoor Voices Festival “conversation Creation” Award
Cave Girl: The Musical
Silent Joy
Crack Whore, Bulimic, Girl Next Door
TBD Fifth Nominee

The Paul Koslo Memorial/Met theatre Award
A Time Traveler’s Guide To The Present
Mr. Yunioshi
The Grail Project
Scarlet Fever
Pho Girl

TPP’s Trope Buster!
Batter Up! My Brain On Baseball
Butcher Holler Here We Come
Mr. Yunioshi
The Montalbán Theatre is at 1615 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028. The Hollywood Fringe Festival Closing Night Party after the awards ceremony at St. Felix, 1602 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

JUST A TASTE: Shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Opening This Week! - First Edition

The Hollywood Fringe Festival is celebrating its 10th year this year and opens today, Thursday, June 13, 2019.

Annually, for the month of June, this unique "open and uncensored" non-profit theatre festival occupies Hollywood's Theatre Row, and many more adjacent venues and spaces in the Hollywood and Media District areas. Per the non-profit's site, this "open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community" can be found in parks, community centers, churches, clubs, restaurants" housing a wide variety of productions created by new individual producers, seasoned production companies, member-fueled theatre companies and residencies, and a variety of other independent self-producers–both locally and from all over the world.

This year, there are nearly 400 participating shows, most of which are also registered on the Better Lemons Calender. Here are a few shows, opening this week and next, that talked with Better Lemons about their shows.

Vivi Thai, producer and actress of "She Kills Monsters," spoke with Monique LeBleu of Better Lemons at The BLACK bar and lounge at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Office Hours mixer on May 22, 2019.

"She Kills Monsters" opens on Friday, June 14, 2019, at 11:00 p.m., at the Arena Theatre - Hobgoblin Playhouse at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

For more information on other dates and times for "SHE KILLS MONSTERS" visit:

She Kills Monsters

Chris Bunyi & Matt Robinson of "Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive the Apocalypse" spoke with Monique LeBleu of Better Lemons at The BLACK bar and lounge at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Office Hours mixer on May 22, 2019.

"Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive the Apocalypse" which opens Saturday, June 15, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. at the Ruby Stage at the Complex, is a featured play at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Saturday's show is currently sold out. For more information on other dates and times for "OLIVIA WILDE DOES NOT SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE" visit:

Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive The Apocalypse

Christi Pedigo of "Bunny The Elf LIVE!" spoke with Monique LeBleu of Better Lemons at The BLACK bar and lounge at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Office Hours mixer on May 22, 2019.

"Bunny The Elf LIVE!" opens Thursday, June 20, 2019, at 8:30 p.m., at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

For more information on other dates and times for "BUNNY THE ELF, LIVE!" visit:

Bunny the Elf LIVE!

Jannica Olin spoke about her solo show "(IM)PERFEKT" with Monique LeBleu of Better Lemons at The BLACK bar and lounge at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Office Hours mixer on May 22, 2019.

"(IM)PERFEKT" opens Saturday, June 22, 2019, at 12:00 p.m., at the Lounge Theatre at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

For more information on (IM)PERFEKT:


All shows are available for patron and critic reviews where shows registered on Better Lemons can qualify for the LemonMeter! 🍋

More full videos on participating Hollywood Fringe Festival shows soon on the Better Lemons YouTube channel and at Better-Lemons.com!

Better Lemons
Twitter/Instagram: @betterlemons

Monique A. LeBleu
Twitter/Instagram: @moniquelebleu

Voices from the Fringe: Kat Primeau of Improv Troupe Robot Teammate

After taking 2018 off, the award-winning improv musical comedy troupe Robot Teammate is making a welcome return to this year’s Fringe with Pockets, a brand-new production.

Kat Primeau, Robot Teammate member and producer, co-writer, choreographer and co-star of Pockets, was happy to speak with Better Lemons about the troupe’s Fringe comeback and the new show.

Better Lemons: Tell us a bit about the genesis of Pockets.
Kat Primeau: Robot Teammate completed our "T-Trilogy" of musicals (Timeheart, Thug Tunnel and Turbulence!) with an off-Broadway run at SoHo Playhouse in 2017. After that, we had been joking about doing a "P-Trilogy," with Perm, a parody in the realm of Hair, when Dave [Reynolds] pitched a story about "Pockets, a young female thief." We thought it could be a perfect vehicle for Molly [Dworsky] to star in, and our story grew from there. We actually wrote songs and a script for the first version of Pockets that got completely thrown out, but we love the story now and hope it will be our funniest, most touching tale yet!

BL: What about the music? Was it a collaborative effort?
KP: Everything about a Robot Teammate musical is collaborative, and each song has a different origin story. Our musical director and teammate, Branson NeJame, has crafted a beautiful theme for the kingdom of Crumpeton and shaped every improvised and demo'd idea with loving attention. Some songs were lyric-driven, whereas others were inspired by a melody. Others are hammered out through many rounds and rewrites and deliberate arrangement. It's quite different than what we are used to as musical improvisers, so we always relish the songwriting process.

BL: Since it’s a period piece, what style — or styles — is the music? And how were the sets and costuming created?
KP: Aside from a bardic tone, the music is modern. Branson has been inspired by ELO to create a fusion of pop, rock, disco and classical music, with a little tango and reggae thrown in. Our production elements are limited to due to the nature of 15-minute Fringe load-ins, and our costumes are a mishmash of borrowed period pieces and modern basics. The book and lyrics go a long way in filling out our world, so we are able to leave room for the imagination.

BL: Who’s playing whom?
KP: Pockets stars Molly Dworsky as Bellamina Crumbledunk, the precocious thirteen-year-old daughter of The Duchess of Crumpeton, Winifred Dolores Crumbledunk, played by me. When Bellamina rebels against her mother, she enters society's underbelly and befriends the mischievous crook, Veegan (Chris Bramante). Dave Reynolds rounds out our main cast as Town Crier — Rob Crier, The Clutch to the Duch — Barkly St. Piggins, and the revolutionary Jim Val Jim. We also have an ensemble cast of friends joining us again this year.

BL: What can audiences expect when they attend the show? What makes Pockets a good fit for the Hollywood Fringe?
KP: We are lucky to have an incredible live band led by Branson NeJame on keys, Harrison Lee on cello, trombone, and guitar, Chris Sousa on bass, and Sam Kirsch on drums, so expect the music to be completely original and totally rockin'! The British-ish world we've built together is charming and wacky and fast-paced, so audiences may experience deep belly laughs and perhaps even a bit of "The Feelz."

We have a dynamic female protagonist and a fresh take on the mother-daughter story, so we hope to present a thoroughly modern piece of musical theater that delights and truly does us justice as writers and content creators. We have poured our hearts and lives into this musical, and we believe there's something for everyone — woman or man, young or old — to fall in love with.

Molly Dworsky, Kat Primeau, Dave Reynolds, Branson NeJame and Chris Bramante are Robot Teammate in POCKETS - photo by Dave Newberg

BL: It’s been a couple of years since Turbulence!. What has Robot Teammate been up to?
KP: Robot Teammate spent 2017 working on Turbulence!, taking home awards for Best Musical, Best World Premiere, A Little New Music’s Outstanding Songwriting and Better Lemon’s Critics' Choice at Hollywood Fringe before traveling to NYC to do an Off-Broadway run at the historic SoHo Playhouse. It was an exhilarating and exhausting endeavor, and finding a way to follow up our success hasn't been easy. We've kept up our improvised musical performances at venues like Westside Comedy and Impro Studio Theatre, and recorded some podcast material we may or may not release.

Personally, I lost my dad to a bewildering form of early-onset dementia known as Frontotemporal Degeneration, wrote a children's book for my niece, and recorded an album with my band, Sumeau. We've had all manner of life experiences pop up since then, and two of our teammates left our collective to focus on their solo projects, so we really just took the time to regroup and refine the kind of stories we want to spend time scripting and bringing into the world. Each musical is an intensive, collaborative labor of love, so we didn't want to rush things.

BL: What keeps you coming back to the Fringe?
KP: Fringe is an incredible breeding ground for creativity, and the energy around new works is unparalleled in LA. Since 2015, we've devoted our Junes to this community, and the payoff has been incredible. We love the artists we meet, the connections we make, the fun we have, the shows we see, and the feedback we receive. It is such a stark contrast from any improv festival we've been a part of, and there's truly nothing like the deadline of Opening Night to really light a fire under our butts and make an idea come to fruition.

BL: What other shows are you interested in seeing at the Fringe?
KP: I am so stoked to see Four Clowns returning to HFF with a new show, Shakedown at the Dusty Spur!! There are several new shows promising badass women from medieval times, so we will definitely be checking those out. The Duchess & The Stripper, 45 Milligrams, Earth To Karen, Hamiltunes, and Tabletop Musical are all on my must-see list this year.

Pockets plays June 15-29 at The Broadwater, 1076 Lillian Way. Ticketing
information and specific dates and showtimes can be obtained on the Fringe site.

Five Questions for Joana Knezevic

Rising star Joana Knezevic is pounding the pavement in the City of Angels, forging a path for herself as an actor in theatre, television and film. When we last checked in with Joana, she had just graduated from Cal Arts' MFA Acting Program. Let's see what she's gotten herself into since then.

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): Since we last spoke, you were working on your first
theatre production in Los Angeles. What was it like making theatre in Los
Angeles for the first time?

Joana Knezevic (JK): My first role after the graduation was in Ibsen's ‘Ghosts'.
Technically we started rehearsing just one month before my graduation and that show
was kind of my bridge to the real world in LA. I was lucky to present my work in front of the Hollywood Fringe audience and received good feedback.

Making theater in Los Angeles is quite different then in Europe. It seems to me that in LA everything is faster. A lot of work you have to do on your own, before and after the rehearsals. It is very exciting because it always keeps you in shape and you have to make quick and smart acting choices. That said it is important to nourish your instincts and listen to your inner voices. That requires constant work physically and mentally. I'm in love with the LA artist community. They are very supportive and they really want to help you and navigate you into the right direction. I feel I am growing here as an actress and that's the most important thing for me right now.

RQM: Have you done any plays since then?  What were those experiences like?

JK: Last November artist Edgar Arceneaux and Hauser & Wirth gallery invited me to be part of the project called ‘In response: Zoe Leonard's I want A President'. Edgar directed my solo show that we called ‘Rasputin for president', where I played a Russian monk Gregory Rasputin who came to the States to be a new president. I was fully in drag and we talked about gender issues, what does that mean being a female foreigner in the States, and problems about immigration. That day I had a chance to perform and show my work with fantastic and notable artists in LA. Some of them are Lita Albuquerque, Neo Bustamante, Patric Stuff performance Artist and co funder of Black Lives Matter, Edgar Heap of Birds, Patrisse Cullors… That day was very special because we share our deepest thoughts, concerns and feelings about our society and it was cathartic. I'm thankful to Russel Salmon from Hauser & Wirth who was there all the time helping and supporting us.

RQM: I did a little Instagram spying.  You have done some film work.  Tell me about some of your recent film roles.

JK: Yes, I did some short films, one music video and TV. The short film ‘One of Many' directed by Mikel Dever was part of his final exam at UCLA. It was nice experience because it reminds me how little you need to tell the story. The budget was not high and the time for filming was limited. So, again in a short period of time you have to create your character, tell the story and allow yourself to trust a young director. Working on the music video for the Danish band called ‘Idimish' was quite different. Director Inka Rusi had time to prepare the locations, story and the script. She really knows what she wants and how to direct actors. The last work that I did for TV is a short episode in the new TV show ‘In Ice Cold Blood' for Oxygen TV. Big production and huge team. It was a pleasure working on those projects.

RQM: What differences did you notice between film and theatre acting?  How did you change or alter your artistic process?

JK: In terms of acting no matter which medium you use you are oblige to tell the truth.

Through the lens of camera everything looks bigger. I am a very expressive actress and that means I have to be more focused on the details of the movements, and follow the rule ‘less is more'. (laugh) Film forces you to be very intimate with the camera when everything else around you is quite the opposite. You must stay grounded and focused in the world of your character no matter what's happening on set. You can make mistakes on camera and try another take  but theater will never allow you to do the same scene twice in front of the audience. That's one of the reasons why my heart belongs to theater. The stakes are higher with the live audience.

RQM: What is your current project?

JK: Currently I am working on a new show directed by Edgar Arceneaux called ‘Boney Manilly'. In this production I get to portray two men: Frank and Rasputin. I enjoy a lot in this process because this is my first time playing men in the disco world.

We have three more weeks of rehearsals before our tour to Nigeria to present a preview of this project as part of the Lagos Theater Festival in March. This is such a great opportunity to meet artists from all around the world and potentially collaborate with them. Our Los Angeles premiere is coming soon, so stay tuned!

In May I will be traveling to New York where I will be doing a workshop for the show ‘Medea' directed by Michael Alvarez and written by Peter Gray. Michael and I know each other very well from CalArts and this will be our first professional project together. I trust him fully and I can't wait to start.

Also, NY based choreographer and dancer Sophie Bortolussi is directing her new show
and I'm very lucky that she cast me to be part of her magic. It's very early in the process so that's all I can say for now.

S.O.S.: Five Questions for Director Madeleine Dahm

I love going to The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. On a recent visit there, I happened upon a postcard for a new show called S.O.S. Looking at it closer, I learned that the Wallis had recently formed an acting troupe. Looking at it even further, I saw it was a new devised show being presented in conjunction with Circle X. This took me forward and back. Forward to some devising projects that I am working on this spring and backward to the nascence of Atwater Village Theatre, when Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA and Circle X were sharing what was a renovated either toy or pillow factory in a part of town that was quickly becoming a new hub for creative thought and millennial lifestyle romping. That was about 10 years ago.

I digress.

The task at hand: to find out what are S.O.S. and the Wallis Studio Ensemble. To help me on this quest, I got in contact with director Madeleine Dahm. Here's what I learned from her.

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): To my knowledge, Wallis Studio Ensemble is a fairly new company here in Los Angeles. Tell me a little about the history of the group?

Madeleine Dahm (MD): In the 2016 I approached The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts about the idea of a company for early-career actors, that represented the diversity of actors here in LA and explored theatre as a force for social change - they liked the idea and so Grow at the Wallis joined with me in launching the ensemble. Since its inception two-and-a-half years ago, The Ensemble has steadily acquired a reputation for creating socially conscious, cutting-edge theatre, with a strong physical component. The Ensemble has mounted four full-length productions at The Wallis and performed at two international performing arts festivals.

2018 saw the mounting of Douglas Adams environmental satire The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (LA Times ‘Pick of the Week') and Disposable - an original devised work that examined the intersection between environmental destruction and human displacement, also seen at The San Diego International Fringe Festival in June 2018. It was hailed as “hauntingly beautiful” (San Diego Tribune) and "mesmerizing....this is avant-garde theater that sticks with you long after the curtain comes down.” (ArtNow LA).

In 2016/17 The Ensemble premiered at The Wallis Thebes, a contemporary feminist adaptation of the Greek classic by British playwright Gareth Jandrell, and its first original devised play Word of Mouth, an examination of Post-Truth and a response to the 2016 election rhetoric. Word of Mouth was not only featured on National Public Radio by Priska Neely, but was also seen at Rise Up LA and at The Crisis Art Festival in Tuscany, Italy, where The Ensemble spent a week in residence in July 2017.

S.O.S. cast member Siera Williams, a member of The Wallis Studio Ensemble - photo by Jo Rodriguez

RQM: Your current show is being presented in conjunction with Circle X. How did you link up with the company?
MD: This is not a partnership with Circle X, we are renting their theatre for this particular run. We really wanted to get outside of The Wallis space this year and into the 99 seat theater community, and we are very excited that Atwater Village Theater and Circle X were able to assist us with that.

RQM: What was the inspiration for S.O.S.?
MD: As we discuss topics and themes for our yearly devised work, we are always drawn to contemporary issues that directly impact our company members and their communities. The one thing that we found ourselves coming back to as we began this process three months ago, was the general sense of alienation and isolation felt by many people right now. With so much focus today being on attaining financial wealth it's interesting that a country's GDP is not related to the overall happiness felt by all its citizens, in fact it seems to be the opposite. Recent studies by the World Health Organization and United Nations have revealed that feelings of loneliness and alienation are reaching global epidemic proportions, and that this general sense of feeling disconnected is reaching many communities worldwide. So much so that now many countries have actually appointed ministers for loneliness in their governments, the UK being the most recent. There is no easy answer or fix to this problem but we wanted to explore how small acts of kindness, and authentic expressions of love can help us reach across the divide, and remember more thoughtful ways to interact with each other.

S.O.S. cast member, Viva Kanani Obiajulu Wittman, a member of The Wallis Studio Ensemble - photo by Jo Rodriguez

RQM: This piece is devised. What was your devising process for this show? I'm curious to learn more about the dynamic between you and the ensemble members specifically.
MD: The devising process usually begins by brainstorming topics and themes that are of interest to the company - as we begin to narrow down themes that we would like to explore, each member brings in support materials that can include text, photographs, music, newspaper articles, videos, all kinds of references. There is a lot of discussion in the early stages but, once we have landed on a specific focus for the work, we primarily begin developing the piece through improvisation. The devising process is very long and much of the material that is originated in the studio actually ends up on the “cutting-room floor.” As we hone in on the arc of the piece, many wonderful moments that we have created simply no longer have a place in the work and so we have to let them go. As the Director of a devised work it is my job to be the keeper of the initial vision and to bring all of the elements together in a cohesive way. It's like shooting a movie out of sequence, sometimes you're working on a section that will end up being at the end, but you're working on it first. Devising can be challenging for actors because there isn't an obvious through line that you would have with an existing play, and so there is a lot of trust that has to develop between director and actor, and actor and actor. It requires actors who are willing to jump off at the deep end, and have faith that we will get to where we need to by the end of the process.

RQM: What's next for Wallis Studio Ensemble?
MD: We hope to bring S.O.S to the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year. Then we have our second production of the season, which will be at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts June 6th through 9th, that will not be a devised piece but rather an existing play, on which we have yet to decide.

Featured photo: Cast of S.O.S. - photo by Jo Rodriguez

PODCAST: An Interview with Playwright Steven Vlasak of 'Nights at the Algonquin Round Table'

Local screenwriter and playwright, Steven Vlasak, premiered his Encore Award-winning play "Nights at the Algonquin Round Table" at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2017.
The play opened at the Three Clubs bar and cabaret in Hollywood, a theatre perfect and appropriate in its speakeasy-themed cabaret and bar space, which earned it a "Double Sweet" LemonMeter rating on Better Lemons.
Since then, the show has been picked up by the Studio Player's producers in Lexington, Kentucky, where the show is due to open soon in January next year.
In this interview, at Oeno Vino Wines, Vlasak talks on writing, prohibition, the Roaring Twenties, women's liberation and early sexual revolution, as well as on his very favorite subject–Dorothy Parker and the famous journalists and notorious "wise-cracking" writers of her "vicious circle," Robert Benchley, Franklin Pierce Adams, Alexander Woollcott, and George S. Kaufman, and their luncheons at New York's legendary Algonquin Hotel.
For more information on Steven Vlasak and "Nights at the Algonquin Round Table", its history and its future, visit Algonquinwits on Facebook.
"Nights at the Algonquin Round Table" by Steven Vlasak opens in Lexington, Kentucky, at The Carriage House, January 10, 2019, and plays January 13-27, 2019.  The Carriage House Theatre is located at 154 W. Bell Ct. and tickets for these shows are available through their ticketing agency.

For more podcasts like these visit Better Lemons on Soundcloud.

A Theater Reborn: 11:11 Finds a Home

The 11:11 experience is what happens when you tap into a creative flow, something beyond conscious thought, serendipity you might call it, that exact moment when everything comes together. For the theater and film production company called the 11:11 Experience, who are led by writer-director Micheal Leoni, it also means connection.

They have created a space - called simply the 11:11 - where they want to bring unlike-minded people together, challenging audiences with socially conscious work aimed to provoke awareness.

The 11:11 is located on Kings Road in West Hollywood and was last known as the Macha Theater. The aluminum warehouse exterior remains basically the same, but the interior is all new. It is intended to be a venue for all of the arts – hosting dance performances, film screenings, pop-up art pieces as well as theater like Famous, an original play by Leoni.

In a very fractured and diverse Los Angeles, they want the 11:11 to be something beyond a rental space or a home for a rep company. "We want artists to feel comfortable here, and create a community or hang out where people can be inspired, and develop new ideas," says Leoni.

Elevator, the play

11:11 didn't anticipate taking over the Macha. Their show Elevator – about seven strangers trapped in an elevator who confront their preconceptions and differences – ran at the Macha in 2010 after premiering during the first Hollywood Fringe Festival. 11:11 loved the Macha, and Famous was set to open there earlier this year. They planned to partner with the operator of the Macha theater and be something of a company in rep. She left the partnership rather abruptly, however, no longer wanting to deal with managing the space. An opportunity suddenly presented itself when the landlord offered the theater to 11:11.

"We came in planning to open a show, and suddenly we're renovating a space and opening a show on the same timeline," says Michelle Kaufer, a producer with the company who handles the logistics of running the 11:11 space. They just wanted to be creative, but all of a sudden, as Kaufer says, they also became general contractors – and may have wondered how that ever happened. But they decided to embrace the moment, and dove headfirst into it, learning along the way.

The 11:11 opened about five months ago. They hosted an opening night with bands, dancers and magicians, an event which briefly drew the ire of neighbors who thought the 11:11 was going to be a club. "After that," says Kaufer, "we introduced ourselves to the neighborhood and as soon as they realized that we were going to be a theater, and not a night club, they became much more supportive."

The 11:11 cafe/lobby is done up in what they call a retro-Laurel Canyon vibe, it's walls covered with film posters and album covers they found at thrift shops. The interior has a far more luxurious feel than that of it's predecessor, which had seen better days (originally opening in 1973 as The Globe Playhouse, a warehouse theater modeled on the Shakespearian-era Globe Theatre in London--you can still see the Tudor style windows and framework peeking through the remodeling.) Even more impressive is the technical firepower on the stage, featuring state of the art sound and theatrical lighting.

The Playground, the play

The five core members of the 11:11 Experience have worked together since The Playground, another original play by Leoni inspired by the true stories of homeless kids. Together they found a collective passion. They seldom if ever work outside the company, and juggling multiple projects is a habit for them. It's a little bit of magic and a little bit of crazy as Producer Michelle Kaufer says – a unique energy that has attracted people who mesh well within the group.

Erica Katzin, Creative Development Executive, says meeting the 11:11 Experience was very inspiring – they were doing, she says, meaningful work that was stylistic, edgy and different. She works closely with Leoni, researching and acting as a sounding board for his scripts. "I'd rather continue with this than keep farming out and finding out about whatever stupid meaningless stuff, which is great and it's still work, but why would I stop doing something that I find so meaningful and engaging and so connective through the company, but also from the people you meet?" she says.

Leoni writes and directs all of their material. He is certainly busy – writing another play about hazing called Frat Boy, as well as finishing a treatment for a musical. He's also written two feature film scripts, completed the show bible and first episode of a television show--and "he'll probably go home and paint his room a different color," says Christine Dickson, who runs the lobby's cafe/bar and created the look of the new space with Leoni. All of this work seems animated not only by a desire to do socially conscious work, but to resist overthinking and hesitation (Leoni also wrote Dare to be Bad, a pocket book about creative freedom similar to Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.)

Famous is my first exposure to their work. It is about a taboo topic – the sexual exploitation of young actors by older, more powerful men in Hollywood (although the play also portrays sexual assault inflicted on an underage actress.) Leoni at one point dropped the project because friends warned him that it could get him blacklisted. It takes place in 1994 during a party thrown by an actor named Jason Mast (Christopher Dietrick), who has just been nominated for an Oscar.

The play was originally conceived as a screenplay, and that's easy to see in the construction of the scenes and the way we jump from character to character and room to room. The action is played simultaneously on a video screen that Mast watches as the characters slowly spiral toward a dark conclusion that leaves no one unharmed.

Famous is about the abuse of power in Hollywood, but as the play progresses, it delves into themes that everyone--and not just industry insiders-- can understand. Katzin believes Famous is "...ultimately about dealing with your past, dealing with yourself and with whatever those boundaries to gain success you must cross that are sometimes questionable."

We see plenty of disturbing scenes during the play, but it's never gratuitous. The full technical prowess of the 11:11 is on display here – strobe lights to simulate slow motion, actors moving backwards as though stepping back in time, brilliant lighting design, the stunning multi-level set that looks like a cutaway of a Hollywood Hills home - although this abundance of technique sometimes overwhelms the material, muting the play's emotional impact.

The piece, however, cannot be faulted for a lack of ambition, and audiences have reacted strongly to its depiction of abuse. Leoni said they have seen people walk out before intermission, not necessarily because they disliked the show, but because the material reminded them of their own experiences, things they hadn't talked about with anyone.

"When we were putting it up, we didn't realize how it was going to affect audiences." says Leoni. "We had people leaving during intermission, sometimes four or five a night, and we thought the show might not be working." But Leoni found that many of those early exits came back. "What's beautiful is what they tell us." he says. "I've had people come up to me and say, 'I'm back, I left during intermission, because I was triggered and needed to process, and now I've come right back to see it.'"

The tagline for the play is "before we knew," but we have not come so far from 1994 as we might like to think, the revelations of the #metoo movement notwithstanding. "An actor came up to me, and he said the same thing that happened to this character happened to him, so it is still happening," says Leoni. He was shocked when a director he met at a recent party told him, "C'mon what director hasn't taken out their dick and made an actor jerk them off, c'mon?" Leoni was most struck by how cavalierly he said it, like it was just routine business, and not a big deal at all.

Famous also has triggered something of a reckoning for anyone in the industry who saw such abuse and did nothing to stop it. "People have come to the show, whether they are producers or people that we talk to afterward, and we can feel the guilt that they have. We've even had male directors and producers approach us and say I'm part of the problem, I didn't molest people, but I put them into that situation, and they're starting to say I've got to change," says Leoni.

The long overdue conversation about the abuse of women has only begun, but in the case of male victims, there has been little discussion yet, only the same unsubstantiated rumors about certain actors and producers that have been circulating for years. There has not yet been that one floodgate moment when someone speaks up, enabling countless others to step forward (the Kevin Spacey revelations may have brought some of this problem to light, but hardly all of it.) Famous wants to jumpstart that conversation.

Ideally Leoni would like to see actors and others who have experienced this type of abuse step forward and talk about their experiences – a chance not only for them to get this story out of their system, but perhaps change the industry before the same thing happens to someone else.

Leoni believes male victims have been afraid to speak out because of the male ego, and the way men are taught to handle themselves. Men are supposed to be strong, and if they were attacked it is seen as an indication of their own weakness – not entirely dissimilar from when women are ridiculously blamed for being raped. The cast worked intensely on this idea of male ego and the shame that comes with acknowledging you have been sexually assaulted. No one wants to say anything--and as Kaufer points out, this is the ultimate abuse of power - knowing that you can do whatever you want because your victim will not say anything.

Dickson cried when she first saw Famous during previews. It struck her in a way she wasn't expecting (she sounds like she is only half-joking when she says it is the most she cried since Trump's election.) She felt it tapped into the collective unconscious of the victims. "I was sobbing in a way where I don't even know where it came from, but I think as a women too you've been in so many situations where you've had to decide – when you've been stuck in a predatory situation – how to handle it," she says.

"I feel like there's been a process over the past decades of how the police and how you deal with a woman who has been sexually assaulted, but there's really been no talk about how you deal with a man whose been sexually assaulted," says Dickson.

A male victim might be younger and stronger than their attacker, and more than capable of defeating them in a fight, but this shame and psychological intimidation stops them from resisting, or even talking about what happened--because their assailant has fame and power on their side. This is what power, and desire for fame, can do. The repercussions of stopping the attack scared them into inaction.

You may find yourself asking how one play in a small theater is going to make much of a difference. Maybe it won't change a thing, but the collaborative nature of the work, and the process of developing a story, is at least as important as any impact it might have. And if your work reaches even one person, maybe has them reconsider their point of view or feel empathy for another human being, then hasn't it been worth all the long hours needed to bring that work to life?

"I think art has the capacity to change the world, I really do," says Kaufer. "You can't change the world in one fell swoop, it's one morsel at a time, one person at a time. It's the same thing: change is progressive." She is fueled by having a theater or film experience where you feel an impact, and can have an intense discussion about it afterward. "It's ultimately about facilitating the vision and connecting people to it because there's something fulfilling for me when someone walks out of a show and they're crying or they're laughing or they're hugging each other," she says.

That's why there is a joy to be found within the company--not always, as Katzin says, evident on the surface because catharsis isn't joyful. "There's an enjoyment that comes from all the work we do, from being on set encouraging collaboration--there is a joy in the process," she says.

"The bigger message of the show – yes, it's about abuse and sexual harassment and your inner child and fighting your demons, but I think what it's really about...is being an artist," says Leoni, his words echoing the monologue that ends Famous. "We're all here to create, and no matter what you do, you're an artist." The 11:11 Experience has found something they believe in – their why as Leoni puts it, and he believes when you find a calling you have to follow it. Within their work and the space they have created, the 11:11 Experience asks at least one important question--What do you want to do? Once you have answered that question, jump in without a second thought and commit everything you have to making it happen.


Want to produce a show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (HFF) and don't know how?
Excited about the thought of doing a show at HFF , but have concerns and questions?
Get the answers to your questions and an overview of the Hollywood Fringe in this 3 hour introduction workshop, taught by Matthew Quinn, a 20+ year veteran producer/ and 9 year HFF experienced Venue Manager.
“How to Produce a Hollywood Fringe Show”
The workshop will walk you through the step by step process of creating a project, finding a venue, creating a budget, publicity and production as well as money saving tips and the best way to utilize all the HFF has to offer.. This workshop is valuable for any independent theatre producer. In addition, each participant will get an E-File including an adjustable budget and timeline.
Cost - $40
Sign up at http://hff18.org/4267

PODCAST: An Interview with Director Jessica Lynn Johnson of 'Soaring Solo'

Photo by Monique A. LeBleu - Director Jessica Lynn Johnson of Soaring Solo, at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Prom Night 2016, Hollywood, California.

UPDATED: 8-25-18

I interviewed Director Jessica Lynn Johnson, teacher of Soaring Solo, a how-to series of workshops and individual instruction on creating solo theatrical projects and bringing them to fruition. Jessica is often a one-woman cheering squad for her students, creating unique costumes out of their promotional bar cards and items for Fringe Festival parties.

I first met Johnson at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2016, dressed head to toe in a costume crafted entirely from her students' and other producers' show cards. This creative endeavor she makes special each year for the annually anticipated social event, "Prom Night."

After seeing some of her students' shows at the festival and at the Whitefire Annual Solofest, I caught her in action at a recent Saturday morning workshop with LAFPI: The Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative at Whitefire Theatre, on Saturday, July 21, 2018.

I later spoke with Johnson, here, where we talked on the mechanics of her process for creating solo artist theatrical projects, her use of inspiring and provocative word prompts with exploring through two-minute on-the-spot writing, the free workshops she teaches at the Whitefire Theatre, and various festivals and creative outlets that feature solo shows such as Solofest, the Hollywood Fringe Festival, the North Hollywood Fringe Festival, and work with The Los Angeles Women's Playwrights Initiative.

The atmosphere in her home studio is designed to be conducive to creativity, both for herself and for her students, and she talked further on how the process that she teaches can go far beyond that of creating a solo show, but lead a deeper path into self-discovery.

Jessica Lynn Johnson will co-host Hot Off The Press, a Night of Excerpt Readings, post-show Q & A, and music, with L.A. Women's Theatre Festival, September 16, 2018, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at The Whitefire Theatre.

Jessica Lynn Johnson: Website, Facebook and YouTube.

For more podcasts like these visit Better Lemons on Soundcloud.

PODCASTS: An Interview with Heather Keller of Chemo Barbie Now in Edinburgh

I interviewed Heather Keller of the "Chemo Barbie Show" which has made its journey from the Hollywood Fringe Festival to this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, now currently underway until the end of the month.
In this series of five podcasts, Keller talks on her cancer diagnosis, the ups, downs, and side effects of treatment, "cold-capping" (to keep her hair), healthy living, the enduring and lost relationships (the other side effects of cancer), workshopping at Samuel French and Johnson's Soaring Solo, woman power, the desire and plans to raise a family with her husband Brian McCarthy, and motherhood and planning for Edinburgh Fringe.
After her breast cancer diagnosis on December 30, 2015 and a few months into her treatments, Keller has been documenting her experience through a series of YouTube videos on her channel "Keep Abreast W/ Heather: A Cancer Survivor's Story," with her videos reaching cumulatively over 150,000 views.
Inspired through a few propitious events in her writing and further encouraged by her director Jessica Lynn Johnson through her solo artist workshops, and encouraged by the many comments from those affected by cancer on her YouTube channel, Keller then developed the funny and charming, with only a smattering of bittersweetness, "Chemo Barbie: My Lady Bits' Journey Through Breast Cancer."
Premiering at Studio C in Hollywood for the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival, it was nominated for Best Solo Show and won the Encore Producers' Award. After running its encore, it then went to the Whitefire Theatre's annual Solofest in 2017 where Keller began to think even broader for the future of the show.
Still currently being treated to stay cancer-free, through crowd-funding assistance and with producers Michael Blaha and Nigel Thomas, Keller has brought the "Chemo Barbie Show" to Edinburgh's Gilded Balloon Teviot for a coveted run in annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The Chemo Barbie Show plays at 1:30 p.m. every day from now until Tuesday, August 28, 2018, with the exception of this coming Monday, August 13, 2018, (the only day the show is dark) at the Gilded Balloon Teviot. For those planning to visit Edinburgh this month, visit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival ticketing page for tickets.

For more podcasts like these visit Better Lemons on Soundcloud.