Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the launch of the She L.A. Summer Theater Festival in Los Angeles! For our readers who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the mission of the festival?
Nakisa Aschtiani: The mission of the festival is to create and promote more opportunities for women. We have this saying: Want to see more shows for, by, and about women? Produce them!
Danielle DeMatteo: I think Nakisa said it perfectly in her [response]. Producing a show on your own, as a writer, can be really daunting and scary. We take on all the scariest parts of it so our writers can focus on what they do best: being creative. Therefore, we try to level the playing field by taking some of the burden off women writers so they can see their work performed in full.
BD: As producers of the festival, what inspired you to get involved with this undertaking, and how would you describe your shared creative process in working with the production team, casts, and crews?
NA: For me, it started with my experience as a playwright. A play I wrote was in the She NYC 2017 Festival, and I had such a wonderful time working with the She NYC team that I jumped at the opportunity to bring the festival to the west coast. I am from California – my show rehearsed in CA – and we all flew out to NYC to be a part of the festival. Each show is assigned a She (wo)mentor as its point of contact person. If she doesn’t have the answer, she will track it down.
DD: I partnered with other women working in professional theater in New York to create SheNYC Arts, after we realized we were all equally frustrated at the lack of representation for women writers, composers, and directors. We didn’t want to just sit around and complain about it; we wanted to actually do something to fix it. When we select our shows and start working with the creative teams of each one, it feels as though we’re all pieces of a puzzle that were just meant to be together. Everyone is always so positive about the mission statement and creating great theater with other women artists.
BD: Given that the festival had its roots in New York, how would you describe your experience of launching the festival in LA?
NA: The She NYC production team was so supportive. It helped a lot going through it first hand as a writer as well as drawing from the NY team’s experience in already having two festivals under their belts. We also decided to launch the CA festival a couple of weeks after the NY one in case we needed anything from our NY counterparts.
DD: It’s been a crazy and exciting ride! Since we already had a whole system and infrastructure set up and the kinks worked out, it was fairly simple to mount a smaller version in LA. But the most exciting part has been adapting to the LA theater scene, and all the things that make Los Angeles (and its audience members) unique. It’s been a dream come true for me, personally, to have seen the festival grow so much in New York that we were able to expand it to a new city.
BD: What can you share with us about the productions that are taking part in this year’s show?
NA: This year’s festival consists of 4 new shows: The Legend of Bonny Anne (Chandler Patton), The Door to America (Carol Weiss), Arabesque no. 1 (Cambria Denim), and Starry (Kelly D’Angelo and Matt Dahan). We have stories about: a legendary female pirate, the immigrant experience, coming of age, and the Van Gogh brothers.
DD: We have two musicals: Starry, about the Van Gogh brothers, and The Door to America, a historical musical about immigrants. Even though both take place in a time long before ours, they definitely have a particular relevance to the world we live in today.
Then we have one play, Arabesque no. 1, which is a really touching piece about growing up, and explores gender in a way that aligns with our mission statement perfectly. Also aligning with our mission statement is The Legend of Bonny Anne, a play with a full music score, which follows the life of the notorious female pirate Anne Bonny as she sails the seven seas.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the performances?
NA: I hope that audiences will see that everyone has a story to tell, and if given the chance, she can tell it in the most extraordinary ways.
DD: We hope the audience sees that theater created by women doesn’t have to be its own genre: it can be smart, entertaining, funny, heart-wrenching, and commercially viable all on its own.
BD: The festival will be appearing at the Zephyr Theater from July 25-29, 2018. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues in other areas of the country?
NA: Each year, it seems as though we get more and more women suggesting more and more cities. We would love to expand the festival!
DD: We’d love to keep expanding, though any future plans to move outside of NYC and LA are still in the formative (and secret) stages.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
NA: We have something in the works, but it is still in the planning stages – stay tuned! Follow us on Facebook and sign up for our e-newsletter to keep up to date on all things She!
DD: What Nakisa said! You can also sign up on our website - www.shenycarts.org -- to be on our mailing list.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for the She L.A. Summer Theater Festival?
NA: If you would like to learn more about the festival, please come see the shows! Check out our website, www.shenycarts.org, and purchase tickets here.
DD: Head to our website, where we do a special, behind-the-scenes spotlight on each show in the festival, so you can learn more and pick which one (or two, or three) you want to see!