Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

March 28-31 at Theatre 68 in NoHo

By: Mar. 26, 2024
Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL
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Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL Founded in 1993 by Adilah Barnes and Miriam Reed, the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival holds the distinction of being the oldest Annual Solo Festival in Los Angeles celebrating powerful women performers. A critically-acclaimed international festival, LAWTF has produced shows for close to 700 extraordinary artists from around the globe. These multicultural and multi-disciplined solo performers represent diverse disciplines including theatre, dance, storytelling, performance art, performance poetry, spoken word, mime, music, and song. The program is made possible in part by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles.

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

The 31st annual Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson (pictured), has a roster of accomplished co-hosts as well as performers during its six programs March 28-31, beginning with a Gala on Thursday night. I decided to speak with Jessica to find out more about the event and the honor being bestowed upon her at the event’s Gala.

Hi Jessica. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me about the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival. But first, tell me about yourself.

I am a published playwright, recipient of Best National Solo Artist Award, Advisory Board Member of the LA Women's Theatre Festival, Co-Executive Producer of both the Stars Solo Series and the Joshua Tree Solo Theatre Festival, and Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo Studios International. Thus far I have aided in the development, direction and producing of over 150 solo shows (and still going strong)!

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

As a performer, I “edu-tained” international audiences while touring my own one person shows Ze and Oblivious to Everyone for over 15 years. My projects have taken home awards such as Top of The Fringe, HFF Encore Producers Award, TVolution Best Solo Performance, the Larry Cornwall Award for Musical Excellence, and several other accolades. I was also nominated for the Female Director of Distinction in Theatre by Girl Trip LLC at the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival and most recently as Best Director of a Play by Broadway World 2023. And now I am so honored to direct this amazing solo show festival. For more information about me and my projects, please visit: www.SoaringSoloStudios.com

What is the purpose of the LAWTF?

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

The purpose of the festival is best captured by our mission statement “The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) celebrates artistic diversity through the production of traditional and innovative performances and educational outreach.” Our theme this year is Telling Our Truths. As an organization, we are passionate about lifting up diverse and eclectic voices, and this year we are leaning into solo shows featuring strong women speaking their truth.

How were you selected to direct the festival?

I have been with the festival since 2009 in many capacities, including volunteer, performer, Board Member, director of individuals performing in the festival, and now Advisory Board Member. I deeply believe in the mission of LAWTF, so when I became aware they were seeking a director for their 2024 festival, I submitted my credentials to Adilah Barnes, a Board Member and one of the festival's founders. Adilah then offered me the position and I'm so honored to take on this new role in my relationship with LAWTF.

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

Tell me about the plays being featured this year.

We have a lengthy and in-depth submission process every year, pouring over dozens and dozens of female artists from all over the world. This year we selected 19 performers. Here's a breakdown of our festival schedule which highlights each of the performers: 

The 31st Annual Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival takes place over four days of performances at Theatre 68 Arts Complex - The Rosalie at 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA. Tickets range from $20 – $150. For tickets and more information, visit www.lawtf.org This year’s festival includes:

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

Thursday, March 28, 2024 at 8 pm

The Champagne Gala and Awards Ceremony will occur next door to Theatre 68 Arts Complex at the Lankershim Arts Center located at 5108 Lankershim Boulevard. Eight deserving women will be honored with the Festival’s Annual Theatre Awards for their laudable contributions to the theatre world (who will be named in a separate press release). Spoken word and dance performances will also be presented.

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

The theme of the GALA is In Honor Of, hosted by Hattie Winston and Margaret Avery (pictured)

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

The Gala includes performances by Karen A. Clark of The Women. In this excerpt, through music and spoken word, Karen honors women and reflects on the women in her family, particularly her mother. Juli Kim will present Salpuri Adagio, a slow-tempo Korean cleansing dance that wishes great peace, and Five Drum Dance, a pulsating dance which incorporates the dancer playing five standing drums.

Friday, March 29 at 8 pm - Theme: Boxed In, Set Free

Hosted by Deborah Sharpe-Taylor and Clarinda Ross:

Tashara Gavin-Moorehead will present Summertime, Sunflowers, a dance poem which explores the history of African Americans as related to the sunflower.

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL Janice Crenell will present My Year of Saying No, in which she shares her COVID-19 journey of rejecting patriarchy, perfection, and guilt to find her way back to herself. 

Vanessa Hernandez Cruz will present Metal, Plastic, Skin which explores how vulnerability fatigue impacts Vanessa’s experiences as a Disabled woman, and how medical equipment has been a form of freedom, survival, and assimilation in this inaccessible world.

Paige Wilhide’s (pictured) Breakup Addict weaves together a hilarious and heartfelt narrative of one woman’s journey to overcome sex and love addiction through her spiritual healing of the heart.

Saturday, March 30, 2024, 3 pm - Theme: Cultural Road Maps

Hosted by Florence LaRue of The 5th Dimension and Rosie Lee Hooks of A Heated Discussion, the afternoon’s offerings include:

Sona Lewis in Goddess Dance and Tarana, both traditional Kathak Indian dances which pays homage to 14th-century compositions.

Jiyoung Choi’s MacBeth’s Lady Shaman, a Korean monodrama movement piece which focuses on female voices in Shakespeare’s works, symbolically giving these characters a spiritual voice of power.

Jovelyn Richards’ She Cry Dem Blues, centering on a night of solitude, secrets, sensuality, and confessions that come together at Tootsie’s, a 1930s Detroit jazz club, where the owner’s unspoken love finally reveals his true feelings.

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

Saturday, March 30, 2024, 8 pm - Theme: Outside The Lines

Hosted by actor/director Fay Hauser-Price and actor/producer/host Jahna Cole Houston, the evening includes:Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

Clarinda Ross (pictured) in Spit Like a Big Girl, in which a southern “Daddy’s Girl” grows up and learns to fiercely advocate for her differently-abled daughter. 

Valoneecia Tolbert’s Tales of a Blerd Ballerina, a choreopoem told through dance and music which delves into a cultural pride and yearning in a world that often limits Black identity.

And in Kathryn Taylor Smith’s A Mile in My Shoes, in which Esther, an omniscient “Shoe Whisperer” walks us through a day in her life on Skid Row.

Sunday, March 31, 2024, 3 pm - Theme: Looking Back

Hosts Kat Kramer of Turnover and actor/producer JC Cadena:

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL Shelley Cooper (pictured) will present Jenny Lind Presents P.T. Barnum, in which Jenny Lind, known as the “Swedish Nightingale” speaks of a side of P.T. Barnum that she came to know on her American Tour. 

Alina Cenal’s Cuba: My Return, in which a woman returns to her motherland, Cuba, after being gone for 54 years. 

Ada Cheng’s The Memories We Keep, in which a woman reflects on the meaning of memories in her complex relationship with her mother. 

And Dee Freeman’s Poison Gun, in which a six-year-old remembers being placed in the impossible position of telling what she knows about her grandfather’s secret to authorities in the Deep South.

Sunday, March 31, 2024, 7 pm -Theme: Rising Above

Hosted by Terrie Silverman of Creative Rites and actor/educator Ada Cheng, Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL the festival’s final evening includes:

Lynn McNutt (pictured) in BLUE: A Rhapsody in Blubber, in which a baby blue whale, an old man, and a mother intertwined by whale song, dive deep into their separate, yet united stories. 

In Jana Krumholtz’s 6 Million Jews Didn’t Die for You…, a dancer finds oneself amidst the burden and ancestral trauma of the Holocaust. 

Liza Dealey-Thomason’s Supernova, a fanciful musical that explores the need to be the hero who tries to take care of everyone else and ultimately arrives at the celebration of discovering the joy of taking care of self.

That’s quite an assortment of interesting plays!  Now let’s talk about the Gala on Thursday night. Tell me about the award you are receiving that night and what it means to you to be honored with it.

This coming Thursday, March 28, I will be receiving the highest honor of my career thus far, the distinguished Rainbow Award given on behalf of the LA Women’s Theatre Festival Board of Directors and Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL Honorary Chairpersons Danny Glover (pictured) and Hattie Winston (pictured previously).

The Rainbow Award is presented to "an artist for her diverse contributions in fostering non-traditional and multicultural theatre works.” I am so honored to be receiving this award because it is being bestowed by an organization that is very close to my heart. And it's in recognition of my work (as a Solo Theatre Director, Producer, Performer and Coach) that I am grateful I get to do every single day. I believe in the healing power of telling our stories and the power of creative community.

Other award winners this year include: Carolyn Ratteray, Integrity Award; caryn desai. Eternity Award; Lisa Dring, Integrity Award; amd Naomi Grossman, Maverick Award. 

And what’s up next for you?

There’s always a lot happening in the Soaring Solo Community! Right now I have multiple clients sharing their solo shows in the United Solo Festival on 42nd Street in NYC. After that, I am gearing up to have over a dozen clients performing their Solo Shows in the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June. And then my colleague Heather Dowling and I will be producing the Soaring Solo Stars Series in the fall and winter of 2024 featuring many incredible solo theatre artists.

Thanks so much Jessica. Congratulations on The Rainbow Award and I wish you a very successful weekend of solo shows during the Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival.

Interview: Jessica Lynn Johnson on Directing the 31st Annual LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL

 



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