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Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Archive for the tag “Athol Fugard”

Lorca Peress

Lorca Peress, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenTheatre Director, Artistic Director, Producer
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration?
I am inspired by everything around us.  As an artist (visual as well as theatre), I believe in merging disciplines to create exciting new works. The work that inspires me is a fusion of art forms ranging from the language of a play or poem to the visual and stylized physical elements we create in collaboration. I am stimulated by vision and transformation, the unknown, the unexpected. Ideas abound, and art emerges. As a woman of mixed cultures, I have always been drawn to the stories and perceptions of others. I seek out new voices and worlds to bring to the stage, and aim to challenge the audience and the artists involved. I founded MultiStages as a means to explore this work.

What play or production changed your life?
I was introduced to theatre, music and literature through my family: my grandmother was a performer, mother is a poet, and my father is a music conductor.  As a child, I was onstage in various operas. I watched my father conduct Bernstein’s MASS at the Kennedy Center, and Candide with Madeline Kahn; both productions changed my life. There have been many straight plays that have inspired me. One that stands out is Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, which I saw in London as a girl. I found Margaret Edson’s W;t (WIT) riveting with the amazing Kathleen Chalfant, who I was fortunate to direct a few years ago for the LPTW New Play Festival. Both these plays brought nudity onto the stage that was human and visceral. Angels in America also made a huge impact on me, as did Jane Wagner’s Search for Intelligent Signs of Life… with Lily Tomlin, and led me to create my own one-woman show, Women Under Glass.

What is your best escape?
The NY Times crossword puzzles.

Lorca Peress is Co-President of LPTW and MultiStages Founder/Artistic Director, where she has developed multicultural and multidisciplinary new works since 1997. Awards: La MaMa Inky, MCAF (LMCC DOCA), Dramatists Guild Fund, et al. Bennington College and NTI graduate; Teacher at NYU Strasberg Studio and Strasberg Institute. AFTRA, SAG, AEA, SDC. www.eljallartsannex.com/multistages.htm

Melody Brooks

Melody Brooks, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenTheatre Producer, Director, Educator, Actor
New York, New York USA

I am inspired to create and produce theatre by just about anything having to do with the human journey—the mundane dealings of everyday life to the lofty ideals of the classics are grist for the mill. I especially delight in bringing unheard voices to the table and firmly believe that theatre is one of the best and most enduring vehicles we have for moving people to action. I have been accused of being a romantic—and I probably am. After a lifetime of what sometimes feels like treading water, I still believe that ART can change the world! I started my career at the age of 8 in a local children’s company, but came to understand the real power of theatre when I saw The Blood Knot by Athol Fugard at Syracuse Stage when I was in high school. That’s the kind of experience I want all of my audiences to have—of any age or background.

There was never much chance that I would choose another field. I was the kid who corralled my friends into putting on plays in the garage; if there was a class option, I created a theatrical piece (most memorably staging King Arthur in 8th grade, getting to use the auditorium and making all the costumes and a sound design!). I did, however, major in Theatre and Film, and while I loved both, at the time I graduated from college the discrimination against women directors in film was open and unapologetic. In my youthful idealism I thought theatre would be “easier.”

The only other career I ever considered was archeology so it’s not surprising that I feel most like myself in a room with fellow artists digging into the text as if it were the Rosetta Stone, and making what feels in the moment like life-altering discoveries. Lest all this sounds too grand and high-falutin’, I will admit that I am a voracious reader of thrillers and detective stories and I could watch old movies for hours on end—in fact, I once did so for 3 days straight!

Melody Brooks Founder and artistic director of New Perspectives Theatre Company, which has for 20 years been developing and producing new plays by women and artists of color, offering new looks at the classics, and using the tools of theatre to enrich the lives of young people and communities in need.

Yvette Heyliger

Yvette Heyliger, member of League of Professional Theatre WomenDramatist / Director / Producing Artist (Twinbiz)
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration?
Inside.  Meditation is a good tool for tapping into one’s creativity and inspiration.  Also current events and issues affecting society that resonate with me and would be good subjects for utilizing theatre as a tool for social change and entertainment.

What’s your favorite book / movie / line from a play / pop culture guilty pleasure / cocktail?
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela/ Gandhi starring Ben Kingsley/ “I found God in myself and I loved HER fiercely,” from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange and “Why didn’t I fight harder?  Why didn’t I picket the White House, all by myself if nobody would come?” from The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer/ the CBS reality show, Survivor/ Wishful Thinking (a chocolate port).

What play or production changed your life?
Master Harold… and the Boys on Broadway.  By the end of the play, I was unable to move or speak.  When the house lights came up in the theatre, I was weeping uncontrollably for some time.  I sensed an usher hovering nearby who probably wanted to ask me to exit the theatre, but didn’t.  Eventually, I collected myself and left, but I was changed.  Athol Fugard’s play allowed me to see that it was possible to use theatre as an agent for social change and empowerment while still entertaining.  His play directly affected the dramatist I was to become.  It sounds cliché, but I too want to help create a better world, one ticket buyer at a time.

Is there anything you still dream of doing?
Having my plays presented on stages around the country; giving an acceptance speech at the Tony Awards; taking a road-trip to see America.

What is your best escape?
Writers’ colonies.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you?
That racism, sexism and classism have worn me down (but not beaten me); and that I worry that I won’t see parity for women theatre artists, especially women theatre artists of color, in my lifetime.

Yvette Heyliger National Black Theatre Festival Emerging Producer Award; Planet Connections Theatre Festivity’s Outstanding Play with Music Award for White House Wives: Operation Lysistrata!; AUDELCO Recognition Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre’s August Wilson Playwright Award for What Would Jesus Do?; What A Piece of Work Is Man!: Plays for Leading Women coming 2012.


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