*The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival offered ‘Taking Flight’ as the theme for the 24th Anniversary Festival. The opening night Champagne Gala, aptly named Standing On The Shoulders Of, honored six extraordinary women, and was co-hosted by stage and film actors Ted Lange and Hattie Winston. The event took place at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood.
Awarded on this evening were women who are somehow involved in the business of entertainment. Presented with the “Eternity Award” was beloved local vocalist Barbara Morrison; Megan Cavallari with the “Integrity Award,” and Paulina Sahagun with the “Maverick Award.” Two women were honored with the “Rainbow Award” — namely, Estelle Campbell and Leslie K. Johnson; and finally, the “Infinity Award” was given posthumously to Doris Roberts.
Returning again to offer her incredible talent for the evening was Eloise Laws.
The four night event, which runs Thursday night through Sunday, offered diverse performances by eighteen women from all over the globe doing excerpts from their solo plays.
On the final evening, which I attended, four moving performances were offered by Ai Yoshihara (“My River Phoenix”) about a young woman who travels to American searching for her own version of the late actor; Loree Gold (“Snatched…Stories From Down There”) takes the audience on a ride with a variety of age, sex, and LGBT issues. Carla Delaney (“Voices”) is a voice-over artist who finally realizes it is her voice that’s missing; and Juliette Jeffers (“Judgment Day”) shows a trial with a most unusual defendant: God.
The final evening, themed Unsilenced, was hosted by actors Karen A. Clark and Barbara Roberts.
Delaney’s Voices is an incredible body of work, offering an awesome range in characters that kept us laughing. The audience couldn’t wait to respond with a standing ovation! As an actor who also specializes in voice-over, her spot-on impressions include several characters from “The Simpsons,” songs “sung by” the eminent Judy Garland and Dolly Parton; a crazy and hilarious childhood reflection about learning how to swim at the age of five, and the evil swim instructor she had to deal with in the process.
Delaney’s ingenuity is undeniable. Her characterizations in the musical instruments bit is nothing short of brilliant! This piece definitely wraps well. At its conclusion, all the pieces fit cohesively and everything makes sense.
Actor and teacher Juliette Jeffers also offered an outstanding performance with “Judgment Day.” The play can at one moment have you in stitches as Jeffers expertly mimics her colorful characters including “Jaquan” — a sho nuf bruh who states he thought he was the accused before he got on the stand to testify against God. You know what I’m sayin’?…followed by the Bailiff, and the judge.
Judgment Day then turns totally serious and poignant, as images on the screen reflect moments in history as Fannie Lou Hamer sits in the witness chair on stage to speak of the injustice she and others endured just because they wanted to vote. An emotional Hamer states, (as the defendant, God, invisibly sits in His chair), “My faith in God is strong, but this experience has truly made me question that faith.” We also see the current events that prompted the Black Lives Matter movement as Judgment Day pays homage to the incidents that had a number of African American lives taken by police — some familiar, some not — all ultimately leaving her character lying on the floor in a heap of tears (from which it was visible the actor could not easily recover).
Another standing ovation.
Learn more about the L.A. Women’s Theatre Festival, including their workshops, events throughout the year, and more, at their official website.