Works by Women

Supporting creative work by women

Interview: Leta Tremblay

LetaHeadshotLeta Tremblay is a trailblazing woman of theater. She makes incredible things happen on stage. And, quite frankly, off. Whether directing or producing, she is one of the leading artists in New York indie theater. She is a founder of FullStop Collective and co-runs Caps Lock Theatre.

She spoke with Works by Women about what drew her to producing, how theater companies can evolve and the upcoming Pussyfest.

WORKS BY WOMEN: Why produce theater? What drew you to becoming a producer?

LETA TREMBLAY: I first started producing theater in NYC by accident. When I moved to the city in 2007, fresh out of college, I was looking for a way to do my own creative work as a director. I immediately found loads of opportunities to be in the rehearsal room with some great artists as a stage manager but I wasn’t making the work myself. To remedy this, I joined forces with classmates from the Eugene O’Neill National Theatre Institute (NTI) (a semester long intensive program in Waterford, CT) who were also new to the city and together we formed FullStop Collective. The main goal of the company at that time was to offer a platform for all of us to present our original theatrical work and we built the company as a cooperative; sometimes I would be a lead artist directing a production and sometimes I would be a producer bringing the work of a fellow company member to the stage. Learning how to produce theater effectively became an important skill to hone very fast. I feel that I’ve earned a master’s degree in New York Indie Theater Producing at this point.

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 Horney Orderly by J. Julian Christopher featured in FullStop Collective’s FOREPLAYS 2013: SPRING FEVER at Galapagos Art Space in March 2013.
Photo: Brian Hashimoto

WORKS BY WOMEN: FullStop Collective has shifted its focus. Tell me about the changes in direction.

LETA TREMBLAY: Since 2010, FullStop Collective has consistently produced new work based on the model of a playwright writing a narrative play. All of our work tends to tell stories in an unusual way but it was still in a traditional play structure and roles were filled accordingly; playwright, director, actors, designers, stage manager, etc. We’ve had great success with this way of creating original work but we also have an ensemble driven devising background from our training with SITI Company and The Wooster Group at NTI that we were yearning to re-explore. In 2013, we established FullStop.LAB, the new devising arm of FullStop Collective that supports director driven devised theatrical works. We started by supporting three projects lead by our current core company members and after one to two years of development, we are bringing these complete creations to the stage.

WORKS BY WOMEN: I’d love to hear more about The Belief Project – where it’s going and what your vision is for it.

LETA TREMBLAY: The Belief Project is the FullStop.LAB piece that I have been leading the development of since May 2013. Using the Peter Pan story and the Newtown Shooting as a jumping off point, the project is an exploration of the nature of belief and how it affects the actions of every individual. Using a combination of research, found text, interviews, and original material, my ensemble and I have crafted characters, choreographed movement, written songs, and investigated other techniques to bring visceral moments to the stage. The piece is political, lyrical, emotional, and tragic. I’m so proud of the work that my ensemble of actors, musicians, and writers are doing and I cannot wait to bring in to a New York stage this Spring.

WORKS BY WOMEN: What artists/producers/craftspeople inspire you?

LETA TREMBLAY: I’m incredibly lucky because I am inspired by artists that I have the great opportunity to work with all the time. Namely my collaborators Diana Oh (Diana Oh is GOING ROGUE, solo show & {my lingerie play}: Installation 9/10: THE FINAL INSTALLATION (performing Nov 15-16 at The Paradise Factory)) and Mariah MacCarthy (The Foreplay Play & Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion). These incredible women are both so open and daring with the art that they create and the stories that unfold from within them that you can’t help but be inspired. And in addition to being incredible artists, they are also damn fine producers. Again, producing comes out of necessity sometimes to get your voice in front of audience eyes and they are masters of self-promotion with the goods to back it up. I love collaborating with them creatively in a rehearsal room and over a calendar or spreadsheet.

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 The Worst Play Ever About Sex And Love, And The Title I Needed To Get Me To Write This, A Choreo-Play by Diana Oh featured in FullStop Collective’s FOREPLAYS 2012: FULL FERVOR at Galapagos Art Space in February 2012.

Photo: Brian Hashimoto
WORKS BY WOMEN: What’s the best advice you’ve received about producing? And why?

LETA TREMBLAY: It may sound cheesy, but I like to remind myself of “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz: 1) Be impeccable with your word, 2) Don’t take anything personally, 3) Don’t make assumptions, & 4) Always do your best. These are great words to live by but I find them particularly useful when producing theater. Theater, like life, is a constantly moving/changing beast and sometimes there is no way to avoid disaster. Something is bound to go wrong. Someone is bound to get upset. The money might not be there. The heating might not work. Maybe no one will show up. At the end of the day, all I can do as a producer and a human being is endeavor to communicate as clearly as possible, show up, and expect the same from everyone else on my team. I find that when I remember to do this, the rewards are great.

 

Tremblay_Leta_3Cause of Failure by Megan Weaver produced by FullStop Collective in association with the New York International Fringe Festival at The Kraine Theater in August 2012.
Photo: Brian Hashimoto

WORKS BY WOMEN: What are the challenges facing women in theater?

LETA TREMBLAY: The challenges facing women in theater are the same challenges that face women in every industry across the country and the world. There is a LONG history of patriarchal societies throughout human existence with varying degrees of female repression. It’s only recently, in comparison, that women have stood up in a real impactful way to change this dynamic using all of the resources at our disposal. I’m incredibly proud to be a woman in the United States. I’m incredibly grateful that I have the opportunity to be a theater artist and to live independently. There are so many opportunities that women have to look forward to in theater and because more and more women are entering the industry every day, it won’t be long until we see results in the form diverse female driven stories on stage and behind the producer’s desk.

 WORKS BY WOMEN: What gives you hope for women in American theater?

LETA TREMBLAY: Caps Lock Theatre, which I lead with Mariah, are hosting our third annual Pussyfest event (Pussyfest III – The Reckoning, final performance on Monday, November 10 at The Gym at Judson, doors open at 7:30pm). This year we paired 60 playwrights with 60 actresses and asked them to write a two minute monologue about the body with their actress in mind. The spectrum of stories that have emerged is ENORMOUS. To quote an audience member, at Pussyfest you’ll see; “Ladies of all ages playing not just girlfriends but principals, lawyers, executives. Talking about having vaginas or having penises, fantasizing about Xena Warrior Princess, having affairs, yelling at Hulu ads, hating babies, Xeroxing their butts, finding fairies. Just a whole hell of a lot. It was just women being actual people, and it’s amazing how rare that can be onstage.” That’s what gives me hope for the American theater. A whole lotta artists expanding the canon before our very eyes.

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2014 by in Interview, Theater, Women and tagged , , , , .
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