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From NY to LA to Paris - A Passion Pandemic Project becomes a dream production – by Joanna Pickering

06 Dec 2021 5:53 PM | Anonymous

After being displaced from my home in NYC in the pandemic, when theatre went dark, I was miraculously awarded a one-year writing residency in Los Angeles. In July, when the residency ended, I decided to travel to Europe to see my family after almost two years of separation.

I knew, as a Brit and European living in the USA, with the borders still closed, I would be locking myself out of my work and life in the US, as an immigrant.

UPDATE - Joanna talks about how all this came about in the Centre stage Podcast 

However, spending time with family was my priority. It was therefore, with incredible delight, that I was taken under the wing of leading literary agent Wendy Goldman Rohm, who had awarded one of my one act plays a scholarship in Paris, in 2019. Wendy, kindly, invited me to her summer retreat workshops in Paris and Biarritz, offering to be my agent on my screenplay, and to work on a novel. In this way,

I met so many literary artistic souls, who encouraged me to read my plays in salons at Wendy’s house. Wendy suggested I bring them to stage in Paris. This is how this passion pandemic project began. I started to put the word out, and soon, fabulously, experienced thespians and directors, from the Paris literary theater community were reading my work.

They were praising the writing and they wanted to be involved, despite the logistics and unusual circumstances. In the same way, my finance arrived. Then we had a church. Then I was upgraded to theater space in the heart of Paris. Then I had my amazing actors. It just kept growing from there... My dream to write and perform in Paris was coming true...

I still didn't believe it was possible (and working as a producer myself). I made a call to The League of Professional Theatre women and the ICWP and they started networking across the pond. Then, all the way over in NY (Barrow Group FAB women) producer Christine Cirker, knowing the plays from the USA showcase, jumped in and said, it absolutely wasn’t impossible (it was).

I was also, fortunate to have my co-producer Koël Purie Rinchet and Hollywood talent Eugenia Kumina flying in from LA (to read a small role just to be part of my writing). They all made connections (often over the pond) right into the Paris theatre community -- the exact people I needed to know, vouching on my behalf that this had to happen.

Then, the miracle that is super director Chris Mack arrived. Chris is connected and revered, by the entire Paris English Theatre community. I tend to go for all female directors for my themes, but he sent me his scripts (all written for strong women) and he understood my work and vision, so exactly, and in ways I was yet to experience, especially on 'Cat And Mouse," which is the bravest piece I have written.

I don't want to write in black and white areas. I want to explore areas that other's are afraid to explore. I think that is our duty as writers, but it's not easy when tacking difficult subject matter (sexual allegations and assault), not to mention current times. The direction of that piece is as crucial as the writing. Every person in Paris replied on my news to have him direct (not only my work, but me, and as a film actress predominately), “You’re in the best of hands.” And, I am. It's a wonderful feeling for my work, it’s themes, and me as a writer.

Then, I had the magnificent, director Pulchérie Gadmer, who got my work instantly, as a dark British playwright. She has worked on Sarah Kane’s work and came with all these 100% unique ideas, (which I do not want to spoil -- so come and see the show). And then, Alessia Siniscalchi joined -- who worked with all my peers in NY and The Brave New Theatre Company/New School. Alessia is an absolute force to be reckoned with as a director. We are all -- cast and producers -- a little in awe of her directing style.

It was such a welcoming experience in Paris from US. Even the Parisian thespians and directors who read the work, or auditioned, and sadly, could not make the final line up, mainly due to schedule (or mom's who were sick or in hospital -- hope she's doing okay if you're reading) praised the work and I was flooded with more encouragement. They instantly passed it on to another, forming this magnificent Parisian theatre chain to get my work to stage for me. It was awesome. I am so grateful. It is now a project that grew from the problems of the pandemic into something much bigger than us and carried us on.

It is a very humbling time for me and lots of crazy hard work. And that's not to say I haven’t made mistakes along the way as a producer, but I love that feeling too, as it means you’re learning new skills. All my team know, at the end of the day it’s about the writing, the plays. I hold the utmost respect for those who bring my words to life. I’ve met so many wonderful people through my writing work all over the world. That’s a gift to me. This is the dream. And anyone who knows me, I never stop.

We are now in full rehearsals and the work is finally taking a wonderful shape. The impossible just became possible.  

I can't wait to share it with everyone.

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