August Spotlight: Naomi Westerman
Begun as group of women who were frustrated by being a women in the theatre industry and united by a shared passion for theatre, Shakespeare, and feminism, Naomi and a small group of women started Little But Fierce in 2013. Rather than doing straight Shakespeare productions, they have created a mixture of Shakespeare adaptations and Shakespeare-inspired new work.
In 2013 I set up the all-female theatre company, Little but Fierce. This is how.
My theatre company started, like many of my successes, by accident. I was frustrated with the challenges of being a woman in the theatre industry, and knew many women who shared these frustrations. I started to arrange regular get-togethers where we could talk, debate, workshop, learn, play and develop work in a no-stress women-only environment. Through these sessions, a core group developed, bonded by a shared passion for theatre, Shakespeare, and feminism. I was, at the same time, doing regular improv with several of my female friends, and we had been debating setting up some kind of more formal all-female theatre group. In summer 2013, I officially co-founded and became artistic director of a new all-female theatre company. I knew I wanted a Shakespearean name, and “Little but Fierce” seemed the obvious choice. Being rather short myself (and definitely fierce), I have always felt a kinship with Hermia!
Our goal was to create female-led theatre to not only create work for women, but to prove that female theatre can be funny and mainstream and commercially successful. Our policy is to cast roles race-blind and ability status-blind, and we try to be as diverse as possible. We work not just with female actors, but also with female directors, producers, and other backstage crew, as it is women in the latter category who are the most marginalized, even in the current debate about gender equality in theatre.
We decided that, rather than doing straight Shakespeare productions, we would create an mixture of Shakespeare adaptations and Shakespeare-inspired new work (though as thecompany evolved we have gone on to stage more new writing).
Our first production was in December of that year, an adaptation of A Christmas Carol with Shakespearean characters (Juliet, Lady Macbeth, and a skull-toting Hamlet) taking the place of the ghosts; this was staged at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Christmas Stage Festival. The RSC's support and having their name on our CV opened many doors and was a wonderful debut.
Our next project, a series of dialogues between Shakespearean characters and contemporary new characters, was shortlisted at the Bush Theatre. Since then, we have produced work at the New Wolsey Theatre, Richmond, the Cockpit Theatre, Theatre N16, and even a showcase in the West End!
We are currently planning productions of Much Ado About Nothing (set in a faded regional theatre company in the 1950s) and Measure for Measure (set in the American Bible Belt), alongside more new writing, and an interactive theatre-in-education project aimed at secondary school students called: Choose Your Own Adventure Shakespeare.
The only advice I could give women thinking of setting up their own companies is: Do it. Don't worry about what might go wrong, because things will go wrong. Make mistakes. Learn. Fail better. And make sure you've got really good friends to support you.
Welcome New Members
Leah Joki, Made in Montana Press, USA
Sharon Lamb, UK
Psychologist, Psychology Professor, Playwright
I am a psychologist and psychology professor who has begun to write plays. I studied playwriting in London and I have a feminist dystopian play ready to go with really solid parts for 4 women! YAY.
Jodie Leidecker, USA
Everyone has a story. I love finding that story and telling it.
In fourth grade, I started writing poems and by sixth grade, I'd moved on to soap operas and a school play.
I've done technical writing for industry, newsletter and press release writing for colleges and nonprofits, blogging, and essay and humor writing for the web. I've written for various humor sites and self-published a series of funny essays. I've most recently begun writing plays, several of which have been performed in theater festivals in New York City. Everyone has a story. I love finding that story and telling it.
Representative Plays: John; Dr. Hoxley; There Are No Straight Lines in Nature; Stockpile; Apocalypse Fatigue
Playwright, children’s book author, professor of writing.
Laura Toffler is a playwright, children’s book author and professor of writing. Her most recent play, ‘The Latin Beat,’ was a semi finalist in Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s 2016 one act play competition. Laura’s play for children, ‘A Boy Named Nars,’ was published in Story Works Magazine (Scholastic), and she’s had a variety of work produced in and around New York. In addition, Laura is the author of the young adult novels, The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz and My Totally Awkward Supernatural Crush, published by MacMillan. Having earned an MFA in dramatic writing from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, she teaches ‘Writing for Children and Teens’ at Pace University and Westchester Community College.
Now Playing and Coming Soon
In response to your comments on the survey, as of September our newsletter will have a new column, NOW PLAYING & COMING SOON to promote our members’ productions worldwide. If you have a play that will be in production anywhere between September 1 – September 30, please respond to Amy Drake (firstname.lastname@example.org) before August 15 and it will be featured in the NOW PLAYING column of the September newsletter. If you have a play that will b
e produced anytime between October 1 and October 31, likewise email Amy and it will appear in the COMING SOON column.
Articles of Interest
The Kilroys are a group of LA playwrights and producers who are taking action to achieve gender parity in theater. Every year, they survey the industry and publish a list of excellent unproduced new plays by female and trans playwrights.
Chicago’s Gift Theatre debuts a season of new work by women playwrights, featuring plays by Mona Mansour, Claire Kiechel and Janine Nabers.
LAFPI is taking a stand against sexism in Los Angeles theatre. If you’re a woman playwright in the LA area, LAFPI wants to promote your work and help you connect with other artists.
Women will make their voices heard in the Stratford Festival’s 2017 season. Women will direct eight out of the festival’s 14 productions, and the Studio Theatre will present work by three generation of female playwrights.
A study by the British Theatre Consortium and the Society of London Theatre shows female playwrights struggle to break through a “glass ceiling.” Plays by women were staged in smaller theaters, had shorter runs, and lower ticket prices.