Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The production, The Masher, will be appearing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this summer. For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the show, how would you describe its premise?
Grace Jasmine: The Masher is a full-length black comedy with a simple premise: What if you were suddenly in charge of deciding the fate of the people around you? What would you do?
Three women—real women—suddenly find themselves faced with this challenge in a seemingly normal world that becomes very surreal—a world where they work in a very menial factory job pushing a button every day.
There’s Tae, a lesbian grad student, someone who is very smart and thinks she will be able to write her thesis between button pushes; Cassandra, who is a 30-something woman with two kids under ten trying to escape an abusive spouse; and Doris, an older woman who lost her job working at the local Walmart and is very happy to have found this job because she needs the medical insurance. The women are all from completely different backgrounds, different pasts, and see things very differently. They are thrown together at this factory where they find themselves working together.
The boring and underpaid job leaves Tae lots of time to think. She soon realizes there is something sinister afoot at this factory, and rushes to bring the other two into the secret. As the story moves forward, the three women find themselves inadvertently in a huge position of power—holding the key to life-or-death decisions. We see who they are and how they react to this. We get to see their humanity in this situation of extreme inhumanity—and who they are at the end of the day when it really matters.
The Masher asks the questions: What would we do to defend a friend, or a lover? How would we set wrongs right if every rule we took for granted was suddenly gone? The story ricochets between comedy and tragedy and drives home the importance of women protecting one another, and of knowing when to protect ourselves.
BD: As the writer and producer of the show, what inspired the creation of this project?
GJ: The Masher is a straight play, and it is written as my reaction to the Me Too movement. I think that most of us, women especially, feel a real connection to the topic of #MeToo. I think it is not really being brought to the forefront of any sort of media. And it’s one of these things—a dirty little secret—that’s still always pushed under the rug. As an artist, as a writer, I am always appalled at the things I’m reading in the news. One of the things that really disturbed me and made me start to think about writing this project was the recent rape case where the young man was a swimmer at a college and they were more interested in his swimming career than they were interested in what happened to this girl that he raped unconscious by this dumpster. Another thing that has really informed my work as a writer is the domestic abuse cycle and what happens to women, and how we seem to take this for granted as a society. So, these are the kinds of stories, and the kinds of narratives, that have inspired me to action as a writer. I believe something needs to be done. And through my art that is the story that needs to be told. It is not something we talk about, and it appears to be something that we don’t care about as a country—we only have to look at the national level to notice how these issues are being ignored. I think as artists what we need to do is bring these subjects to the forefront of our art and write about these stories. We need bring these subjects into consciousness and the national narrative. Pull these sorts of stories into the light with a compassionate gaze.
BD: What can you tell us about the cast and crew who are bringing The Masher to life, and how would you describe the creative process by the ensemble?
GJ: As both a playwright and the director of this play, I am blessed to have found really amazing actors. I started out with ads in various industry sources, like Backstage, and the notices for auditions got a lot of attention. I actually got 300 actors who replied as interested in auditioning. We booked 100 and saw about 80 and of those I chose the most talented handful for this show.
First is Morgan Aiken, a talented queer actor who is playing Tae—the lesbian grad student. Aiken has a long list of independent film awards as an actor and really loves all forms of acting—including stage. Morgan Aiken has been with the project since the beginning when I gave them the script to read. When I wrote this piece, I saw Morgan as the prototype for Tae. I am so glad they are in the role!
We have the very wonderful Allana Matheis. Allana has done both stage and film, and really is gifted with the ability to bring strong emotion and depth of character to the stage. She is cast as Cassandra—the abused mother of two. Her take on the role is very emotional and powerful and really captures the essence of the role.
Next, Cindy Lopez. Of all the actors I have worked with in Fringe, Cindy really always inspires me with her professional and high-energy attitude. She is always up for any challenge, takes direction so well and is there with her own character work always ready. She enjoys being an actor and digs into a project more than anyone I have ever known. Her comic timing in the role of Doris is—well, I am not going to give spoilers, but if you don’t laugh your head off at her as Doris, I will be shocked.
Then we have Blake McCormack, who is playing the Three Men. He has quite an awesome challenge in this show getting to play three very different men, changing character throughout the show. I love his work and he is one of the nicest people I’ve met in LA—Hollywood handsome too!
Another top-notch professional, who I worked with two years ago in F**ked Up Fairy Tales, is Megan Rees. She plays the very disturbing Supervisor Jackson and brings a weird humor and power to this role. I cast Megan because she is wildly talented, but also because she is always totally ready, totally great at her role, and super easy to work with. In any show that’s a total plus and I appreciate it.
And last but not least is Amanda Wagner, our awesome stage manager. Amanda has talked me off some ledges for sure and what I love about her is that she is always so willing to tackle any challenge and is super positive throughout. Also, she is a talented actor and is understudy for the role of Jackson, which she will perform on June 19, our late Wednesday night performance (along with Megan Rees who will bring us another dimension of her talent when audience members see her take the role of Cassandra that night).
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
GJ: Well, I have written a black comedy that I believe throws the audience head-first into a surreal world of #MeToo “what ifs.” It’s a female-centric play with a strong LGBTQ lead that explores the “new now.” I hope The Masher’s grim humor brings a heightened and really intense night of theatre while also leaving people thinking about the important message. I hope audiences will be blown away by the bizarre fantasy world that these characters live in, that I hope will make them ask questions about our own world.
I hope people have an experience watching the show where they are both laughing and crying. I hope they feel deeply with the characters but also find a lot of bizarre humor to laugh at—and consequently I would love it if this play makes them walk away with something to discuss with their friends. Something they can talk about when they go out after the theatre and hopefully also think about on their own. I am hoping it’s not only an emotional thrill ride but a think piece as well.
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival the best venue for The Masher?
GJ: Well, first, this is a very edgy show, and Fringe tends to lean toward experimental and new works. It’s a great way to take this new show for its premiere in a very artist-centric environment and have a small black box theatre run, have the chance to see the play up and mounted and let it sort of flourish and grow in this creative environment. One of the great things about Fringe is it really does form a sort of artist’s collective—everyone involved, and there are really thousands of people involved, are part of this group of people all working on mounting mostly new shows at the same time. The excitement and camaraderie is contagious. Artists are willing to help each other; actors and tech people love to take part, and it really is a creatively nurturing environment where people are there to lend each other a hand.
BD: The show will be appearing at the Studio C theatre through June 7-29, 2019. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
GJ: Absolutely—as part of my process of deciding to direct the work myself at this level I got a chance to talk to some New York directors and people who are interested in the future of the show. It made me excited about how the show will grow.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
GJ: I am excited about a number of projects I am working on currently. First, I have another straight play called The Rage of Ordinary People that is a story about women of different cultures and their experiences with bigotry. It’s about the constant struggles faced by women of all ethnicities, especially by those of color or queer identities. This is a very feminist-positive piece that I hope will draw attention to some of the daily injustices women face around the globe and some of the bright spots of extreme humanity.
I am also working in a new full-length musical called Skin Deep, based on the Frankenstein story with a female Frankenstein’s monster. This should be another over-the-top black comedy—this time with some wild songs!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for The Masher?
GJ: I would love for all your readers to come out and see The Masher. Hollywood Fringe is an amazing collection of new experimental theatre and both established and emerging artists, and it is definitely something to see. I would love to offer anyone reading this interview our special ticket code to get $4.00 off their ticket. When they click on the site, they enter the word CARD and they get the ticket for $10.00!
We open on June 7 as you mentioned and here are a list of our performances:
PERFORMANCE DATES: (Running time 55 minutes)
We had a very successful preview on June 7th. Still left are the following dates to attend:
June 9, 2019 @7:00 PM (Pay what you want on this night.)
June 15, 2019 @ 2:00 PM
June 19, 2019 @10:00 PM
June 23, 2019 @8:00 PM
June 29, 2019 @4:00 PM
TICKET PRICE: General Admission: $14.00 – https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5726 HFF Participants and card or code holders: $10.00. Use the code CARD for four dollars off!
WHERE: Theatre Asylum’s Studio C–6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038 **Admission age: Not appropriate for children under 16.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Grace Jasmine (Writer and Director) Grace Jasmine writes in a variety of genres. With 47 nonfiction books in print, she decided to return to her first love, writing for theater. Shows include: Rainbows, Tim Doran, composer (Jasmine wrote, directed, and starred in this show, which was produced first in Los Angeles and then off-off Broadway); The Lover—A Tale of Obsessive Love, Ron Barnett, composer (Lonny Chapman Theatre premier). Jasmine had two original musicals premiere Summer 2017, at the Hollywood Fringe Festival: Sybil’s Closet and F**ked Up Fairy Tales. WeHo times called the song, “Love is Love” Jasmine wrote (With David Anthony, composer) for F**ked Up Fairy Tales “…an incredible song that it merits a place among the classics of musical theatre.” (WeHo Times, July 2, 2017).
She is currently working on two musicals: Skin Deep and The Suicide of Sparkle Jones, and a straight play, The Rage of Ordinary People. Jasmine was recently selected by the Phoenix Art Museum in cooperation with Now and Then Creative Company to create a short original play based on a three-dimensional modern sculpture. At the same festival, Jasmine was tapped to direct The Drawing Lesson, by Andrea Markowitz, which received an award of merit at the event. Jasmine holds an MFA in Screenwriting and Playwriting from the University of California at Riverside, is a native Californian living in Arizona with her family and is an avid dog lover. Grace Jasmine is a member of the Dramatists Guild. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @beautynblog.
Comps available for members of the press upon request. Please contact Loud Karma Productions/Grace Jasmine at loudkarmaproductions (at) gmail.com or call or text 602-469-2007.
Follow The Masher Production on: Twitter: @TheMasher2019, Instagram: @TheMasher2019, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheMasher/