To say I’ve been haphazard with this blog since the huge theatrical shift that happened in March 2020 is a bit of an understatement. And though I do plan on getting back to reviews and whatnot once more in-person theatre is like, possible, I did want to pop in for a second to talk about some stuff I’ve been doing, because, single as I may be this Valentine’s season, I am seriously feeling the theatre love!
In fact, the biggest reason I’ve been so sporadic with blogging these days is because I’ve found myself doing and writing so much theatre that I’ve scarcely had time left to write about it! Tomorrow night (February 12th), I’ll be performing in a digital production of My First Time with the Maplewood Playhouse. Rather than being conventionally “written,” the play My First Time was assembled by producer Ken Davenport from the thousands of anonymous stories submitted by regular old people to the website of the same name. A cast of four actors play a huge variety of characters as each reflects on their first sexual experiences, which run the gamut from hilarious to heartbreaking.
Though I’m as eager to get back into live theatre as anyone, the confessional feel of the piece and its non-scenic structure lend themselves relatively well to the Zoom setting, the intimacy of a camera befitting the intimacy of the subject matter — and it’s certainly a little less nerve-wracking to perform some of my more explicit monologues in the privacy of my bedroom than it would be if I had to face an audience head-on. But jitters aside, I’ve definitely been enjoying the chance to break out of my high school typecast as a “cerebral neurotic.” Now, for once, I’m getting to strut my stuff as not only one but a plethora of romantic leads!
This celebration of lost V-cards might make for a perfect pre V-day date night that doesn’t require you to leave your couch… which could actually be a good thing if our sexy stories end up putting you and your special someone in the mood. You may want to note, though, that My First Time isn’t all flirty fun —a few of its vignettes do touch on some serious issues of consent that I’m glad are becoming a greater part of the cultural conversation about sex.
In my view, even its lighter fare holds the important purpose of combatting the irrational sense of shame and secrecy that exists around something that near everyone does — a shame that falls disproportionately on women. Not only is it vital to emphasize that a woman’s “no” should always be respected, it’s equally important that she have the right to say yes, enthusiastically, without being disrespected— including when that yes is said to another woman!
In fact, a romance between two women is at the center of Same Rain, a short play by meeeeee that will be premiering in FemuscriptsLove Fest later this month. One of the many exciting new theatre groups to spring up during the pandemic, Femuscripts is an “all-female and female-identifying theater production company aiming to amplify female voices in theater.” Since male voices have been center stage for centuries, I’d say it’s about time that some ladies took the lead!
While Femuscripts made their November debut with a night of five thought-provoking “Long Story Shorts,” Love Fest is a far more ambitious undertaking. Thirteen fem-written plays celebrating love of all kinds add up to three full nights of theatre you can catch on February 19th, 20th, and 21st. You’ll also be able to catch me onscreen again in a short play called Glass Slippers by Brooke Lynn White, which features a fun, fairy tale twist on the dating game.
Meanwhile, though it yet remains to be seen whether or not I’ll be able to make it out of this pandemic with a presentable play that’s longer than like, ten pages, I’ve also been keeping my theatre spirit alive as a regular attendee of New City Players’ NCP Lab, which next meets on February 15th for a second round of first installments of one-act plays. Though this may not be the month any of our 2020 selves envisioned, life would certainly be a lot bleaker without the theatre to tide us through!
Ilana Jael earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Sarah Lawrence College and a BA in Writing and Psychology from Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College. She also served as co-founder of the student theatre troupe “Theatre in the Raw.” She has been dabbling in both playwriting and acting since high school. A few favorite roles include Rebel in Columbinus (Bob Carter’s Actor’s Rep), The Fearful One in The Cave (G-Star School of The Arts), and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie (Theatre In The Raw). Her one-act plays Goodbye, Karma’s A Bitch, Certainly Not About Him, and Open Heart have also been previously performed at Actor’s Rep and/or at Florida Atlantic University. More recently, Ilana appeared in and created the original musical ZeeZou’s Stardust Extravaganza with Area Stage’s Miami Queer Theatre Collective. Her short plays have been produced virtually by New City Players, Theatre Lab, and Femuscripts. She is also a current company member of New City Players, and you can check out her theatre blog at ilanaintheatreland.com!