Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congrats on the launch of The Bearer of Bad News in this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of this show
Ashley Victoria Robinson: I like to tell folks The Bearer of Bad News is Twilight Zone meets Handmaid's Tale with the humour of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It is firmly set in a not-too-distant future with strong commentary on the modern world and balances out some of the heavy subject matter with a joke. The playwright, Alex Kingsley, is a genius.
The official synopsis is:
In the not-too-distant future a corporeal tragedy is taking place. Animals have died out, and young women are tasked with bringing them to “bear” in order to protect and save paramount endangered species. A young bearer named Samantha struggles to discover her place in the world and adjust to her new status as a “Bearer.” (Spoiler alert: It is not one of privilege.) The other Bearers, her parents, her doctors – basically nobody in Samantha’s world comprehends what she is doing or why, leaving her in her own private world.
The Bearer of Bad News explores the intersection of identity and purpose set against the backdrop of a world irrevocably altered by climate change.
3 Actors play 9 roles in this collaborative creation.
BD: This show is one of the first produced by the newly established Unladylike Theatre. As a co-found and co-Artistic Director, what can you share with us about the mission behind this theatre collective, and what do you feel will come to “define” an Unladylike Theatre production?
AVR: Most actors are used to working in a traditional power structure where actors are subservient to directors. There’s a very clear sense of who is in charge and whose opinions matter the most. I met my co-founders (Tiana Randall-Quant and Kendell Byrd) under these very circumstances. We found through collaboration the three of us really drew on each other in the creative process we shared.
There’s a school of thought in contemporary theatre that a Socratic approach to creations where everyone is equal is more “feminine.” Unladylike Theatre was established by 3 femmes, and we’re trying to bring feminine sensibilities to every step in our creative process.
Our mission statement is:
Reimagining the future through femme-forward theatre.
In a few years a typical production from us will either be a fostered new work (as with The Bearer of Bad News we’ve worked on the project for about 2.5 years total), or an update of a classic work. Moving forward by looking to the past.
BD: How would you describe the shared creative process of working with the cast and crew to bring this production to life?
AVR: “Beautiful chaos.”
It’s very much like the first time you produce an independent comic book. Producing, rehearsing, and performing our debut at The Hollywood Fringe Festival officially began in April of this year, and it’s been a huge undertaking for a team of three. Everything that has come our way has been amazing!
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that The Bearer of Bad News will connect with and impact audiences?
AVR: Recent political events have made The Bearer of Bad News more timely than ever before. We’re hoping audiences leave thinking about the autonomy people who can become pregnant deserve to have over our bodies - and, yes, I chose the phrase “people who can become pregnant” very intentionally. The playwright is non-binary and non-binary identity is center as much as the female perspective.
Perhaps that’s a dense paragraph above, but I hope The Bearer of Bad News leaves audiences thinking at all. The conclusion is not necessarily as integral to our artistic process as the thoughts.
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival an ideal venue for your productions?
AVR: Fringe Festivals are international theatre festivals. They’re wonderful platforms for first-time producers or new companies because there’s a preexisting infrastructure - like going with a traditional publishers versus self-publishing directly to a platform like ComiXology or Webtoons. Unladylike Theatre members have participated in the Hollywood Fringe Festival in years past in various capacities, so we knew there was support and assistance to be had. HFF does a wonderful job building community within the season’s resident artists, and they help focus aspects of production like searching for venues and advertising.
BD: The show will be appearing at the Other Space Theater (at The Actor’s Company) in June. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
AVR: Since The Bearer of Bad News is described as a “corporeal tragedy,” we’ve got our eyes on a potential revival in October!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
AVR: The Bearer of Bad News closes on June 25th, so come out and “imagine if you will …” with us throughout this month. From me, you can expect more comic book projects coming in the autumn. If readers are familiar with my independent comic book, Aurora and the Eagle, they are going to want to keep their eyes peeled!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for The Bearer of Bad News?
AVR: It’s pride month! Why not support 3 queer femmes making thoughtful queer theatre? Details on everything Unladylike Theatre can be found on our official website (https://unladyliketheatre.com/), and tickets to The Bearer of Bad News are available via the Hollywood Fringe Festival website.
Our tickets are only $10, making it one of the most accessible outings in LA Theatre right now!