This substantial one-women show was first developed as a 20-minute piece last year and presented as a monologue at UCLA School of Theater Film and Television.
It then went on to win the 2017 Scholarship Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2018 and garnered an official selection of the United Solo Festival.
The setting is a waiting area at a casting in LA for several female black roles in a production. Our protagonist is a young ambitious black actress, excited to be given an opportunity to perform. In fact, when the play first begins, the actress Sacha Elie is seated in the audience giving us a kind of “soft open” so we are not entirely sure at first that the play has even begun. It's a masterful way to make us slightly uncomfortable at the outset of what is, in essence, an exercise in the uncomfortable, the awkward, the shocking and the painful.
The character of the actress spends the play going over her lines and preparing herself for an audition for three roles. A young black “urban/street” woman, an older, glamorous, pushy “bitch” and an older domestic worker. All horrible caricatures, all roles are written as MTV reality, two-dimensional tokens of the direly non-diverse and often shamefully written roles that too often exist for women of color.
We feel the utter humiliation of her position, even as she walks out at one point, appalled at the words she must utter, the descriptions of the characters, the shamelessness of the business she longs to be a part of. She comes back, sadly resigned to her part in it. But it is all of us who should be sad and ashamed and furious at the continual diminishing of expectations for women and especially women of color.
For all the recent and well-meant outrage, fewer women are in the position to hire, to green light and to make films and television that would quite literally change everything.
Sacha Elie puts in our face, quite brilliantly, beautifully and heartbreakingly, what it is she must deal with always and it’s a hard thing to bare witness to, but far, far harder still to experience.
Sacha is an absolutely phenomenal actress. Bold and open and deeply effective. She tries so hard to give these hollow roles some sense of purpose, and as she gets inside them, we do see more, but only through her finesse, her skill and her ability to breath life into them. She makes them something for herself in order to get through the audition, but in the end she is not the one who gets to chose.And as she squeezes her enormous talent and life force into these tiny cartoon roles we can see her die a little.
The roles themselves also speak, they push back against their ridiculousness, they make their points as Sacha works through who they could be.
“Who You Calling A Bitch!!!” is an incredible piece of theatre.
Sacha Elie is brilliant and transcendent and you should definitely keep this on your radar. If you ever get the opportunity you have to see it. Believe me, it truly needs to be seen. I hope Sacha takes this further, it should be a film, a show, a bloody training session for all writers, directors, producers and studio executives….incredible.
Written and Produced by Sacha Elie
Dramaturg: Patrick Hurley
Directed by Sacha Elie & Madai Antunes-Trujillo
One Night Only, January 30th, Whitefire - Solofest 2019