Invisible Women Program
About the Play: Notes From the Dramaturgs
Click here to learn more about the play
If you were to ask us what we do as dramaturgs, we would have to answer honestly: we don't really know. Our job title can encompass a myriad of different tasks, and the extent of our influence on a piece of theatre varies from production to production. But, just like our fellow artists—the directors, the actors, the designers—we are dedicated to the journey of discovery. This journey oftentimes continues even after opening night, and the epiphanies of creation can come to us long after we've moved onto other projects. In essence, we are seamsters and seamstresses, finding any holes or loose ends in a play and mending them; if there's a problem, we can help you fix it, or at least give you the tools that you need in order to fix it yourself.
The John Lion New Plays Festival presents two brand new works for the stage, one by an MFA student, the other by an undergraduate. Early versions of these two works were staged as online Zoom readings in the throes of the Pandemic. A panel of faculty and administration adjudicated each of the twelve plays and decided that these two, Invisible Women and Does He Like Black Girls were chosen as full productions for the Theatre Department’s first season back in person. We are so thrilled to present these stories for the first time on stage.
That said, Pamela August Russell’s play, Invisible Women, reimagines the interactions between two women, Helen Golay and Olga Rudderschmidt who were convicted of planning and staging the murders of Paul Vados and Kenneth McDavid, both vagrants, for insurance money the women had taken out on the men. Known as the Blac Widow Murders, Pam reimagined the ladies as Helena and Edie, who have always seen themselves as invisible- disposable, ignored, and unseen. Helena and Edie’s foray into grifting is their response to their placeless roles in society, and as the grifts get bigger, so do the stakes. When they are finally caught by law enforcement, their response is so Marie Antoinette: let them eat cake. Invisible Women is the story of two ladies who see themselves as resourceful, toiling in the dark and forgotten in the background, but dispensable, nevertheless. Their response to their invisibility: murder. The real-life Helen and Olga were only convicted of two murders--- the real number they committed is unknown. Here, in Invisible Women, Helena and Edie planned and committed more, against men who they saw as dispensable. What does this say about our society, where those on the periphery turn upon others for profit? Pam takes us on that journey, and the results may not be what we expect in the end.
Veronica Driscoll’s Does He Like Black Girls is the story of three best friends, Trina, O’Naize, and Theo, who have viewed the world through the lens of the mantra “But does he like Black girls…” The White world commodifies Black culture but stops just short of fully embracing Blackness as the norm. When Trina starts dating Greg, a popular white teen at their school, this catapults the friends into a conflict that threatens the very foundation of their friendship. What does it mean to be Black in a world in which everything- society, art, culture, and a justice system, is stacked against you? Veronica engages us in this world, based upon her own high school world, and the voices are real and the questions she asks within the play forces us to confront the inequities in our society- Black culture is something to be lauded and admired and engaged with- but Black people remain marginalized, berated, feared and murdered on the streets. Will this ever change? Veronica’s play interrogates and engages us to engage with these questions and how this interrogation leads to real change
Two very different plays, by two very different students, reflect what art is supposed to do- force us to asak the questions that we as a society are unable to resolve. We see ourselves in these characters, in their disenfranchisement, in their power, in their bonds; their mistakes and their conciliations. What does it mean to be Black in a world that is stacked against you? What does it mean to be invisible, unseen, peripheral, unacknowledged?
We hope you enjoy these brand-new works for the stage, written by student playwrights.
Carolyn Dunn, PhD, Faculty Dramaturg
Eva Paiz, Assistant Dramaturg for Invisible Women
Damiona Barbosa, Assistant Dramaturg for Does He Like Black Girls?
Full Cast/Production/Crew Credits
Click here for the full listing of all involved on our production
Written by Pamela August Russell
Directed by Yasmeen Al-Kayed
Zoia Wiseman as Helena Schmidt
Amy Luna-Beltran as Ethelbert “Edie” Muller
Thiri Moe as Rhonda Louis
Steven Gonzalez as Mike Gomez, Miguel Ruiz
Thomas Sackett as Jimmy Samuels, Hotel Pool Waiter
Henrick Rivera as Pastor Rick, Ned Warner, Joseph Pell, a date, FBI agent
David Gallegos as Andreas Staller, Mark Waring, a date, FBI agent
Angeline Chavez as Carrie Noyce, Mary Lampert, Hotel Pool Waiter
Brooklyn Ruiz as Maria Dorn, Emily
Scenic Designer - Natalie Morales
Lighting Designer - Bo Tindell
Costume Designer - Daniel Balladares
Sound Designer - Rudy Zazueta
Camera Production/TD - Moses Israel Guerrero
Props Coordinator - Casey Cuellar
Assistant Dramaturg - Eva Paiz
Stage Manager - Paulyn Sreekhwan
Assistant Technical Director - Rosalie Dierking
Assistant Props - Elisa Ruffalo
Graphics - Matt Roth
Scenic Painter - Alyssa Armas
House Manager - Carmelita Garcia Espinoza
Running Crew - Jonathon Jones; Angel Molina
Wardrobe Crew - April Yanez; Tiffany Quiroz
Light Board Operator - Selena Garcia
Sound Board Operator - Tallon Pedregosa
TV Production Crew - Seth Dorcey; Anthony Dunbar; JaNarie Rhambo; Savannah Rohloff; Matt Roth
Costume Shop Assistants - Daniel Balladares; Steven Gonzalez; Arturo Vega
Lighting Shop Assistant Artie Peralez; Savannah Rohloff
Faculty Dramaturg - Carolyn Dunn
Faculty Directing Mentor - Randee Trabitz
Faculty Technical Director - Daniel Czypinski
Faculty Production Manager - Meredith Greenburg
Electrics Shop Supervisor - Tim Jones
Costume Shop Supervisor - Bruce Zwinge
TAD Department Coordinator - Laura Dickinson-Turner
NEW PLAYS SELECTION COMMITTEE
Dr. Carolyn Dunn
Dr. Alicia Tycer
Dr. Katherine Weiss
Click here for a few special shoutouts
Thank you to the following people without whom we could never have made this production possible: the TA 3000 Production Support students; Kristiina Hackel, Joseph Gallegos, and Matt Gatlin from TVFM; Artie Peralez and Midori King; Janet Dial; and last (but FAR from least!) the Staff of the Luckman Fine Arts Complex – Nicholas Mestas (Executive Director), Henry Harris (Business Manager) and especially Greg Sidnam for his hours and hours of work to make this experience happen for the students.
PAMELA AUGUST RUSSELL
Pamela August Russell (Playwright) is a second-year candidate for the MFA in TV, Film, and Theater at Cal State LA. She received her BA in Fiction from Mills College in Oakland California where she graduated with honors. She also received the Mary Merritt Henry Poetry Prize for her chapbook The Invention of Love. She is the author of B is for Bad Poetry out now from Sterling Publishing. The Los Angeles Times says, “It may not be Walt Whitman, but Miss Russell’s verses are certainly a whole lot funnier.” Her short stories and poetry have appeared in several anthologies including Nothing Moments, June and Virgin Territory. She has written for Paramount Pictures, Oxygen, and NBC. She lives in Los Angeles near the freeway.
Yasmeen Al-Kayed (Director) is a second year student in the MFA in the TV Film and Theater content creation option. This is Yasmeen’s first production with Cal State LA. Yasmeen previously directed the Survival Journey documentary for which she received the Audience Award at the Franco-Arab Film Festival in Jordan organized by Institut Français de Jordanie. A native of Amman, Jordan, Yasmeen relocated to Los Angeles in 2017 and is excited to immerse herself in a new culture and work environment. Yasmeen would like to thank her mentor Randee Trabitz and her parents for their unconditional support.
Zoia N. Wiseman (Helena) is pleased to be in her second show at Cal State LA. In the fall of 2020, she appeared in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Ensemble). She has worked both on and off stage on the California Central Coast, Washington, DC, and Northern Ireland. Some of her favorite work includes Deathtrap (Helga), Fannie Lou: the Musical (Mrs. Bedford), Two and a Half Days in Vegas (Teddy), Paige in Full (Lighting Design), The Capital Fringe Festival (Production Manager- ‘08 and Lighting Coordinator-’09), and as an instructor of stage management at PCPA and Howard University. Zoia holds a BFA in Acting from Stephens College and is a current MFA candidate (acting option) at Cal State LA.
Amy Luna-Beltrán (Ethelbert "Edie" Muller) was born and raised in East Los Angeles, CA.; Received her B.A. from Humboldt State University. She is currently a second-year Master of Fine Arts Student in Acting at California State University, Los Angeles. Favorite Roles on Stage: Real Woman Have Curves, as Pancha, CB’s Sister in Dog Sees God; Juana Enez De La Cruz in NCRT's The Tenth Muse; #14 in Bellingham TheatreWorks The Wolves; and Tania DelValle in NCRT's Native Gardens. She is honored to be part of such a hilariously ridiculous production that will speak to generations, “a true privilege.”
Thiri Moe (Detective Rhonda Louis) is a first-year Pre-TV Film and Media Studies major. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, spending most of her time working on film sets in Oakland and San Francisco. While primarily trained in screen acting she hopes to expand her craft here at Cal State LA. She first attended First Take Acting school but as of now is attending Identity School of Acting. She moved to LA in the hopes of turning her dreams into a career.
Steven Gonzalez (Detective Mike Gomez and Miguel Ruiz) is a senior at Cal State LA, majoring in Theatre Arts and Dance, with an option in Theatre. This is Steven’s fourth production with Cal State LA. Steven’s favorite roles on stage include Ensemble in She Kills Monsters, Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd, and Barrel in Urinetown. Steven hopes to continue to work in the arts and to continue to hone his craft. Steven would like to thank his friends and family for always supporting him and pushing him to be his best self.
Thomas Sackett is a 2nd year transfer student double majoring in Theatre Arts: Performance and English: General Studies at Cal State LA, and is honored to portray Jimmy and Waiter in Invisible Women. This is his third production with Cal State LA, previously appearing as Yuri in War of the Worlds and as Dr. Billeaux in Urinetown, also appearing in the John Lion New Play Festival. He would like to thank those that continue to support him and grant him the opportunities to work in his chosen field, and currently works as a Productions Manager with the Wellspring Productions based in the Inland Empire. His goal is to lift theatre up, along with new works, budding playwrights, and those who have often been overlooked.
Henrick Rivera (Multiple Roles) is in his last year at Cal State LA as a transfer from Santa Monica College. He has done a couple of online shows at Cal State LA and was last in Urinetown as Mr. Cladwell. Playing multiple roles has been an interesting challenge to him that he has had a lot of fun with. Henrick would like to thank everyone for helping put together this show as well as thank you for watching!
David Gallegos (Andres Staller) is a Senior at Cal State LA majoring in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Performance. He is honored to participate in his second show at Cal State LA yet his very first performance on campus. His performance credits include See What I See at Cal State LA then at Ventura College The Watch That Ends the Night, Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, and Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. He also has multiple backstage credits as a student worker in the costume and stagecraft department as a specialist. He is very excited to continue his educational journey and would like to thank everyone involved in this production for all their hard work during these difficult times we live in. He hopes you the audience enjoys the show and are ecstatic to be viewing theatre live once again.
AJ Chavez (She/They): (Multiple Roles) is currently in their third year as an undergraduate Theatre Major with their emphasis in performance at Cal State LA. They are a native of East Los Angeles and are very excited to be a part of this Fall’s production of Invisible Women. A.J. was previously seen in various roles in the 2021 Spring production of Dreaming of Our Future. When she is not performing, AJ can be found drawing, painting, or singing old choral pieces for fun.
Brooklyn Ruiz (Emily) is a first year at Cal State LA, majoring in Theatre. This is Brooklyn’s first production with Cal State LA. Favorite roles on stage include Carla in In The Heights, Peaseblossom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The witch in Shrek the Musical. Brooklyn would like to thank her family and friends for always supporting her.
Natalie Morales (Scenic Designer - she/her/hers) is a Theatrical Scenic Designer and Film Set Dresser based in the greater Los Angeles area. As a recent MFA graduate of CSULB's Theatre Arts Department, Natalie explores art, theatre, and film in her journey as a scenic designer. She achieved her Bachelor's degree at CSUN and started by assisting various scenic designers in the San Fernando Valley and LA area. Natalie's hands-on experience opened new opportunities, allowing her to design her own productions in various theaters, as well as mentor design students of a new generation. She is now a professor of Digital Scenic Design for Theatre at CSUN. See more of her work here: http://nataliealessandra.wixsite.com/scenicdesigner
Bo Tindell (Lighting Designer) is a freelance lighting designer based out of Los Angeles and very excited to be back working again with the amazing staff, students, and faculty of CSULA. Regional Designer Credits: San Diego Rep, Tuacahn Center for the Arts, Getty Villa Museum, Greenway Court Theatre, Berkeley Playhouse, NY Fringe, Circle X Theatre Co., Couerage Theatre, The TRIP, Ubuntu Theatre Co., La Jolla Playhouse. M.F.A. from UC San Diego and B.A. from Cal State Fullerton. www.wbtdesigns.com
Daniel Balladares (Costumer) is an East Los Angeles College alumni and current student in the college of Arts & Letters of Cal State LA. He will receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Design and Production in Spring 2022. Daniel transferred from ELAC to Cal State LA and took on the role of Assistant Stage Manager for War of the Worlds by H.G Wells adapted by Ben Hernandez and directed by Stephen Rothman, for which he received an award for Meritorious Achievement at the 2021 virtual KCACTF competition. He has enjoyed having the pleasure of designing costumes for Invisible Women written by M.F.A. student Pamela Russsell and directed by M.F.A student Yasmeen Al-Kayed in the Fall 2021 semester. This is his first Costume Design at Cal State LA, but Daniel previously designed costumes for Chavez Ravine by Culture Clash directed by Ramiro Segovia at ELAC. Daniel would like to thank his mentor Jessica Hansen, his family for their support, and the CSULA Theatre Department for all the opportunities thus far.
RUDY U. ZAZUETA
Rudy U. Zazueta (Sound Designer) is a freshman at Cal State LA, majoring in Theatre Arts (Production Design), with an option in Theatre. This is Rudy’s first production with Cal State LA, having recently transferred from East Los Angeles Community College. He was most recently work as a sound designer in Refugee Hotel at ELAC. Favorite sound design on stage include Gloria and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. Rudy would like to thank Nate, Francois and his family for always supporting him.
Eva Paiz (Assistant Dramaturg) is currently a senior at Cal State LA; she is majoring in Theatre Arts with an option in Performance. Although training to become an actor, Eva has decided to try her hand at dramaturgy by serving as an assistant dramaturg for Invisible Women, alongside Carolyn Dunn, PhD. “This has been a wonderful experience, and I thank the Invisible Women team for all their love, patience, and support.”
Paulyn Sreekhwan (Stage Manager) is a sophomore at Cal State LA, majoring in Theatre Arts and Dance. This is Paulyn’s first production as stage manager and second time involved in a Cal State LA production. She most recently made her acting debut in the reboot production of Dreaming of Our Future. Paulyn would like to thank everyone involved in the production and her family for being supportive throughout the journey.
Selena Nalua Garcia (Light Board Operator) is a senior at Cal State L.A., majoring in Theatre with an option in Design and Production. She is a transfer student from the Central Valley, where she graduated with an A.A. in Theatre Production from San Joaquin Delta College. Her credits for SJDC productions include lighting for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Uncle Vanya and Noises Off, as well as scenic construction for 1984. She is also credited with light design in a student-directed production of A Few of Our Favorite Scenes. Selena is excited to be a part of her first production at Cal State L.A.
Tallon Pedregosa (Sound Board Operator) is a digital content & multimedia creator from Stockton, CA. Born in San Francisco & raised in Culver City until the age of 8, Tallon always seeks to find his way on stage, whether it is working with lights, having some experience with building sets in the scene shop, to dancing & singing to an intimate or crowded space. His very first musical was Oklahoma in the 3rd grade, in which he played the villain Sinister. Tallon had no interest in furthering his acting career until his senior year in high school playing Jack Felton in The Bloody Attack of the Evil Demonic Giraffe Puppet, a comedy script called Of Royal Blood, & the Cowardly Lion in The Wiz musical. After high school, Tallon spent many years finding himself trying to figure out his career path; from culinary arts to nutrition, & finally majoring in Theatre Arts suggested by his high school drama teacher. During his last year at the local community college, Tallon operated light cues for Laramie Project & 2 rep workshops, soundboard operated for Noises Off, light designed & programmed for a show, & got to work with audio & video editing. His most recent performance on stage was Dances of Protest last Spring in the State Playhouse at Cal State Los Angeles. Tallon plans on finishing his last semester next fall in 2021.
Casey Cuellar (Props Coordinator) is a current student at Cal State LA and will be receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theatre Performance in Spring 2022. This is her second time being props coordinator, with her first being We, The Invisibles. She has also been involved in productions such as She Kills Monsters (Tilly) and Fuente Ovejuna (Lady of Calatrava). She first came to Cal State LA to further her education in acting but has come to find a passion for prop work. Casey hopes to pursue both after graduation. She would like to thank the family, friends, and staff that have helped and supported her throughout her college journey.
Angel Molina (Running Crew) is a senior, majoring in Theatre with an option in Design and Production. Stage Management credits include: Hamlet (Cal State LA), Fall 2019 Dance Concert (Cal State LA), Sweeney Todd (Cal State LA) and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Cal State LA). Running Crew credits include: Dear John Why Yoko? (Cal State LA), Invisible Women (Cal State LA) and Does He Like Black Girls? (Cal State LA). It was Angel's first time working on setting up and focus lights for the New Plays Festival which she liked doing and has taken an interested in lighting. As Angel is preparing to graduate in Spring 2022, she would like to thank her professors for helping her try new things to find her calling.