• Cristee Cook

Fit Festival Series, Part 3: Leos Ensemble presents Pre-Modern feminist works

By Cristee Cook

For the first time in Dallas’ Festival of Independent Theatres' 22 years of operation, the FIT Festival will is being offered on a virtual platform. Streaming on-demand October 8 – 31, this year’s program includes 6 performance companies with new works in dance, comedy, drama, and more.  Dallas Art Beat is excited to be offering “get-to-know-you" featurettes with each company in a 6-part series throughout the month of October.

Part 3 of our series highlights the Leos Ensemble and their 3x3: Three Short Scenes from Pre-Modern Playwrights. We spoke with Director Nick Leos about the trio of passionate and powerful political works by three female playwrights and poets. The triptych explores the themes of art, inclusion, and identity form a feminist perspective. The pieces included are: An Introduction by Margaret Cavendish (c.1662), To the Lady Anne by Æmilia Bassano Lanier (1611), and Votes for Women! by Elizabeth Robins (1907).

Can you give us some background on your project for FIT?

Our original plan for this year's FIT was to present another triple bill of contemporary Irish shorts, and in doing some research for that show I came across Elizabeth Robins, who was friends with Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. That project is still hopefully coming soon, but when David Meglino [FIT Festival Producer] announced the virtual format, I started putting together another triple bill based around the scene from Robins' Votes for Women!  One of my graduate school mentors recently directed the premiere of Margaret Cavendish's An Unnatural Tragedy, which is how I found her work a few years ago. Æmilia Bassano Lanier's works were on my mind because of the incredible contemporary play that is based on her life called Emilia! 

A triple bill allowed us to include and pay more artists and also helped keep the rehearsals separate—each of the scene groups is made of people who are bubbling together during the pandemic. 

What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience? 

On our mission statement we say that we "embrace technology and new formats of storytelling...” -- little did we know! It felt like going to film school in four weeks with learning how to edit, direct, shoot, and light the space. It was exciting to get to experiment and learn a new way of creating a story through images. The timeline is very different than theatre, but ultimately the goal is the same: putting extraordinary scripts in the hands of incredible actors and curating that performance for an audience. 

Why do you want to tell this story now?

The works from these three playwrights allowed us to explore feminist ideas in theatre through a new lens. I see companies in Dallas presenting nothing but Shakespeare, Goldsmith and Wilde—not that there's anything wrong with those writers, but only producing male works immensely skews our understanding of  classics theatre. Women were writing plays as contemporaries of these men. When looking into these works, we found the writing teeming with the same issues womxn face today: sexism, disenfranchisement, and surviving in a culture dominated by the male psyche. 

What’s sustaining you during this time of uncertainty?

The new season of The Great British Bake Off, Moesha on Netflix, and long walks around Dallas looking for new outdoor theatre sites.


Leos Ensemble presents 3x3: Three Short Scenes from Pre-Modern Playwrights as part of the 22nd Annual Festival of Independent Theatres, available for streaming (on-demand) October 8-31, 2020.  Purchase a two-show block for $12, or a festival pass with access to all shows for $30. Find the complete program listing, tickets, and more at: festivalofindependenttheatres.org.

Read all about Leos Ensemble on Linktree.

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