Friday, December 14, 2012

Believe in the Currency of Kindness

A Birthday Message from Our Executive Director Martha Richards

As I celebrate my birthday this week, I feel blessed that I get to work with so many amazing and creative women. I know it is not easy to be an artist these days, and I am grateful to all of you for sticking to it.

We have been enduring three decades of a long, cold winter of shrinking funding and dismissive public attitudes towards artists. I believe we will eventually pass through a cultural solstice and the light will start to return, but meanwhile, we need to figure out ways to sustain each other.

If you are like me, you are being deluged with funding requests at this time of year. If you are able to make cash gifts to women artists and women's organizations, I hope you will do so. Most of us (including WomenArts) are working on a shoestring, and your cash gifts will really make a difference.

But I also believe there is a currency of kindness that we can use to lift each other's spirits whether or not we have any spare cash on hand.

I have seen it over and over again at WomenArts and in other parts of my life - you can often give someone the courage to keep working or try something new just by listening to them carefully, acknowledging their hard work, and finding kind, supportive things to say.

Believe in the Currency of Kindness


I am making a special birthday request. I want each of you to do the following three things:

  1. Take time during the holiday season to think about a women artist whose work touches you.

  2. Do your best to contact that artist and tell her what you love about her work. If she needs money and you have some extra, make a donation to her work.
    If not, just say kind words.

  3. Write to me or post a note on our Facebook page to let me know what happens.
This email is being sent to over 10,000 people. Just think how many women artists will be energized if all of us make a conscious effort to cheer them on! Let's do it!

Thanks again to all of you for filling my life with so many moments of sheer joy. You make me happy on my birthday and every day.

Best Wishes for the Holidays!
Martha Richards
Executive Director, WomenArts

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Liberated Muse




SWAN Day Celebrated By Liberated Muses in Washington, D.C.


Collage from the "I'm Every Woman" SWAN Day Event

It's hard to believe it's been almost three months since the fifth international SWAN Day! We're  continuing to profile the amazing women who make SWAN Day events happen all over the globe. This year, one of our most delightful discoveries during SWAN season was the Liberated Muse Arts Group, who put on a SWAN Day concert on March 30, 2012 in Washington, D.C. featuring long-time Liberated Muse artists. The event, called "I'm Every Woman," was held at The Potter's House, and included musical performances by Teisha Marie, Quineice, Colie Williams, Mama Moon, Lea, and the show's organizer and Liberated Muse founder Khadijah  "Moon" Ali-Coleman. Singer and musician Derrick Marquis also paid tribute to women in music with a medley of songs by female soul musicians. The event was a great success, with the musicians selling over 40 CD's during the two-hour concert.

Here at WomenArts, we were captivated by the promotional video for "I'm Every Woman," which features music by jazz singer Dianne Reeves and photos of all the performers. The song's positive message of hope and commitment to the arts against a history of oppression resonated with us, and we wanted to find out more about this powerful group of women.

The Latest Publication from
Liberated Muse
It's not surprising that the "I'm Every Woman" SWAN Day concert was such a success, given the history of Liberated Muse. Founded in 2008 by Khadijah Ali-Coleman, a writer, educator, performer, and creativity coach, as an online community for artists to share news, photos, videos, and performance opportunities, the group began producing the Capitol Hip Hop Soul Fest, a Washington D.C. hip hop festival that ran from 2008-2010. Liberated Muse Arts has continued to build on its mission to produce multi-cultural arts events in non-traditional arts spaces as well as providing arts workshops, online content management, and PR services to artists and small businesses.

Highlights from the group's relatively short but action-packed history include the publication of two books, edited by Ali-Coleman: Liberated Muse I: How I Freed My Soul and Liberated Muse II: Betrayal Wears a Pretty Face, as well as two theatrical productions, both written by Ali-Coleman: Running: AMOK, a musical about becoming a mother, and In Her Words, a celebration of the lives and work of Lucille Clifton, Zora Neale Hurston, Lena Horne, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday.  Both shows were produced to rave reviews.

Liberated Muse continues to produce arts events - most recently, another showcase of musical talent on June 16, 2012, for The Artomatic, during which Washington, D.C. artists take over an 11-story building in Crystal City, VA, that is slated for demolition, and transform it into a month-long celebration of creativity, featuring workshops, exhibitions, concerts, seminars, and other events that are free and open to the public.


Khadijah Ali-Coleman
We were thrilled to learn that Ali-Coleman has been honored for all of her amazing work by being named one of Prince George's County Social Innovation Fund's 40 Under 40. We can't wait to see what she'll do next!

If you're in the Washington, D.C. area, be sure to check out Liberated Muse's upcoming events and like them on Facebook. And wherever you live, click on the links in this article to be introduced to some very talented musicians and artists who will be sure to inspire you to liberate the muse inside yourself.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lady Got Chops

Honoring the Past While Creating the Future: An Interview With Kim A. Clarke, Founder and Organizer of the Lady Got Chops Women's History Month Jazz Festival

Kim A. Clarke, Founder of the
Lady Got Chops Festival
Ten years ago, jazz bassist Kim A. Clarke started a festival called Lady Got Chops in New York City to showcase and celebrate women jazz musicians. Lady Got Chops has grown into an annual event during Women’s History Month, and has also become a SWAN Day event.

Inspiration for the Lady Got Chops festival came in 2003, when Clarke was called to sub for another bassist at a new club in Brooklyn called The Jazz Spot, which was owned by a mother-daughter team, Lillithe Meyers and Tiecha Merritt. Clarke was impressed with the two women's entrepreneurship, and Meyers and Merritt were happy to see a female musician come through the doors.

They asked Clarke where all the other female jazz musicians were. Clarke had toured with saxophonist band leader Kit McClure and her all-women Big Band, so she knew plenty of other women musicians, and before long, she and her new friends were planning a celebration in honor of women’s history month. They decided to focus primarily on women jazz instrumentalists, since they tend to be more overlooked than vocalists. The club provided the space and food, and Clarke created a website, made flyers, booked the musicians, and promoted the event.

“In particular, we wanted to address the anonymity issue, as refers to women (primarily instrumentalists) in music as well as provide a platform for those who had never met to enjoy an evening of performing together outside of their comfort zone,” reminisced Clarke about that first festival.

Lady Got Chops was so successful that it continued as an annual festival at The Jazz Spot, which only seated 45 people, until the venue closed permanently in 2009. Since then, the festival has been held in various spots around New York City – 43 different venues have been featured.

WomenArts interviewed Clarke, who has played in numerous bands - notably, she is the leader of MAGNETS! West Coast-East Coast music project - about the history of the festival, the challenges faced by women jazz musicians, and the musicians who inspire her.

WomenArts: How has the festival grown and changed in the past 10 years?

Clarke: The Jazz Spot closed its doors permanently in 2009 after the 7th festival – ill health took its toll on Lil after exposure at the WTC [collapse of the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks]. The 8th, 9th, and 10th festivals were held in a total of 43 venues thereafter through the interest of friends who would share their bookings and clubs and who were interested in honoring Women’s History Month. We raised money for Doctors Without Borders in 2010 for earthquake relief in Haiti. The venues extended from churches to art galleries, from wine tasting venues to museums, from performance spaces to libraries. It’s become a free advertising event for me, as I still need to seek employment as a performer and may have a few more possibilities as a bassist during this time. It’s a two-edged sword – I spend a great deal of time trying to meet print materials deadlines, booking the events I have control of, and including those who have booked their own while being a professional musician.

WomenArts: Can you tell us about a few highlights from this year’s festival?

Clarke: The main highlight for this festival was honoring Cobi Narita, the founder of the Universal Jazz Coalition and International Women In Jazz, who is now in a wheelchair with Parkinson’s, as well
Cobi Narita
as Wendy Oxenhorn, the CEO of the Jazz Foundation of America, and my original co-producers Lillithe Meyers (also infirm due to WTC exposure) and Tiecha Merritt, the Jazz Spot owners. To have these ladies in the same room, to feed them and to present them with plaques as well as perform for them, was such an honor for me personally. The idea originally came from our friend, saxophonist Carol Sudhalter. The venue was the Dwyer Cultural Center, a new artistic space in Harlem. Another honor was for two of my old friends who have done so well in music to permit me to list their events with the rest of the festival: Cindy Blackman-Santana and the brilliant Carmen Lundy. I was also honored by Rome Heal and given the Golden Shakere Award. Here is a link to the full festival schedule.

Lady Got Chops 2012 Poster
WomenArts: How did you first discover jazz? Which artists were your early influences?

Clarke: My father grew up with New York jazz notables – my grandfather was a touring vaudevillian trombonist turned acoustic bassist (he passed on in 1967). Dad worked for transit but played big band and bebop music every morning while dressing for work. He also played records at home as well as cutting a mean jitterbug with Mom. Those were my earliest jazz influences. I took ballet from age 3 til about 12 and liked what the pianist was doing more so than the workout I was getting – lol. My babysitter brought in all the Hendrix, Otis Redding, R&B, etc. Mom loved the “gutbucket” blues of the south. I started playing at 17-18, but my jazz training came 4 years after I was already playing along with my favorite records in the R&B genre. I met a friend at Bennett College who told me about the Jazzmobile program of study on Saturdays. I enrolled and had classes with the likes of Jimmy Heath, Jimmy Owens, Victor Gaskin, JohnStubblefield, Lisle Atkinson and Charlie Persip. I transferred to CCNY [City College of New York] and studied with John Lewis of the MJQ [Modern Jazz Quartet] and was awarded three grants to study jazz with Ron Carter, Buster Williams, and Lisle Atkinson consecutively. I was a pre-med major prior to all of this – didn’t read a note of music. I was later introduced to the Barry Harris improvisation workshop and later became the house bassist for the Jazz Cultural Theatre Jam Session: Art Blakey Breakfast Jam. My most influential artists were the ones I knew and played with: KennyGates, Jeff King, Art Blakey Jr., Evelyn Blakey, Don Echos, George Braith, Gilly Coggins, Leon Thomas, Clifford Jordan, Eddie Jefferson, Philly Joe Jones, Jo Jones Jr, Jimmy Lovelace, Eddie Henderson, Tommy Turrentine, Clarence C. Sharpe, Richard Williams, Gerald Hayes, Louis Hayes, Wallace Roney, CindyBlackman… so many…

WomenArts: Can you talk about one or two women jazz musicians who really inspire you?

Clarke: The first woman to inspire me to play music was Cynthia Robinson, best known for being the trumpeter and vocalist in the popular and influential psychedelic soul/funk band Sly and the Family Stone. Robinson is notable for being one of the first (both) black and female trumpet players in a major American band.

Cynthia Robinson Playing Trumpet
With Sly and the Family Stone
Seeing her play with Sly at the Singer bowl did it for me. I was a teen and some of my male friends played – that planted the seed. The first male inspiration was Jimmy Hendrix. I continue to be inspired by Barry Harris, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen Lundy, Chaka Khan, Esperanza Spalding, Sheryl Bailey, GeriAllen, Scott LaFaro, BB King, Chano Pozo, Patato, Celia Cruz, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Linda Oh, Carol Chaikin, Rachel Z, Miki Hayama, Sheila E, Andrea Brachfeld, Tia Fuller, Ledisi, and Jocelyn Pleasant.

WomenArts: As a woman jazz musician, what is the field like?

Clarke: I guess the older one gets the more the perspective changes. Women are always viewed as more than just musicians – I do believe in music, as well as politics or any other public occupation, having the aptitude is mandatory but the looks are the deal closer… Yeah I said it – lol.

WomenArts: Do women in jazz experience discrimination? Is it more difficult for female jazz musicians to find work?

Clarke: Of course. Absolutely. Everything is about quick sales and marketability. Number 1 – jazz is an outsourced art form – more respected abroad than in the U.S. Number 2 – sex sells and the submissive side of women is the accepted norm; therefore playing jazz with a vengeance short circuits the common male-dominated imagery… and it’s being done. However, the less heady art forms and female images get infinitely more publicity.

WomenArts: What do you love most about jazz? Why is it such an important art form?

Clarke: Jazz – or BAM (Black American Music) as it is being called by some – is music of soul suffering spirit trying to extricate from pain with a smile on its face despite the insults and omissions… it’s a language which was born of the socio-cultural reality that is uniquely African-American – Euro-Asiatic – Caribbean – it reflects humanity from the depths of the brothel to the parlors of the rich and the church. It’s the global export that precedes the internet – I personally have found folk who don’t speak English but because of world wars know the music of my fathers and play the heck out of it as well. Mathematically speaking, good jazz, like good classical, makes one think on a deeper level… I love jazz because of the many I’ve met and the insights they’ve shared – their love of the music as well as the pain of choices. It’s a mountain… when you get to the top you can see a bit further.



Thanks to Clarke and the other women who participate in Lady Got Chops, we can all see a bit further into a future in which women musicians have the same opportunities and receive the same respect as their male counterparts. Be sure to follow the many links within this interview to listen to the musicians who inspire Clarke - and be sure to check out her website to get a taste of the music she plays, undoubtedly inspiring others.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Black Women Playwrights' Group Looks to the Future

Karen L.B. Evans, Founder
Black Women Playwrights' Group
For the third installment of our series on the movement for equity for women playwrights, we're profiling the Black Women Playwrights' Group, a Washington DC-based group that expanded its activities to the national level in 2008.

The group was founded in 1989 by Karen L.B. Evans, a playwright who has received fellowships from the NEA and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and had numerous publications and presentations of her work.  Its core activities are monthly meetings for its members to workshop new material and share information about playwriting opportunities, and both emerging and established playwrights are welcome.  In addition to the monthly meetings, there are networking events with producers, directors, designers, and actors. The members also co-produce and produce their own work in the DC area, and they have collaborated with The DC Black Theatre Festival, The New York Theater Workshop, Primary Stages, The Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Dramatic Publishing Company, and many other organizations.

While Black Women Playwrights' Group (BWPG) continues its traditional activities in Washington DC, it is also participating in some exciting new programs that place the group at the forefront of new trends in theatre.

Theatre and Digital Media:  In 2008, BWPG held the first national meeting of women of color writers in Chicago, where members identified three areas of interest: digital media, university residencies and productions, and the world of presenters. Following talk with action, the group decided to explore digital media, and held another conference in Chicago in April 2010, Linking Platforms: Theater and Digital Media in the 21st Century.

The outcome was a partnership with Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center to design a content and delivery program focused on theatre and its expansion into digital formats. Through this project theatre companies will work in pairs to choose and produce three plays by living playwrights. Each chosen playwright will write additional scenes, monologues, and character studies that extend the world of the play, and these will be made available online in an interactive environment designed by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon.

This extension of the world of a play across multiple media platforms is called transmedia storytelling.  The goal is to engage the audience in an interactive, contemporary way.

The first partner theatre in the project is Wooly Mammoth Theatre, a D.C. company founded in 1978 with the mission of producing bold and innovative new works. In February 2012, Wooly Mammoth, BWPG, and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) held a presentation of projects that included CMU grad students and playwrights discussing transmedia. Playwright Lynn Nottage spoke about her play By The Way, Meet Vera Stark, which she initially conceived as a transmedia story. The play, which premiered in 2011 at New York's Second Stage Theatre, is about an African-American film actress from the 1930's who played the roles open to her at the time - maids, slaves, and mammies - roles that she might have played in real life in another time.

By The Way, Meet Vera Stark, whose very subject crosses media genres - a play about a film star - is an appropriate piece to expand into new digital platforms (additional material will include clips from Vera Stark's films). It is also appropriate because it looks back at the history of a marginalized population - African American women - and simultaneously brings this history alive in the future, using new technologies to share the story with contemporary audiences.

Though the BWPG-CMU transmedia theatre initiative is not specifically focused on women or women of color playwrights, BWPG's leadership in this project is significant because it places women of color at the cutting edge of new developments in theatre. They will work with the CMU team to design cross-media platforms to enhance the work of playwrights and the experiences of audiences. Women's involvement in the early stages of new developments in technology and the arts is crucial to creating new platforms that not only include women participants, but fully embody women's perspectives and concerns.

Oral History Project with StoryCorps - In keeping with its interest and involvement in cross-platform media, BWPG recently collaborated with StoryCorps, National Public Radio's oral history project, to interview senior citizens in Brookland, a diverse neighborhood in the northeast quadrant of Washington, DC. BWPG conducted the interviews, then used the material to write a short screenplay (a skill they learned for the project) about the neighborhood, called Brookland, Not Brooklyn, which follows a boy whose family flees Montgomery, AL during the Bus Boycott of 1955.

The film will be produced by BWPG and StoryCorps, and will feature footage from the resident interviews at the end. BWPG held a fundraiser in November 2011 that included a preview of the film, dramatic readings by BWPG members, and opportunities for attendees to record their own stories with StoryCorps representatives. This collaboration with StoryCorps to create a cross-platform examination of the history of a neighborhood is right in line with BWPG's dedication to being involved in new and exciting technologies, while bringing the stories of African Americans to a wider audience.

Black Women Playwrights' Group has a long history of activism for women of color playwrights and effective support and advocacy for its members.  It is especially inspiring that they are now initiating cutting-edge projects to make sure that the voices of women of color will continue to be heard in the future. Find out more at http://www.blackwomenplaywrights.org/home.asp.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Congratulations to SWAN Festival Bulgaria

Rumyana Tancheva, Nevena Gadjeva
& Dessi Dimova
Congratulations to the organizers of SWAN Festival Bulgaria for their second four-day SWAN celebration. The efforts have been led by musician Dessi Dimova of Art Nova Foundation.

Dimova worked closely this year with Rumyana Tancheva of Wonderland Events and Nevena Gadjeva of City Center Sofia Mall where many of the events were held. She also formed partnerships with the American Embassy in Bulgaria, Les Fleurs Hotel, the Sofia Municipality, Social Me (check out the cool graphics on their site), and Fresh Swing Dance.

This year's celebration focused on the active participation of
the audience by offering workshops in several styles of dancing, puppet theatre, candle-making,creating batiks, knitting, painting with watercolors (for children), food carving, and food photography.
Lemon from Food
Carving Workshop

They also offered their first "SWAN Academy," a one-week free "boot camp" in documentary film-making led by Minnesota-based U.S. filmmaker Melody Gilbert of Frozen Feet Films.

To see the complete schedule of SWAN Festival Bulgaria, please visit: swanfestivalbg.com.  Note: This site is in Bulgarian, but if you go to Google Translate you can enter the link for the site and Google will translate the Bulgarian to English and many other languages.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bringing Theatre Women Together for Change: The 50/50 in 2020 Movement

Join 50/50 in 2020
As a follow-up to last week's post on the Los Angeles Female Playwrights' Initiative, this week we'll be taking a look at the movement that spawned the West Coast group: the New York-based 50/50 in 2020 initiative. Created in response to the 2009 Sands Study, which confirmed the 2002 statistic that fewer than 20% of professionally produced plays in the U.S. are written by women, 50/50 in 2020 is a participatory movement with the goal of achieving parity for professional women theatre artists by the year 2020.

50/50 in 2020 was created by three women who have extensive firsthand knowledge of the theatre community and what it means to be a woman working within it: Susan Jonas (NYU), whose 2002 NYSCA Study, Report On The Status Of Women: A Limited Engagement? brought the abysmal statistics on women's representation in theatre to the attention of the theatre community (her 20% statistic had not changed as of the 2009 Sands Study); Melody Brooks, Artistic Director of New Perspectives Theatre Company; and Julie Crosby, Producing Artistic Director of Women's Project. Allied with The League of Professional Theatre Women, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the movement's founders set the goal of achieving full representation for women in theatre by 2020.

The movement supports works written, directed, and/or designed by women in the professional theatre, and advocates for more opportunities for women to be involved in professional productions, as well as equal pay for women in theatre. Although the official initiative began in 2009, it builds upon years of work by the women - and their organizations - who decided it was finally time for a national movement.

Women's Project, founded by Julia Miles in 1978, is the oldest theatre company in the U.S. dedicated to producing and promoting theatre created by women. An impressive lineup of playwrights and directors have gotten their start at Women's Project, including Eve Ensler, Lynn Nottage, and Paula Vogel. The company has staged over 600 mainstage and development projects and published 11 anthologies of women playwrights. Now under the Artistic Direction of Julie Crosby, Women's Project continues to produce plays by women and offers a free, two-year development lab program for mid-career playwrights, directors, and producers. The lab offers artists the opportunity both to develop their craft under the mentorship of accomplished women theatre artists, and also to network with each other and create community, which is vital to the advancement of women in theatre.

New Perspectives Theatre Company (New York, NY) was founded in 1991 by Melody Brooks with the goal of developing and presenting new works not only by women but also by playwrights of color, particularly works that have a strong social justice component or deal with social issues. Like Women's Project, New Perspective also has a lab development program for women playwrights, Women's Work, to help advance its mission to showcase "a range of voices that reflect the true diversity of contemporary America." 50/50 in 2020 seems a logical outgrowth of this mission.

The League of Professional Theatre Women was another logical partner for the 50/50 in 2020 movement. For 30 years, the organization has advocated and promoted opportunities for women in the professional theatre, as well as provided a community for networking and mutual support.

The cornerstone of 50/50 in 2020 is Works By Women, a group that goes to see productions written, directed, and/or designed by women in New York. Any woman can submit a show for consideration for listing on their blog and for a possible group outing, though shows must be on Broadway, Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway. Works By Women also profiles women theatre artists and their shows in articles and interviews on the blog. They organize theatre-going events through a Meetup group organized by director Ludovica Villar-Hauser, and the group often receives discounts on tickets from producers and theatres. These group trips to see shows by women are wonderful opportunities for women working professionally in theatre (as well as interested supporters) to meet each other, network, and create community while demonstrating that there is an audience for works by women.

One can't help but envision similar groups springing up around the country, as one already has in Los Angeles, as the 50/50 in 2020 initiative grows. Why not start one in your community?

And if you are in New York and interested in getting involved, visit the 50/50 in 2020 Facebook page to meet up with the movement.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative Brings Local Focus to National Movement

Click here to download a free FPI Badge

The Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative, or LAFPI, was formed almost 2 years ago by playwrights Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb as a local, West Coast branch of the national movement for gender parity in the world of American theatre. Shamas and Webb started the LAFPI as an outgrowth of the East-Coast-based 50/50 in 2020 movement (which will be the subject of a future WomenArts blog post), which was formed in response to the findings of the Sands Study

Released in 2009 to media hype that skewed and obscured its salient findings, the study confirmed prior research that only approximately 20% of plays produced in American theatres are written by women, and that this fact stands in apparent opposition to the fact that many of the most successful plays (financially and critically) are written by women.

On their website, the LAFPI provides a great summary and analysis of the study, which concludes that producers conceive of works by women as less likely to be successful, and therefore works by women are held to much higher standards than works by men. Because of this "prophetic discrimination," women receive far fewer opportunities to develop their craft than men do. And because their plays are not produced until they reach a level of craft that is difficult to achieve without the chance to have their work produced, many leave the profession before they have the chance to truly develop as playwrights. (For a comprehensive overview of the problem, see our collection of articles about Women's Employment in Theatre).

The LAFPI began by commissioning a study of women playwrights in the Los Angeles area, and found that the national 20% statistic was true at the local level as well. They began working on a number of different fronts to address this paradox, with an infectious enthusiasm for their members' works and a positive, action-oriented attitude toward the field as a whole. These women know that they are making a difference, and they are excited about doing it.

Through their informative website and monthly newsletters, the LAFPI provides their members with information about submission opportunities of interest to female playwrights (similar to our WomenArts playwright funding newsletters, with a regional focus). They also have a Resources page that includes links for women playwrights to organizations around the country working for gender parity in theatre, as well as links for L.A. theatregoers and theatremakers, including a list of LAFPI member playwrights with links to their websites. The inclusion of resources for playwrights, producers, and audience members all on one page is representative of the LAFPI's desire to create a community in which playwrights, producers, and audiences work together to make the L.A. theatre scene more interesting and diverse through the production of more works by women.

The LAFPI also actively promotes plays by women that are being produced in the L.A. area, through e-mail blasts and their calendar of Women At Work On Stage, making it easy for audience members to find out what plays by women are being produced and where to see them. Member playwrights benefit from the LAFPI's promotion, and so do theatregoers.

Membership in the LAFPI is free and open to anyone who wants to be a part of the movement. Members can download the LAFPI logos to show their affiliation on websites and print communications, and the group even has merchandise such as T-shirts and hats so members can show their solidarity.

In addition to facilitating and promoting the production of plays by women, the LAFPI is engaged in ongoing conversations about women's representation in the field. Their blog features articles written by different playwrights about their work, the plays they're going to see, and the experience of being a female playwright.

Finally, the group organizes in-person meet-ups to discuss the movement and foster community. Their latest discussion, The Collaborations Conversation, was scheduled for March 25, 2012, on the occasion of SWAN Day. Organized by Ella Martin, the LAFPI's Study Director and the Artistic Director of Theatre Mab Town Hall, the event was open to "all theatre artists - male and female - who are interested in fostering new work for women theatre artists" and included a panel discussion with women theatre artists and professionals. Although this event had to be postponed due to torrential rains, there will be future events designed to bring playwrights, artistic directors, producers, and other collaborators together to form new partnerships for the future.

With their spirit of openness and inclusiveness, along with their incredible motivation, the LAFPI is taking action to ensure that L.A.'s women playwrights - as well as producers and audiences - have the opportunity to be part of the creation of a richer, more diverse theatre scene.

Find out how you can get involved at lafpi.com.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Special Guest Blog About SWAN Day Kenya

Special Guest Blog from Nairobi, Kenya: As part of our ongoing efforts to build more connections among SWAN organizers worldwide, WomenArts arranged for U.S. author/activist Deborah Santana to meet with the SWAN Day Kenya organizers in Nairobi.  We are delighted to post her special guest blog.

Deborah Santana meets with SWAN Day Kenya Artists
My friend, Vee and I walked onto the grounds of the National Theatre of Kenya to meet Sophie Dowllar and some of the women artists who are part of SWAN Day Kenya. In the café, Sophie stood, baby in arms, shining like the sun, welcoming us to a gathering of poets, actors, visual artists, musicians, sculptors, and film and television producers.  Fourteen women and two men sat together around a table, and we sipped sweet chai, discussing the arts in Kenya, and the lack of opportunities for women artists.

Sophie Dowllar
I was introduced to SWAN Day Kenya one year ago and it seemed like a gift from the universe to be with these women whose creativity spans so many genres and whose powerful voices speak with truth and joy.

Sophie organized the first SWAN Day Kenya event in 2008, and the community that evolved from that initial event has grown to address the issues of women as artists, as well as to infuse the participants with adrenalin to continue their work.

Iddi Achieng

Iddi Achieng
, an international musical talent is also a sociologist and poet with the Iddi Achieng Trust that supports twenty schools and 3000 students. Lillian Otieno’s organization performs traditional dances and we had the honor of watching an interpretive dance with her, Rebecca and Monica.

Jane Amiri is a storywriter and storyteller, and as a student of sociology, teaches gender issues in seminars and workshops. She said, “Society is the stories we tell.”

Making Ways by
Tabitha Wa Thaku

Tabitha Wa Thaku is a visual artist who has spent over 25 years producing and teaching art, with her works hanging in the Kenyan National Museum’s permanent collection. Edith Luseno works in television to promote artists and inform people about the beautiful creations of Kenyan women.

Lydiah Dola, women’s rights activist, guitarist and singer, introduced us to her guitar and then serenaded us with her magical music. She uses her voice for power and change.

These women are activists, mothers, sisters, and givers of themselves so that the blessings of their souls, through their art, can right the imbalance of the world. They send images and music into the universe of yearning.

Lydiah Dola
The women introduced the theatre manager, Ken, who said that “Kenya is the incubator of great minds,” and Tony Mboyo of Theatre for Social Transformation, a puppeteer and dancer whose big heart works behind the scenes at SWAN Kenya.

Pulled into a circle of swaying hips and moving feet, Vee and I celebrated these artists as we twisted to drumbeats and guitar chords, smiling from ear to ear, part of the mobilization of painters, writers, poets, singers, acrobats, dancers, sculptors, fashion artists, and every molecule of creativity. Although they spoke about the challenges of selling their art, and trying to earn livings through artistic efforts -  issues that exist here in America as well - the vibrancy of the women’s minds and voices healed me and filled me with dreams for working together as I enjoyed my last day in Kenya.

About Deborah Santana: Deborah Santana is an author, philanthropist, activist for peace and social justice, and founder of Do A Little, a non-profit that serves women and girls in the areas of health, education and happiness. Her memoir, Space Between The Stars: My Journey to an Open Heart, was published in 2005.  She has produced two documentary films with Emmy-award winning director Barbara Rick about the collaborative work of non-profit partners in South Africa and Kenya. She serves as a Board member for ANSA (Artists for a New South Africa), mentors girls and young women, and is a supporter of Marian Wright Edelman’s Freedom Schools in New Orleans.

Ohio Celebrates SWAN Day With a Multi-Generational Showcase in Dayton

This Saturday, March 31st, 2012, the Dayton, OH community will have the opportunity to celebrate the talent of a diverse group of women artists (and some of their male collaborators) who span several generations. Produced by playwright Stacy Lane and co-produced by filmmakers Dara Cosby and Alex Mangen, SWAN Day Dayton, which will take place at the Auditorium in the Dayton Metro Library Main Branch (215 E. Third St.) beginning at 3pm, will feature short film screenings, performances of several short plays, exhibits by painters, readings by published authors, and live music.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Dayton showcase is its inclusion of very young participants. The youngest is Kristina Cardoza, who, at age 10, is the author of the children's book Pinky Bunny's First Day of Kindergarten. Students from Kilbourne Middle School and Thomas Worthington High School will perform the plays Gossip Squirrels, Pulse, and Stalemate under the direction of their teacher, Andy Falter. Art students Tessa Trozzolillo (Free As the Wind), Maggie Price (A Pretty Piece of Flesh), and Coco Gagnet (Cover Girl) will each screen shorts they directed.

Kristina Cardoza
Author - Age 10
The producers have made some great curatorial choices to integrate the meta-themes of childhood and growing up throughout the program. Nicole Simmons' short film Sunday Spin is about a 13-year-old girl's first encounter with love, and Djuna Wahlrab's short Falling Up is about a man who magically goes back to experience moments from his childhood in order to reconnect with his true self. This focus on children and their experiences seems natural; The Zoot Theatre Company, which will perform Stacy Lane's short play Lucy Dreaming, regularly works with children and adolescents through their educational outreach programs, and Lane has previously worked with some of the children who will be appearing on Saturday.

Zoot Theatre
The themes of growth and personal development are echoed in the work of the authors who will give readings. Mary Curran Hackett, an English professor at the University of Cincinnati, will read from her first novel, Proof of Heaven, which is about a little boy living with a chronic health condition that leads both him and his mother on spiritual journeys. Tami Boehmer will read from her book, From Incurable to Incredible, which tells the stories of people - including herself - who have survived cancer against discouraging odds. Sara Berelsman will read from her memoir-in-progress about alcoholism, The Last Rock Bottom. The choice of three authors who deal in different ways with medical conditions and the opportunities they afford individuals for self-discovery will undoubtedly bring a nice sense of coherence to the readings. Nicole Amsler, who writes about "Midwestern dysfunction," Joy Schwab, a feminist poet, and Kristie LeVangie, who writes erotic poetry, round out the group of readers.

Patricia Berg
To top off the entertainment, jazz vocalist Patricia Berg will sing songs from her latest CD release, Sweet Sorrow.

In addition to the performances, paintings by Trish McKinney, Dawn McCoy, and Heather Lea Reid will be exhibited, and the Dayton chapter of The League of Women Voters - one of the first in the nation - will be present to inspire women to vote for candidates who represent their interests. And one can hope that the afternoon will also include a screening of co-producer Alex Mangen's hilarious short film, Soothing Nature Day Spa.

Click Here to Watch
Alex Mangen's Video
Artists and audience members of all ages are sure to be inspired by the vast display of local talent at SWAN Day Dayton. WomenArts would like to congratulate the Dayton producers and artists for putting together such an ambitious and intriguing SWAN celebration - may it be their first of many!

For more information, visit http://swandaydayton.blogspot.com/.

Monday, March 26, 2012

SWAN Day Pittsburgh Rocks!


Tressa Glover, Martha Richards, and Don DiGiulio
Celebrate SWAN Day Pittsburgh 2012  (Photo: Katelyn Petraitis)
On Thursday, March 15 and Friday, March 16, Tressa Glover and Don DiGiulio of the No Name Players presented SWAN Day Pittsburgh. I attended the Thursday night performance and I was completely blown away by the talent of the participants and the overall concept and execution of the production.

SWAN Day Pittsburgh is unique because all of the participating artists are asked to create new works in response to videotaped interviews of women from Pennsylvania. This year Glover and DiGiulio interviewed women from all over the state at the Pennsylvania Conference on Women as well as women in their home town of Pittsburgh, and then distributed the videos to local musicians, dancers, and theater artists.

The women who were interviewed discussed a wide range of topics - some talked about their careers, some talked about overcoming fear or finding inner strength, one woman discussed her feelings about a friend who would not leave an abusive relationship, and another talked about the challenge of learning that her son had stage four cancer. The videos were shown as a pre-show event, and it was inspiring to see the thoughtfulness, courage and tenacity that these women demonstrate in their everyday lives. The mainstream media tends to ignore these women, and it was wonderful to contemplate this world of ordinary women who do extraordinary things every day.

Some of the artists used direct quotes from the videos as the basis for a scene, song, or dance, and others responded to the spirit or message of the women on screen. During the main show, a few of the video clips were interspersed with the live performances so that the audience could see the connections between the women's statements and the artists' creations.

Even though I have been running WomenArts for seventeen years, I know that there will always be thousands of amazing women artists that I have never met, and SWAN Day Pittsburgh offered so many new discoveries in one evening.  There were 14 acts and 72 people listed in the program.  It was an extraordinary display of talent, and there was a wonderful warm sense of community among the artists and the audience.

It is hard to single out particular artists, since I enjoyed all of them, but I was especially moved by the songs performed by Deana Muro, Erika May, and Betsy Lawrence. Award-winning poet Toi Derricotte read a piece that she had written that morning because she felt so inspired after the tech rehearsal. I was thrilled to meet Toi Derricotte because I have long admired both her poetry and her work as the founder of Cave Canem, a non-profit dedicated to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African-American poets.

The evening included three great short plays - Zero Mile Mark by Carol Mullen about three women who discover their inner strength on a challenging hike, Mom's Kitchen by Robin Walsh about two sisters coping with their mother's death, and Bugaboo by Virginia Wall Gruenert, a very funny piece about  women struggling to overcome their fears through group therapy.

There was a visual art display in the lobby and a wonderful fire dance performed outdoors by Steel Town Fire during the intermission. During the second half of the show, I especially loved From Me to You, a dance piece choreographed by Maria Caruso and exquisitely performed by Elizabeth Praedin.  Caruso is the founder of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, a company created to provide performance opportunities for ballet dancers with healthy, athletic, but non-stereotypical ballet bodies.

SWAN Day Pittsburgh is an official WomenArts SWAN Partner this year, and producers Tressa Glover and Don DiGiulio have really captured the essence of SWAN Day. Their event was artistically ambitious, women's perspectives were at the core of all of the art, and it was clear that their SWAN events are really building a sense of solidarity among the artists in their community.

It takes a generous heart and a huge amount of work to organize an event like this that showcases so many artists in so many disciplines. It was clear that Tressa Glover and Don DiGiulio had selected the artists carefully and then worked hard to create an environment where the artists felt supported to stretch and develop new works. Congratulations to the two of them for producing this event with so much grace and skill, and thanks to all the artists for their excellent work.

 To see more pictures from SWAN Day Pittsburgh, please click here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Simple SWAN Celebrations: Watch Films by Women

Order This Book
If you are looking for a simple way to celebrate Support Women Artists Now Day next Saturday by yourself or with friends, think about watching a film written or directed by a woman at a theatre or on DVD.  If you want advice about picking a film, you can consult a handy new guide written by SWAN Day co-founder, Jan Lisa Huttner.

Huttner, also known as the Hot Pink Pen, writes reviews for WomenArts of films written or directed by women.  You can find her recent reviews on our website at: www.WomenArts.org/reviews or on her website at www.thehotpinkpen.com.  She has recently compiled her reviews of her favorite 50 movies from the past ten years in a convenient book: Penny's Picks: 50 Movies by Women Filmmakers 2002 - 2011.  The book is available on Amazon.com in paper or Kindle formats.

Huttner is an iconclast with a great sense of humor, so whether you agree with her or not, her reviews are always a lot of fun to read. Her unabashed feminist perspective is a refreshing change of pace from the reviews by men that dominate the mainstream press. Since many of the films she has written about are now available on DVD or streaming video, the book is a great way to find films by women that you can watch at home. The book also includes a brief chronology of SWAN Day and its predecessor, WITASWAN (Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now), as well as a preface by WomenArts Executive Director Martha Richards.

WomenArts has an additional page of helpful websites about women in film on our website at: www.WomenArts.org/news/film_viewer_resources.htm

As Huttner has pointed out in countless blogs and lectures, women have a lot of untapped box office power. Hollywood is driven by profits and if we can show that there is a large, paying audience for films by and about women, then producers will be interested in making more of those films. You can help by watching films written or directed by women on SWAN Day and throughout the year.  Tell your friends to do the same.  Together we can make a difference!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lenelle Moïse Explores Haitian History in "Ache What Make"

On Tuesday, March 13, I saw Lenelle Moïse's latest work in progress, Ache What Make, at the month-long Women Center Stage Festival in New York.

Moïse is Haitian-American, and "Ache What Make" is a series of performance poems about her responses to the Haitian earthquake and its aftermath. As a member of the Haitian diaspora, she has a unique perspective on the crisis in Haiti. She still has relatives there, and she is acutely aware of the fact that if her parents had made different choices, "it could have been my hand sticking out of the rubble."


As Moïse said in an interview with Women Center Stage, "The media bombarded us with blurry images of dusty, nameless faces or distant, bird’s eye shots of shattered shacks and limp bodies in mass graves. But for me, as someone in the Diaspora, the Haitians on the screen were individuals with middle names, favorite colors, recurring jokes, hopes and dreams. Ache What Make offers a new way of seeing. It’s about zooming in and affirming life. I hope the audience takes in my Haitian hope."

Ache What Make invites audience members to see the current Haitian crisis in its historical context. In one of the opening poems, Moïse talks about the successful Haitian Revolution against the French which lasted from 1791-1804. Under the brilliant military leadership of Toussaint Louverture, the revolution established the independent black state of Haiti, transforming an entire society of slaves into a free, self-governing people. In fact, Haiti abolished slavery in 1804 - five decades before the U.S. did.

However, the French and other slave-owners in the New World were deeply alarmed by the successful slave rebellion. To make sure that no other slaves followed the Haitian example, they imposed economic sanctions that did lasting damage to the financial stability of the island.

Moïse looks at post-earthquake Haiti in the context of that proud moment of successful rebellion, and the two centuries of racist backlash that followed it. The current poverty in Haiti meant that the earthquake had a much bigger impact there than similar quakes in richer countries. Moïse sees that poverty as the result of two centuries of economic polices towards Haiti that still reflect the original harsh response to the slave rebellion.

I have been following Moïse's work for over a decade, and she gets better every year. She is an amazing poet, and in the past couple of years she has added music to her shows. She often records a vocal sound loop at the beginning of a poem, and then plays it back as the accompaniment for the rest of the poem.

Ache What Make is a brave exploration of a complex and timely topic, and I look forward to seeing the finished version. The play is a perfect example of the ways that artists can help us see the emotional and historical dimensions of current events and help us find the hope we need to move towards a better future.

Women Center Stage is one of our official Support Women Artists Now/SWAN Partners this year, and WomenArts is proud to be collaborating with them. Ache What Make is only one event in their month-long festival of plays by women artists.  Be sure to check out their full schedule at: http://www.CultureProject.org/wcs/2012-schedule/.

Read the Women Center Stage interview with Lenelle Moïse at: www.CultureProject.org/wcs/spotlight-lenelle-moise/

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Body and Soul: Beautiful Breast Cancer Survivor Stories Online

Body & Soul: The Courage and Beauty of Breast Cancer Survivors is a beautiful book of photo essays by Dallas-based photographer, Jean Karotkin. Thanks to the non-profit group, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, the book is now available online in an interactive format at: http://bodyandsoul.lbbc.org

A survivor herself, Karotkin focuses on women who use their diagnosis as an opportunity to re-invent themselves or deepen their commitments.  Karotkin has created stunning photo portraits of each woman - capturing each one's spirit by finding the perfect setting and pose.  It is wonderful just to look at the pictures of these strong women, and it is even more inspiring when you read the accompanying stories.  These are women who have decided to live their lives to the fullest in spite of any obstacles, and that is a powerful message for all of us.

I was especially pleased that Karotkin included a number of women who are artists and talked about the ways that cancer affected their work.  For instance, Susan Rafte and her sister, Jane Weiner, founded the Pink Ribbons Project in Houston in 1995. The project is the first dance initiative founded solely for the purpose of increasing breast cancer awareness and raising money to help fight the disease. The Pink Ribbons Project has raised over $4 million since its inception.  Dancers Care, which provides emergency funds for dancers with cancer, grew out of the Pink Ribbons Project’s New York City office.

Oni Faida Lampley was a playwright and performer whose plays were produced in New York and regionally.  After she was diagnosed, she wrote Tough Titty, a play about the emotional blow-up of a young black woman’s life after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Elaine Saltsman is a visual artist who created a chair, titled The Healer. She formed the fabric of the chair by weaving gauze with strands of her hair, which she lost during chemotherapy. She constructed the wire frame of the chair by twisting red wire, representing her life, with black wire, representing cancer. The red wire symbolically overtakes the black wire as the chair comes together.

Like the women in the book, Karotkin re-invented herself after she was diagnosed. “At a point during my treatment, I realized I had to be the best I could be,” Karotkin remembers. “I knew what I was feeling and I needed to express it – preferably using photographs as the medium.”  She became a professional photographer so that she could realize her dream of creating "Body & Soul."

Thanks so much to Jean Karotkin and to all of the women who shared their stories in this wonderful book/online exhibit. Whether or not you are struggling with cancer, I encourage you to take a few moments to look at this inspiring online exhibit at: http://bodyandsoul.lbbc.org

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Career Panel At the Apollo: Theatre Women Behind the Scenes

From left to right, Linda Twine, Wendy Seyb,
Carin Ford, Amanda Pekoe, Stephanie Klapper
& Mari Nakachi. Photo courtesy of Karli Cadel.
To prepare for my recent visit to New York, I searched the WomenArts SWAN Day Calendar and discovered an amazing panel discussion that I attended on Monday, March 12 at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.

Moderated by marketing and advertising executive Amanda Pekoe, the free panel featured five women who shared advice and insights about their successful behind-the-scenes careers in theater:  Carin Ford (sound engineer - Carrie The Musical; La Cage Aux Folles), Stephanie Klapper (casting agent - Dividing the Estate; Bells Are Ringing), Mari Nakachi (producer - Time Stands Still; Dinner With Friends), Wendy Seyb (choreographer - The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway and HBO; The Toxic Avenger) and Linda Twine (music director - The Color Purple; Caroline, or Change).

It was fascinating to hear these women talk about their work and their career paths in the for-profit theater world. I have spent most of my adult life working in the non-profit arts sector, and the for-profit world is very different. 

First of all, commercial theater has much more income potential than non-profit theater. Commercial theater is an extremely high-risk business, and only about 20% of the shows that open on Broadway make any profit at all. But when a show succeeds, it can generate a large and steady cash flow for lots of people.  The producers make the most money, but Broadway also offers good salaries for performers and behind the scenes people.  For instance, the minimum salary for a union actor on Broadway is $1,605 per week (double or triple the salaries of actors in non-profit regional theaters), and Broadway salaries for big-name stars have been as high as $100,000 per week.

These salaries are still far less than performers can make in movies or television, but for live performances, Broadway shows offer the highest salaries because they have the highest ticket prices, and therefore generate the highest ticket income when a show does well.  Also, the actors, dancers, musicians, designers, directors, choreographers, and stage hands are all protected by unions on Broadway shows, and their unions negotiate the minimum salaries and other working conditions.

Since the panel was intended to educate people about behind-the-scenes careers, each panelist described her specific job responsibilities. I was especially impressed with sound engineer Carin Ford, because she is pioneering a field where there are very few women, and even fewer women of color.  She explained that the sound engineer is the person who runs the sound board during the show, and for Broadway musicals the sound engineer is responsible for delivering a clear, well-balanced sound to the audience - that often means making fast adjustments during the performance if a cast member has a cold and or there is an equipment problem. It is a high-stress job, because if you make a mistake, everyone will hear it. She said that she made it a point to be twice as good as her male counterparts in order to develop her reputation and get steady work. The salaries for sound engineers on Broadway are in the range of $2,200/week.

Music director Linda Twine talked about the courageous men and women who worked to integrate Broadway orchestras in the early days of her career.  Twine started as a pianist and worked her way up to being a music director for Broadway shows, i.e. she is the person who conducts the orchestra and the performers during the show. She said that music directors make about $3,000/week for Broadway shows, but she stressed that the work is not steady, and you need to have a "Plan B" for the times when the phone does not ring.

Choreographer Wendy Seyb said that a choreographer can get $50,000 for a creating the dances in a Broadway show.  The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers union has also negotiated for standard royalty payments for the directors and choreographers if their work is used in subsequent touring or regional productions of the show.

Stephanie Klapper explained that being a casting director was like shopping, because her task is to find performers who will fit together perfectly in a production. She said it is very satisfying to watch a successful show and know that she contributed by selecting the cast members. 

Finally, Mari Nakachi talked about being a corporate attorney and learning about the legal aspects of producing before she became a producer herself.  She stressed that you need to be strongly committed to a project in order to produce it because as the producer, you are responsible for raising all the money for the show, and it can often take several years.

The panel was co-sponsored by the Apollo Theater Education Program, The Broadway League, the League of Professional Theatre Women, and the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment.   

The Mayor's Office published an article about the panel which included the summary of the closing remarks of the panelists below:
When moderator Amanda Pekoe asked the panelists for a piece of advice they wished they had gotten when they were younger, their answers revealed the determination each of them had displayed to pursue their dreams.

“Study, observe, learn and have a Plan B ready,” said Twine.

“Don’t second guess yourself,” said Nakachi. “Read a lot, and see as many shows as you can. They don’t all have to be Broadway.”

“You need to be flexible, and open to possibilities,” said Klapper.

“Make sure you’re up on the latest technology, and learn how to talk to people and listen to them,” said Ford.

“Just keep doing the work you want to do,” said Seyb.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Join Martha Richards at SWAN Day Pittsburgh Tonight!

Please join me tonight, Thursday, March 15 for Support Women Artists Now Day/SWAN Day Pittsburgh produced by the No Name Players at The New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East in Pittsburgh.

This opening night performance will include a catered pre-show reception at 6 p.m. and a performance at 8 p.m. You can purchase tickets at: http://www.showclix.com/event/207138

What makes SWAN Day Pittsburgh 2012 unique is the fact that every performance and work of art will be a world premiere inspired by interviews with women from all across Pennsylvania. No Name Players traveled across the state filming interviews with women of all ages and all backgrounds. This footage was then given to the participating artists and those artists used that footage as inspiration for new works of theatre, dance, music, and poetry.  It is a wonderfully creative way to celebrate the voices and visions of the women of Pennsylvania.  This year’s event will even include an outdoor fire dance performance!

SWAN Day Pittsburgh provides opportunities for dozens of artists every year, and this year’s lineup includes: Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, STAYCEE PEARL Dance Project, Continuum Dance Theater-resident company of Evolve Productions, Texture Contemporary Ballet, Betsy Lawrence, EMay, Eve Goodman, Deana Muro, Camelia Road, Toi Derricotte, Robin Walsh, Virginia Wall Gruenert, Carol Mullen, Melissa Hill Grande, Lisa Ann Goldsmith, Holly Thuma, Marci Woodruff, Jennifer Schaupp, Nalini Prakash, Becky Thurner Braddock, Mundania Horvath, Alanna James, Bernadine Preetha Saint-Auguste, Anna Lee-Fields, Cynthia Stanchak, Patty Tran, Lauren Zurchin, iroNiece Designs by Kari Kramer, Steel Town Fire, and more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DC SWAN Day Expands Beyond Georgetown

Celebrating SWAN Day for the fifth year, DC SWAN Day, organized by The Georgetown Theatre Company, will expand its multi-disciplinary festival of women in the arts outside of Georgetown, with events at The National Museum of Women in the Arts downtown, as well as events in Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle.

The DC festival kicks off this Saturday, March 24, 2012, with an afternoon gathering of women visual and performing artists near Dupont Circle, at which the SWAN Day artists will meet the public and discuss their work.

Not My Sister Will Perform March 30
The official opening reception will take place the following Friday evening, March 30, at Baked and Wired, with a performance by the emerging indie rock band Not My Sister, whose music has been described as “the Shangri-Las meet Indie Pop.” The band, which is comprised of a family of South Asian women, is currently recording their first EP.

The main DC SWAN Day festival will be held on Saturday afternoon, March 31, with a whole host of events happening simultaneously. Audiences are faced with the difficult task of choosing between a staged reading marathon at the National Museum of Women in the Arts that will last all afternoon (the event is free with admission to the museum), poetry readings at Grace Church accompanied by a performance by Nancy Havlik Dance Performance Group (a company that "explores the human condition in all its messiness and poignancy" through an improvisational collaboration between dancers and live musicians) on the Church grounds, screenings of women-made films from across the globe at Stone Soup Films (from the WIFTI (Women in Film and Television International) Shorts Showcase), a storytelling event at Mellow Mushroom pizzeria, and performance art at District of Columbia Arts Center.

Georgetown Theatre has made keeping track of all these events simple with a map showing all the SWAN Day venues, as well as a comprehensive listing of each event (including addresses) on our SWAN Day Calendar.

DC SWAN Day has consistently delivered fascinating, innovative events featuring a diverse group of women artists working in different disciplines (to get an idea of last year's festival offerings, check out this video). This year, the festival continues to expand its range and reach by holding events in different parts of town, some in unlikely venues (we have to smile at the thought of unsuspecting pizza-eaters being surprised - and hopefully delighted - by an influx of women storytellers, as well as the image of a site-specific dance piece happening on the grounds of a church). This year's SWAN Day DC promises not only interesting fare for those familiar with the festival, but also the opportunity to expose the women artists it showcases to a broader audience.

Best of luck to the performers and organizers of DC SWAN Day from all of us here at WomenArts, and from women artists all around the world!