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

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: or on her website at  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 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:

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:

Read the Women Center Stage interview with Lenelle Moïse at:

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:

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:

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:

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!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SWAN Events with Martha Richards - Women Center Stage Director's Weekend

(New York, NY) On Sunday, March 11, I attended the matinee and evening segments of the Women Center Stage Directors Weekend, a showcase where 12 women directors were asked to create 15 minute pieces in response to the questions: "How does economy affect art and artists: are we entirely dependent on the generosity of the wealthy, or does art thrive in times of economic depression? Can we do more with less, or is less just less?" 

The featured directors were Calla Videt, Chloë Bass, Awoye Timpo, Rachel Dart, Katie Naka, Alicia House, Jess Chayes, Rachel Karp, Krystal Banzon, Morgan Gould, Charlotte Brathwaite, and Monica Williams.

It is not surprising that several pieces focused on the lack of opportunities and shrinking funding for the arts.  Awoye Timpo's piece "Can I Get A Dollar?" showed women tap dancers trying to dance on ever shrinking pieces of dance flooring. Rachel Dart's "Broadway! Broadway! Broadway!" showed idealistic young performers moving from Kansas to New York and dealing with a sleazy producer and an over-priced, ill-equipped performance venue. Krystal Banzon's piece was about her difficulties finding a job in the arts, even though she has degrees from prestigious schools.  She began her solo piece by saying that the folder she was holding contained information that would change our lives.  It held copies of her resume which she passed out to the audience members.

Other pieces challenged the concepts at the root of our economic system. Chloë Bass presented "The Bureau of Self-Recognition," an interactive conceptual piece that asked audience members to define their "net worth" in non-financial terms.  Audience members could visit a booth where they were asked to name things that gave their life value and then to deposit "self dollars", i.e. pledges that they would spend an hour doing the things that gave their life value and increased their "net worth" as human beings. You can participate in Chloë's project through her website: The Bureau of Self-Recognition, and there is a short interview with her on the Works by Women website at:

My favorite piece was Calla Videt's site-specific piece, "What If?"  Audience members were emailed an mp3 audio file prior to the show and asked to meet at a subway stop near the theatre.  When everyone had gathered, we were instructed to press the start buttons on our mp3 players at the same time, so that we were all listening to the audio track at the same time as we walked a few blocks to the theatre.  As we walked through the Essex Market, we were asked to consider the economic exchanges there, and then as we walked along the street we passed laundromats and other buildings where actors were stationed and acted out scenes. As we walked along, the piece demonstrated how our lives are shaped by all of the tiny decisions that we make every day, such as deciding which way to turn, what we stop to watch, or which phone calls we answer.  The staging was very imaginative, and the audio track was extremely well-done.

Studies show that women direct less than 20% of the plays produced around the country every year. (See the studies on the WomenArts webpage about Women's Employment in the Arts.  Kudos to Women Center Stage for creating the Women Directors Weekend and making it a priority to showcase the work of women directors in the early phases of their careers.