HERSTORY 2: WE RISE was a success thanks to YOU! We had over 40 members of the community come through the doors of the Silk Road Art Gallery this weekend. Whether you braved the cold to see the show, asked a thought-provoking question during the Q & A, or made a donation to our theatre, YOU helped make this our best production yet. THANK YOU!
HERSTORY 2: WE RISE is tomorrow night! We’re looking forward to a great weekend of new plays and want to take a moment to thank all of our supporters who made this event possible.
Thank you to the following businesses for their generous donations:
We would also like to give special thanks to the following:
The Silk Road Art Gallery
The Dramatists Guild
Cloud 9 Day Spa
The Canvas Patch
Lynn R. Lichtig
And to all of you for visiting our website!
HERSTORY 2: WE RISE won’t be possible without the support of each and every one of you!
HERSTORY 2: WE RISE, features new plays highlighting the struggles and triumphs of unsung heroines. This International Women’s Day, we invite you to learn more about these amazing women, the ways they transformed our world, and to see their stories come to life on stage this Friday and Saturday evening.
Performances will take place at the Silk Road Art Gallery in New Haven, March 10th and 11th, at 7pm. Performances will be followed by a Q & A with actors, writers, directors, and organizers. There is a $10 suggested donation.
Warning: Mentions of death and suicide.
ABOUT THE WOMEN
KAPLANA CHAWLA was an immigrant from India who became one of the first woman of color to go into space. She moved to the United States in 1982 to study science and engineering at the University of Texas in Arlington. As a research scientist and as an astronaut, Dr. Chawla advanced NASA’s understanding of our universe. Dr. Chawla passed away along with seven other crewmates in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Hailey’s character in A Moment of Silence was inspired by LEELAH ALCORN, a transgender Ohio teen who took her own life on December 28th, 2014. She posted her suicide note on her Tumblr, which has since been deleted. The note ended with this: “My death has to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s &%@ed up” and fix it…”
IDA LUPINO was one of Hollywood’s first female directors. She immigrated to the United States from England. She created The Filmmakers, and independent film company, alongside her husband. Her directing credits include Not Wanted, Never Fear, and The Hitch-Hiker. LEONOR FINI was an experimental artist from South America. Her sculptures merged animal (mainly big cats) and human forms. She was bisexual, polyamorous, and proud of her sexuality.
ANNA MAE AQUASH was a Native American activist in South Dakota during the 1970s. She was an advocate for education, employment, and civil rights for Native women and Indigenous communities. During her time as an activist she was under investigation from the F.B.I. Anna Mae passed away in 1976. Today, her death remains an unsolved mystery.
Happy Women’s History Month!
This is a list of new productions, workshops, readings, and publications by female playwrights. Our goal is to create greater gender parity in theatre by highlighting the works of female writers and the organizations that promote and produce their works.
HERSTORY 2: WE RISE
Produced by NOplays Theatre
A new play festival celebrating the bravery and strength of unsung heroines. Featuring A Moment of Silence by Allie Costa, K.C. Reporting by Natalie Osborne, Ida and Leonor by Danielle Winston, and My Aim is True by Lucy Wang.
The Nasty Cabaret
Produced by Nasty Women New Haven
Lyric Hall 827 Whalley Avenue New Haven, CT. Friday, March 24th 7-9pm. Tickets $20. More info at lyrichallnewhaven.com. Part of the Nasty Women Exhibition at the Institute Library 845 Chapel Street New Haven, CT.
The Women Playwright’s Initiative
Produced by Ivoryton Playhouse (CT)
Four one acts by four fabulous playwrights. Staged readings and talk backs followed by Talk Backs and refreshments each night. Starts at 7pm.
To attend the free pre-reading discussion hosted by the League of Professional Theatre Women (Connecticut Chapter) on Saturday, March 4 from 5pm, please register by following this link. To purchase tickets for the Friday, March 3rd or Saturday, March 4th readings – each start at 7pm – please call 860.767.7318 or follow this link to purchase tickets online. Tickets for Friday and Saturday night 7pm readings: $20 adult each night; $15 senior each night; $10 student and LPTW members each night.
One Acts and Snacks
Produced by Casa de Beverley
Casa de Beverley’s monthly reading series featuring works by female playwrights. Saturday March 18th at 6pm. Rugby Road, Brooklyn, New York. Tickets available here.
To submit to the April issue of LADIES FIRST, email firstname.lastname@example.org before the end of the month. Send us your name, the name of your play, the name of the theatre producing your work, a sentence or two about the play, the where and when, and an image. Thank you to everyone who participated in this months LADIES FIRST.
Allie Costa’s new play A Moment of Silence will be featured along with four other plays in HERSTORY 2: WE RISE. In this interview with Artistic Director Natalie Osborne, Allie Costa discusses Leelah Alcorn, LGBT representation, and what we as theatre-makers can and should do to raise our voices. You can see HERSTORY 2: WE RISE, March 10th and 11th at the Silk Road Art Gallery in New Haven.
Trigger Warning: Suicide, Abuse, and Misgendering
1.) How long have you been with 365 Women a Year?
I have been involved with 365 Women a Year since the first year, 2014. I connected with Jess Eisenberg on Twitter, and when she spoke of collecting new plays about historical women, I immediately threw my hat in the ring. I have contributed plays to 365 Women a Year every year.
2.) Has your approach to writing about these historical women changed at all?
Whether it’s for stage or screen, I approach each new script in a similar way: stubbornly and honestly. Stubbornly because 99% of the time, I have to think of the ending before I start typing. Before I start typing, yes, but not necessarily before I start scribbling; I still like to write scenes/drafts longhand, and I often scribble down ideas and snatches of dialogue in my notebook and on scratch paper. And honestly because I intend to communicate the truth of the characters and the story.
When I am writing something inspired by real people and real events, I do a great deal of research. I want to honor the person’s real life and experiences. In many of my 365 Women a Year plays, I have incorporated quotes, things that were said or written by the women.
3.) Can you tell me more about the inspiration behind A Moment of Silence?
A Moment of Silence was inspired by Leelah Alcorn. Leelah was 17 years old when she took her own life in December 2014. She posted a suicide note on Tumblr which went viral. Leelah was a transgender girl whose parents refused to accept her identity and her chosen name. In her note, Leelah expressed, “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s *&^%ed up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.”
Leelah’s suicide note was subsequently removed by her parents, but is accessible via the Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20150101052635/http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106447705738/suicide-note It was also shared by City Councilamn Chris Seelbach: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisSeelbach/posts/10152890372978559:0
4.) What was a big challenge for you while you were writing this play?
I decided early on that I would base the story on what I had learned about Leelah, but I named the main character Hailey in order to allow myself to fictionalize some things, to fill in the blanks and create a similar story without feeling as if anything I wrote was false or disrespectful.
5.) Why do you think it’s important for people to hear stories about the LGBT community now?
Love is love is love. The current political climate certainly means we need to keep fighting for inclusion for all, for not only tolerance but true understanding, for open-mindedness and acceptance.
Leelah felt like she was not being heard. In death, more people know her story than ever did while she was alive. That is heartbreaking.
6.) What do you think we as artists can do given the current challenges faced by the LGBT community?
Speak up. Speak out. Support others. Include others. For example, if you are an artistic director or producer who realizes your entire season is programmed with heteronormative stories, make an effort to consider and include scripts that have LGBTQ characters. If you are a writer, add LGBTQ characters to your next script. The same can be said for producing/writing scripts that feature minorities and characters who have disabilities, and stories with an equal number of male and female roles (or more female roles, or all female roles!) Do not write stereotypes. Write something real. Create and find new works that reflect the world’s true population and situations. Use your art and your heart to give voice to people who feel like they have been silenced, who feel like they have to be silent.
7.) What would you like the audience to walk away with after watching this play?
I hope it moves them, and that they make positive moves: “Give me emotion into action,” as Sara Bareilles says in her song Parking Lot.
I hope people will reach out to those they know who might be in a similar situation and offer them their support. Having someone listen to you, having a shoulder to cry on, can make a world of difference.
8.) What 365 plays are you working on now?
This year, I’ll be writing plays about Margarita “Peggy” Schuyler Van Rensselaer; author Zilpha Keatley Snyder; and singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles.
9.) Are there any other thoughts or pieces of advice you have for your fellow writers or the theatre community at large?
Keep showing up.
Keep speaking up.
If you would like to support HERSTORY and NOplays efforts to bring women’s stories onto our stages, please consider making a donation. This interview is part of a three part series. To read the first interview with playwright Danielle Winston, click here. To read the second interview with Lucy Wang, click here.
Lucy Wang’s new play My Aim is True will be featured along with four other plays in HERSTORY 2: WE RISE. In this interview with Artistic Director Natalie Osborne, Lucy Wang discusses the life of Anna Mae Aquash and the continuing struggle for native rights. You can see HERSTORY 2: WE RISE, March 10th and 11th at the Silk Road Art Gallery in New Haven.
1.) Can you tell me a bit about your experience with 365 Women a Year?
I naturally gravitated towards 365 Women A Year because my body of work features strong yet vulnerable female characters. 365 Women a Year simply provided more impetus and a welcoming home to explore and create stories about extraordinary women. It’s wonderful to belong to a community that recognizes and celebrates the contribution women have made to the world. In addition to writing about Anna Mae Aquash, I’ve written about Marion Davies, Julia Morgan and Misty Copeland.
2.) What drew you to Anna Mae Aquash?
I learned about Anna Mae Aquash from an article published in the April 25, 2014 issue of the New York Times Sunday magazine, WHO KILLED ANNA MAE?, by Eric Konigsberg. Her courage, her commitment and her unsolved murder brought me to tears, and I knew then that I had write about her.
3.) Anna Mae Aquash was an activist in South Dakota in the 1970s, today the Water Protectors are fighting to protect their tribal lands at Standing Rock, can you talk about the relationship between then and now?
If Anna Mae Aquash were alive today, I believe she’d be protesting and camped out at Standing Rock. I think she’d be heartbroken to see that Native Americans still have to fight for the right to hold onto their sacred lands, and that the government wants to break yet another treaty. What hasn’t changed is the need to keep fighting and praying.
4.) What is something you wish more people knew about this movement?
Water is life for everyone, and without it, we’ll all die. Protecting our water and our environment benefits everyone, not just one tribe, or one people. As much as we might need oil, we can’t drink oil. We can’t live on another planet, as of yet.
5.) Why is it important for people to hear stories of activism?
Sharing our stories about activism can transform and save lives. I just learned that it was a youth group that started the protests at Standing Rock. The group began as an effort to combat the high suicide rate among Native American teenagers and young adults. Its members then campaigned successfully against the Keystone XL pipeline and later shifted its focus to Standing Rock, giving these young people a greater sense of purpose. They brought an exciting new energy, attracting support from other Native Americans and activists from across the country.
We all have our struggles, and these struggles can isolate and defeat us, but when we hear about others standing up for what is right, it can give us courage, community and purpose. Sweeping change doesn’t typically happen overnight or by the actions of one person. As we are seeing right now with the Resistance against the Trump Administration, it usually takes organized masses and movement.
6.) What do you see as the role of the writer and the artist in America today?
I once had the pleasure of meeting Ishmael Reed, and he told me – as the title of his book says – writing is fighting. His words resonated. I think of writers and artists as fighters. We fight for your attention, to tell a story, make a difference, to survive, to shed light on the less visible, to open someone’s heart, to enlighten. More often than not, we’re knocked down, but we have to get back up to fight another day.
7.) What is something you want audience members to take with them after seeing My Aim is True?
I hope people feel inspired to learn more about Native Americans and to lead with courage.
8.) What other projects are you working on?
Inspired by the success of my show CHINESE GIRLS DON’T SWEAR, I’m writing a new one-woman show. I’m also working with my friend and composer Paul Wehage on a musical comedy about cancer – yes, I said comedy – and I’m writing a new straight play and a novel.
9.) Is there anything else you would like to share with your fellow writers and theatre-makers?
Play. Value yourself. Read your contracts closely. If you’re not sure something is fair or legit, reach out before your sign that contract. Call a friend, or the Dramatists Guild. Your voice and vision are worth something.
If you would like to support HERSTORY and NOplays efforts to bring women’s stories onto our stages, please consider making a donation. This interview is part of a three part series. To read the first interview with playwright Danielle Winston, click here.
Danille Winston’s new play Ida and Leonor will be featured along with four other plays in HERSTORY 2: WE RISE. In this interview with Artistic Director Natalie Osborne, she discusses the lives of Ida Lupino and Leonor Fini, as well as the importance of solidarity among women on the path to discovering our true potential. You can see HERSTORY 2: WE RISE, March 10th and 11th at the Silk Road Art Gallery in New Haven.
1.) Have you written plays for 365 Women a Year before?
Yes. Last year I wrote a one-act play called, Stitches In Time about the former slave folk artist, Harriet Powers. I hadn’t heard of her until I was assigned to write her story. Harriet was a natural storyteller who wove elaborate tales into her quilts. Today her bible quilt hangs in the Smithsonian. Unlike my play, Ida & Leonor, Stitches was a recreation of an actual event that occurred in two women’s lives. There was a staged reading of the play in Harlem this past summer, and Stitches was well received.
2.) Tell me more about what drew you to Ida Lupino and Leonor Fini?
I chose Ida Lupino and Leonor Fini because I wanted to learn more about them. In addition to being a writer/director, I’m also an artist myself. Often I write stories about artists, and/or paintings are featured somehow. A while back, I attended an art exhibit about little known female surrealist painters at Sotheby’s in Manhattan. It was mind-expanding… The works were so imaginative and unique! Yet, it felt tragic that many of us had never heard of these artists. I was struck by Leonor Fini’s work. Many of her images were half-animal, half-woman. They were sensual, vibrant and supernatural… I had to know more about the woman who created this world. The 365 Women a Year project seemed like the right opportunity to begin.
As a woman filmmaker, I’m in awe of Ida Lupino, and grateful for what she did to pave the way for women in the film industry. She’s a true unsung heroine. Many know her as a stage and film actress. They don’t realize how radical she was, writing and producing films about subjects other people weren’t touching with a fifty-foot pole. Imagine, in 1949, she co-wrote a film about a young woman who considered having an abortion! Let that sink in… Even now that subject is pretty taboo. And that film, Not Wanted, turned out to be the first film that Lupino directed. She’s such an important woman in film history, a real role model. And proof that you can be in charge and not surrender your femininity. I’ve been wanting to write about her for a while.
3.) One thing I found interesting about this play is that this is a fictional conversation, so what inspired you to put these two women in a room together?
Well… To be honest, part of that was, I had a deadline for 365 Women a Year. I was working on my other scripts, a feature screenplay and full length play. Suddenly my deadline for 365 Women was approaching and I had three historical women to write plays about! Since Ida and Leonor were alive at the same time, it seemed reasonable they could have crossed paths in their theatrical circles. I began to think of what might happen if they had met: how each woman might influence the other… And I loved the idea of such intense strong-willed creative women meeting at pivotal times in their lives. Sparks began to fly in my mind as I heard their voices talking to each other. I see Ida & Leonor as the start of something bigger. I truly appreciate the opportunity to have this play in Herstory Festival. It’ll be the first time the play is read before an audience.
4.) Ida Lupino was one of Hollywood’s first female directors, can you tell me more about that?
There were very few female directors. Alice Guy-Blanche in 1896, Louis Weber is credited as the first American woman film director at the turn of the century, Dorothy Arzner in the 20’s, there were more I’m sure, unfortunately we rarely hear about them. However, Ida Lupino is credited as the first director, male or female, to have ever directed themselves acting in a film for The Bigamist (1953). Two years earlier she had actually directed, On Dangerous Ground (1951) also. Because it occurred out of necessity when her director Nicolas Ray had a nervous breakdown, she took over but was never credited. Think about how difficult it is to direct and act… to see through the camera lens, the entire world of the film, shape the performance of each actor, and at the same time also embody a character yourself. Personally, I think it’s one of the hardest things to do well.
Before the term, “glass ceiling” existed, Ida Lupino didn’t ask for permission to make her films. She created meaningful pictures, took on a massive amount of so-called “men’s work” and was an unstoppable cinematic force. Ida was a writer, producer, and eventually a film and television director. Her passion for telling the kinds of stories she wanted to see, naturally led her to directing, which is touched on in my play, Ida & Leonor. She was constantly evolving creatively, and an expert on the individual parts that go into making a film. Woman or man, that kind of ability is rare, even today.
5.) Leonor Fini was an immigrant, as well as a bisexual woman, I feel those are two groups that aren’t represented often in the media or on our stages, can you tell me more what it was like writing her as a character?
In America, unless we’re American Indians, we are all descended from immigrants. Born in Argentina, raised in Italy, and living in Paris as an adult, Leonor Fini was multicultural in every sense. As a woman who didn’t stay stagnant in any one place, her heritage made me understand her nonconformist ways and wildly original way of seeing the world, reflected in her art.
Leonor seemed to have a fluid sexuality, involved with both men and women and was often polyamorous; Like Ida, Leonor was a woman who wasn’t playing by anyone else’s rules, inventing life as she went along, doing the unimaginable.
In my films and plays, I usually write about fictional characters so writing real people is an intriguing challenge. My stories are very psychological though… so with Leonor and Ida, I learned about each woman’s life and tried to imagine her motivations and feelings. My process is part fact, part imagination… It merges on the page and becomes a kind of new discovery.
6.) What does it mean to have stories about women like Ida and Leonor, who are outsiders and groundbreakers, told given our country’s current political climate?
As a woman it’s easy to feel triggered by our current leadership for obvious reasons. It sometimes feels as though we’re in a time machine going backward. Instead of shriveling up and becoming weak, women are banning together. In turn, our voices are growing more powerful, which is inspiring. I was interviewing a writer/producer recently and she was talking to me about this uprising of female energy and power… And It’s clearly happening now in massive numbers. Women are refusing to be complacent which is a beautiful/powerful thing.
51% of the human race is female and yet, so little of how women changed the world is known to us, that there needs to be a term called, “Women’s History.” That’s pretty wild! Women need to discover other women of influence and power so they can emulate them. Seeing stories like Ida & Leonor, and the ones in HerStory and 365 Women a Year, I hope will inspire women to make their own voices heard.
Ida & Leonor is about two women who don’t realize their own power, until each woman becomes a kind of mirror that brings the other’s strength to light. When we see stories about women doing miraculous things, we have a chance to identify with these women. Not only do we gain role models, but something clicks in our heads and we think, “well, if she can do it, maybe I can too!”
7.) What do you see your role as a writer and a theatre-maker being in America today?
I’m working on plays and screenplays now that feature juicy, wildly complex roles for women and men. It’s my goal to direct and continue to write stories driven by exciting unconventional women that reach a wide audience. Thats the best way I know to challenge and hopefully change female stereotypes.
8.) What role do female friendships fill, both in your play and in the world today?
Ida and Leonor illustrates how a spontaneous friendship between two women can alter each one’s destiny.
The female friends you surround yourself with can teach you to become your truest self. There are women who embrace their own strength and uplift their female friends. That creates the best kind of growth… In a perfect world this would always be the case. However, some women feel threatened by other women’s successes, which in turn depletes their own energy and creates weakness and deprivation. Now, more than ever, I think it’s essential to empower and uplift the women in your life. It’s the only way to become stronger and experience happiness. Widening your circle of female friends is a way to do that. Also, social media, if used positively, creates a tapestry of interconnectedness.
9.) Is there anything else you would like to share? Any advice for your fellow writers and theatre makers?
Tell your stories however you can. Plays are great because unlike films, you don’t need a fortune to stage them. And one-acts are a safe way to explore seeds of stories you may want to expand later on. I’ve written feature films and TV pilots from stories that began as one-act plays. For women… Make your voices heard. View your friend’s success as yours. Read your friends stories, listen to them. Listening is severely underrated and essential for creative growth. One last thing: we need more women working in theatre and film. Women, hire other women to work with on your creative projects. It’s incredibly important!
To learn more about Danielle Winston and her work, please visit www.daniellewinston.com.
If you would like to support HERSTORY and NOplays efforts to bring women’s stories onto our stages, please consider making a donation. Remember to check our blog for more interviews with our playwrights!