Last Monday night, I found myself in small unassuming theater off of Bleecker and Lafayette, immersed in a room full of women. There was singing, dancing, and a DJ named Barbie who loved flaunting her new ass implants. No, this wasn’t a cabaret. It was the Kick-Off party for the annual Women Center Stage Festival, hosted by Culture Project.
This year, the Women Center Stage festival takes place July 8 thru August 3 at the newly named Lynn Redgrave theatre. It is aimed at offering a space to showcase stuff written, directed, and produced by women (don’t worry boys, you are allowed to watch). First produced in 1996, Women Center Stage has provided a launching pad for a number of prominent works, including Lynn Redgrave’s Nightingale (2005), and the Tony Award winning Sarah Jones Bridge and Tunnel (2004). The Culture Project is the perfect place to host, as it is a non-profit initiative aimed at giving a microphone to marginalized voices.
Like many fields, opportunities for women in theatre are limited. For the creator of Culture Project, Allan Buchman, this problem is close to his heart. According to an interview by the Huffington Post, Buchman started the Culture Project after his daughter’s premature death, and since has been committed to providing a space “that women artists can count on, a place for them to grow without harsh criticism or competition.”
As one can guess from the name, the difference between Women Center Stage and the numerous other theatre festivals going on throughout New York City this summer is its focus on women. Of course, that is not to say there is a lack of diversity; there are artists from “all walks of life,” and careers, artists who have dedicated their work to the struggles of the African American community, the LGBT community, the Asian community, and more. From war veterans to Afghan poets, there are a variety of women represented. What Women Center Stage does however is provide a space where these women are not “female artists,” but simply, artists.
In addition to performances, the festival is offering master classes, workshops for plays in progress, and roundtable conversations orchestrated to unite audiences and artists to have meaningful conversations around women, art, and change. This weekend kicked off the performance element of the festival, with ten directors curating pieces that provide their own commentary on how the media presents U.S. history. These are the conversations we, as women, need to be having. Participate in them by attending the festival today (or any time this month).
The schedule for the Women Center Stage 2013 Festival is available at cultureproject.org. Tickets ($20) can be ordered on line or via phone: (866) 811-4111.