Cloverdale’s online theater fest spotlights women
There’s something exciting about new work written for the stage, even if it’s not perfectly polished, even if it doesn’t climb to popularity on a national scale. There’s pure, raw, personal energy inherent in shows that never have been seen before.
The experience is even more refreshing when producers, playwrights and performers have the chance to explore topics that don’t usually get the spotlight. That’s the aim of “In Their Own Voice,” billed as a virtual theater festival about “what happens when you let a woman speak,” opening May 8.
Produced for the second year by Beulah Vega’s Heroines, Harpies and Harlots theater group, which is devoted to creating new works, and co-produced this year by new partner Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, the festival features five original pieces, performed by the 22 Sonoma County artists who created them.
“This time around, all of the pieces were written by the people who are performing them,” Vega said. “We started with a topic, and they improvised the script. What we’ve heard most from the performers is how helpful the work has been to them as people. It brought up all this stuff we don’t talk about.”
Some the issues confronted include postpartum depression, stereotypes, deep-seated fears and anxiety over traditional gender roles.
“Through this process, some performers finally shared with their families the trauma they had been too afraid to speak of. Some found new friends that they would never have spoken to, in the sharing of their stories and the honesty needed to get their stories out,” she added. “And really, even if we never performed the work, I think that it was worthwhile just for that.”
To quote the festival’s promotional material, the production “delves beneath the surface of what society thinks a woman should be and looks at individuals to hear the stories of who they actually are. Featuring an all-femme/female-identifying/nonbinary group of Sonoma County artists from multiple ethnicities, races, sexualities and ages, this festival is a true community event that seeks to give all those who identify as women a voice.”
Here’s the lineup:
“The Graces,” directed by Ellen Rawley; written and performed by Nayla Makinano, Natalie Burton and Emma Savok-Headington. Three young teens ask themselves what is expected of them as women. Will they follow those expectations or live their own lives? What comes out is thoughtful spoken-word poetry.
“‘The Graces’ is my little pet project,” said Vega, who is a published poet. “Three 13- to 14-year-old girls wrote three poems each on what it means to be a woman.”
“Barely a Person,” directed by Jessica Headington; conceived, choreographed and performed by Rachel Wynne. A young mother explores the reality of postpartum depression through dance and the words of women worldwide who have dealt with it.
“A Settled Flowing Spring,” directed by Crystal Carpenter-Wilson; written and performed by Ariel Erskine. A woman reflects on her life, exploring the archetypes of maiden, mother and crone.
“Why Do You,” directed by Erin Lane, with choreography and musical direction by Jacinta Gorringe; written and performed by Danielle Jiminez-Perea, Maya Babow, Ashley Rollins and Lindsay John. Four young women talk about the moment they knew their lives had gotten out of their control.
“Beyond the Mask,” produced by Melissa Bingham and 3Bee Productions and directed by Laura J. Davies; conceived by Catilin Strom-Martin and Lillian Myers and written and performed by Strom-Martin, Myers, Laura J. Davies and Juliet Noonan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a writer struggles to explore deep-seated fears haunting the female psyche.
The festival deals with adult situations and contains adult language. Viewer discretion is advised. The recommended age for viewers is 13 and older with adult supervision, or older than 16 without supervision.
For tickets and information, go to cloverdaleperformingarts.com.
Last year, the Heroines, Harpies and Harlots festival was co-produced by and presented at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse just before the coronavirus closed most venues. More than 80 women from around the county participated, and nearly 540 people attended.
“My specialty is new work,” Vega said. “Individual voices were getting lost, so I have been involved with presenting new work at theater companies all around the county.”
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at email@example.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.
Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat
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