Dismantling Patriarchal Structures in Design and Production

"Statera Voices" is an op-ed series featured on the Statera Blog dedicated to reclaiming dominant cultural narratives as a means towards intersectional gender balance in the arts and beyond. "Statera Voices" is where we tell our stories, expand our histories, and celebrate each other.

Today's offering comes to us from Kristi Good and Molly McCarter, who will be presenting a breakout session at Statera’s upcoming National Conference called "Dismantling Patriarchal Structures in Design & Production".

Kristi Good (left) & Molly McCarter (right) pictured above in what they like to call “our official partner head shot”.)

Kristi Good (left) & Molly McCarter (right) pictured above in what they like to call “our official partner head shot”.)

By Kristi Good & Molly McCarter

What do a Theatre History PhD and an Equity Stage Manager have in common? It sounds like the beginning of a bad (misogynist?) joke, but for Kristi and Molly, it was a shared office space in a university drama department and a commitment to feminist and queer advocacy. This commitment extended beyond our daily lives as queer women and into our pedagogical practices as professors. Though our students and subjects rarely overlapped, we regularly consulted each other on assignments and class activities, gaining insight from each other on which methodology would best engage the students. This collaborative approach and its expression in the classroom were in direct opposition to the structures that normally exist within the framework of academia.

Higher education is primarily centered on the classroom. The structure of the academy is essentially patriarchal in that it is predominantly created and run by male leadership, and the framework exists as a hierarchy, prioritizing one “expert” above someone with less experience. Learning comes from professorial “experts” who, themselves, report to administrative “experts,” and so on. A patriarchal classroom or mentorship experience becomes a system where information is delivered from one powerful person to a supposedly “lesser” individual, rather than experienced through mutual exploration. A feminist or queer perspective acknowledges that structures such as these actually create barriers between the student and the learning experience. We instead seek to decenter power and disrupt patriarchal, heteronormative content and structures.

One of the truths at the heart of our shared belief in the efficacy of feminist and queer pedagogies is that theatre, by nature, is a collaborative art. Patriarchal classrooms are at odds with the experiential spaces that are necessary for the successful creation of a performance. Regardless of gender, theatre practitioners must invest in and actively practice feminist and queer pedagogies to facilitate the creative process; a patriarchal hierarchy not only fails to serve what we do as artists, but is counterintuitive to our ability to successfully create. The  historical devaluation of women in the professional theatre world is a continuation from the learning institutions that actively exclude our collaborative tendencies from a process where it is the most useful.

Positions in theatre design and production are notoriously gendered. Technical and design positions (excluding costumes) are generally designated as “male” professions, and the pay gap reflects this. Production positions are no different; Actor’s Equity Association reported that most stage management positions are held by women+, but on average, their male counterparts receive $98 a week more for the same work. [1]

American Theatre magazine reported on lighting designer Porsche McGovern, a woman of color and a mother, who saw a marked decrease in contracts after the birth of her child in 2012. She has since been documenting hiring practices at LORT companies across the country. In her own discipline, specifically, women* receive less than 20% of LORT contracts. Her research also shows that women are less likely to be hired if the artistic director and director at the theatre are male. And, of course, these statistics are even worse for designers of color. [2]

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Infographic by Porsche McGovern https://howlround.com/infographic-0 [3]

 

The goal of our breakout session at StateraCon IV is two-fold:

  1.  To dismantle the patriarchal structure of the traditional “conference session” through collaboration, decentering of leadership, and prioritizing/legitimizing personal experience. We acknowledge that generation after generation of women have taught each other “making” as a necessary skill. The manufacture of clothing, household goods, medicine, food, and other necessities are skills that have been passed down with no definitive mark of an expert, simply experience that can be shared and learned.

    These crafts have been learned around kitchen fires, in fields, in quilting circles; all rooted in a tradition of matriarchal training. Likewise, our breakout session will center on the participants and their sharing of personal experience to create material for our second goal.

  2. To arm session participants with a plethora of best practices to model for young women while creating spaces for them to inhabit and thrive in traditionally male-dominated fields. We acknowledge that the issues of gender parity in the professional theatre stem from those same issues in educational training. The act of sharing our stories and experiences to create personal and community change in a non-hierarchical way is at the core of matriarchal and feminine knowledge production. The act itself is a way of dismantling patriarchal structures in our own learning, teaching, and mentoring of the next generation of women+ in design & production. 

Endnotes

[1] https://members.actorsequity.org/equitynews/news/HiringBiases/, last accessed October 8, 2019.

[2] Smith, Kelundra, “How to Solve Design’s Diversity Problem,” American Theatre, July 3, 2019, https://www.americantheatre.org/2019/07/03/how-to-solve-designs-diversity-problem/, last accessed October 8, 2019.

[3] This infographic is a general overview. To see more specific breakdowns (including those which explore data concerning non-binary practitioners), see McGovern’s series at https://howlround.com/series/who-designs-and-directs-lort-theatres-gender, last accessed October 8, 2019.

 

About Kristi & Molly

Kristi Good (she/her) is a freelance dramaturg and part-time faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. She earned a Master’s in Dramaturgy at Villanova Theatre and a PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Her scholarship and interests lean toward theatre of trauma and uncovering suppressed narratives, particularly in regards to new play development. Kristi is also a member of Moderate Woo, a feminist theatre collective.

Molly McCarter (she/her) is an educator and manager of artists and art.  Her work as a stage and production manager is grounded in servant leadership and the cultivation of brave spaces that foster creativity.  She holds a BFA from Salem State University and an MFA from Yale School of Drama. Most recently Molly joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama where she teaches Stage & Production Management and chairs the school Equity, DIversity and Inclusion initiatives. In her time she has commissioned and executed a school wide climates study on ED&I and instituted a Community Conversation series that strives to bring faculty and students together in conversation around difficult topics.  In her time at CMU she was named a Wimmer Faculty Fellow and was recently Nominated for the Eberly Teaching Innovation award for her research and coursework in Leadership Studies. Molly is also a member of Moderate Woo, a feminist theatre collective.


*A NOTE ON INCLUSION AT STATERA

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who are non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, religion, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all. 

The Space to Fail: Empowerment and Teaching

Today on the Statera Blog we’re featuring a “Statera Voices” op-ed from Statera Member Sarah McCarroll. This is the second part of Sarah’s Member Spotlight Interview, which you can read HERE. "Statera Voices" is dedicated to reclaiming dominant cultural narratives as a means towards intersectional gender balance in the arts and beyond. "Statera Voices" is where we tell our stories, expand our histories, and celebrate each other.

Sarah McCarrol speaking at Statera’s National Conference in 2015.

Sarah McCarrol speaking at Statera’s National Conference in 2015.

by Sarah McCarroll

One of my mentors left teaching recently.  She shifted into administration, becoming chair of a department. She’s found a way to continue her commitment to empowerment by using her position to pipeline other women into leadership roles in the academic power structure, and by being a cogent voice for not doing things the old way into rooms still largely dominated by white men. For her, it’s the way in which she can make a difference.

It’s got me thinking about my own career trajectory, about whether I want to go the administrative route myself. One of my colleagues regularly jokes that I’m going to be the dean one of these days. Here’s the thing, though. I love being in a classroom with undergraduates. They exhaust me…because they challenge me. They frustrate me…because they sometimes cannot see or cannot yet fulfill the potential that I see in them. But they also energize me. They give me hope, they make me laugh, they force me to continue my own growth as a teacher, a theatre-maker, and a person. So, if I’m going to continue to walk into undergraduate classrooms, into the costume shop where they work, into the rehearsals where they’re finding their artistic feet, how can I best empower them?

As a theatre professor, empowerment means making space for my students’ bodies and voices. Making space for all my students means being very conscious about calling on my students who are women+ or people of color just as often as I call on the men in the room. When the discussions are more casual and I’m simply allowing the conversation to flow, sometimes it means intervening so that the quieter voices in the room are heard. Decolonizing classroom interactions is one of the most important things educators can do, and one of the trickiest, as it usually means rethinking the teaching patterns we learned through osmosis in our own educations.

I’m working to make space for women* in costume design and am very lucky to have colleagues who think intentionally about mentoring women* students in the other design areas, where they are historically underrepresented. We continue to ask questions, along with my colleagues in acting/directing, about how we all think in regard to what bodies might fill which roles, and we work to choose scripts that have quality roles written for our diverse student body. This also means taking on the task of filling my own educational gaps. My students are incredibly generous about what they call “learning Sarah about black-girl hair,” but the work of that learning must substantially be mine – I’m the one with the deficiency and it is up to me to find the resources to make up for it. Finally, making space in a production context means starting from the presumption that my students have artistic agency, that their aesthetic impulses demand the same collaborative generosity as those of the more-experienced artists in the room, even while acknowledging the places where mentoring and shaping can hone those impulses.

Making space also involves mentoring and encouraging my women* students who have the desire to be leaders into roles that can help them develop those skills and then mentoring them while they’re there. Making space cannot be something that happens and is finished; it must be ongoing and progressive. Once a student enters into a leadership role, my job is to help her find a strong voice within that role, so that the experience is a springboard to the next level, and not a struggle that crushes her enthusiasm or keeps her from reaching upward again.

In some ways, making the space is the easy part. Once you’ve given students the space, you have to give them tools  to thrive within it. What does that mean? Well, as someone who teaches Script Analysis and Theatre History it means giving them the skills to make interesting theatre. I know what kinds of theatre my generation has decided to make. And some of it is ground-breaking and arresting. But it is nevertheless the theatre of my time. What I want to give my students are the tools to go out and make the theatre of their time. These students will be making the theatre I see when I’m seventy; they’ll be running theatres, playing major roles, designing the plays. It’s my job to give them the platform to make theatre that, quite frankly, I want to go see.

I want to give students a foundation that will help them to reimagine the old. To hand them the security that will allow them to jettison texts that no longer serve. To give them the confidence to create the new: new forms, new voices, new ways of story-telling, new collaborations. This feels like a very tall mountain to climb some days.

How do the most basic of analytic skills serve to foster innovative artists? Any kind of analysis is just a tool, and tools come with predispositions. A hammer is predisposed to pound on things. It’s not going to work well as a broom. A structure or an analysis based on inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action can be very useful for certain plays, but it’s just a tool. That’s not the only way to think about dramatic structure, and as plenty of scholars have pointed out, it privileges a paradigm of the male sexual experience. My job is to teach my students how to use it where it suits them, and to show them other options – circular structures; structures that draw on oral cultures, like Suzan-Lori Parks’ echoes of call and response; the hero(ine)’s journey – all of which can place new kinds of narratives at the center of dramatic action.

I also give my students the space to fail. I find that my students come to me absolutely devoted to giving their teachers the “right answer.” It has been impressed upon them that their chances in college, and the totality of their futures are bound up in their ability to fill in the correct bubble on a scan form. This has two major problems for theatre in particular. One is that students believe (even if they rationally know it isn’t true) that there is one singular right answer to any analytic or artistic question about a play. The other problem is that students are artistically risk averse. Those of us who’ve been doing this for a while know that we get it wrong a lot. And then we try again. And sometimes, if we’re very, very lucky, all our hard intellectual, artistic, and hands-on work pays off, and we get it right. But getting it right is the product of the lessons we learned all the times we got it not quite right. Or, hell, got it totally wrong. I tell my students that I’d rather they present me with a hot mess than a technically “correct” but passionless idea for a production. I’ll stop to look at a hot mess; they’re infinitely interesting.

Finally, I think it’s important for those of us who teach to think about empowerment in terms of ourselves. Empower yourself to acknowledge the journey you’re on. Don’t be afraid to model for your students the ways in which you’re still learning. I know I’m still teaching a colonized version of theatre history. I’m largely modeling the material and the methods I learned myself. Do I include texts by women and people of color? Of course. Do I talk about actors, designers, directors who aren’t “old white guys?” Yes, absolutely. But I’m still essentially standing and lecturing; I’m concerned that I’m teaching a history of our craft that seems divorced from the here and now of my students’ experience I worry that by setting aside certain days to talk about African American theatre, or LGBTQ+ theatre, I’m performing a continued marginalization of those contributions as I remove them from the mainstream of my lectures. But I go looking for new ways. I try new things. I question myself.

In Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett famously writes, “Try. Fail. Try again. Fail better.” Empowering my students ultimately means giving them the space to fail and the confidence to try again. And showing by example how to try always to fail better.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah McCarroll is an associate professor of theatre at Georgia Southern University, where she teaches courses in theatre history and script analysis, and is also the resident costume designer and shop manager. She has recently completed a term as editor of the journal Theatre Symposium, with volumes on Theatrical Costume, and Theatre and Embodiment. Her published work also appears in Theatre, Performance and Cognition: Languages, Bodies and Ecologies, and she is currently at work on a book theorizing stage costumes as vehicles of embodied memory. Sarah’s professional home is the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where she has served as first hand, wardrobe supervisor, and dramaturg. She holds a PhD from Indiana University and an MFA from the University of Alabama.


*A NOTE ON INCLUSION AT STATERA

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who are non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, religion, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all. 

Lisa Wolpe's "Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender" at StateraCon in NYC

The Statera National Conference has become known as a treasure trove of solo work by women artists. This year is no different. We’re excited to share about Lisa Wolpe and her solo show, “Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender”.

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Lisa Wolpe will bring her internationally acclaimed one-woman show Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender to New York City for one performance at Statera’s National Conference.

An activist as well as a celebrated actress and director, Wolpe’s solo show speaks toward liberation from the “gender box” of expectations, and offers a unique and powerful perspective of courage, resilience and hope against her family’s background of war, suicide and despair.

Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender has played in London at the historic Rose Playhouse as well as Provincetown Women’s Theater Festival, Prague Shakespeare Festival, SpringWorks Festival, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, the Great River Shakespeare Festival and at Statera’s 2016 National Conference at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Lisa took "Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender" to Prague in November 2016. Below is an interview she did at that time with RFE/RL's Salome Asatiani to discuss issues ranging from cross-gender explorations to Shakespeare's undying relevance. Enjoy!

Late Registration for conference is still open. Statera also offers a deeply discounted student rate for those who are currently enrolled and attending with their professor. And Statera Members receive a discount via the Statera Membership Portal.

Jennifer Joplin's "The MILF Also Rises" at StateraCon in NYC

The Statera National Conference has become known as a treasure trove of solo work by women artists. This year is no different. We’re excited to tell you about The MILF Also Rises by Jennifer Joplin.

“Jennifer Joplin's one-woman show The MILF Also Rises is an incredibly intimate hour of bare-all truth-telling that is both genuinely funny as well as thought-provoking. There are three things she knows for certain: She has a vagina, likes drinking — maybe too much — and in the end, we all die. No one makes it out alive.” - City Beat

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StateraArts: Your piece "The MILF Also Rises" examines the balancing act between who you thought you were going to be and who who've become. Tell us about inception of this piece.  

Jennifer Joplin: Or the balancing act between what I thought this show was going to be and what it’s become.  This piece started as – believe it or not – a writing dare!  I challenged a friend to join me in submitting something to the Cincinnati Fringe Fest to encourage him to create for himself what he wasn’t getting from his career in that moment. I had been thinking for months about speaking to the fact that many of my 30-40 something straight, white, male friends seemed to trust me, turn to me with concerns and questions, especially in light of the “Me Too” movement. I had become a bit of a Sherpa to this demographic and thought that was what I would be writing about. But it evolved into an exercise that revealed where I have ultimately led myself over the course of 4 decades. From trying to fit in to blazing my own trail.

 

Jennifer Joplin

Jennifer Joplin

SA: How has the "Me Too" movement influenced "The MILF Also Rises"?

JJ: Whoa Nellie! It has been a huge catalyst in my life. I address this directly in my show more than once and through more than one lens. “Me Too” was an eye opener to just what I have accepted up to this point as “normal”, “to be expected”, “part of life” – all of which affected me (more than I realized) emotionally, robbing me of energy, momentum that should have been invested into my own visions and goals.  

SA: Your title carries the connotations of not only gender, but also age. How has age played a role in the way in which you create and tell stories?

JJ: My personal journey into middle age is all about truth and volume. I’m finally not afraid to be honest with myself, with others. I’m not afraid to ask questions to get to the crux of a fear or problem. But I’m also more willing to turn up the volume on my opinion, my ideas, my voice. I wish I had access to this at a younger age but I won’t waste one more second now that I’ve got it!


SA: Mentorship is at the core of StateraArts' mission. Can you tell us about your mentors and how they've shaped you and your work? 

JJ: Mentors, teachers, friends – I find that these lines often blur and I think that’s more than okay. I’ve actually rarely been in an intentional mentor/mentee relationship. But I have been observer to so many female instructors, directors, actors, writers and I have sucked up every moment of their determination, their vision, their fire – maybe more importantly – their flaws and willingness to move and grow with them instead of pretending they don’t exist. I also think that mentor and mentee can be one in the same. There are younger female artists who consider me a mentor but it is their questions and their intentions that teach me, inspire me to press harder, live up to the value they see in me as a leader.


SA: How has your community supported the trajectory of this piece?

JJ: I’ve never felt more support – never. While the first steps into this were solo by choice, the moment I was accepted into the Cincy Fringe lineup I surrounded myself with my womxn. All ages, all professions, all gender identities, all stages of motherhood and “notherhood.” Their willingness to listen and respond, help shape this into something that is not just my story but would ring true with anyone, everyone, has been the greatest gift. I never wanted this to just be about or for women though. I want this to encourage dialogue.  We’re all in this together or we’re screwed! It’s been the sincere thanks, the encouragement I’ve received from many of the mxn in my life that has confirmed for me that I should continue to put this out there into the world.  Not because they approve of it but because they hear it. I’ve never exposed my SELF more - to friends, family, strangers. It’s been one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. The Cincinnati Fringe Festival is such a positive artistic incubator. I wouldn’t have wanted to unveil something so personal anywhere else.

SA: "The MILF Also Rises" is featured in the schedule at Statera's upcoming National Conference in NYC. What can attendees expect during their 75 minutes with you?

JJ: A lot of laughs. Thank goodness!  But a lot of triggers.  My producer, director and I finally decided that we would include in our program, “Trigger Warning: This performance is full of what life is full of.”  I’m always nervous to share this piece and then thrilled to be doing it and then relieved I made it through but my favorite part… talking with my audience afterwards. It reminds me I’m not alone in any of this. None of us are. We’ve got to share more, listen more. More. More truth, more connection, more volume! 

General Registration for conference is open through today, September 30th, until midnight EST. If there is still space available, Late Registration will begin tomorrow on October 1st. Statera also offers a deeply discounted student rate for those who are currently enrolled and attending with their professor.

Tira Palmquist's "The Worth of Water" to Premier at Clutch Productions

Playwright Tira Palmquist, whose work has been featured on The Kilroy’s List, is in rehearsals for another world premier. This time, she’s working with Clutch Productions, a women-led theatre collective in New York City. The Worth of Water, which premiers October 4-20 at HERE Arts Center, was commissioned by Clutch Productions as part of their 12-month play development series. Today on the blog, Tira speaks about her process, climate change, and her newest play at Clutch Productions.

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StateraArts: The headline on your website says "Viking + Writer = Motherfucker". Tell us about the special alchemy of that equation and how it manifests in your creative work.

Tira Palmquist: I should say that I’m in the process of updating my website (which is sadly a little out of date, and something that I have been too busy to get to!) – and I’ve been thinking of changing that to Viking + Writer = Badass. But the point is, I think, the same: I am inspired by the warlike nature of my cultural and ethnic ancestors. A phrase I use when I am angry and about to go off on someone or something is “Going Full Viking.” I picture a shield maiden, outfitted for war, taking out her battle ax, ready to charge in, with a full-throated battle cry. As women, we’re often taught (or expected) to be meek, quiescent. I’ve never really been very meek or quiet, and the older I get, the less bullshit I’m willing to put up with.

But, to answer the question, I aspire to be brave in the choices I make (either about the stories I’m telling, or how I’m telling them) – and to be generally ready to fight the good fight, to stand up for myself, to know when to say no, to be clear, and direct, and uncompromising about the important things.

 

SA: We always like to hear how playwrights become playwrights. How did you come to writing?

TP: The short answer was I was an actor and a poet, and the perfect marriage of these things is to be a playwright.

Here’s the longer answer: As an undergraduate, I wanted to be an actor. I had done a lot of acting from the time I was a kid, and I loved the theater. At the same time, I really loved writing. I wrote in journals, wrote letters, wrote poems from the time I was in grade school. When I was at the University of Iowa, I was in the undergraduate poetry workshop, and one of my teachers (the poet Jorie Graham), said, “You need to get your MFA in poetry.” I honestly had never considered that – but at the time, I was feeling frustrated with acting: getting cast as whores and grandmothers and nuns. So, I applied to about 6 different grad schools – and got into almost all of them. In grad school, I found that I couldn’t stay away from the theater, acting and writing my first (very bad) play. A few years later, while my husband and I were living in Columbus, OH, I was asked to join a multidisciplinary performance group to write poetry for performance. While doing this, I found that I gravitated to writing narratives… and wrote my first very good play (one that won an award shortly after that). 

SA: Your plays all seem to collide at the intersections of personal agency, collective grief, and the destruction of the natural world. Can you tell us about writing plays in the age of climate change?

TP:
I find that I keep circling back to a few themes:

  • What is home, and where do we find it?

  • How do we move forward, how do we put one step in front of another, when hobbled by grief and loss?

  • How can science and rational thought save us? Or, rather, how will science and rational thought (and our passion for these things) give us the capacity to save ourselves.

I know that I feel the destruction of the natural world quite acutely, quite viscerally – and I also think that theater has the capacity to change (as the phrase goes) hearts and minds. That’s not to say that I’m interested in writing polemics, but if someone can come to a play, and be moved, and then find themselves have considered another point of view, then maybe this is one way that theater can be involved in collective action. Theater works because it asks us to be ready for deep empathy. These moments of deep empathy have to change us – or, at least, we have to be willing to be changed.

SA: When you have an idea for a play, how do you proceed? Do you research, take notes, plunge right in? 

TP: It changes from play to play, but generally the idea begins with a character in some extremity, a character with some problem they’re either trying to escape or trying to solve. Then, I have to frame up the foundations of the story. That is, I have to know things like: how many characters? Where is it located? What time period? How many months or years? Who’s the protagonist? What’s their driving desire? Do they get what they want? What’s the essential conflict of the play? How does the play end?

I don’t really outline before I write, but I do have to figure out all of those questions above before I can write. I like to think of this period as the “proving” period (like baking). I can’t start writing before all those foundational questions are answered, or I’ll be stuck. Sometimes the answers to the questions come quickly. Sometimes I have to puzzle it out. To continue the baking metaphor: richer doughs take longer to rise – and I can’t short-change that process. I have to be patient.

SA: You are a prolific writer. Tell us about your writing routine? How do you schedule yourself? Or are you a loose stop-and-go writer? 

TP: I am busy and have several different jobs -- so I can’t really afford a set and rigid schedule. However, there are a couple of things I’ve learned about myself. 1, I write better earlier in the day. 2, I have to set short, interim deadlines for myself. 3, When I’m starting something, I have to set smaller goals (like setting aside a chunk of hours per day, or deciding that I’m going to write as many scenes as I can, irrespective of the “right” order in the play). I try not to write when I’m depressed or feeling negative about my own writing. If that’s the case, I try to do something else active, like walking and thinking, or gardening and thinking, or doing more research. Doing something – anything – positive and proactive usually helps me get out of whatever negative spiral I’m in.

SA: When you are working, are there other art forms you go to for inspiration?

TP: I rarely listen to music while I write, though sometimes I turn to music for inspiration during the research process. Painting and other visual arts are also helpful to me. I find, though, that a lot of my inspiration comes from other research: science, archaeology, history, folklore, medicine, politics.

SA: What aspect of playwriting do you find to be the most difficult? 

TP: There are two parts of the process that are the scariest, and thus the most difficult: the first draft, and the final draft. The first draft can be difficult because it’s hard to avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism. I have to keep reminding myself, in those moments, that the first draft just has to be done, it doesn’t need to be perfect. Then, in the final draft, I am actually aiming at perfection – and all the little monsters that come out of the corners at that point – self-doubt, fear, all that – can hamstring those final choices.  

SA: Mentorship is at the core of StateraArts' mission. Can you tell us about your mentors and how they've shaped you? 

TP: I’ve been lucky to have different mentors at different points in my life – some personal, some professional, and the best mentors were there at key moments to remind me that, yes, I could make powerful choices, that I could do more than I thought I could.

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SA: Your play, The Worth of Water, is about to open at Clutch Productions in NYC. How did this new play come about? What was the inspiration?

TP: The original inspiration was a conversation with a former colleague of mine who told me that she was going to Mermaid Camp with her mother and sister. I had never heard of this place – but suddenly, immediately, I thought, “Oh yes this has got to be a play.” But then there was this election, and, like many artists I knew, I found myself struggling in the weeks and months after the inauguration, after we began to see the real costs of what was happening. I was going through a fairly tough time, personally, and I could not write. Not only did I see millions of voters having their voice silenced, I began to experience my own kind of voicelessness. This, then, became another theme in the play: how do we go on, when things are difficult? How do we regain our voice and power?  

SA: You recently said "The older I get, the more important it is for me to be visible as an older working artist."What do you see as the most effective way to combat and transform age bias for women in the arts

TP: First, I think it’s important to be honest about our age. I’m 56. I will never lie about my age, or cover it up. In my father’s family, we don’t tend to show our age in our hair, and maybe I’m lucky that way – But I do think we have to embrace the truth, celebrate that truth. I’ve made a conscious decision in my plays to write more characters for women over 40, and to make sure that these older women are powerful, active forces of nature – to make sure that they are flawed and sometimes terrible, and full of desires, or worries or needs.  So – I’m trying to combat and transform age bias on and off the stage by, you know, Going Full Viking.

SA: At StateraArts, we believe wholly in collaboration over competition. As a storyteller, what role does collaboration play in your work and how has your community supported your creative trajectory?

TP: I’ve been lucky to work with individuals and organizations that support the development of new plays – which is often difficult because there isn’t one set path for success, and while there are better processes for individual artists, it’s hardly foolproof. Each new play is its own beast, has its own individual quirks and complexities – and so the best way to collaborate is to move forward with a set of good principles about communication, trust, and compassion. It’s very hard not to get competitive, as we’re sending out plays, as we’re trying to make a name for ourselves – but as long as we just focus on the work, do our best, be good with each other, the more the work will get easier, better, etc. It’s also incredibly important to celebrate each other. I find, for example, that the more I share the successes of other writers, the less I find myself comparing myself to them. We just have to be more joyous in the presence of other good work – otherwise, everything will start to get small, and mean, and petty (including our own work).   

SA: What was the best piece of advice you ever got about being an artist or writer?

TP: Tell your own stories. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

The Worth of Water runs October 4-20 at HERE Arts Center in NYC. Tickets can be purchased at www.clutchproductions.org/theworthofwater.

To learn more about Clutch Productions and their commission process and EmpowHER Play Reading Series, please visit www.clutchproductions.org.

Theatre L'Acadie in Chicago Opens Inaugural Production

Today marks the first preview for Theatre L'Acadie’s inaugural production of 70 Scenes of Halloween by Jeffrey M. Jones. The show runs from September 26 through October 13 at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago, IL.

This week, Statera caught up with the three founders of Theatre L'Acadie for a conversation about making art, the Chicago arts community, and women who’ve inspired their work.

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Emily Daigle

Emily Daigle

Kaitlin Romero

Kaitlin Romero

Brandi Champagne

Brandi Champagne

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

StateraArts: What inspired your to start Theatre L'Acadie?

Emily Daigle: Brandi, Kaitlin, and I attended the same BFA program at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The idea for Theatre L'Acadie planted itself during our senior year of college and developed once we all relocated to Chicago post graduation. Fueled by the desire to create meaningful work and make a difference through the use of our art form, this tiny idea soon became a reality. We weren't waiting on anyone else to create our own work.

Brandi Champagne: We all felt very similarly about needing to do something big if we wanted big things to happen to us. As three women who are multi-talented we wanted to make sure we could use all of our skills to produce art that spoke to us.

Kaitlin Romero: Because we all came from a university where we focused on a well rounded education, we have a multi-faceted talent set that makes us hungry for work that we can really sink our teeth into.

StateraArts: What do you love most about your artistic community?

Brandi Champagne: I love how giving and how communal the Chicago theatre scene has been in this past year. It really has started to feel like family already. Since starting our company, we have had endless amounts of support and advice from so many wonderful people in the community.

Kaitlin Romero: Within the Chicago community, I really love the fact that this is such a welcoming place for actors. I believe that’s also why all three of us decided to move here after our departure from college. We all wanted to move to a place that both inspired and welcomed us as artists. 

Emily Daigle: Starting your own company is no easy task, having a supportive baseline is the key to success. I believe this reflects within the Chicago theatre community as well; this artistic community has proven itself to be extremely supportive and encouraging. We would not be where we are now without the constant support and generous advice from professionals within our Chicago community.

When did you feel most supported or championed by the women in your life?

Emily Daigle: I'd say through the development of this theatre company, Theatre L'Acadie. Not only do I feel empowered by the women I work with, but by the women who support my work. I am incredibly lucky to come from a family of strong and smart women. Women of fearless nature who inspire my go-getter work ethic and encourage me to take up space.

Brandi Champagne: I also have always felt so incredibly supported by my two lovely co-founders. They are definitely some powerful women in my life!

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StateraArts: Tell us about your inaugural project 70 Scenes of Halloween?

Brandi Champagne: 70 Scenes of Halloween is our inaugural production as a company and it is a show that hits really close to home for all of us. Its a Dark Comedy that digs deep into the things that we’ve stated in our mission statement. We see the mundane, ugly, and ordinary evening of a young couple on Halloween, as well as the inner workings of their minds. 

Kaitlyn Romero: It’s an eerie show about a couple that must live through a night of utterly absurd happenings while trying to keep their already fragile relationship hanging on.

Emily Daigle: Jones's work is incredibly challenging and thought provoking. I can't wait for Chicago to witness this untraditional tale of love and loss!

StateraArts: Tell us about another woman or non-binary artist that inspires your work.

Kaitlin Romero: Felicity Jones, for her subtlety and sheer rawness of her work. If we are talking about women generally that inspire me, I would have to say Emma Watson. She’s a pioneer for education and has been very influential in terms of showing me what it means to be a positive role model for women around the world.

Emily Daigle: Much of my work as an artist and entrepreneur is inspired by Reese Witherspoon. She is innovative, ambitious, and eager to incite change. I'm endlessly searching for ways to do more for others within my art form, and that is exactly what Reese does. She's a self-starter and an activist for women within the entertainment industry. In 2016, she started her own media company, "Hello Sunshine", with the sole purpose of creating and promoting content by and about women. She acts, writes, produces, and more, all while being a phenomenal mother; the woman truly does it all.

Brandi Champagne: I feel extremely inspired by Toni Collette. She’s done it all (stage, screen, you name it) and she’s done it very well. She is powerful and talented. She is the epitome of what I strive to be as an artist.

StateraArts: Mentorship is at the core os Statera's mission. Tell us about one of your mentors. How did they shape you or provide pathways for opportunity?

Brandi Champagne: There are SO many women in my life who inspire me deeply. The first woman who comes to mind is definitely my professor from my undergrad, Sara Birk. She is a powerhouse and is so incredibly great at what she sets her mind to. A bond was definitely formed in my 4 years at UL and she is always the first person I turn to when I need assistance.

Kaitlyn Romero: I would consider my sister in law my biggest mentor. She’s one of the people that encouraged me along the way of starting my first theater company. She also provided a means (along with my brother) for me to continue taking acting classes. She encouraged my to put myself out there, and really try something for myself. She gives me guidance in every walk of life.

Emily Daigle: I've had several mentors throughout my creative career, but one mentor that stands out to me is my dear friend, Leah Raidt. Two months into my move to Chicago, I signed up for the StateraArts Mentorship not knowing what to expect. In turn, I was introduced to an incredible human, Leah, who was everything I never knew I needed. Fresh out of undergrad, Leah was a tremendous help with my transition from the academic setting to the professional world. She introduced me to the ins and outs of the Chicago entertainment industry, actively worked with me to achieve my goals, and was the very person who encouraged me to start my own theatre company. In times out doubt, she was always there to listen and knew exactly what to say. She was one of my first friends in Chicago and a home away from home. Leah is giving, fearless, confident, driven, passionate, and...the list goes on. I wouldn't be where I am today without her guidance and I am infinitely grateful for our relationship.

70 Scenes of Halloween runs September 26 - October 13 at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago. Tickets are available at (773) 935-6875 or www.athenaeumtheatre.org.

Statera's National Conference Promises Connection, Nourishment, and Positive Action

StateraCon registrations are flying in as the window closes on September 30th. Make sure that you register today to secure your spot! If we have space available, we’ll open late registration on October 1st until sold out.

From StateraCon 2018: (left to right) Yasmin Ruvalcaba, Jane Vogel, Lisa Wolpe, Nataki Garrett, Kelcey Anyá, Maggie Rogers, and Christine Jugueta.

From StateraCon 2018: (left to right) Yasmin Ruvalcaba, Jane Vogel, Lisa Wolpe, Nataki Garrett, Kelcey Anyá, Maggie Rogers, and Christine Jugueta.

Culture Shift

This year, StateraArts is working side by side with Marla Teyolia and Kavitha Rao of Culture Shift Agency to bring you a meaningful conference experience framed by moments of community ritual and collective healing. We’ll be sharing coalition building tools that shift the dominant industry culture from one of lack, competition, and isolation to one of authentic collaboration, connection, and positive action. Please visit the Culture Shift website to learn more about their practice and work.

The Culture Shift Team: Marla Teyolia (left) and Kavitha Rao (right)

The Culture Shift Team: Marla Teyolia (left) and Kavitha Rao (right)

Coalition Building

Conferences and other large industry gatherings can be a tough place to network in a deep and meaningful way. Its easy for people to fall through the cracks. This year on the first morning of conference, Statera is offering a fun and structured way to meet attendees, cross-pollinate, and get to know each other! We’re calling it Speed Networking. This will be a guided, joyful, and effective way to individually connect with attendees you might not otherwise meet.

Adriana Gaviria & Karena Fiorenza at StateraCon 2018

Adriana Gaviria & Karena Fiorenza at StateraCon 2018

Nataki Garrett & Hana Sharif at StateraCon 2018

Nataki Garrett & Hana Sharif at StateraCon 2018

Yusef Seevers & Amy Smith at StateraCon 2018

Yusef Seevers & Amy Smith at StateraCon 2018

Woodzick & Andrea Prestinario at StateraCon 2018

Woodzick & Andrea Prestinario at StateraCon 2018

Sara Osi Scott & Jackie Vanderbeck at StateraCon 2018

Sara Osi Scott & Jackie Vanderbeck at StateraCon 2018

Martha Richards & Sophie Dowllar Ogutu

Martha Richards & Sophie Dowllar Ogutu

Location, Location, Location

New York City has a rich and globally recognized arts and culture scene and is home to some of our nation's most legendary theaters. StateraArts is proud to partner this year with City College of New York and the Department of Theatre and Speech (CCNY) for our fourth international conference. Located in Hamilton Heights overlooking Harlem, City College is an integral part of the civic, urban and artistic energy of New York and inseparable from its history. StateraCon is done at 6pm on Saturday and 4pm on Sunday so that you can take full advantage of our beautiful host city!

City College of New York in winter.

City College of New York in winter.

INCREDIBLE SPEAKER LINE-UP

We’re thrilled to have Tony-winner Joanna Gleason and nationally recognized director May Adrales deliver keynote addresses on the last day of conference. But we’re also over the moon to share with you the full line-up of breakout speakers and facilitators. Artists from all over the country convene at StateraCon to discuss, share, commune, and spark ideas for future action!

See the full speaker line-up >>>

See the full conference schedule >>>

REGISTER TODAY

StateraCon is open to everyone. We invite and welcome all gender identities, all races and ethnicities, all religions and creeds, countries of origin, all immigrants and refugees, all abilities and disabilities, and all sexual orientations. Everyone is welcome here. 

Registration includes access to all Statera Conference programming. This includes touchstone addresses, plenaries, workshops, breakout sessions, panel discussions, admission to organized social gatherings, and a conference swag bag. General Registration ($300) is available until September 30th or until we sell out. Late registration begins on October 1st. Remember that Statera Members receive the early bird rate ($250) as long as registration is open. Please read the StateraCon Refund & Cancellation Policies before registering.


*A NOTE ON INCLUSION AT STATERA

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who are non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, religion, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all. 

Launching Ships by Janet Hayatshahi and Kirsten Brandt at StateraCon in NYC

The Statera National Conference has become known as a treasure trove of solo work by women artists. This year is no different. We’re excited to tell you about Launching Ships by Kirsten Brandt and Janet Hayatshahi.

Launching Ships takes a deep look at society’s ideas of beauty through the mythical journey of Helen of Troy. We caught up with Janet and Kirsten this week to learn a little more about their collaborative work and their performance session at StateraCon!

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Your piece Launching Ships is loosely based on the story of Helen of Troy and her return from the Trojan War. Tell us about using this story as a way to explore beauty and objectification.

Janet Hayatshahi: The mythology about Helen paints her as the most beautiful woman in the world, the face that launched a 1000 ships, and caused a 10-year war. But Helen's beauty was merely the excuse for the war.  This is essentially an ancient tale that paints woman as scapegoat and woman as object. We were interested in exploring the combination of beauty, objectification, and aging and felt that linking it to Helen’s story made sense.

How has the #MeToo movement influenced Launching Ships?

Janet Hayatshahi: We started thinking about this story right after the #metoo movement started in 2017. Our first workshop of the piece included direct quotes we had received from friends when we asked them for examples of backwards compliments they had received. These “compliment misfires" were samplings of how we reflect on beauty in our society and how this reflection affects us. When your mother tells you "you would be so beautiful if only you...." fill in the blank here with "lost some weight," "put on makeup," "got a nose job," etc., this has an effect on your psyche, right? But, Launching Ships aims to go beyond perceptions of beauty. It looks at how men have allowed these ideas to persist. How, through their gaze, women have been objectified, and labeled, and how much of that has been out of our hands. In this same way, Helen's objectification was something she had no control over. At its core, this piece aims to confront the way we perceive beauty, and how we have been taught, through the patriarchal gaze, to see. 

Janet Hayatshahi as Helen in “Launching Ships”.

Janet Hayatshahi as Helen in “Launching Ships”.

This piece was created as a partnership. What was special about this creative collaboration?

Janet Hayatshahi: Kirsten and I have been collaborating for a long time - since our time at Sledgehammer Theatre in San Diego in the early 2000's. When I moved to Richmond, VA in 2015 for an academic job, I felt really lost artistically. My collaborators were 3000 miles away. I knew I had to find a way to be creative, so Kirsten and I started having weekly video conference meetings about projects we could create together. Our first project was a piece about food and death that we presented in Berlin in the summer of 2016. 

In 2017, when the #metoo stories started spreading, we were sure there was a way to connect them to a retelling and a deconstructing of a classic story, so we got back online, and the video meeting schedule started up again, as we worked on creating Launching Ships. We tested a very short version of the piece in March 2017 during which we Skyped into each other's classrooms and performed the piece for our audiences over the internet. We then had a workshop of the piece at Firehouse Theatre in Richmond in January 2018 for a live audience and received some great feedback for developing it further. With some funding from Randolph-Macon College, where I teach, we were able to present it again in Santa Cruz in the summer of 2018 and then again at a Gender Studies Conference at George Mason University. It still baffles me that most of the work on this piece, the development, the writing, and the numerous edits we have made, has primarily taken place with a distance of 3000 miles separating the two of us. It's amazing to be able to use technology in this way. We couldn't have done this 15 years ago.

Mentorship is at the core of StateraArts' mission. Can you tell us about your mentors and how they've shaped you and your work? 

Kirsten Brandt: Ancient Greek Scholar and playwright Marianne McDonald was hugely influential for both of us. She instilled in us a love of Greek plays. I had her as a teacher at UCSD when I was an undergrad.  Janet also spent a lot of time with her while she was at UCSD for grad school years later. When I was running Sledgehammer and exploring Greek myths (with playwrights Kelly Stuart and Susan Yankowitz), she was an invaluable sounding board.  But, surprisingly, most of my mentors were actually men.  It’s fascinating, there was such a lack of women in academia teaching directing in the 90s.   Which is why it is important to me and to Janet to mentor women.  

I recently completed my MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College.  The entire group of advisors on the Port Townsend campus are women (Devora Neumark, Petra Kuppers, Sharon Siskin, Laiwan, and Ju-Pong Lin.)  It was an amazing experience where I felt supported and nurtured to urged to pursue hard questions about gender and performance. 

Janet Hayatshahi: For me Janet, mentorship has come in waves, each of them meaningful and incredibly influential. One of my most recent mentors is Allyson Green, who was at UCSD while I was in graduate school, though she’s now a Dean at Tisch School of the Arts. She always told me I needed to create a solo piece and she was right. I’m glad to see that piece come to life through Helen’s story.

How has your community supported the trajectory of this piece?

Kirsten Brandt: Our joint communities have been incredible. When we presented the piece in Richmond, we expected to have a few friends come and see it, and were completely surprised when about 40 of Janet’s colleagues were in the audience. We received such great feedback from them because this style of storytelling was unlike anything they had seen. When we presented in Santa Cruz, we had post-show conversations with the audience and received some great insight for developing the piece even further. Each time we present this piece we learn so many new things because Launching Ships is really about our audience and what they see. It's a pseudo call and response where we put out an idea and they meet that idea by bringing their own history to it.

Janet Hayatshahi: The comments we received from people days and weeks later, as they were processing the show and thinking about how the issues impact their daily lives, were astounding.  Our goal is to start a conversation with this piece and get our communities to start talking. 

Launching Ships is featured in the schedule at Statera's upcoming National Conference in NYC. This will be a pared down version of the production in a studio setting with minimal tech. What can attendees expect during their 75 minutes with "Launching Ships"?

Janet Hayatshahi: I think they can expect some surprises about the myth. They can participate at whatever level they are comfortable. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with them.

Janet Hayatshahi (left) and Kirsten Brandt (right)

Janet Hayatshahi (left) and Kirsten Brandt (right)

General Registration for conference is open through September 30th. If there is still space available, Late Registration will begin on October 1st. Statera also offers a deeply discounted student rate for those who are currently enrolled and attending with their professor.

Watch the Launching Ships trailer below:

Statera Member Spotlight: Sarah McCarroll

StateraArts members come from all over the USA and all genres of art-making. They are educators, arts leaders, activists, content-creators, professional artists, early career, mid-career, patrons, and community organizers. The Statera Member Spotlight is just one way StateraArts uplifts and amplifies the voices of our members. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Sarah McCarroll.

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StateraArts: What is your occupation or calling in the arts?
Sarah McCarroll:
Like many artists (and educators), I wear many hats. Teacher, designer, scholar; they’re all part of the mix, and each part informs and strengthens the others. If you make me pin it down, I suppose I think of myself as a scholar-practitioner, where my practice of costume design and technology is informed by my scholarship of period dress, embodiment, and Victorian theatre, and vice versa.

SA: What organizations are you affiliated with?
SM:
I am an Associate Professor of Theatre at Georgia Southern University. I teach courses in Script Analysis and Theatre History, but I’m also the resident costume designer and costume shop director, so I teach Costume Design, too. Professionally, my home has been the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where I spent more than a decade of summers as a first hand and wardrobe supervisor.

SA: What inspires your work most?
SM:
Verbs. Stephen Fry once said something about how he’s not an actor, he acts; he’s not a writer, he writes. These are actions we undertake, not static nouns that we are. And for me, what’s packed into the idea of a verb is the potential for change, and growth, and progression; movement and motion. I teach, but I’m not one thing as a teacher; I learn from my students, I get better, I find new ways to talk about my craft and its history. I write, and when I’m actively engaged in writing, I’m creating a new intellectual space with my words and ideas. When things get crazy, it’s easy to feel as though we are being tossed around by all the forces at work in our lives, and the reminder to myself that I have to verb through my days gives me a sense of my own agency and active presence in the world.

What do you love most about your artistic community?
Its breadth and depth. It may just be via social media, but my artistic community has outposts all over the country, and knowing that those people delight in my work, and allow me to delight in theirs makes the space I inhabit feel much larger than the small town I actually live in.

Why did you become a StateraArts member?
I became a Statera member because I believe in Statera’s mission, most particularly as it relates to the experiences I hope my students will have as they become part of the professional artistic community. Statera is one of the reasons that my students’ paths and possibilities will be broader; there will be more spaces open to them because of the work that we all do with Statera. We are each other’s network, safety net, and  mentors. We keep each other honest and we celebrate the victories of each of us as the victories of us all.

Any upcoming projects you'd like to share with us? 
I’m working on a book manuscript theorizing stage costumes as vehicles of memory. Costumes hold memories of the bodies of the actors who have worn them, in their sweat stains, the strains of their seams, the bare patches on elbows and knees; and I think that gives us a way to think about how we might, here and there, visit with the ghosts of vanished performances. Costumes also convey social memories onto the bodies of actors; garments hold cultural ideas about how the body should move and behave. By looking at both of these kinds of memory, I want to explore how audiences experience and understand the costumed actor.

Tell us about another woman or non-binary artist who inspires your work. 
I am inspired by the work of Dr. Amy Cook, who studies cognitive science and performance. Her most recent book, Building Character: The Art and Science of Casting, examines the ways in which we use mental images to structure the ways in which we “cast” people, on stage, certainly, but also in everyday life. What happens if we break open those categories of casting? What happens if we reimagine King Lear as a woman? Well, Glenda Jackson happens. And we learn new things about the character, the play, and the world by opening the door to new ideas about who can fit into particular roles.

 Amy was my dissertation advisor. Perhaps the most important lesson she offered me was, “make the world into the image you want it to have.” She helped me believe that an academic world in which I got to do both of the things I love – history and costumes – could exist, if I worked to shape the space I wanted to fill.

What does gender parity in the arts look like to you?
For me, gender parity would mean that when my students become the generation “in charge” of things, the industry would actually look like the classrooms I walk into every day, with at least 50% women+. (This is, of course, also about racial parity. My classrooms are also roughly one third non-white.) Gender parity will mean that we don’t allow women and non-binary artists to fall out of the pipelines to leadership. Instead, we demand that they be given space in those pipelines; we begin to empower and advance women+ and POC at the earliest possible points in their artistic lives, so that they believe those leaderships spaces are obvious and available career choices.

Mentorship is at the core of the StateraArts mission. Tell us about one of your mentors. How did they shape you or provide pathways for opportunity?
This sounds so cliché, but can I say my mother? Her name is Dr. Roberta Rankin. In her professional life, she was a director and professor; she used to say to her students, “I get drunk on the sounds of the words we get to speak onstage.” I learned that intoxication from her. She was also a single parent, although my father was very much a part of my life, and she modeled the strength and the struggle of trying to carry so many identities at once – mother, teacher, director, etc. My mother is my first, greatest, and ongoing mentor. She taught me how to take a play apart to see what makes it tick, she encourages my whimsy, and she shows me how to tackle life’s challenges with grit and humor.

Stay tuned for a follow up article by Sarah McCarroll about creating resilient classrooms that provide students with creative space to fail and grow.


Sarah McCarroll is an associate professor of theatre at Georgia Southern University, where she teaches courses in theatre history and script analysis, and is also the resident costume designer and shop manager. She has recently completed a term as editor of the journal Theatre Symposium, with volumes on Theatrical Costume, and Theatre and Embodiment. Her published work also appears in Theatre, Performance and Cognition: Languages, Bodies and Ecologies, and she is currently at work on a book theorizing stage costumes as vehicles of embodied memory. Sarah’s professional home is the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where she has served as first hand, wardrobe supervisor, and dramaturg. She holds a PhD from Indiana University and an MFA from the University of Alabama.

Statera is on Break from September 7-15

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Statera is going on vacation! We're taking a cue from our own vision statement -- Statera normalizes a humane and holistic creative environment that nourishes innovation -- and taking a week-long break. We love our team and they need some down-time before starting final preparations for conference! We'll be back in the office on September 15th!

While we're gone, you can still make use of our website:

Register for conference >>>

Submit your membership application >>>

Subscribe to the Statera Newsletter >>>

Consult our free resource directories >>>

Make a donation to StateraArts >>>

Statera Moves Into New Office Headquarters

StateraArts is an organization with international reach, but its roots are in Cedar City, Utah. Executive Director Melinda Pfundstein conceived of and co-founded StateraArts in Southern Utah and Cedar City was the location of Statera’s inaugural conference in 2015. So its fitting that Statera has chosen the downtown arts district of Cedar City as the location for their new offices.

StateraArts team members in front of the new office. From left to right: Sarah Greenman, Melinda Pfundstein, Sabrina Cofield, and Kate St. Pierre.

StateraArts team members in front of the new office. From left to right: Sarah Greenman, Melinda Pfundstein, Sabrina Cofield, and Kate St. Pierre.

StateraArts Cedar City office.

StateraArts Cedar City office.

“We have dreamt of a brick and mortar space since our founding,” says Executive Director Melinda Pfundstein. “This location is alive with the creative spark, be it art, great food, good wine, and the bustle and energy of people connecting around all of it.”

In an effort to create community and connect with local artisans, Statera has opened their offices for special collaborations with Art Works Gallery and Red Acre Farm, a local women-led organic farm and CSA in Cedar City.

Pfundstein says, “We are so lucky to have Red Acre Farm feature Pop Up Cafe’s in our space every Thursday and during Final Friday Art Walks. And our walls are lined with rotating pieces by women artists, provided by Art Works Gallery next door. We are absolutely surrounded by innovation and beauty, and already feel right at home.”

Statera’s new neighbors also include Artisans Gallery, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Southern Utah Museum of Art, Park Place Eatery, The French Spot, The Grind Coffee House, Centro Woodfired Pizza, Pastry Pub, IG Winery, the Cedar City Arts Council, Cedar’s red mountain, and more.


Are you in Cedar City today?
Join us for lunch from 11am - 1:30pm for the Red Acre Farm Pop-Up Cafe!
18 N. 100 W | Cedar City, UT

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Statera Member Spotlight: Michaela Goldhaber

StateraArts members come from all over the USA and all genres of art-making. They are educators, arts leaders, activists, content-creators, professional artists, early career, mid-career, patrons, and community organizers. The Statera Member Spotlight is just one way StateraArts uplifts and amplifies the voices of our members. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Michaela (Mickey) Goldhaber.

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StateraArts: What is your occupation or calling in the arts?
Michaela Goldhaber:
I’m a playwright and director. Most of my career has been as a director, but I always wrote. I had a stroke 11 years ago, and at that point I decided I needed to move back to the Bay Area. Part of my mom's pitch at the time for getting me back home was saying, “Hey, you can finally write that play you’ve been talking about for so long!” I had been working on my play The Lady Scribblers for years. Once I got settled in back in California, I started taking classes at Berkeley Rep, and then joined the Central Works Theatre Company's writers group. I was a member there for 3 years, and that's how I finally finished the play!  

SA: What organizations are you affiliated with?
MG:
I am the Artistic Director for Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Theatre Group, the Lead Instigator of Bay Area Women's Theatre Festival, and a Dramatist Guild member. One interesting aspect of my life is my partner Chris Hall is the leader of a group called Godless Perverts, which is a social justice activist group that presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion. So I am also a proud Godless Pervert!

SA: Tell us about your favorite project you've done thus far.
MG:
Well, when I was living in New York my friend Heather Ondersma and I had a company called Flying Fig Theater, with our mission being to tell women’s stories onstage through new works and by rediscovering women playwrights of the past. I’m particularly interested in the female playwrights of the restoration. My favorite play is The Wonder! A Woman Keeps a Secret by Susanna Centlivre. I directed it as my thesis in grad school at UCLA and then in New York with my company. Working on that play has brought me great joy and I'm sure I will continue to work on it throughout my career. Another favorite project was the first show I directed after my stroke, which was Bedtime in Detroit at Boxcar Theatre. It was a really exciting project, but at first I wasn’t sure how I would be as a director after so many changes had happened to my body. Through that process I found out I could still direct and continue to connect deeply with actors. This discovery was thrilling.  

SA: What inspires your work most? 
MG: Telling women's stories. That's what matters most to me. My work is fueled by making room for women and people with disabilities on the stage.  

SA: Why did you become a STATERA member?
MG:
Because of Martha Richards!! I was so excited and happy for Martha when I learned that StateraArts took on SWAN Day. Once that was part of Statera, I HAD to become involved, because I have been part of SWAN Day for years now and it means so much to me. It was SWAN day that formed the core of the Bay Area Women's Theatre Festival. I was part of a Women’s Theatre Festival in North Carolina last year when we did a reading of The Lady Scribblers. I was feeling so inspired afterwords that I hopped on a Facebook group I belong to called “'Yeah I said Feminist' A Theatre Salon” and I asked, “Hey who wants to help me start a women's theatre festival in the Bay Area? Within 20 mins we had the first meeting set up. A team of 15 women instantly came together to make it happen. We now have 40 participating theatre companies in the Bay Area. We will also be part of a panel at StateraCon this October, and I can't wait!

 SA: Any upcoming projects you'd like to share with us? 
MG:
I have two that I'd love to share! Wry Crips Occupy! is a new piece about the 504 sit in in 1977 when disabled activists took over the federal building in San Francisco in order to push the issuance of long-delayed regulations regarding Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. We are giving our first performance of it this week; a staged reading at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. It's a really neat building where the major disability organizations operate out of. We'll be performing in the atrium there. It has this beautiful bright red swirling ramp going all the way down that will make for a perfect backdrop. Following the reading, we are taking the show to ACT’s Costume Shop Theatre along with Regan Linton, Artistic Director of Phamaly Theatre. Our show will be performed alongside her piece, FDR Drag Show, for three public performances. It's going to be an action packed event! Then in the spring, my play The Lady Scribblers will have its world premiere March 6th-29th at Custom Made Theatre Company as part of the Bay Area Women’s Theatre Festival, which will run from March 1 to May 31, 2020

SA: What does gender parity in the arts look like to you?
MG:
For me, I think it's important to start with women's stories. It’s not just about the numbers. I want to see more stories that highlight women’s achievements and women in history. My particular interest is in digging in to the history of a certain era and then asking myself, "What were the women doing then?" So often everything we learn in history is always about the men of the times. A world of theatre where women’s stories are as important as men's stories is a world of parity, to me. The ground rules for the Women’s Theatre Festival is that is that every production has to be written and directed by a woman or non-binary artist and the cast and design team have to have gender parity. We’ve had to be very strict about that. But we were clear from the get-go that this is what we are looking for. We reached out to theatres in the area and said, "As you are planning your next season, is there a play you’re looking at doing that was written by a woman? If not, may we recommend one to you?" Then I'm also looking at where the people with disabilities are and how we can build more representation for us as well. 

SA: Mentorship is at the core of the STATERA mission. Tell us about one of your mentors. How did they shape you or provide pathways for opportunity?
MJ:
My greatest mentor in the theatre was Barbara Oliver, an actor and director here in Bay Area. When she reached a certain age and wasn’t being cast in roles that interested her anymore, she founded Aurora Theatre Company, which is a really a thriving theatre here that does fantastic work. She commissioned a playwright friend to write a piece and because she knew everyone in the Bay Area she was able to assemble a top cast. I had just finished college and was assistant directing at California Shakespeare Festival and she took me on as her Assistant Director. She was my champion and friend and mentor and was completely indefatigable. She worked in the theatre right up until her death, working on a tour in her 80s, and still directing at 85! She inspired me so much. She really knew what she wanted in all aspects of her career and was so kind and generous to everyone she met. At her memorial service at the Berkley Rep, a  woman maybe 10 years younger than me stood up and talked about how Barbara was her mentor, and what she shared was so similar to my story that for a minute I felt like, “Hey, I thought I was her mentee!” Then of course I realized, "Wow. How powerful it is that she was able to have this relationship with so many people and we all benefited so much and felt so special.” She completely shaped my early career. 


Interested in becoming a member of StateraArts?
Learn more at www.stateraarts.org/membership.

Families Welcome at Statera National Conference

Photo from StateraConII in Denver, CO. Photo by Malloree Delayne Hill of MDH Photography.

Photo from StateraConII in Denver, CO. Photo by Malloree Delayne Hill of MDH Photography.

Families Welcome

StateraArts is nationally known for taking positive action to bring women* into full and equal participation in the arts. And fulfilling this mission means creating pathways to success and advancement in the arts for caregivers and parents. Statera believes that all professionals with caregiving responsibilities should be treated as artistically viable, professionally capable, and deserving of structural support for access, equal employment, and promotion opportunity.

That is why the Statera National Conference is a families-welcome space! We’re not talking about simply being “family friendly”, we’re talking about proactive access and inclusion for parent artists. Statera’s 4th National Conference is happing October 26-27, 2019 on the campus of City College of New York in Harlem, NYC.

Family Room

This year, we are working in close partnership with the Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL) to make sure our parents have what they need at conference. We know that many theatre artists, particularly women, are juggling their professional lives with the needs of their families (we can relate!) To help ensure that you won't need to choose between attending the conference and caring for your little ones, we will have a Family Room** available for any attendees needing to bring their infants or small children with them to conference. This room will be equipped with private space for nursing and pumping and plenty of room for little ones to get the "wiggles" out!

Free to nurse where you like

In addition to full use of our Family Room, anyone attending StateraCon may bring their small children into the sessions with them as they see fit. Also, please feel free to breastfeed in any of the sessions. And if you need to leave the session for any reason, you’re welcome to return at your leisure.

Free to bring another caregiver

We'd like to add that any attendee wishing to bring a babysitter to conference with them to attend to their kiddos while they attend sessions is welcome to do so without registering and paying for their babysitter. Simply note the names of your children and their babysitter when you complete your conference registration and we'll print name badges for your family group so that they have easy access to you during conference.

Alexana Stavros attended Statera’s National Conference in 2016. In the video below, she tells a personal story about attending StateraCon with her baby.

Partnering with PAAL

Looking to coordinate childcare during conference or want to connect with other parents at the conference? Statera and the Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL) are here for you you! Please reach out to our liaison Rachel Spencer-Hewitt directly at www.paaltheatre.com/contact for more information. There is also a place in your conference registration form to note your needs. We can’t wait to meet you and your family at StateraConIV in New York City!


*Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who are non-binary.

**The family room will not be staffed by StateraArts personnel and children may not be left unattended at any time.

Sophie Dowllar Ogutu to Receive 2019 Visionary Leadership Award from StateraArts

Sophie Dowllar Ogutu during Statera's 2018 SWAN Day Convening in Milwaukee.

Sophie Dowllar Ogutu during Statera's 2018 SWAN Day Convening in Milwaukee.

StateraArts has named Sophie Dowllar Ogutu as the 2019 recipient of the Martha Richards Visionary Woman in Leadership Award. Sophie is a mother, an unapologetic women's rights defender, a community mobilizer and organizer, and above all - a feminist artist. She is a key coordinator of The 5 C's Theatre Collective, co-founder of the Mamma Africa Community Centre, a board member of the Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET), a mentor with the Girl’s Brigade, and the principal organizer for SWAN Day Kenya. Sophie is also an International Committee Member for the World March of Women, which has led to collaborations with the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.

This award, established in Martha Richards’ name, is given annually to a visionary woman who uplifts, amplifies, and advances women in the arts. StateraArts established this award to recognize outstanding leaders and support the work of women who are creating pathways for others. StateraArts is honored to highlight the extraordinary achievements of women leaders in the arts who provide powerful role models for mentorship and intersectional equity. The recipient is nominated by the public and chosen by committee. The award comes with international recognition and a $2,000 prize.

StateraArts will officially deliver the award to Sophie Dowllar Ogutu on Sunday, October 27 during a ceremony at Statera’s National Conference in New York City.

FROM SOPHIE:

“I appreciate, value, and respect people, and I love working with everyone. In my art-ivism, I work a lot with diverse communities, a rare opportunity that makes the arts space special and unique. Born and raised in a happy and loving family of 10, we learned to love and cherish any opportunity that comes along the way. I started my art journey as a teen, acting in church. When I graduated from high school in 1995, the first opportunity to prosper in life, was in an arts space. It was a radical, political space, and too much for a young girl, but given my background, I continued to strive. This shaped me and helped me choose the arts path. That opportunity made me who I am today. I continue working with women in arts and will always support wherever I can. The role that arts play as a medium for communication, has enabled me to reach many vulnerable hearts of women seeking ways to share and talk about their plights. Women in the arts remains my number one form of interaction and connection to those many hearts.”

Sophie Dowllar Ogutu   speaking during a human rights march.

Sophie Dowllar Ogutu speaking during a human rights march.

Sophie and Lydiah Dola (far right) with Yasmin Ruvalcaba Saludado and Jane Vogel of Advance Gender Equity in the Arts.

Sophie and Lydiah Dola (far right) with Yasmin Ruvalcaba Saludado and Jane Vogel of Advance Gender Equity in the Arts.

QUOTES FROM SOPHIE’S NOMINATIONS:

“Given the complex reality of gender inequality, factors that render women most liable to discrimination are not always easily identifiable, but through the SWAN platform, Sophie has created panels where women in the arts have talked about their forms of discrimination in their work as women artists, and continue to seek alternatives to those problems / challenges through active participation of women artists.”


“Despite huge personal challenges Sophie has been the driving force behind SWAN day in Kenya for over a decade and shows altruism and compassion in all she does. In a culture steeped in patriarchy and corruption she is a beacon of honesty and courageously stands up for women’s rights in particular through theatre and the arts. She has been working for change ever since I first met her when she was an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.”


“Everything Sophie does is WOMEN-centered. She introduced international grassroots feminist women to us here in Kenya. She also introduced SWAN Day Festival. She believes in empowering women. She truly is a believer of women's advancement and true empowerment.”


“Sophie gives women the courage to stand for themselves. Networks have been created to ensure that women can not only engage in business but also support one another emotionally and socially. She helps women become a sister's keeper and their wellbeing has become strengthened through this.”


“We have walked the 5Cs journey together and I’ve seen Sophie champion the rights of many. She seizes every opportunity to empower women artists. Now with the SWAN Day platform, we see even more opportunities created through creatives. Sophie is one resilient person.”


“Sophie’s theatre collective, the 5Cs, which is a women led human rights group, is one of the most progressive groups with community social change approaches.”


“I work in a UK university surrounded by inspirational women but Sophie is at an entirely different level.”

“Sophie is a committed feminist in a patriarchal society. We set up Mamma Africa Community Centre as a small charity supporting rural women around Lake Victoria. This gave them access to training to become better at whatever they chose: to learn from agricultural practices, first aid, the arts, or technology. The project has developed based on the analysis that the culturally encouraged lack of confidence in women is what holds women back from developing their potential and that trained women can look at evidence of competence to build their confidence one bit at a time. Sophie has been the driving force.”


“The radical leadership style that Sophie brought, even with a lot of opposition at first, she continued with so much love. She never gave up and has never discriminated against anyone. This has opened up a lot of space for young women and they enjoy being part of the change we all yearn to see.”


“Sophie organizes with so much passion and amazing zeal.”


“The arts community served by Sophie because of her popular progressive theatre for social change. It has positively impacted the lives of many, especially young people, who otherwise are the "forgotten bracket”. She creates community theatre that provokes minds to bring about change.”


“In Kenya ‘pathways’ for the arts do not exist unless you belong to a small group of privileged people. But Sophie creates opportunities to perform and to be recognized and celebrated for your talents.”


“Since 1995, the 5C Human Rights Theatre has been doing progressive, interactive and open participatory theatre pieces for social change.”


“Sophie is selfless in her endeavors to support women all over and empower them to become holistically strong. She has come to the rescue of battered women. She has cried out when human rights activists have been murdered or jailed or gone missing. She is a tower of strength and a beacon of light to many.”

General Registration for Statera National Conference Closes on September 30th

Join us for the Statera National Conference in New York City from October 26-27, 2019. Meet with theatre professionals from all over the country to network, learn, renew, share, and more! StateraCon is all about intersectional gender balance and our goal is to take positive action to bring women* into full and equal participation in the American Theatre. StateraCon is open to all theatre professionals, practitioners, students and enthusiasts regardless of gender or age: administrators, designers, dramaturgs, educators, technicians, actors, advocates, etc.

No need to put on your game face. No need to “gear up”. Statera’s National Conference is a place for collective healing and creative coalition building. We want you to bring your whole self to conference. Yes, there will be strategy sessions, tool-gathering, and networking. Yes, there will be industry panels, touchstone addresses, and breakout sessions. But StateraCon is not your average arts conference. We are shifting the culture from one where myths surrounding lack, competition, and isolation are replaced by authentic experiences of collaboration, connection, and positive action.

DEADLINES TO REMEMBER

September 30, 2019 - General Registration ($300) and Student Registration ($150) closes at midnight EST. We anticipate selling out before then, so register now to secure your spot.

October 1, 2019 - Late Registration ($350) opens until sold out. 

Touchstone speakers: Tony-winner Joanna Gleason (left) and nationally recognized director May Adrales (right).

Touchstone speakers: Tony-winner Joanna Gleason (left) and nationally recognized director May Adrales (right).

TOUCHSTONE SPEAKERS

Joanna Gleason is revered by Broadway audiences for her unforgettable portrayal of The Baker’s Wife in the original company of Into the Woods. Other Broadway credits include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Nick and Nora, Day in the Death of Joe Egg, and Sons of The Prophet among others. Her extensive film and TV work includes Boogie Nights, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Wedding Planner, The West Wing, ER, The Good Wife, and a host of other projects. Joanna has been teaching in high schools and colleges around the country for thirty years, and has directed Off-Broadway as well as for television. More information HERE.

May Adrales, a director, teacher and arts leader. May helmed the world premiere of Lortel Award and Obie Award-Winning production VIETGONE at Manhattan Theatre Club/ South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep. She has just been named the Associate Artistic Director of Milwaukee Rep. May served as Director of On Site Programming at the Lark Play Development Center (2008-2010), developing programs to support and nurture over 200 playwrights. She served as an Artistic Associate at The Public Theater (2006-2009), spearheading the Shakespeare Lab, a professional conservatory, and overseeing community engagement programs in the outer boroughs. Adrales is the recipient of the TCG Alan Schneider Directing Award; Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing award. She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant. She has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop; Women's Project; SoHo Rep; and The Drama League. She has directed and taught at NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University and Bard College.

From StateraCon 2018 (left to right): Christine Jugueta, Maggie Rogers, Sage Martin, Lydiah Dola.

From StateraCon 2018 (left to right): Christine Jugueta, Maggie Rogers, Sage Martin, Lydiah Dola.

Register Today

StateraArts is proud to partner this year with City College of New York and the Department of Theatre and Speech (CCNY) for our fourth international conference. The theme for StateraConIV is Coalition Building.

StateraCon is open to everyone. We invite and welcome all gender identities, all races and ethnicities, all religions and creeds, countries of origin, all immigrants and refugees, all abilities and disabilities, and all sexual orientations. Everyone is welcome here. 

See the full speaker line-up >>>

See the full conference schedule >>>

Registration includes access to all Statera Conference programming. This includes touchstone addresses, plenaries, workshops, breakout sessions, panel discussions, admission to organized social gatherings, and a conference swag bag. General Registration ($300) is available until September 30th or until we sell out. Remember that Statera Members receive the early bird rate ($250) as long as registration is open. Please read the StateraCon Refund & Cancellation Policies before registering.


*A NOTE ON INCLUSION AT STATERA

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who identify as non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, religion, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all. 

Statera Celebrates Successful $25K Fundraising Match

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StateraArts is celebrating this week, because YOU helped us reach our fundraising goal of $25,000! Deep gratitude goes out to all of our volunteers, our incredible donors, and to everyone who participated in our #WhyDoYouStatera campaign.

Also, a huge thank you to Torie Wiggins, Vanessa DeSilvio, Chris Sanders, Valerie Rachelle, Brenda Jean Foley, Maggie Rogers, Jackie Vanderbeck, and Kelcey Anyá who participated in our Statera Community Conversation series. You have our thanks and our deepest admiration.

And thank you to our indefatigable champion Martha Richards of WomenArts who matched your donations dollar for dollar, bringing Statera’s fundraising total to $50,000. Nonprofit fundraising can be a serious slog, but you - our incredible community - make this work so meaningful and gratifying. This has been a humbling and powerful campaign. Thank you for fitting social change into your budget and for choosing to make StateraArts your home. We are so glad you’re here.

#WhyDoYouStatera continues!

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Join Broadway and TV Stars for "Changemakers" Fundraiser Benefiting StateraArts Mentorship

“Changemakers” features Amanda Green (left) and is hosted by Dale Soules (right)

“Changemakers” features Amanda Green (left) and is hosted by Dale Soules (right)

Did you know that last year only 17% of creative leadership roles on Broadway were held by women? To help change the stage, The Green Room 42 presents Changemakers: A Celebration of Women and StateraArts on Thursday, August, 22nd at 7 PM. Join veterans from Broadway, Television, and Film for tales of sisterhood, challenges in the workplace, and overcoming adversity.

The evening will uplift, amplify, and advance women* artists, featuring Tony-nominated Lyricist/Composer and award-winning performer Amanda Green (“Hands on a Hardbody”). Broadway veteran and three-time SAG Award winner Dale Soules, widely-known as inmate Frieda Berlin on “Orange Is The New Black”, will host. There will also be a panel talk led by Rachel Spencer Hewitt, founder of the Parent Artist Advocacy League. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the StateraArts Mentorship. StateraArts is a national organization that brings women into full and equal participation in the arts.

The evening is Directed and Produced by Mara Jill Herman with Assistant Direction by Ashley Ruth Jones and Music Direction by Julianne B Merrill. Below you’ll find a list of the incredible line-up of performers for “Changemakers”.

Emily Borromeo

Emily Borromeo

Andrea Presinario

Andrea Presinario

Aurelia Williams

Aurelia Williams

Caitlin McKechney

Caitlin McKechney

Gina Naomi Baez

Gina Naomi Baez

Carly Kincannon

Carly Kincannon

Amanda Lea LaVergne

Amanda Lea LaVergne

Hannah Rose

Hannah Rose

Ashley Ruth Jones

Ashley Ruth Jones

Liisi LaFontaine

Liisi LaFontaine

Ilana Levine

Ilana Levine

Kara Lindsay

Kara Lindsay

Lianah Sta. Ana

Lianah Sta. Ana

Meredith Beck

Meredith Beck

Jennifer Lorae

Jennifer Lorae

Annemarie Rosano

Annemarie Rosano

Rosa Avila

Rosa Avila

Alison Lea Bender

Alison Lea Bender

Kristine Reese

Kristine Reese

Sarah Stevens

Sarah Stevens

Janice Landry

Janice Landry

Rachel Spencer Hewitt

Rachel Spencer Hewitt

Mara Jill Herman

Mara Jill Herman

Julianne B. Merrill

Julianne B. Merrill

For a little more information about the evening, StateraArts spoke with director Mara Jill Herman.

StateraArts: First of all, thank you for hosting this amazing event in honor of StateraArts Mentorship! Why is arts advocacy such an important part of your work as an individual artist? 

Mara Jill Herman: I can’t remember a time in my life without the arts. I’ve spent a great deal of my career on stage but I also find great joy in outreach. One of my passions is to bring smart, creative, and generous people together in a room. The arts provided me with direction, purpose, and a sense of identity that ultimately shaped who I am today. When those in power threaten to eliminate arts funding and programming, they send a message to all artists that we don’t matter. But we cannot compromise the human experience and erase a future generation of makers. Art is meant to challenge. It is meant to stimulate invigorating conversation and connect people.  

SA: Tell us about your upcoming fundraiser: "Changemakers."

MJH: In 2018, I was deeply charged by Women’s Day On Broadway and wrote about it for OnStage Blog. I learned that nearly 70% of Broadway audiences are made up of female-identifying patrons but only 17% of those productions have women at the helm. This statistic shocked and ignited me. The Women’s Day symposium and more recently, Rachel Chavkin’s 2019 Tony winning speech for Best Director, are among the driving forces behind “Changemakers.” I admire those who seek change and do not accept the status quo. Women who take action and use their platform to advocate for greater representation both on and off the stage are among those to be featured in this event.

There will be never-told-before tales of sisterhood, mentorship, challenges, and overcoming adversity. These personal stories will lead into songs crossing various musical genres. We’ve got pop, folk, some musical theater, original songs, and even a Celtic trio! I’m also very jazzed that actor, activist, and mother, Rachel Spencer Hewitt, will lead a panel talk on the Parent Artist Advocacy League, an organization she founded that creates family-friendly practices in the theater. And Ms. Hewitt will engage in dialogue with some surprise guests! 

SA: Tell us about a defining moment in your arts career when you felt supported and uplifted. 

MJH: I’ve had several defining moments in my early arts career: acting in musicals at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, earning recognition by the National YoungArts Foundation, and getting thrown on mid-show as an understudy in Nerds at Philadelphia Theater Company. However, the recent catalyst for forging forward as a producer is my participation in America’s Sweethearts. This tight-knit group of supportive women motivates me and holds me accountable without a shred of competition. Our boss, Carly Kincannon, who will appear on the 22nd, also facilitated a residency at one of New York’s hottest entertainment venues, The Green Room 42. And that is where I produced my first benefit Stronger Than Hate, A Benefit for Tree Of Life Synagogue.

SA: Tell us a little more about the lineup for the evening.

MJH: The lineup is an embarrassment of riches! Tony-nominated Lyricist/Composer and award-winning performer Amanda Green (Hands on a Hardbody) will appear and three-time SAG Award winner Dale Soules, widely-known as inmate Frieda Berlin on Orange Is The New Black, will host. The diverse cast includes: Lianah Sta. Ana (Miss Saigon), Gina Naomi Baez (She's Gotta Have It), Alison Lea Bender (We So Hapa), Emily Borromeo (Broadway Bounty Hunter), Galway Girls (feat. Meredith Beck, Janice Landry, Caitlin McKechney), Carly Kincannon (America's Sweethearts), Liisi LaFontaine (Dreamgirls), Kara Lindsay (Newsies), Jennifer Lorae (Hard Times), Andrea Prestinario (Side Show, Jeff Award), Kristine Reese (Finding Neverland), Hannah Rose (Olay Live!), Talia Suskauer (Be More Chill), America's Sweethearts (feat. Amanda Lea LaVergne, Annemarie Rosano, Sarah Stevens), and Aurelia Williams (Once On This Island).

Equity News September 2015

Equity News September 2015

SA: With so many organizations our there, why did you chose StateraArts as the beneficiary of Changemakers? 

MJH: I met Melinda Pfundstein at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in 2005. She was a well-established leading lady, and I really looked up to her. Years later, I saw her photo with Kate Shindle on the cover of Equity’s newsletter, and the national impact of StateraArts set in. In 2016, I joined Statera’s pilot mentorship program and found it so rewarding to mentor an early-career individual. The word Statera, stemming from the Latin word for balance, also resonates with me. There are so many women in the Statera community who thrive in their professional lives but also create and nurture families of their own. I aspire to be one of them.

Graphic Design by Brittney Keim.

Graphic Design by Brittney Keim.

Don’t miss Changemakers: A Celebration of Women and StateraArts on Thursday, August 22nd at 7PM. You can purchase tickets HERE.  *Those who can't make it but want to donate to the event are invited to contact Mara Jill Herman: mara@marajillherman.com.

 

Digging Deeper: Artistic Directors Hiring Women Behind the Scenes

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As part of Statera's midyear giving campaign, we're publishing a series of deep-dive conversations centered around community, purpose, advocacy, and action. We are asking members of our community to share their “why” with us. In this video, director, choreographer, and artistic director of the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Valerie Rachelle, reveals her early trials as a freelancer and shares her thoughts on gender equity in hiring practices.

In addition to her work as a director and arts leader, Valerie is part of the founding team for the Southern Oregon Chapter of Statera Mentrorship, launching in the winter of 2020.

More about the Oregon Cabaret Theatre >>>

Did you catch our previous Statera Community Conversations?

Statera Members will also have early access to two additional Statera Community Conversations in the coming weeks:

  • "Fat Discrimination in the Arts: Societal Obsession with Smallness" a conversation with Maggie Rogers

  • "We're Ready for New Narratives: Black Women in Media" a conversation with Chris Sanders

Questioning Authority: the glorification of politeness as a means of controlling women

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As part of Statera's midyear giving campaign, we're publishing a series of deep-dive conversations centered around community, purpose, advocacy, and action. We are asking members of our community to share their “why” with us. In this video, actor and writer Jackie Vanderbeck shares her thoughts on overcoming early negative messaging, the process of claiming personal agency in spaces where there is a power imbalance, and empowering others to do the same.

In addition to her work as an actor and writer, Jackie is also the founding Artistic Director of Sing For Your Seniors. Jackie has been a member of the Statera Community since October 2016 when she attended Statera’s National Conference in Denver, CO. Jackie is a Statera Ambassador as well as a Statera Member.

Read more about Jackie >>>

Did you catch our previous Statera Community Conversations?

The conversation continues in the coming weeks. Next up?

  • "Digging Deeper: Artistic Directors Hiring Women Behind the Scenes" a conversation with Valerie Rachelle

Statera Members will also have early access to two additional Statera Community Conversations:

  • "Fat Discrimination in the Arts: Societal Obsession with Smallness" a conversation with Maggie Rogers

  • "We're Ready for New Narratives: Black Women in Media" a conversation with Chris Sanders

10 More Days to Reach $25,000

As of this afternoon, the Statera community has raised almost $20,000 towards our $25K goal! Thank you to everyone who has contributed! Statera’s midyear giving campaign ends on August 15th, and we need your help.

Most of Statera’s work for gender parity and equity in the arts is done through volunteer hours, innovative grassroots movement, and sheer will. But its also achieved by individual donations big and small.

We’re thrilled that Martha Richards of WomenArts has come forward with a $25,000 matching gift as part of our mid-year giving campaign. This is an enormous opportunity for StateraArts to renew our dynamic programming, dig deeper, and continue providing pathways forward for women* in the arts.

We can’t do it without you.

We have ten more days to meet our $25,000 goal. Let’s do it! Give $5. Give $10. Give what you can. No gift is too small. Every dollar will be matched. Whatever your reason, now is the time to contribute at www.stateraarts.org/donate.

#WhyDoYouStatera

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