Saturday, September 1, 2007

Barksdale's Women's Theatre Project

Posted by Bruce Miller

As I begin my seventh season as Barksdale’s Artistic Director, the question I’m asked most frequently is, “How do you decide which plays to produce?” The process has so many layers (and so many players) it requires its own publication.

Part of the answer, however, involves a key commitment we made when we began selecting our first Barksdale Season in 2001-02. We pledged to ourselves, our artists and our audiences that we would, each season, produce at least:
· one work by a woman author,
· one work staged by a woman director, and
· one work that focuses on a strong, central woman.

We call this commitment our Women’s Theatre Project. The Member of the Wedding by the brilliant and legendary Southern author, Carson McCullers (pictured below and to the right), will open our Signature Season at Willow Lawn on September 21. It is a part of this Project.

At first glance, the commitment seems hardly necessary. What theatre wouldn’t, without even trying, produce such a season? And yet, if you review Barksdale’s history prior to 2001 and Richmond theatre history in general up to today, you’ll find that the majority of seasons fail to meet these minimal standards.

In the last seven seasons, we’re proud to have selected 15 plays and musicals by women authors. Several of these productions have been among our biggest hits, including The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman, Annie Get Your Gun co-written by Dorothy Fields, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Crowns by Regina Taylor, and Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage—to mention only a few.

We’re proud that sixteen of our plays and musicals have been directed by leading women artists, including Robin Arthur, Nancy Cates, Jan Guarino, Leslie Owens Harrington, Susan Sanford, K Strong, Dawn Westbrook and Keri Wormald.

We’re proud of the powerful starring roles performed on our stage by Kathy Halenda, Dorothy Holland, Kelly Kennedy, Liz Mamana, Adanma Onyedike, Robyn O’Neill, Jill Bari Steinberg, Erin Thomas, Harriet Traylor and Irene Ziegler (to name a few), setting a standard for strong, active images of women.

In The Member of the Wedding, actress Katherine Louis (pictured to the left) and playwright Carson McCullers will join this roll of honor. We hope you’ll recognize, appreciate and support the commitments of our Women’s Theatre Project.

Throughout the run of Wedding, we will be exploring the issue of Women and the Arts in our Coffee & Conversations series, our new Cocktail Hour Conversations program, and here on the blog. Please join us in the discussion.
--Bruce Miller


Susan Krajinski said...

I enjoyed this post and appreciate Barksdale's commitment to women issues. Can you provide labels for all the women actresses and directors that you mention, so that we can find what else has written about them on the Barksdale blog?

Bruce Miller said...

Dear Susan,

Unfortunately, the controlling system we use to power and manage our blog allows for only 20 labels per blog. This blog currently has 20 labels, leaving no additional room to provide labels for the ten actresses I mentioned or two of the seven directors. My apologies to all.


Thespis' Little Helper said...

I love that picture of Carson McCullers! It's such a striking image and really seems to capture the essence of her. I'm really incredibly thrilled about The Member of the Wedding. I can hardly wait to see it!

Jacquie O. said...

I think Dawn Westbrook needs to be added to the list of wonderful women directors that have acted and directed for Barksdale and Theatre IV. In addition to acting on the Barksdale stage, her directing credits include: Trip to Bountiful, Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever, Rocky Horror and last season’s Scapino. She was also the Marketing Director for Barksdale from 1994 to 1996. We are so lucky to have such a strong pool of talented women in this community!

Bruce Miller said...

Thanks, Jacquie. You're absolutely right. I've corrected my oversight in the posted copy. This is my mistake - a big one - and I appreciate your calling it to my attention.