Hear them Roar!: The Women’s Theatre Festival

The first thing I want to say about the Women’s Theatre Festival which is touted as 4 Weeks, 4 Companies, Four Fantastic Shows is:

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!

Because if you don’t get your tickets now you will miss out on some wonderful performances by some awesomely talented and obviously hard working actresses who are bringing some provocative plays to life.

And if you do get your tickets now and go to see these plays you will be spellbound by the talent and expanded by the stories presented not to mention support women as badass bosses of masterful theatrical productions.

I have now seen 4 of the 5 shows that are part of the festival. In My Chair, Eva DeVirgilis’ play that was presented at the Theatre Gym under the auspices of Cadence Theatre Company and co-produced by Virginia Rep, was reviewed on this blog several weeks ago and closed last night. You can find my review here.

All of these plays are written by, produced by and performed by and everything else by women.

Over this weekend I planned to see the other 4 offerings, all performed in the Basement operated by Theatre LAB but the Saturday night presentation of Bad Dates, featuring Maggie Bavolack, Directed by Melissa Rayford and Stage Managed by Morgan Howard was cancelled due to Maggie being sick.

But I did get to see The Richmond JCC’s offering, Golda’s Balcony on Thursday night; Message From a Slave, produced by the Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company on Friday night; and 5th Wall Theatre’s offering, Pretty Fire, on Sunday afternoon. They were all thought provoking plays delivered via powerhouse performances brought forth by adept direction and production elements.

Golda’s Balcony is about Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir with an emphasis on the crisis she faced during her tenure when Israel was almost lost to the Arabs. Jacqueline Jones brings “Goldie” to life under the direction of Debra Clinton. I barely remember this incident as it unfolded but the names were familiar and Jones does justice to the hard scrabble woman who made history.

 

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Pamela Archer-Shaw was mesmerizing in Message From a Slave, an interesting amalgam of slave life and life advice. I was particularly moved by the first act where African woman, Chaku describes how she came to be a slave and how she survived her bondage henceforth. Archer-Shaw simply owns the audience throughout both acts, holding us spellbound in her hand as she sings, dances and shares characters with us.

 

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Lastly but definitely least, I was pleasantly surprised by Haliya Roberts’ deft performance in Pretty Fire as Charlayne. I say this because I was unimpressed with her performance in Talk Radio but she really shows some real acting chops in this one. Directed by Carol Piersol and choreographed by Melanie Richards, Robert’s maximizes the use of a single prop and crisp clear movements to define spaces and specific actions. The perspective on racism in this play is pure genius.

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These plays are for anyone who wants to see some intellectually stimulating , kickass, well executed theatre.

For more info and tickets click here.

A “Positive Post” to Eva DeVirgilis from Mary in Richmond, Virginia:

 

In My Chair

Dear Eva,

I am so proud of you for showing up, taking a risk, and putting yourself and the stories of so many other women out there in the form of your one woman show, in my chair. It was a gigantic undertaking which has already, and I am sure will continue to, generate some empowering positive vibrations across the Universe by making women aware of debilitating behaviors like constantly apologizing about themselves and allowing their looks to be a primary factor in their societal value.

You are a good actress in your own right, smart, funny and talented so I was a little confused by the many “Wichman” acting quirks you incorporated in your performance. You can make this so much more YOUR style and it will double the value of the message. But I don’t suppose anyone who is unaware of your husband’s way of approaching characters will spot that. And it is a charming testament to how beautifully supportive you two are of each other – which you also make clear in the show. (Spot on with the imitation of Scotty watching a football game, BTW! You should totally keep that as you are playing him directly. It is adorbs.)

The story of how the show came to be is fascinating, the TEDxRVAwomen talk invite, the success of the talk itself, the 8 countries in 44 days tour, etc but some of the stats and deets are unnecessary to the message and might come off as a bit braggy which is a turn-off. For example, the part about how many views the TEDxRVAwomen talk got is great for your bio and a nice vehicle for getting your mother in the show but adds nothing to the play except annoying distraction. You are good enough, your message is strong enough and your play is good enough without this type of information.

Speaking of your mother…I found the character similarities between your mother and your nagging, inner voice, Norma, to be an interesting psychological twist. I know that my inner critic originates partly from my mother’s parenting choices ingrained in my psyche and it is often her voice I hear when I experience doubt, fear, or limitation. I assume this is universal. Awesome insight here, Eva!

I loved the interaction with the audience you incorporated into the script. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the show as a volunteer. I am really glad that I had the experience of being invited to stand up, asked to shout out, “I am a Leader!”, and receive the exhilarating energy from the audience as they shouted back to me, “We support you!” If that happened to me once a day I bet I could do anything and be wildly successful. It was an unexpected takeaway that I will use for inspiration for months to come. What a wonderful gift!

I am also grateful for the chance to give and receive a positive message (the ones you call positive posts) to and from another random woman. Women need to do a better job of supporting each other in terms of doing bigger and better things. As you demonstrate, little messages of encouragement can go a long way in this effort; pushing more of us to run for office, start and run successful businesses, make the changes that need to happen to give us the opportunities and status we require, deserve and deserve all over this planet.

I think this show is perfect for women of all ages, girls aged 10 and up and for any man who is looking to have a place at the table anytime in the future.

In the show you said you wanted critics to say in their reviews, “Eva, How are you so tiny and funny.” I have included those words in this post only because you said you wanted them. You are funny, Eva but you are not tiny. You are large in the sense that you are a powerhouse when you are honestly and authentically standing in your truth which is joyfully where you are for the majority of this play -and it shows! Those are the parts that shine. The audience can see and feel it and I bet you can too. It is when you are sharing the stories of the women you met across the globe and exposing your own vulnerabilities.

Keep the positive ripples going, Eva! Keep growing into your own power. Trust yourself and your instincts. You can do this work. You ARE doing this work.

YOU ARE A LEADER AND WE SUPPORT YOU!

 

 

To learn more about in my chair, click here.

photo by Jason Collins photography

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