SWAN Events with Martha Richards – Women Center Stage Director’s Weekend

Women Center Stage

(New York, NY) On Sunday, March 11, I attended the matinee and evening segments of the Women Center Stage Directors Weekend, a showcase where 12 women directors were asked to create 15 minute pieces in response to the questions: “How does economy affect art and artists: are we entirely dependent on the generosity of the wealthy, or does art thrive in times of economic depression? Can we do more with less, or is less just less?” 

The featured directors were Calla Videt, Chloë Bass, Awoye Timpo, Rachel Dart, Katie Naka, Alicia House, Jess Chayes, Rachel Karp, Krystal Banzon, Morgan Gould, Charlotte Brathwaite, and Monica Williams.

It is not surprising that several pieces focused on the lack of opportunities and shrinking funding for the arts.  Awoye Timpo’s piece “Can I Get A Dollar?” showed women tap dancers trying to dance on ever shrinking pieces of dance flooring. Rachel Dart’s “Broadway! Broadway! Broadway!” showed idealistic young performers moving from Kansas to New York and dealing with a sleazy producer and an over-priced, ill-equipped performance venue. Krystal Banzon’s piece was about her difficulties finding a job in the arts, even though she has degrees from prestigious schools.  She began her solo piece by saying that the folder she was holding contained information that would change our lives.  It held copies of her resume which she passed out to the audience members.

Other pieces challenged the concepts at the root of our economic system. Chloë Bass presented “The Bureau of Self-Recognition,” an interactive conceptual piece that asked audience members to define their “net worth” in non-financial terms.  Audience members could visit a booth where they were asked to name things that gave their life value and then to deposit “self dollars”, i.e. pledges that they would spend an hour doing the things that gave their life value and increased their “net worth” as human beings. You can participate in Chloë’s project through her website: The Bureau of Self-Recognition, and there is a short interview with her on the Works by Women website at:  http://worksbywomen.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/chloe-bass/

My favorite piece was Calla Videt’s site-specific piece, “What If?”  Audience members were emailed an mp3 audio file prior to the show and asked to meet at a subway stop near the theatre.  When everyone had gathered, we were instructed to press the start buttons on our mp3 players at the same time, so that we were all listening to the audio track at the same time as we walked a few blocks to the theatre.  As we walked through the Essex Market, we were asked to consider the economic exchanges there, and then as we walked along the street we passed laundromats and other buildings where actors were stationed and acted out scenes. As we walked along, the piece demonstrated how our lives are shaped by all of the tiny decisions that we make every day, such as deciding which way to turn, what we stop to watch, or which phone calls we answer.  The staging was very imaginative, and the audio track was extremely well-done.

Studies show that women direct less than 20% of the plays produced around the country every year. (See the studies on the WomenArts webpage about Women’s Employment in the Arts.  Kudos to Women Center Stage for creating the Women Directors Weekend and making it a priority to showcase the work of women directors in the early phases of their careers.