Making Music: The League of Professional Theatre Women Networking Event

TAKE IT AWAY!  captures the passion and promise of this event to represent the mission of The League:  an advocacy organization; a support system for women in theatre; a center for the exchange of information and skills that women can utilize in their careers; a means of linking women in the professional theatre; a forum for ideas relating to art and its effect on society. 

On Monday, October 5th, the League of Professional Theatre Women’s Networking Committee hosted a special panel on Meet the Music Makers: Composers & Lyrists and Special Guests discussing the Creative, Legal, and Financial Aspects of Songwriting to promote women in the professional theatre!

The event featured Composers/Lyricists Georgia Stitt, Donna Moore, LPTW Co-President Carmel Owen, June Rachelson-Ospa & Allison Brewster-Franzetti, as well as special guests Entertainment Attorney Pamela Golinski and the President of Rodgers & Hammerstein Ted Chapin, who discussed the creative, legal, and financial aspects of songwriting.

Topics ranged from the songwriting process to the different ways in which songs generate income. Chapin’s vision for R& H: “…to keep going!” And we shall!

Brought to you by the Networking Committee:  Ivy Austin and Frances McGarry, Co-Chairs, Katherine Elliot, Salon Series Chair; Richarda Abrams, Rosemary Camus, Victoria Hale, Lorna Lable, Dorothy Leeds, Mary McGinley, Romy Nordlinger, June Rachelson-Ospa, Wendy Peace, Amie Sponza, Elizabeth Strauss (Apprentice Program).

SAVE THE DATES: 

Monday, November 2, 2015:  Let’s Give Thanks! Pranna Lounge 6-8 pm 6-8 pm

Monday, February 29, 2016:  Unsung Heroes:  Backstage Professionals 6-8 pm

The Power of Words…and Girls

Posted: 07/29/2015 6:22 pm EDT Updated: 07/30/2015 1:59 pm EDT

On a warm summer evening in Bedford, New York, surrounded by rolling hills and a warm audience of supporters, the girls introduced themselves, in all their diversity and honesty: “I’m yellow.” “I’m white.” “I’m caramel.” “I’m bi.”

The bullied girl who found school “the scariest place to be,” who “went to the blade because I felt afraid.” Jewel.

The girl who “just because I’m in seventh grade doesn’t mean I’m any less discriminated against.” Emma.

The girl whose dad “beat my mom for 15 years, [but though] she was down she brought herself up.” “Elizabeth.”

“Sticks and stones can break your bones,” finished one, but words can hurt you.”

Words are the currency, and the power, of the young performers of Girl Be Heard, artists and activists who bring global issues affecting girls center stage in cutting-edge theatre. The nonprofit company has performed at the White House, the United Nations, the State Department, TED conferences, and in underserved communities locally and globally. Major original productions have addressed homelessness, the rape epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sex trafficking, and gun violence.

Girl Be HeardIt always starts with the personal. When Hazel joined Girl Be Heard, she heard the story of Melanie, whose brother was shot and killed in 2010–something she could not have experienced otherwise. So she shared her stories too. “Society teaches us to gulp down pain and not be vulnerable,” Hazel says. “Girl Be Heard gives us a place where we can be vulnerable.” As Executive Director and Co-Founder Jessica Greer Morris pronounces, “We take the shame out of the equation…and show that you can rise above adversity.”

And they change lives. “I owe this group so much,” says Alexandra Saali, a founding member from 2008 who now serves as a Young Professionals “Amplifer” for Girl Be Heard. Hearing about the plights of Congolese women and the other girls gave her “purpose, mission, and the drive that kept me on track through the crazy years of growing up.” Alexandra is bound for medical school after she graduates from Brown University.

Brmuda

Julienne Lusenge (r), President of Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development, a coalition of 40 women’s organizations in DR Congo, so believes in Girl Be Heard that her daughter Raissa is joining. Also at the Bedford home of Chairperson Jackie Shapiro was former Premier of Bermuda Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks (l), to be honored at this year’s “Gotta Love Girls” Gala.

In Bermuda, she said, “We have a saying: ‘For each one, reach one, teach one.'” She went on to share the impact of Girl Be Heard performing in Bermuda, “where, being a small country, people can be quiet. These young ladies made it possible for people to realize they can have a voice, and that everyone has a story. With a support system you can do and be anything. The sky is the limit.”

Which is at the core of Girl Be Heard’s philosophy: if a girl can change her own life, she can change the lives of girls everywhere.

This upcoming season, the girls will address eating disorders and the $55-billion-dollar-a-year diet industry in a documentary theatre and dance piece called Embodi(ED). They also have workshops, school groups, and ensembles. When girls audition, Artistic Director and Co-Founder Ashley Marinaccio is looking for “raw talent, passion, and the potential to develop as an artist and thinker.” Most important: “someone with something to say.”

Mom & Daughter

Girl Be Heard takes it from there. “Our job is to put Miracle-Gro on these young talents,” says Greer Morris, to empower young women to become brave, socially conscious leaders in their communities. They also build lasting and invaluable community–family, really–for the girls. “Once you’re a member of Girl Be Heard…you’re with Girl Be Heard for life.” Full disclosure–my daughter (r) is a proud member of Girl Be Heard. I’m a proud mom, who also works in philanthropy and knows “making a difference” when I see it.

Girl Be Heard is the real thing. They make a difference. They change lives. And they speak to us all.

Excellence in Theater Award Corey Mitchell

Theater Education Matters!

Corey Mitchell accepting the Excellence in Theater Education Award during the Creative Arts Awards portion of the 2015 Tony ceremony with Carnegie Mellon University.

2015 Award Winner

Corey Mitchell

Corey Mitchell

Performing Arts Teacher / Theatre Director
Northwest School of the Arts
Charlotte, North Carolina

Corey has been a great asset to the community with his diverse background in theatre and commitment to the craft. He has mentored many students who now find themselves working for him on a professional level. At his school he brings first class productions to the community; a great challenge for the students … Some of those students are now across the country in theatre education in some of the most prestigious schools thanks to him.

Read more about Corey Mitchell.

The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University Honor Teachers with the Excellence in Theatre Education Award

Behind every great performance is inspiration, and behind that inspiration is a great teacher. Carnegie Mellon University and the Tony Awards have announced Corey Mitchell, theater arts teacher at the Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, N.C., as the inaugural winner of the Excellence in Theatre Education Award.

This special honor recognizes a K-12 theatre educator in the U.S. who has demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession. More than 4,000 applications were received for this year’s educator award.

Mitchell, a 20-year veteran of the classroom, receives the Excellence in Theatre Education Award during the 69th Annual Tony Awards telecast on June 7, 2015.

Here Come The Tempest Ladies!

An Interview with Stella Berg & Katherine Elliot

By Frances McGarry

In 2008, six Syracuse University Acting students imagined a novel approach to presenting Shakespeare.  Inspired by a semester abroad program at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London, Stella Berg,  a co-founder/producer/actor of the company, experienced Shakespeare in an entirely different light. “I saw what it was like to really witness a Shakespeare performance done the way that he would have done it; full of music, dancing, humor, life — and it was electric.” Growing up in Istanbul, Stella was taught to dissect and analyze Shakespeare’s plays line-by-line: “I hated Shakespeare in school; it was so boring and I couldn’t understand anything.” Everything changed the moment she saw her first Globe production.  For their final assignment, their class performed a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the Globe stage. The founding members were all paired in the same group and since there were no men in their troupe, the women assumed all the roles.  Having a mutual affinity towards the Bard and playing roles they never would ordinarily be cast in, the ladies decided to continue working together as an ensemble.  Being a group of only six, they developed a unique way to cast their shows.  “We switch roles constantly throughout the play.  So no one is cast in any given part, but rather we share the roles and switch often throughout each play.”  The switches happen at very deliberate points – whenever there is a change in the status quo of a character.  Because of this, each actress is given the opportunity to play a wide variety of characters, both male and female.  Thus, became the creation of The Tempest Ladies.

Stella envisions a three-fold approach to achieve this undertaking:  first, to strip away gender stereotypes; second, to embolden young people to access Shakespeare’s plays in real and practical ways, and finally have these aspirations coalesce to be a source of entertainment for their audiences.  Katherine Elliot who recently joined the ensemble this past year was surprised at how audiences embraced this gender-friendly presentation of Shakespeare.  As Producer for The Taming of The Shrew, Katherine was concerned that a 3-hour performance would have audiences streaming out during intermission; in fact, “People were blown away!  The audience was entertained and very active the whole time. They wanted to come again.  They were upset that there wasn’t a longer run.”  As performers, both Stella and Katherine spoke of the dynamic nature of switching roles as well as gender onstage.  “Every actress brings her own idiosyncrasies to that character,” says Katherine, “it’s also fun to have the opportunity to play male roles and to get into their heads.  You learn that men and women are very similar in a lot of ways.”  “These stereotypical elements that we attribute to the male versus the female actually become irrelevant,” Stella explains, “because at the end of the day we’re all human beings [thereby bringing a transparency to] human sexuality. . . It doesn’t matter if it’s a female character or male character; they have the same wheel of emotions. For instance, there’ so much strength and so much murderous and treacherous energy in Lady Macbeth – qualities typically attributed to men. Simultaneously there are moments of intense vulnerability and childlike behavior, of dread and fear from Macbeth – emotions usually attributed to women.  When I play Lysander and play opposite of another who’s playing Hermia, we’re two people in love, regardless of their gender of who’s playing what.  You feel the same jitter and excitement for someone you adore – an element of fear.”  Katherine interjects, “Kate [The Taming of the Shrew] is written as a very masculine character, she’s tough and won’t submit, so she’s seen as this “shrew”. . . and watching actresses in our company play her is interesting.  She is psychologically masculine and biologically feminine, and since we are an all-female ensemble, she tends to be played as a male character would be.  It was a lot of fun for me to watch every night.”  No matter which female is playing which role—audiences suspend their belief and their perceptions are altered by this artistic invention.

The arts can transform people’s lives and this is why The Tempest Ladies are intent on making this accessible to students.  “It can be a bit intimidating to play Shakespeare in English for Turkish students attending a French school in Istanbul,” reported Teaching Artist Laura Borgwardt in her testimonial:

The idea of a language barrier begins to creep into your subconscious. The key is remembering that movement is a universal language. It can convey feeling, story; meaning. Using our bodies to express is innately human. We ‘jump for joy,’ we ‘tremble with fear’. There is a shared understanding of the way we use physicality to communicate. It no longer matters if the audience comprehends every single word that we were saying – they follow the meaning through the movement.

Our workshops in Istanbul focused on ensemble-building and using movement to help tell a story. As a companion to seeing the play performed, they allowed different access points to the material and to the experience. To delve into the themes and physical vocabulary beforehand left the students more prepared for what they were going to see. It gave them ownership over their own experience and allowed them to take part in the process.

I was impressed by how willingly the students jumped into exercises, trusting us and trusting their peers – their fellow ensemble members – and in doing so, creating something so beautiful together. The joy of self-expression, and of working together to accomplish a task, permeated the classroom. It is the same joy we have as an ensemble when we rehearse together and create. It was incredible to be able to share that passion with future storytellers.

After raising $10,000, The Tempest Ladies are readying for their Off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this April.  Looking to the future, they would like to take A Midsummer’s Night Dream back to Turkey, but for now, The Tempest Ladies will set the NYC theater world afire with their talent, their passion, and their tempestuous tale of comedy and gender subterfuge.

For more information about The Tempest Ladies visit: http://www.tempestladies.com, http://www.facebook.com/TempestLadies

To purchase tickets to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream visit: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1382019