The Women’s Voices Theater Festival Launch Party: The Astonishment Begins

The Women’s Voices Theater Festival Launch Party was more than a celebration. It was a defining moment for DC theater. The National Museum of Women in the Arts was a superb setting for the exuberant crowd, who enjoyed wine, crème brulee, and conversation, under the watchful eyes of portraits by history’s greatest female painters.

R to L: Artistic and Managing Directors of The Women’s Voices Theater Festival: Meridith Burkus, Edgar Dobie, Michael Kahn, Paul R. Tetreault, Molly Smith, Ryan Rilette, Eric Schaeffer, Howard Shalwitz, and Meghan Pressman.
R to L: Artistic and Managing Directors of The Women’s Voices Theater Festival: Meridith Burkus, Edgar Dobie, Michael Kahn, Paul R. Tetreault, Molly Smith, Ryan Rilette, Eric Schaeffer, Howard Shalwitz, and Meghan Pressman.

Molly Smith, Paul R. Tetreault, Ryan Rilette, Michael Kahn, Eric Schaeffer, David Muse, and Howard Shalwitz—the artistic directors of Arena Stage, Ford’s Theatre, Round House Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company—conceived the Festival as a response to the dearth of productions authored by women. According to a recent study by the Dramatists Guild, only 22% of 2,508 contemporary productions presented by nonprofit theaters nationwide from 2011 to 2014 were by female playwrights. In a joint statement the artistic directors called the Festival “ultimately a celebration of the female voice.”

The two-month Festival includes over 50 world-premiere productions by women playwrights, covering a wide variety of issues and themes.  Women Laughing Alone with Salad, at Woolly Mammoth, is biting social satire; Salome, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, is an adaptation by Yael Farber drawing on ancient texts as well as the renowned classic; The Guard, at Ford’s Theatre, is an exploration of the mysteries of art. Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End at Arena Stage is a look at one of America’s most beloved comic writers.

At the Women's Voices Festival's Launch. Photo courtesy of Women's Voices Theater Festival's facebook page.
At the Women’s Voices Festival’s Launch. Photo courtesy of Women’s Voices Theater Festival’s facebook page.

Extremely provocative ideas and characters are highlighted. A Matter of Worth by Marcia E. Cole at Live Garra Theatre investigates the true worth of Hannah, a 73 year-old slave. Uprising, by Gabrielle Fulton at MetroStage, scrutinizes John Brown’s Raid and its aftermath, to clarify notions of family, freedom, and today’s racial divide. Ironbound, by Martyna Majok at Round House Theatre, chronicles the struggles of Darja, a working-class Polish immigrant. High schooler Madison Middleton’s The Requiem, at the Highwood Theatre, explores music and memory loss, as a young violinist encounters an old man who has a deep love for Mozart.

There is a discipline-obsessed nun and her vulnerable student (Princess Margaret, by Patricia Connelly at the Thelma Theatre); a 12-year-old in Queens in 1962 (Queens Girl in the World, by Caleen Sinnette Jennings at Theater J); and an 1870’s “Voltaire in Petticoats” (Clover, by Laura Rocklyn, at Pallas Theatre Collective).

Artistic Director Molly Smith. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.
Artistic Director Molly Smith. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.

At the party, Molly Smith said, “Parity is absolutely about women playwrights and directors, and people of color, playwrights and directors.” This broader perspective of works will ultimately include writers and directors from every possible culture, sensibility, and background. The theater community of DC will be a leader in this cutting-edge initiative.

Eight Festival-sponsored events, sponsored by the Washington Post, include workshops and discussions with local and national playwrights such as Kathleen Akerley, Sheila Callaghan, Julia Jordan,  Clare Lizzimore, and Karen Zacarias. Topics include local playwriting, female leaders in the entertainment industry, and feminist theater. In total, there are more than 30 additional events for the public to enjoy.

Bell Hooks said, “No black woman writer in this culture can write ‘too much.’ Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’. … No woman has ever written enough.”

“Astonish me!” Diaghilev famously said to Jean Cocteau. Let the astonishment begin!

women's voices theater festival banner 728x90

From the press release:

“Festival-related events are free, but reservations are required. To reserve event tickets and for up-to-date Festival information, including details and ticket purchase information for all of the world-premiere productions being produced by participating theater companies, please visit All venues will handle their own ticket reservations for their respective productions.  

A Festival Pass is available by using promo code [WVFEST online or call the theater for more information], which will provide a discount of up to 50% on single tickets, based on offers from each participating theater for Festival productions and events.”



Lisa Kron.
Lisa Kron.

Watch National Public Radio host Susan Stamberg  interview 2015 Tony-Award winning playwright Lisa Kron on HowlRound TV from last night’s launch.


Women’s Voices Theater Festival: ‘What Do Women Want? Playwrights Edition’ by Sophia Howes on DCMetroTheaterArts.

REVIEWS on DCMetroTheaterArts:

Women’s Voices Theater Festival: ‘The Oregon Trail’ at Flying V Theatre by Anne Donnelly.

Women’s Voices Theater Festival: ‘Night Falls on the Blue Planet’ at Theater Alliance by John Stoltenberg.

Women’s Voices Theater Festival: ‘Witches Vanish’ at Venus Theatre Company by Michael Poandl.

Women’s Voices Theater Festival: ‘#DeathParty’: ‘How We Died of Disease-Related Illness’ and ‘Bones in Whispers’ at Longacre Lea by John Stoltenberg.


Women’s Voices Theater Festival: Jennie Berman Eng’s ‘Whenever You’re Near Me I Feel Sick’ Opens September 17, 2015.

Quotidian Theatre Company Presents Audrey Cefaly’s ‘Maytag Virgin October 2-November 1st As Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.

Women’s Voices Theater Festival: Pat Connelly’s ‘Princess Margaret’ Opens September 19, 2015.

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Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes has been a reviewer for DCMTA since 2013 and a columnist since 2015. She is a playwright and director. An early draft of her play Southern Girl was performed at the Public Theater-NY, and two of her plays, Rosetta’s Eyes and Solace in Gondal, were produced at the Playwrights’ Horizons Studio Theatre. She studied with Curt Dempster at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, where her play Madonna was given a staged reading at the Octoberfest. Her one-acts Better Dresses and The Endless Sky, among others, were produced as part of Director Robert Moss’s Workshop-NY. She has directed The Tempest, at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Amphitheatre, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Monongalia Arts Center, both in Morgantown, WV. She studied English at Barnard, and received her BFA with honors in Drama from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where she received the Seidman Award for playwriting. Her play Adamov was produced at the Harold Clurman Theater on Theater Row-NY. She holds an MFA from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where received the Lucille Lortel Award for playwriting. She studied with, among others, Michael Feingold, Len Jenkin, Lynne Alvarez, and Tina Howe. Her father, Carleton Jones, long-time Real Estate Editor and features writer for the Baltimore Sun, inspired her to become a writer.


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