Interviews With The Playwrights of the Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival 2016-Opening Tonight 8/3/16 and Playing Through Sunday 8/7/16

The Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival 2016 (PWTF) opens tonight, August 3rd and runs through this Sunday, August  7, 2016.

Philadelphia Women's Theater Festival 2016

It offers the following Staged Readings, introducing Philadelphia to cutting-edge plays and performances, featuring works and developing works by these playwrights:

  • Courtney Boches, Sure As A Star (August 6th @ 2:30 pm)
  • Amanda Coffin, Simone (August 6th @ 12:00 pm)
  • Lauren Fanslau, ReCalculating (August 7th @ 2:00 pm)
  • Sarah Gafgen and Meredith Beck, Together Off-Broadway on August 4th at 8:00 pm.
  • Polly MacIntyre, She Moved Through The Fair on August 7th at 2:00 pm.
  • Tammy Ryan, Molly’s Hammer on August 5th at 8:00 pm.
  • Nandita Shenoy, Satisfaction, co-produced with the Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists on August 5th at 6:00 pm.
  • Haygen Brice Walker, BuzzFeed, Donald Trump, and Dead Black Kids on August 6th at 7:00 pm.

There will also be an Opening Night Cabaret on Wednesday, August 3rd at 7:30 PM, and an All-Women Stand-Up Comedy Showcase at Fergie’s Pub – 1214 Sansom Street, in Philadelphia, on Saturday, August 6th at 10 PM.13932794_740673529408439_4341021358530789780_n

Sponsored by Villanova University, the University of the Arts, Ripples in the Pond Productions, and Fractured Atlas. The festival takes place at Caplan Studio Theater on the 16th Floor of Terra Hall – 211 South Broad Street, Philadelphia.

PWTF was founded by Artistic Director Polly Edelstein (artistic director) and Christine Petrini (managing director) in 201After a successful run last year, this year’s festival offers a much wider range of playwrights, directors, and performers.

PWTF is dedicated to creating opportunities for women in the arts by presenting new works, and to building a community of artists through a citywide celebration of women’s contributions to storytelling, artistic advancement, and creative innovation.

PWTF encourages women in the arts of all disciplines: directors, playwrights, performers, designers, and administrators. This collective hopes to usher in a new era of artistic voices, their distinct perspectives, and otherwise untold stories.

We Asked the Playwrights to Answer These Questions:

(1) Why are you supporting the Philadelphia Women’s Theater Festival?

(2) What are you bringing to PWTF as a writer and/or a performer?

(3) What is the name of your play? Please briefly tell us about the play. What inspired you to present it this year?

(4) What do you hope audiences will take with them after viewing your play that may change their lives?

(5) Tell us one thing about yourself that only your best friends know.

____

Courtney Boches

Playwright Courtney Boches. Photo by Kim Carson.
Playwright Courtney Boches. Photo by Kim Carson.

Weird, darkly funny, and full of obscure pop culture references.

 PWTF is not only a great platform for women, but for new and emerging artists in the area. It’s tough to break into, switch concentrations, or become a multi-hyphenate in the field. This is a good opportunity to try new things and expand your network.

I have a varied point-of-view since I didn’t start out as a theatre professional. Coming from TV production obviously influenced the play being presented, but also the way I look at entertainment. I’m now a theatre teacher and costume designer, so I look at things a bit differently than most other people who have written a play.

Sure As A Star is about a famous TV actress and her intern-turned-assistant who develop a very unhealthy co-dependent relationship. It’s weird, darkly funny, and full of obscure pop culture references.

It’s a two-woman show that deals with an inter-generational friendship that I haven’t seen a lot of in theatre. It deals with mothers and daughters, unconventional families, what it means to live your life in public, and what that can do to someone psychologically. I hope it can grant us some empathy for those celebrities whose lives are so ripe for consumption.

I’m generally confident in my abilities, but this new venture as a playwright has left me deeply uncomfortable, so only say bad things when I’m not around, thanks.

______

Amanda Coffin

Amanda Coffin.
Amanda Coffin.

Sometimes screaming ‘We are Here’ loud and clear needs to be done.

As a director, I am passionate about telling the stories of women. It is important to have theater companies whose sole mission is to present works by women alongside the companies who are looking for diversity, like Abbey Fenbert. Sometimes screaming, “We are Here!” loud and clear needs to be done.

I have a talented group of women devising a new piece [which] explores how one woman managed to break free of stigmas (or at least ignore them!) and forge her own path. I am guiding the work and writing the script with the help of my actors.

Simone explores the life of Simone de Beauvoir: French philosopher, partner of Sartre, influential force in the second-wave feminist movement, and a woman who did all she could to live outside the bounds of what society expected. She slept with women and men, often having multiple relationships at the same time. She was brilliant, extremely prolific, and outspoken, [especially in] one of the most influential works for feminism to date, The Second Sex. Our piece explores a famous life through Simone’s memoirs, letters, and interviews and asks where we are as women today.

Feminism is a popular buzz word that people claim to stand behind, but are we really all that different from the 1940s or 1950s?

For me, theatre is a way of connection. I want to invite the audience into my world and hope they will someday invite me, so we can all feel more connected and a little less isolated.

______

Lauren Fanslau

Lauren Fanslau. Photo by Geoff Sheil.
Lauren Fanslau. Photo by Geoff Sheil.

Paying artists and educators for their work.

Although we are fortunate to live in a city with a thriving theater scene, the statistics don’t lie. The ratio of male to female directors, designers, and playwrights is not where it needs to be—not yet. PWTF creates opportunities for women. They are paying artists and educators for their work in a society that does not typically see the value in paying artists a living wage.

I have a keen interest in creating work in collaborative environments and a deep passion for connecting different mediums and the audience, fostering growth.

My solo piece is titled ReCalculating (previously called Toothbrush Roadmap). It explores the complicated relationships between [ordinary] objects and the people they represent and/or replace in our lives. From first dates to parting conversations, Girl navigates through her world and struggles to detach herself from the baggage that disrupts her journey.

I hope that audiences will take away a new perspective on seemingly run-of-the-mill objects and interactions with other humans. I want people to see them as unique opportunities, open to countless interpretations, instead of just the few assigned by society.

To quote the 1995 Olsen Twins’ classic, It Takes Two:” I am a “can’t-eat, can’t-sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, World Series” kind of Hanson [1990s US pop band] fan and have been for almost two decades. I lost track of my concert tally after I hit #20, and there is no funk that a Hanson album can’t get me out of. I also belch. Friends who belch together stay together.

______

Sarah Gafgen

Sarah Gafgen.
Sarah Gafgen.

Paying homage to incredible women who blazed a trail for us. 

I’m excited to be a part of PWTF because with all the amazing work in Philadelphia there are still overwhelmingly more female performers than male performers; yet, there seem to be more available opportunities to work for men.

I have been fortunate to create work through many avenues in Philadelphia, paying homage to incredible women who blazed a trail for us as performers. These women were true risk-takers.

Our concert piece Together Off-Broadway showcases the lives and careers of Ethel Merman and Mary Martin [who] were friends and incredible performers. We have assembled a night of song that includes stories about each woman’s personal life and how difficult it can be to maintain a friendship, especially as women in the spotlight.

Ethel Merman and Mary Martin are icons. However, we want to shed light not only on their successes but also the failures and leaps of faith that propelled them to stardom and kept them there.

Every year, on December 31st, I write 5 wishes for the New Year on slips of paper and put them inside a wish box I’ve had since I was 12 years old and started this tradition. I read the ones from the year before and put in the new ones, but I don’t let myself look at them until the end of the year. Sometimes, I’m surprised by the wishes I made that came true.

Also, whenever I answer questions about myself, I doubt that I’ve actually answered the question that was asked.

 ______

Polly MacIntyre

Polly MacIntyre. Photo by Kevin Linehan.
Polly MacIntyre. Photo by Kevin Linehan.

I hope to serve as an inspiration to younger artists.

As a writer, I bring an “Irish voice” to the festival. I adapted She Moved Through the Fair from an old Irish folk song and the works of Edna O’Brien, who is not as well-known as she should be, particularly to young people. Her language is poetic, beautiful, and often very funny. I have tried to keep that sensibility throughout my text. I may also be the oldest performer in the festival. I think it’s important that “women of a certain age” be heard from as much as possible, as we are underrepresented in many areas, including the arts. I hope to serve as an inspiration to younger artists that it is possible to create and perform throughout one’s life.

She Moved Through the Fair illuminates the romantic life of a contemporary Irish woman with bittersweet, often comic tales of coming of age, illicit love affairs gone wrong, an unforgettable plan for revenge, and its surprising aftermath. [My play,] She Moved Through The Fair, was first performed at the West End Theatre in New York City at the Artists of Tomorrow Festival, and subsequently had productions at the Way Off Broadway Theater in Houston, the Capital Fringe Festival in DC, and the Independent Voices Festival in Norristown.

As for something only my best friends know, I can be very competitive at the pool table. I took up pool ten years ago and have been captain of an eight-ball team for five years.

______

Nandita Shenoy

Nandita Shenoy. Photo by Deborah Lopez Lynch.
Nandita Shenoy. Photo by Deborah Lopez Lynch.

Offering insights into the intersectionality of gender and race.

I was delighted to be asked by PAPA [Peninsula Association of Performing Artists] to be a part of the festival. I worked as an actor in Philadelphia at InterAct in 2013, and am so happy to return with my writer hat this year.

As an Asian American writer, I hope I bring a unique perspective to PWTF. While I am an ardently pro-woman and feminist artist, I sometimes feel left out of feminist work as a woman of color. I hope that my play offers insights into the intersectionality of gender and race.

Satisfaction focuses on the love lives of four women of color as they describe them to each other. The play examines whether a woman can achieve satisfaction in the current social climate. I had written a few scenes of this play a while ago after some intense discussion with my female friends and returned to it this spring because I felt there were so many events in the world that were being influenced by gender roles without anyone acknowledging it in the media.

I hope the play will challenge traditional gender roles, especially in terms of sexual roles, and make people think about their own needs and the needs of their partners in a different way.

I don’t actually talk about sex in my real life that much. Most of my friends were shocked that I wrote this play, even though it’s probably not even R-rated!

______

Haygen Brice Walker

Haygen Brice Walkeer.
Haygen Brice Walker.

PWTF embraces risk. Risk is in the DNA of everything I write.

PWTF is all about embracing risk. Risk is in the DNA of everything I write. I think part of the reason that theatre audiences are dwindling is because theatre feels dated. I write plays about queer millennials doing fucked-up shit. I want to change the stigma.

I don’t compromise. I don’t believe in apologizing for art, and I don’t believe that people can only write within their experiences. The human experience is shared.

My ten-minute play, Buzzfeed, Donald Trump, and Dead Black Kids, started during a PlayPenn workshop with Quinn D. Eli. It examines how quickly hate can evolve from casual to personal in ordinary conversations. Unfortunately, every day the play gets more and more relevant. People are beautifully flawed. It’s important for artists to examine these flaws. My play is fueled by conversations with people that I grew up with.

People are going to leave the play winded. It’s a painful play that I hope one day will not be resonant. I want audiences to leave the play, go to a bar, and engage in a conversation about what happens outside the theatre.

I grew up as a gay, Puerto-Rican American in the most Conservative-Confederate flag waving backwoods county of Virginia on a 103-acre farm to professional body-building parents as an only-child. There wasn’t a lot for me to do. So I got weird and creative. I write a lot about displacement. One of my favorite things to do was to play Crime Scene Investigation in my shower.theatre_ticket-150x150

Purchase tickets to The Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival 2016 HERE.

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Henrik Eger
HENRIK EGER, editor, Drama Around the Globe; editor-at-large, Phindie. Bilingual playwright, author of 'Metronome Ticking', and other plays, poems, stories, articles, interviews, and books. Member, Dramatists Guild of America. Born and raised in Germany. Ph.D. in English, University of Illinois, Chicago. German translator of Martin Luther King, Jr’s Nobel Peace Prize mail. Producer-director: Multilingual Shakespeare, London. Taught English and Communication in six countries on three continents, including four universities and one college in the U.S. Author of four college text books. Longtime Philadelphia theatre correspondent for AAJT, the world’s largest Jewish theatre website. Articles published both in the US and overseas: Tel Aviv, Israel; Kayhan International, Tehran, Iran; Khedmat, Kabul, Afghanistan; Indian Express, Mumbai, India; Classical Voice, Los Angeles; Talkin’ Broadway, and The Jewish Forward, New York; HowlRound and Edge, Boston; Windy City Times, Chicago; Broad Street Review, Dance Journal, Jewish Voice, Philadelphia Gay News, Phindie, Philadelphia; The Mennonite, Tucson; and New Jersey Stage. Contact: HenrikEger@gmail.com

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