Sunday, November 8, 2009
War, Change and Hope
The 29th Annual Women and Theatre Program (WTP) Conference took place in Teatro Pregones in Bronx, New York in August 7th, 2009.
The theme of this year’s conference was the Balancing Act of Innovation: War, Change, and Hope.
What do we really mean when we talk about “Hope” when we know that hope is another side of “Despair”? In difficult times, “Hope” has always been a necessity for us to strive for life to survive as human species. This year’s conference strongly held up the solid pillar of solidarity to motivate us, the WTP members, for insightful challenges and decisive changes in the time of war.
The conference began at 8: AM, containing of seven panels and roundtables. The first panel: Staging woman and War: Problems and Possibilities, organized by Lindsay Cummings (Cornell University) and Maria Beach (Oklahoma State University) was the most popular panel with sixteen diverse participants included a wide range of scholars, directors, dramaturges, playwrights and performers. This roundtable was structured to discuss some of practical, aesthetics and ethical questions we face when we stage women’s involvement in war and any systematic violence related to war. The subgroups were divided into four groups and four themes: Activism; Adaptation; Women, War, and Culture; And Arts and Violence. The discussion began with questions Lindsay posed to participants to engage the group for a determining and productive conversation, as some of the participants brought handouts, summarizing their projects to the audience.
Groups are as follows:
Activism: Norma Bowles, Maria Beach, Domnica Radelscu, Lindsay Cummings
Adaptation: Jane Barnette, Sydney O’Donnell, Katherine Sogolow, Lisa Parkins
Women, War, and Culture: Eleanor Owiki, Yasmine Rana, Ezzat Goushegir, Kate Roark
Art and Violence: Joan Lipkin, Jenny Connell, Sherry Engle, Shelley Salamensky
Some of the questions addressed the panelists were:
* How does the increasing of militarization of everyday life impacts us as artists?
* How do we approach the staging of violence against women without replicating that violence?
* What counts as a “War Play” and how does gender impact acts of categorization?
The discussion opened up a lively conversation among the panelists as well as the audience.
In the second panel entitled The Female Body in the Age of Trauma and Terror, Emily Klein focused on Eve Ensler and Kathryn Blume’s plays explaining the defense mechanism of the survivors of war, rape and violence and how they face their problems.
In the presentation of Women in Border/War Zone, Cecilia J Aragon presented a vivid picture of women in the Mexican Revolution, indicating the role of sensuality and sexuality in the work of Mexican playwrights specifically in Soldaderas. She delineated how women used their body as a political resistance and a source of creativity and power.
Barbara Ellen Logan’s presentation under the title of “Inside the Empire” discussed Empire as a rape fantasy in fairy tales such as Cupid and Psyche, Beauty and the Beast, as well as Migdalia Cruz’s play FUR. She explained how these myths allegorize the violence of colonizers, raping women as colonized with the expression of “love” and “marriage”.
At 1: PM Ashley Lucas the president of WTP introduced Guerrilla Girls the internationally known theatre company. The performance of New York based Guerrilla Girls on Tour was the highlights of this year’s conference. With energetic, humorous, original and critical performance of their show, Guerrilla Girls believe that being silent about violence against women is a form of violence. They use mask and physical theatre techniques to portray a wide spectrum of characters and serious subjects on women while keeping empty space with minimum technical elements to convey their social and political message in an engaging and interactive environment.
Guerrilla Girls on Tour performed excerpts from “If you can stand the Heat: the History of Women and Food” Portraying four dead women artists: Josephine Baker, Aphra Behn, Julia Child and Beatrix Potter. It was a poignant and lively performance with an enthusiastic interaction between the actors and the audience.
In the informational panel on Women, Theatre and War; Performance as activism, the participants focused on genocide and human rights issues as they indicated the theatre activists whose activism relates to theatre in the war zones such as Baghdad, or about Guantanamo prison as well as Women in Cambodia and Bosnia.
On the review of Jane Chambers play contest, Pricilla Page and Maya Roth gave a historical report on the Jane Chambers award, while they mentioned that the majority of this year’s play submissions were about war, activism and more lyrical in language and tone.
Sally Oswald and Dominique Morrisseau winners of 2008 Jane Chambers awards read excerpts of their plays; “Pony” a respond to George Buchner’s play Woyzeck, and “Retrospect for Life” a play about abortion.
Erin Kaplan The winner of Jane Chambers Student Competition in 2009 had a reading of her play “Collateral Bodies” a captivating piece about women who are victims of domestic violence, public stoning, bride burning, genital mutilation, women’s trafficking, rape and poverty from all over the world.
The two performances of this year were Dominica Redulesca’s play “Naturalized Woman: A quilting Surrealist Project” and Yasmina Beverly Rana’s play “Images of Women in War”.
Yasmina Beverly Rana
Lunch and dinner was served by Sunlight Restaurant in a beautiful backyard of the theatre with tall sunflowers as birds were singing from a cage in the next door neighbor’s house, while WTP business meeting was held.
Cecilia J Aragon, Ezzat(Myself) and Ashley Lucas the president of WTP
Pictures in this blog are by Joel Simpson