13th Annual DIVAfest Returns to EXIT Theatre, Now thru 5/24

13th Annual DIVAfest Returns to EXIT Theatre, Now thru 5/24

The 13th Annual DIVAfest, celebrating the work of women artists, fills EXIT Theatre in San Francisco for nearly a month, today, May 1 through 24, 2014. Begun in 2002 as a response to the lack of opportunities for female playwrights in the larger theater industry, DIVAfest has since produced over 60 new plays by women.

This year's DIVAfest features the premiere of RAT GIRL, adapted by Stuart Bousel from the memoir of the same name by alt-rock pioneer Kristin Hersh. It continues with Margery Fairchild's The Pas De Quatre, a hilarious look at the 19th century clash of the four reigning divas of ballet. Dancers of a different sort cavort in At The White Rabbit Burlesque. The popular Divas Tell All, curated by Catherine Debon, returns, along with a reading by long-time DIVAfest favorite and San Francisco poet laureate Diane di Prima.

RAT GIRL is part biography, part rock concert, part experimental theater, based on alt-rock icon Kristin Hersh's memoir of the same name. RAT GIRL tells the story of how, in one year, she went from a gifted college student to an icon of art rock music when her band, Throwing Muses, was signed onto the British label 4AD Records. Along the way, Hersh discovered that she was bi-polar after a suicide attempt landed her in a mental hospital, in addition to being pregnant with her first child. As much a story about one woman's struggle to live with her own particular demons as it is about the rise of a gifted and unique artist, the play is a surreal and often comical exploration of how we make peace with who we are.

The show features live covers of songs from the self-titled Throwing Muses album, which was recorded at the time RAT GIRL takes place, and that went on to become a cornerstone of the American alternative music movement. Adapted for the stage by Stuart Bousel, directed by Claire Rice, RAT GIRL features Christina Augello, Nathan Brown, Eli Diamond, Allison Fenner, Tim Green, Sam Jackson, Heather Kellogg andShay Wisniewski, with musical direction by James Grady, and a design team including Beth Cockrell,Colin Johnson, Christine McClintock, and Joshua Saulpaw.

The Pas De Quatre is a Work in Progress that explores the dark and often hilarious difficulties surrounding the making of the 1845 ballet/divertissement of the same title. It focuses on the four reigning ballerinas of Europe at the time, and the choreographer who had close relationships with each of them. The Pas De Quatre is a rare look behind the scenes of this historic Ballet and a glimpse into the private and often painful lives of its principal characters. Written and directed by Margery Fairchild, with dramaturgy and development by Michelle Talgarow, Devised and performed by Catherine Debon, Sarah Moss, Nathan Tucker and Christina Raymond.

At the White Rabbit Burlesque is the second fully-staged DIVAfest production co-created by Bay Area burlesque performers, Red Velvet and If-N'-Whendy, directed by Amanda Ortmayer. A topsy-turvy, titillating tumble down the mental rabbit hole, follow Alice's strange journey on her first night as an employee of The White Rabbit Burlesque, where she meets a bevy of interesting characters all strangely reminiscent of our favorite Wonderland residents! Featuring an accomplished and eclectic burlesque cast: Red Velvet, If-N'-Whendy, Laika Fox, Ophelia Coeur De Noir, Tornado Supertrouble, and Mikka Bonel

The DIVAs Tell All series, curated by Catherine Debon, showcases work that has been developing at DIVAfest's regular presentations featuring short excerpts from women artists including writing, music, comedy and performance art.

This year's festival runs May 1-24, with a kick-off event on May 3 featuring an exhibit by festival photographerSerena Morelli (reception at 1 pm), and a reading by poet Diane di Prima (3:00-4:30), followed by a succession of opening nights of each of this year's shows, with PAS DE QUATRE at 5 pm, RAT GIRL at 7 pm, AT THE WHITE RABBIT BURLESQUE at 9 PM, and an opening night celebration to follow.

All events happen at the EXIT Theatre, located at 156 Eddy Street in downtown San Francisco. Tickets and more information can be found at the official festival website at http://www.divafest.info. Tickets are also available on www.brownpapertickets.com. For press comps and more information, contact Gary Carr,(925) 672-8717, carrpool@pacbell.net.

Artwork By: Michelle Talgarow

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