Marsha Norman & Sarah LaDuke Will Now Co-Host WAM Theatre's Change Makers Benefit, 8/24

WAM (Women's Action Movement) Theatre's annual benefit just got even more exciting. Artistic director Kristen van Ginhoven is pleased to announce that legendary playwright Marsha Norman and WAMC Northeast Public Radio producer Sarah LaDuke will co-host Change Makers, WAM Theatre's fifth season celebration and benefit at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington on August 24 at 7 pm. This dynamic duo takes the place of actor Jayne Atkinson, who needed to bow out to attend the Emmy Awards In Los Angeles.

Says Atkinson, "When I agreed to host the benefit, I didn't realize I would be invited to attend the Emmy Awards. After some quick thinking, a flurry of phone calls and emails, and a lot of nail-biting, Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman and beloved radio personality and producer Sarah LaDuke have stepped in, enabling WAM Theatre to go on with the show, without missing a beat. I'm delighted with how it all worked out and look forward to hosting another WAM event in the future because Kristen van Ginhoven and WAM provide the Berkshires with a dynamic opportunity to support women's voices and themes not only artistically but also philanthropically, and the shows are wonderful! It's all right here in our own backyard. How lucky we are to be here with WAM Theatre at the beginning of an amazing journey!"

Van Ginhoven says she is honored to have such high-caliber women in media as co-hosts of Change Makers, a multifaceted event that includes a panel discussion with award-winning artist/activists working to effect positive change; a sneak peek at WAM Theatre's fall production, In Darfur; and an onstage reception for top-level ticketholders.

Norman gained celebrity as the author of 'night Mother, which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, Blackburn Prize, Hull-Warriner, and Drama Desk Award, and was adapted into a film. She won 1991 Tony and Drama Desk awards for her book for the Broadway musical The Secret Garden, and another Tony nomination for The Color Purple, a musical that had a three-year run on Broadway. She was most recently represented on by Broadway the musical The Bridges of Madison County, which debuted last summer at Williamstown Theatre Festival; a national tour of the show is slated for the fall of 2015. Norman has won a Peabody Award for her writing for the HBO series In Treatment. Her latest play, The War on Women, is a commission from the UN and concerns trafficking and violence toward women worldwide. Norman is co-chair of the Playwriting Department of the Juilliard School and a co-founder of the Lilly Awards, started in spring 2010 as a way to honor the work of women in the American theatre.

LaDuke grew up in Saranac Lake, NY, where she worked part time at Pendragon Theatre (mostly behind the scenes) throughout high school and college. She has worked at WAMC, Northeast Public Radio since May 2006, primarily as producer for The Book Show and The Roundtable. Her love of theatre is familiar to public radio listeners, as is her dulcet voice, thanks to her occasional on-air interviews with actors, playwrights, filmmakers, musicians, and dancers including Carol Burnett, John Patrick Shanley, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Philip Glass, and Jeff Tweedy.

"The work that WAM has done over the past five seasons is inspiring and humbling," says LaDuke. "I am honored to have been asked to co-host this event - an event I would be interested in attending in any capacity. I can't wait to learn what the panelists have to say about effecting positive change through the arts - a frequent topic of focus on WAMC and on The Roundtable - and one of personal import as well."

WAM Theatre's fifth season celebration and benefit has turned into quite the jet-set affair. While Atkinson is flying out to the Emmy Awards, Norman will be jetting in, arriving at JFK airport around noon and heading straight up to Great Barrington and onto the Mahaiwe stage.

"It's so exciting that Marsha and Sarah have gone above and beyond to be here for Change Makers and support WAM Theatre," says van Ginhoven. "I am overwhelmed by the fierce commitment of all the panelists in this important benefit event, which will raise valuable funds for our fall production."

The August 24 Change Makers panel features four exceptional artist/activists:
Filmmaker Cynthia Wade has won more than 45 awards worldwide for her work, including Monday's at Racine, Selfie, and her 2008 Academy-Award-winning documentary Freeheld, which is being adapted into a major feature film with Wade as producer.

Playwright Winter Miller is a founding member of the Obie-recognized collective 13 Playwrights and the author of In Darfur, which was inspired by what Miller saw as Nicholas Kristof's researcher at the start of the genocide in Darfur in 2004. WAM Theatre recently announced that In Darfur is its 2014 fall production.

Author and actor Jessica Blank co-wrote The Exonerated (with Erik Jensen), based on interviews with wrongly convicted death row inmates, which won multiple prestigious theater awards, and followed up with the drama Aftermath, based on interviews with Iraqi civilian refugees.

Longtime National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer has been recognized with every major honor for photojournalism, including the Robert Capa, NPPA, National Magazine, and World Press awards.

Van Ginhoven will engage the panelists in a discussion of art as a means to address social justice and human rights. The panelists will share their perspectives on the role of artist as activist and share stories of the challenges they have faced while taking on daunting issues at home and across the world. In addition to this dynamic discussion, Change Makers will also include a sneak peek of In Darfur; the announcement of the beneficiary of this year's philanthropic donation; and an onstage reception for top-level ticket holders.

Says van Ginhoven, "As an organization dedicated to creating positive change through theatre, I couldn't be more excited to showcase these extraordinary artists striving to make the world a better place. With the addition of Sarah LaDuke and Marsha Norman, we know this will be a meaningful and inspirational event. This important discussion will pave the way perfectly for our fall production of In Darfur, which, as Oskar Eustis of New York's Public Theater notes, is a theatrical offering that is also a call to arms." Tickets to Change Makers, a panel discussion and benefit celebration of WAM Theatre's fifth season, can be purchased in person or by calling the Mahaiwe box office at 413.528.0100 or at

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