WAM Theatre to Host CHANGE MAKERS Summer Benefit, 8/24

WAM Theatre to Host CHANGE MAKERS Summer Benefit, 8/24

WAM (Women's Action Movement) Theatre will celebrate its fifth season on Sunday, August 24, with Change Makers, an exciting and relevant evening hosted by acclaimed actress Jayne Atkinson. The celebration is centered on a dynamic panel discussion moderated by WAM Theatre artistic director Kristen van Ginhoven featuring artists whose work catalyzes positive social change. The celebration and benefit, taking place at the Mahaiwe Center for the Performing Arts in Great Barrington, will also include a sneak peek of WAM Theatre's fall production and the announcement of the beneficiary of this year's philanthropic donation.

The evening's host, Berkshire resident Jayne Atkinson, is best known for her roles in the series House of Cards, Criminal Minds, and 24, and for her Tony-Award-nominated turns on Broadway in The Rainmaker and Enchanted April. Atkinson served as the co-producer and host of WAM Theatre's 2013 benefit, Claiming Her Place. Earlier this year she directed and co-produced the sold-out Motherhood Out Loud benefit event.

Says Atkinson, "I am thrilled to host Change Makers, which features a meaningful discussion by accomplished, passionate artists making a difference in the world. This timely benefit event is in keeping with the activist mission of WAM Theatre, and it's also aligned with my own views of how theatre and the other arts can be more than entertainment and move people to take action."

An exceptional group of award-winning artist/activists who promote social justice and human rights through their work comprise the Change Makers panel:

Jessica Blank is author (with Erik Jensen) of The Exonerated, a play based on interviews with wrongly convicted death row inmates (Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Ovation, Fringe First, Herald Angel awards); they also adapted the film starring Susan Sarandon and Danny Glover. Their play Aftermath, based on interviews with Iraqi civilian refugees, ran at New York Theatre Workshop, toured internationally, and garnered two Drama League award nominations. Their new play, How to be a Rock Critic, will be at CTG and South Coast Rep next season; they have television projects in development with Fox TV Studios, Fox 21, and Condé Nast. As an actor Jessica appeared regularly on Made in Jersey (CBS). Other TV includes The Mentalist, Bored to Death, Rescue Me, Law & Order: CI. Film includes The Namesake (dir. Mira Nair) and several indies; she has four films coming out in 2014.

Winter Miller is an award-winning playwright and founding member of the Obie-recognized collective 13 Playwrights. Her drama In Darfur was inspired by what she saw as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's researcher at the start of the genocide in Darfur in 2004. She then traveled with Kristof to villages and refugee camps along the Chad/Sudan border after winning the 2006 "Two-Headed Challenge" commission from the Guthrie Theater and the Playwrights' Center. In Darfur premiered at The Public Theater for a sold-out run; a subsequent staged reading in the Public's 1800-seat Delacorte Theater in Central Park - a first for a play by a woman - drew a standing-room-only crowd. Miller's plays include The Penetration Play, The Arrival, Paternity, Amandine and Seed.

John Stanmeyer, a Berkshire-based photographer, has worked extensively with National Geographic over the past decade. He has long focused on exposing social injustice, eradicating global poverty, promoting human rights, and raising awareness of vanishing cultures. His latest book, Questions Without Answers (Phaedon, 2012), chronicles the past 30 years of global conflict and change. Stanmeyer has received numerous honors for photojournalism, including the Robert Capa, NPPA, and National Magazine awards, and, most recently, the World Press Award, the most prestigious global recognition in photojournalism.

Cynthia Wade won the Academy Award in 2008 for her short documentary Freeheld, about a dying policewoman's fight to leave her pension to her female life partner. Wade is now producing the Hollywood adaptation of this story, which stars Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, and Zach Galifianakis. In 2013 Wade received her second Oscar nomination for her HBO documentary Mondays at Racine, about a hair salon that caters to women undergoing chemotherapy. Her Clio-winning 2014 short film Selfie (shot at Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington), about girls' body image and social media, went viral, capturing five million views within the first ten days of its internet launch and earned Wade and her subjects a slot on the Today Show. Wade's work has been seen on HBO, Cinemax, PBS, MTV, Discovery, History Channel, A&E, Oxygen and LOGO; she has won more than 45 film awards worldwide.

Van Ginhoven will engage the panelists in a discussion exploring art as a means to address social justice. The panelists will discuss their perspectives on the role of artist as activist and share stories of the challenges they have faced - and overcome - while using their art to explore daunting issues at home and across the world.

Says van Ginhoven, "As an organization whose aims are to effect positive change through theatre, I couldn't be more excited that this fifth season benefit celebration will showcase extraordinary artists striving to make the world a better place. Given the experience and caliber of the panelists, we are looking forward to sharing a meaningful and inspirational evening with our audience."

Tickets to Change Makers, a panel discussion and 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 www.mahaiwe.org

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