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Artemis Theatrical Aims to Give a Voice to Women-Identifying Storytellers Through Collaboration and Cabaret

Artemis Theatrical Aims to Give a Voice to Women-Identifying Storytellers Through Collaboration and Cabaret
Artemis Theatrical founder Manda Leigh Blunt. Photos courtesy of Blunt/Artemis Theatrical.

Last year, Manda Leigh Blunt graduated from New York University with a dream many musical theatre writers share: to get their work seen and heard. All it took were inspiring words from another female artist to launch something truly groundbreaking, just a few months later.

"My friends and I attended a session with Judith Light, which was incredible," Blunt recounted. "A lot of what I was hearing, especially from the other women who attended, echoed what I had felt and had been hearing in the conversations all around me at NYU. Once you graduate, there seemed to be so few opportunities as a musical theatre writer still in the development process. You can have these big 29-hour readings or productions---if you get that---but there are fewer in-between moments where you can get yourself heard in a supportive environment, where a women-identified writer can say, 'This is where we are in this draft, and we're using this opportunity to move forward.'"

So Blunt decided to do something about it. By that August, she founded Artemis Theatricals, a non-profit company with the mission to empower women storytellers in musical theatre through curated cabarets and additional styles of performance.

"We want to capture all of their stories--- any kind. It's about the unique voices of the writers," Blunt said.

The organization was immediately met with enthusiasm by her colleagues, who were searching for opportunities to perform. And Blunt is truly looking for all stories that women-identified writers have to tell, in any stage of development. "We're making the writers' voices heard. Whatever a writer feels is the story they want to express, the story they want to write, along with the songs they're hoping to develop. This is a completely judgment-free zone."

The theme for their first curated cabaret, HERE US ROAR, this past September at The Duplex generated an overwhelmingly positive response. Coming up is their first full length concert of a single show. On February 4, Artemis Theatricals will present LOVE IN STOP MOTION IN CONCERT, a musical in development written by Clara Luthas and Minhui Lee, and directed by Lori Sternberg.

Their last cabaret of the season will be called ACTIVATED: MUSICAL THEATRE SONGS OF ACTIVISM, and will be officially scheduled for the summer. ACTIVATED will have an open submission policy, to be role out in the next couple of weeks.

Anyone can submit to Artemis Theatrical through a database that is open to women-identified writers around the world. So far there are over 50 writers in Artemis' database, not only from New York, but [the] UK, the West Coast, and Midwest. There are also plenty of chances to find collaborators.

Artemis Theatrical Aims to Give a Voice to Women-Identifying Storytellers Through Collaboration and Cabaret
Artemis Theatrical contributors (L to R) May-Elise Martinsen, Kim Sherman, Chandra McClelland, Laura Barati, Kyoungae Kim, and Melissa Miles.

"We not only produce cabarets of new works, but we also hold get-togethers for everybody," Blunt said. "I hosted a salon at my apartment for everyone to come. People read lyrics, they find musical arrangers--- last time, a get-together brought two potential collaborators together and they wrote a song that ended up being in the cabaret. You never know what can happen!"

Blunt is passionate about getting her message---and the message of women-identifying writers---heard. "The public needs to attend these readings, to see the potential of something that can become a song. They are in a room with the writers, right among the creators of their age. We, as women-identified artists, need more opportunities like this. You never know where the next great musical can be, and this is where it all happens."

As for the future of Artemis, there are plenty more exciting opportunities to get involved, both through projects and charity. Blunt is also launching a crowdfund, High Five Fundraiser, where people can donate five dollars or more. All donations are also 100 percent tax-deductible, and for a vital purpose: to continue Artemis' mission in promoting new stories and voices.

"Since this was our first season, we're featuring a potpourri of artists and new works. I hope to be able to curate seasons in advance in the future and grow my creative team. Right now, it's just me.

"I'm open to all possibilities on where the company could go. Whatever the writers want, I'm ready to help their visions and their shows, such as seminars, master classes with established writers, salons, a forum where they could all get together. I don't want the company to become static in [a], 'This is what we do' kind of way. I'm looking forward to growing and letting the landscape dictate what it should be."


See LOVE IN STOP MOTION IN CONCERT at The Duplex, February 4 at 7pm. For tickets and information, visit theduplex.com.



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From This Author Amy Oestreicher