WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS Makes World Premiere at Rubicon Theatre Co

By: Apr. 17, 2019

WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS Makes World Premiere at Rubicon Theatre Co

Rubicon Theatre continues the company's 21st "Coming of Age" season with the World Premiere of WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS, a play inspired by and loosely based on the remarkable journey of Lorraine Serena and a dynamic group of California-based artists who founded the non-profit Women Beyond Borders (WBB). Determined to "make art as if the world matters," Serena and her friends fell upon the idea of box as metaphor: hope chest, treasure chest, womb, coffin, etc. They replicated a miniature wooden box no bigger than the size of a human heart and sent the boxes to curators and friends in other countries with the goal of encouraging dialogue, collaboration and community among women and honoring creativity. The founders of WBB were astonished at what came back to them - eloquent expressions of the enormous depth and variety, but also the universality, of women's experiences throughout the world. The boxes were accompanied by equally astonishing artists' statements, in the form of letters, poems and stories asking about transcending barriers: geographical, social, racial, economic, emotional, gender-related, spiritual, etc.

For the upcoming Rubicon premiere, company members have created a play in which the journey of the organization is interwoven with excerpts from many of the artist's statements. Says Rubicon Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns, "We hope the play will provide serious and humorous insights into relationships between grandmothers, mothers and daughters, sisters, and friends; birth and the process of raising children; how women view their bodies; oppression and war; fairy tales, dreams and myths; and even our obsession with shoes.

Presented in the style of Love, Loss and What I Wore and The Vagina Monologues, Rubicon's production of WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS features a rotating cast of five actors of different ages and backgrounds who will read the script from seated positions on high-backed stools. Actors scheduled to date include Tony Award-winner Lillias White (The Life/Felaon Broadway, the title role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Music Center, and the premiere of The Best is Yet to Come at Rubicon which then transferred Off-Broadway), Emmy Award-winners Susan Clark ("Babe," "Webster"/ Rubicon's Collected Stories) and Michael Learned ("The Waltons," "Nurse," Rubicon's Driving Miss Daisy), Golden Globe Award-winner Amanda McBroom (Rubicon's Other Desert Cities/Creator of "The Rose"), and five-time Emmy nominee Meredith Baxter ("Family" and "Family Ties"). Other announced artists are as follows: Kimiko Gelman ("The Hunger Games I & 2"/"CSI Miami"); Donna Simone Johnson (Noe: Element, Ugandan National Theatre/The Baby Dance: Mixed at Rubicon); actor, writer and radio personality Sandra Tsing Loh; Obie Award-winner Zilah Mendoza (premiere of Lisa Loomer's Living Out, also originated lead roles in The Clean Houseand Electricidad, among others). Ulka Simone Mohanty ("Needle in a Timestack,"/"Nina's World");UCLA graduate and newcomer Joanne Nguyen in her Equity stage debut; and Jennifer Leigh Warren (Big River on Broadway/Rubicon's Lonesome Traveler Off-Broadway). Additional cast members will be announced next week.

The production of WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS is helmed by Rubicon Artistic Associate Jenny Sullivan, and written by Claire Bowman, Karyl Lynn Burns, Lauren Pattenand Beverly Ward, with additional stories by Stephanie Coltrin and Sandra Tsing Loh. The production includes extensive use of video projection (including a number of the boxes). The multi-media is co-created by Yee Eun Nam and Eunnym Cho, who are also co-creating the scenic design. The international, all-female design team also includes Azra King-Abadias Lighting Designer.

WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS opens Saturday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m., and continues through June 2, 2019. Low-priced tickets for previews are available Thursday, April 24 through Friday, April 26. The production continues Wednesdays through Sundays through May 12 (with two shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays), and Fridays through Sundays (with doubles on Saturday) from May 16 to June 2, 2019. All performances are at Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001. For tickets, go to www.rubicontheatre.orgor call (805) 667-2900.

More about Women Beyond Borders

Founded in 1991 by Lorraine Serena, Co-Founder Elaine Siff, and a group of women artists, Women Beyond Borders has become a global phenomenon. More than nine-hundred boxes have been contributed over time by accomplished, nationally or internationally known artists, as well as by women with no prior artistic experience; from Afghanistan to Zambia. Women Beyond Borders has grown from a grass-roots local initiative to a savvy international art project involving over 10,000 artists, coordinators and curators from 50 countries. The project has been exhibited in over 50 venues around the world, including the National Museum of Kenya, the Wifredo Lam Center-Havana, and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca.

Women Beyond Borders embraces the possibility that women are honored for their untold voices and visions, and that women support one another in this quest. The endeavor has become more than an exhibition, it has become a catalyst for dialogue and collaboration.

The myriad box creations have roamed the world, traveling from historic museums to a temple in Kathmandu, a 15th century villa in Umbria, a historic train car in Europe, and a hilltop museum in Japan. WBB has been accessible to thousands of viewers through these diverse venues where participating artists have gathered to meet, celebrate, and exchange ideas. Each exhibition was unique as coordinators reinvented the project along the way, inviting anthropologists and art historians to speak and poets to reflect.

Included are celebrated artists, homeless and nomadic women, entire school districts, widows of the genocide in Rwanda and over 6,000 children with disabilities worldwide. Other projects include young women survivors of human trafficking in Vietnam, and girls' organizations in the U.S., as well as men and boys.

Inspired by the exhibition in Russia, a student in St. Petersburg declared, "WBB gives us the hope of being understood, of being able to break the chains our society has put upon us. The boxes open up the worlds and hearts of women and will help us to find strength in our future fight with our destiny." In Japan, artist Mika Ebata declared, "Now I have friends all over the world."

In the broadest sense, WBB is not only about the participants; it is about all women. The play gives voice to women's universal pleas for healing, justice, respect and liberation, as well as a reverence for home, the world and one another.

For more information about the non-profit organization Women Beyond Borders, go to www.womenbeyondborders.org

Women Beyond Borders and Rubicon

Rubicon's Producing Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns first became aware of Women Beyond Borders in the late '90s when she heard Lorraine Serena speak at a public event in Santa Barbara. Recalls Burns, "I had never heard anyone speak so powerfully about the positive impact of art on building community."

"I later wished I had recorded Lorraine's comments as I have wanted to go back and listen with relish to every word over and over again. It was a transformative experience for me. Lorraine's influence made me want to do more as an artist. It was much of the reason I wanted to become an arts administrator - I wanted to facilitate the kinds of conversations that happen when an idea resonates with an individual or a community."

"After later seeing an exhibit and reading the artist's statements," says Burns, "I knew as a theatre practitioner that those statements should be given a voice onstage."

"We have talked off and on over the years about the possibility," continues Burns. "Our board felt that now was a perfect moment to share these stories. We are extremely grateful to the Women Beyond Borders' leaders and board for being responsive to the idea and allowing us to begin what we know will be a beautiful journey together."

About the Director

"WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS' Director Jenny Sullivan has an incredible history with this type of genre," says Burns, "and we are thrilled that she, too, is passionate about this project."

Sullivan has directed Nora and Delia Ephron's Love, Loss, and What I Woreat The Geffen Playhouse; and put in all new casts for the more than two-year run of The Vagina Monologuesat the Canon and Coronet theatres. Sullivan'srecent work includes Tom Dugan's Jackie Unveiled with Saffron Burrows at the Wallis Annenberg in Beverly Hills and the Acorn Theatre Off-Broadway run of Tom Dugan's Wiesenthal. The latter moved to The Wallis Theatre in Beverly Hills and then to the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. Sullivan's other Rubicon directing credits include The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with Gregory Harrison, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Our Town, Steel Magnolias(Indy Award), The Mystery of Irma Vep(2012 Ovation Nomination for Direction),Tea at Fivewith Stephanie Zimbalist, Doubt, Trying, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?(Indy Award) with Joe Spano, Karyl Lynn Burns, Jason Chanos and Angela Goethals, Spit Like a Big Girl, You Can't Take It With You, Hamlet(Indy Award) with Joseph Fuqua, and the World Premiere of her play J for J with Jeff Kober and the late, great John Ritter. Sullivan's recently directed the World Premiere of The Baby Dance: Mixedby Jane Anderson.

Other directing work includes The Dresserwith Len Cariou and Granville Van Dusen at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre; The Year of Magical Thinking with Linda Purland Steel Magnoliasat Laguna Playhouse; Baby Doll, Dublin Carol(Indy Award), The Lion in Winter(Indy Award), The Memory of Water and Tea at Fiveat Ensemble Theatre Company;Tenderly-The Rosemary Clooney Musical at Center Rep in Walnut Creek; Listen for Wingsat Access Theatre; The Elephant Manfor San Jose Rep; Death of a Salesman(AUM) with Stuart Margolin and Wendy Phillips; and six seasons of new plays at Williamstown Theatre Festival. Film credits include "Access All Areas" and "The Next Best Thing" (in which she had the good fortune to direct her father Barry Sullivan).

WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS opens on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. at Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main Street in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District, with low-priced previews Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. and Friday, April 26 at 8 p.m. The production continues Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 12, 2019. From May 15 to June 2, the production runs Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Talkbacks are scheduled following the all Wednesday performances except the first preview. For tickets, go to www.rubicontheatre.org or call (805) 667-2900.

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