Kathy Najimy Stars In Benefit Reading Of NATURAL SHOCKS By Lauren Gunderson
Actress and activist Kathy Najimy is teaming up with America's Most Produced Playwright Lauren Gunderson for a benefit reading at the Minetta Lane Theater on Monday, April 23, 2018 at 7pm. Presented by the WP Theater with Erica Rotstein and Christina Wallace, the reading of Gunderson's new play NATURAL SHOCKS is in support of the Ms. Foundation's programs and grants that address domestic violence and gun violence against women. Tickets range from $100-1000, with discounted tickets available for students ($25) and a limited number of $50 early bird tickets available through April 16. Tickets available at www.naturalshocks.com/nyc.
The reading is part of the Natural Shocks National Project, an ambitious national campaign of theater activism with royalty-free readings of the play taking place across the country April 19-23, 2018. That timing is intentional: April 20 is the 19th anniversary of Columbine and the day of the National School Walkout, organized by the students activists in Parkland, Florida. Professional theaters, universities, high schools, and community groups are pairing their readings with town halls, talkbacks, and fundraisers for nonprofits addressing gun violence and domestic violence. Producers on the national project include Leah Hamos, theatrical agent at The Gersh Agency and Corinne Hayoun, head of the NY office of MANAGE-MENT.
Based on Hamlet's "To be or not to be," NATURAL SHOCKS is a classic Gunderson play: a 65-minute, one-woman tour-de-force that bursts to life when we meet a woman waiting out an imminent tornado in her basement. She overflows with quirks, stories, and a final secret that puts the reality of domestic violence and guns in America in your very lap. The play is part confessional, part stand up, and part reckoning.
"I wrote the story to continue to push the narrative away from the perpetrators of gun violence and toward the people whose lives are lost, shattered, and shadowed because of it. So many of these people are women. And there is such a tight connection between violence against women and gun violence," insisted Gunderson.
Gunderson is right: the connection between domestic violence and gun violence is well documented. More than half of the mass shootings from 2009-2016 involved a partner or family member. Nearly half of American women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners. American women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed nations. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. In short, domestic violence and grievances against women are the "canary in the coalmine" for gun violence. Any effort to end gun violence must address domestic violence as well.
Actor and activist Kathy Najimy was drawn to the topic as well as to Gunderson's take on it. "The subject was bone shakingly brave and clearly aligned with what sets fire to my own activism," Najimy reflected. "Lauren has written a play and imagined a character -a flash of a moment in the life of a woman that sums up the whole of fear, violence, passion and a bit of hope. It is thrilling that the proceeds go to the Ms. Foundation for Women to end domestic abuse and support gun control."
"I was elated when Kathy agreed to read the role, because she is such an incredible talent, a fierce comic powerhouse, with the heart of a true feminist and activist. In this play audiences will meet a new friend, a confidant, and a complex woman in love," Gunderson said.
Along with WP Theater, producers include Erica Rotstein, director of production at Broadway Across America and talent manager, and Christina Wallace, tech executive and theater producer. "We look forward to partnering with Erica, Christina, and these extraordinary artists to share Lauren's powerful play and to raise awareness about domestic abuse," said WP Theater Producing Artistic Director Lisa McNulty.
Kathy Najimy Is known for her memorable performances in over 25 films and several TV projects. She most recently received the Lilly Actress/Activist award from Gloria Steinem and is very proud to have been named a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year. With Mo Gaffney, Najimy wrote and starred in The Kathy and Mo Show, her long-running off-Broadway play (Obie Award), which became two award-winning Hit HBO specials. Kathy currently recurs on Veep, Graves, and Younger. Kathy is known for her award-winning portrayal of "Sister Mary Patrick" in the blockbuster hits Sister Acts 1 & 2. Her work includes starring roles in Hocus Pocus, Rat Race, Pixar's Oscar and Golden Globe winning WALL-E, Madea Christmas and Say Uncle (Philadelphia Film Festival Best Actress), among others. In the theater, Kathy starred as legendary "Mae West" on Broadway in the hit Broadway play Dirty Blonde, and later at The Old Globe Theatre (Outer Critics Circle Best Actress). Najimy is currently rehearsing her solo show for the NY stage, "Lift Up Your Skirt". Kathy is also thrilled to be currently co-executive producing a television series about the women's movement. For her over 30 years of AIDS activism, Najimy has been honored with the L.A. Shanti's Founder award as well as the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center's Distinguished Achievement award. She is an enthusiastic supporter of Women and Girls' Rights, AIDS Awareness, Animal Rights, Women's Choice, and frequently travels around the country to keynote speak on these issues. Najimy has lent her support to a variety of worthy organizations that include: NYClass, Project Angel Food, APLA, GLAAD, GMHC, Human Rights Campaign Fund, Broadway Cares, Equity Fights AIDS, The Ms. Foundation, AMFAR, Planned Parenthood, Voters for Choice, and NARAL. She currently resides in New York City with her husband Dan Finnerty of The Dan Band and their glorious 21-year-old actor/singer/songwriter daughter, Samia Najimy Finnerty.
Lauren M. Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America of 2017, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award, the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, she is also a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, a recipient of the Mellon Foundation's 3-Year Residency with Marin Theatre Company, and a commissioned playwright by Audible. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU's Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Cost Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The O'Neill, The Denver Center, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire and more. She co-authored Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with Margot Melcon, which was one of the most produced plays in America in 2017. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit Pursued By A Bear, The Taming, and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists (The Revolutionists, The Book of Will, Silent Sky, Bauer, Miss Bennet) and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon was released from Two Lions / Amazon in May 2017. LaurenGunderson.com and @LalaTellsAStory
WP THEATER (Lisa McNulty, Producing Artistic Director; Michael Sag, Managing Director) is the nation's oldest and largest theater company dedicated to developing, producing and promoting the work of female-identified and trans theater artists at every stage in their careers. For nearly four decades we have served as leaders at the forefront of a global movement towards gender parity, and the example we set and the artists we have fostered have grown into to a robust and thriving community of artists in theater and beyond. WP empowers female-identified artists to reach their full potential and, in doing so, challenges preconceptions about the kinds of plays women write and the stories they tell. As the premiere launching pad for some of the most influential female theater artists today, our work has had a significant impact on the field at large. Nearly every prolific female theater artist has been through our doors, including Eve Ensler, María Irene Fornés, Katori Hall, Pam MacKinnon, Lynn Nottage, Leigh Silverman and Anna Deveare Smith. These powerful women found an early artistic home at WP, and are a testament to our role as a driving cultural force. WP was founded in 1978 by visionary producer, Julia Miles, to address the significant under-representation of women in theater. Today, WP accomplishes its mission through several fundamental programs, including: the WP Lab, a two-year mentorship and new play development program for women playwrights, directors, and producers; the Domestic Partner residency program; the Developmental series; and the Mainstage series, which features a full season of Off-Broadway productions written and directed by extraordinary theater artists.