First Lady Michelle Obama Named Honorary Chair of Women's Voices Theater Festival

First Lady Michelle Obama Named Honorary Chair of Women's Voices Theater Festival

Women's Voices Theater Festival organizers today announced that First Lady of the United States of America Michelle Obama will serve as Honorary Chair of the Women's Voices Theater Festival, which unites more than 50 professional theater companies in the nation's capital region, September through October 2015. She joins a prestigious group of theater artists and advocates on the Honorary Committee supporting the Festival's mission to celebrate the work of women in theater. Additionally, eight ancillary events sponsored by The Washington Post have been announced during the Festival, to be hosted by the seven originating theaters-Arena Stage, Ford's Theatre, Round House Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company-along with Festival participant Theater J.

These workshops and discussions will feature participation from local and national playwrights, directors, performers, artistic leaders and collaborators and will cover a variety of topics, including the local playwriting landscape, women in musical theater, gender parity, playwrights as hybrid artists, female leaders in the entertainment industry, feminist theater, training for women in stage combat and the historical silencing of women's voices.

Festival-related events are free, but reservations are required. To reserve event tickets and for up-to-date Festival information, including details and ticketing information for all of the world-premiere productions being produced by participating theater companies, please visit

In addition to the First Lady, the Honorary Committee for the Women's Voices Theater Festival has been expanded to include Karen Allen, Paula Marie Black, Lydia Diamond, Katori Hall, Beth Henley, Quiara Hudes, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, Anika Noni Rose, Sarah Ruhl and Paula Vogel, who join the previously announced Jane Alexander, Heidi Lennard Dupler, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Zelda Fichandler, Marg Helgenberger, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, Allison Janney, Téa Leoni, Marsha Mason, Audra McDonald, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Julie Taymor, Kathleen Turner and Mare Winningham. Jojo Ruf and Nan Barnett serve as coordinating producers for the event.

Women's Voices Theater Festival Sponsored Events

Writing in the District: Women Playwrights of Washington, D.C. (and Surrounds) Speak Out
September 26, 2015 at 5:00 p.m., Theater J
A conversation with and about female playwrights living in the Greater D.C. area, addressing the unique challenges and benefits to staking out a career as a playwright in this part of the country, how the landscape has changed (and continues to change) for local playwrights and looking toward future goals.

There is Nothin' Like a Dame: Women in Musical Theater
September 28, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., Signature Theatre
Directors, writers and prominent D.C. actresses examine how the iconic female roles of musical theater, from Mama Rose to Sally Bowles to Elphaba, influenced the musical as an American art form. The panelists will also discuss working as women in musical theater and how women are shaping the future of the musical, both onstage and off. In addition to the lively discourse, the actresses will perform the seminal songs from the great roles they admire.

Gender Parity in the American Theater
October 3, 2015 at 5:30 p.m., Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
A spirited discussion on gender parity in the theater featuring Sheila Callaghan, who is a founding member of The Kilroys, a "gang of playwrights and producers in L.A. who are done talking about gender parity and are taking action," and the playwright of Woolly's Festival production, Women Laughing Alone With Salad.

Playwrights as Hybrid Artists
October 4, 2015 at 3:45 p.m., Studio Theatre
Many playwrights, including Claire Lizzimore (writer of Studio's Festival production, Animal), have active professional lives as directors, actors and designers. Studio will host a conversation among playwrights with multiple vantage points on theatrical creation, discussing narrative, character and spectacle and on crossing over into a writer's point of view and crossing back.

Driven: Trailblazing Women of the Entertainment Industry
October 5, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., Ford's Theatre
Women in high-powered, high-profile positions in the arts and entertainment industries are noticeably in the minority, despite their positions of authority. Join leaders in the field for a frank discussion about how they thrive in a culture driven by men and how gender has shaped their career trajectories and the creative material they choose.

Subverting Expectations: Women's Work in Theater
October 11, 2015 at 3:30 p.m., Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater
What is feminist theater-is it simply a play written by a woman or is there more to it? How are plays by women different? Would you know a play was written by a woman by the writing alone? From comedy to drama to musicals, in solo shows, ensemble pieces or epic sagas, women playwrights are not only breaking the fourth wall, they're breaking the glass ceiling. Arena Stage playwrights Allison Engel, Margaret Engel (Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End) and Karen Zacarías (Destiny of Desire) discuss how women are seen and received in theater by audiences and artists, how they're subverting those expectations and what's next. Now that women have the world's attention, what will they do with it?

Fight Like a Girl: Changing Roles for Women in Stage Combat
October 23, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., Round House Theatre
The guest faculty of Round House Theatre's "Belle of the Brawl" workshop will offer an international perspective on the state of representation, opportunity, training and craft for women in the stage combat and stunt world with a look behind the scenes at the changing nature of an industry through anecdote, discussion and a little revolution.

Where Are Women's Voices?
October 24, 2015 at 10:00 a.m., Shakespeare Theatre Company
This three-hour event will give audiences and artists an opportunity to look at the unique nature of female expression and how women's voices have been historically silenced over time. Perspectives ranging from historical looks at the consequences of missing voices to whether there is a unique quality to female language and dramaturgy will be examined.

The Women's Voices Theater Festival is grateful for the generous support of the District of Columbia and corporations, individuals and foundations across the national capital region, including Paula Marie Black, The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, District of Columbia Council of Arts and Humanities, Heidi and Mitch Dupler, Lois England/The England Family, Arlene and Robert Kogod, National Museum of Women in the Arts and Prince Charitable Trusts and as well as media sponsors L2 Interactive, The Washington Post, WTOP and WUSA9.

The Women's Voices Theater Festival is an unprecedented two-month effort dedicated to featuring new work by female playwrights with participation from more than 50 theaters throughout the nation's capital region. Each theater will present a world-premiere play or musical that is written, devised or adapted by a female playwright, highlighting the scope of plays being written by women and the range of professional theater being produced in and around the D.C. area.

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