A few years ago, in an attempt to think consciously about how to make work that supports us as individuals and as an ensemble, I asked the ensemble to think about why theatre was important to each of us at that time. Some of us said that gives us a chance to see, and thus, honor, reflections of ourselves. Some said that it lets us refocus on the world to see it as it is, but with fresh eyes. Some said it lets us imagine the world as it could be. Some said that it allows us to test theories about the world and explore new ways of interacting with it. Some said that it gives us the chance to encounter experiences and perspectives that we may not otherwise.
We all had different reasons then, and we probably have different, ever evolving reasons now. That said, in each case, theatre’s ability to reflect and represent a multifaceted world – a world full of different experiences and identities – is essential. To see our world reflected, we need to see the different components that make up our world on stage. To see ourselves reflected, we need to produce work that explores the different experiences and identities that those around us inhabit, since different experiences resonate with different people.
Which brings me to Mz. Fest, a festival that is designed specifically to honor the art and stories of women by giving them the chance to develop their work and everyone the chance to hear it.
Women’s voices are important to theatre because we make theatre stronger. A theatrical landscape that includes our voices is one that can better examine and re-imagine the world. Creating opportunities for women to develop work is creating opportunities for all of us to hear women’s perspectives and develop a more multifaceted and, thus, more honest understanding of each other and our world. Women’s voices are important to theatre because they are important to the world.
At Kaleid, we didn’t set out to create a woman’s ensemble. Though we work with men, they have often lived outside of the state, if not outside of the country, and were, thus, not able to be part of the rehearsal process and core of our ensemble in the same way. That said, getting to spend the last years creating pieces with an ensemble that has women at its core has been one of the best things to have happened to me. With each other, we have explored the possibility (and lack of possibility) of a female narrative in a world that aggressively markets a woman’s identity, the changing world of modern technology and what it shows us about human nature, and what it means to come of age and define home for ourselves.
In each case, we have depended on our unique and shared experiences as women to support each other and the work, and that lens has been essential and inescapable to the pieces we have created. Being part of Mz. Fest has helped me realize how true this is.
We’ve become more intentional lately. We have been thinking about what an inclusive theatre looks like and how we want to fit into such a landscape. We have been having conversations about how we want to promote inclusiveness from within the company and advocate for it within our communities. To me, participating Mz. Fest feels like one of the first concrete steps that we have taken to doing just that.
I have a lot of figuring out to do still. I have a lot more thinking to do about what an inclusive process looks like to me as an individual, to our ensemble, and to the Philadelphia theatre community. I still have a lot of my own biases to ponder and unpack. I have to figure out how to follow this thinking up with decisions that bring me closer to becoming the next version of my artistic self. I am honored to be surrounded by such thoughtful, visionary, intelligent, and inspiring female artists as I take these steps in this process.
*The men that we have worked with have also been essential to our development as artists and as an ensemble, creating multifaceted perspectives from within our female-centric process. Thank you.
Photos by Valerie Giacobbe
About Mz. Fest
Mz. Fest is a festival of new works-in-progress created by women to tell their stories through art hosted by Plays and Players. Mz. Fest 2015 will feature the work of Kaleid Theatre, TS Hawkins, and ReVamp Collective.