The women are back, and they've got something to say.
The Manitou Art Theater has teamed with the Six Women Playwriting Festival, Pikes Peak Arts Council and Pikes Peak Library District for its second annual
Women's Theater Festival.
This year's event will feature the premiere of Cups, local actress Joni Sheram's solo performance, and Not a One Woman Show starring nationally touring comedienne Hannah Rockey (daughter of notable Manitou Springs artist Charles Rockey). The festival, expanded from last year, also premieres six 10-minute plays by female playwrights from around the country and two workshops for aspiring actors and writers.
Festival participants have applauded the organizers for the fairly rare chance to be heard in a male-dominated industry.
"Most plays are written by men, and men have more roles than women," says Birgitta De Pree, MAT artistic director and Cups director. "Both voices need a place in the world."
According to Tencha Avila, whose play Did It earned a spot in the performance, "The festival is very important because it creates an artistic home for women and nurtures them."
Avila's play revolves around the family conflicts of a pregnant young woman who must return home to help her ill father. Perhaps not surprisingly, Avila, who grew up in the Las Animas valley, mentions her dad in talking about her history in theater.
"My father had me performing when I was 3, performing poetry for my grandparents," says Avila, who's worked as a diplomat, civil rights activist and teacher. "We lived in the country and he would take me to perform melodramas for the field workers during the summer."
In college, Avila learned techniques for writing, coming to realize that the stories and characters were "already in her head." More recently, Avila has devoted time to theater, exploring family themes and issues important to women.
"I believe women write about more sensitive subjects," she says.
According to De Pree, other 10-minute plays look at grief, marriage, love and the circle of life.
But that said, the festival as a whole won't be devoid of humor, always a disarming vehicle for serious subject matter. Beyond Rockey's stand-up performance, for instance, there's Cups, which looks at the different events of a woman's life through all the bras she has worn.
The locally based Six Women Playwriting Festival received 200 submissions, compared with 87 last year. Of the six selected playwrights, five will be at the festival to see their shows produced for the first time.
The festival will also feature two workshops. Denver playwright Judy GeBauer will explore methods for beginning the playwriting process, and De Pree will examine how to do improvisation and find the stories and characters within.
Six Women Playwriting Festival, Thursdays through Saturdays, April 17-19 and 24-26, 8 p.m.; Sundays, April 20 and 27, 2 p.m., $16.
Cups, Saturdays, April 19 and 26, 2 p.m., and Sundays, April 20 and 27, 7 p.m., $12.
Not a One Woman Show, Fridays and Saturdays, April 18-19 and 25-26, 10:30 p.m., $10.