Inspiring, empowering, fulfilling! These words sum up the anticipated, 2017 Women in Theatre Conference held Saturday, June 3, 2017 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm in Columbia, MD. Held at the beautiful Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center, an absolute sanctuary o a proscenium, black box, and dance theatres designed for quality theatrical presentation, women from all over the DC/Baltimore region convened a meeting of the minds and hearts. Participants ran the gamut of professional, community, and university theatre: generalists, actresses, teachers, professors, writers, dramaturgs, directors, production managers, designers, makeup artists, acting/opera coaches, student artists…you name it, they were there!
With “Balance and Connection,” as this year’s theme, the conference opened with keynote speaker, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, Professor of Theatre at American University and noted playwright and director. After an icebreaker of free movement throughout the space and brief introductory exercises amongst the women, Jennings flowed into her address. This was no stoic, podium-bound, lecture-style address, folks. With original poetic lyricism, Jennings spoke on the balance of imbalance like spoken word on open mic night (Finger snaps here, please.). She claims that as women in theatre, “There is always a pull between your life, your work, your art.” Thus, our work is “always in the making, always incomplete, always unbalanced.” According to Jennings, this imbalance is our balance.
…theatre artists, and particularly women artists, need the connections, support, and encouragement in the craft that this conference provides.
The conference continued with breakout sessions of varying topics including “Juggling Personal and Professional Roles” from which participants found therapeutic resolution amongst each other in managing family with art, and “Building Connections” which helped foster confidence in networking with other professionals. The “Balance and the Body” workshop was a physical and introspective approach to inner balance, using techniques by Augusto Boal, known widely for his interactive and applied theatre methods. “Acting through the Ages: Managing a Career Across a Lifetime” featured a panel of four accomplished theatre and media artists from the DC area, including renowned actress Naomi Jacobson, writer Kelly Renee Armstrong, Rep Stage’s Founding Artistic Director Valerie Nash, and Blackstage DC founder Natalie Graves Tucker, all who forged and shaped their paths by simply committing to their artistic callings amidst the negative perceptions surrounding a life in theatre. Inspiring, period.
The Women in Theatre Conference is a much-needed event that should continue to happen again and again. Just as in other professions, theatre artists, and particularly women artists, need the connections, support, and encouragement in the craft that this conference provides. It is a place where women artists can speak the common language of our art unapologetically and refuel creatively, so that we can head out and create more work to teach, heal, and shape our world. Here’s hoping for another successful conference next year and the years to come!
The Women in Theatre Conference is a regional conference sponsored by Rep Stage, The Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center, and 4 Wall Entertainment and occurs annually in Columbia, MD. For more information on this year’s theme, sessions, and speaker, click here.