• (L-R) Lee Meriwether (actor), Florence LaRue (singer/actor/entertainer), Kat Cramer (actor/entertainer/producer/activist), Wendy Hammers (actor/comedian'storyteller), Iona Morris (actor/producer/director) and Adilah Barnes (Co-Founder of LAWTF)If you’re a follower of live theatre in the greater Los Angeles area, you probably know of the celebrated Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF), an annual festival that “empowers women artists to engage and inspire communities through the production of multidisciplinary solo performers and educational outreach”.

      Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the LAWTF’s Second Annual Empowerment Day. Held at the Fremont Center Theatre in South Pasadena, the event brought together highly esteemed teachers and performers and a host of workshop attendees ranging from aspiring to accomplished solo performers from across SoCal.

      One of the most inspiring sessions was “Creating a Solo Show,” in which we were given the opportunity to write freely based on our experiences. One of the teachers of this workshop, distinguished performer, arts educator, and director, Terrie Silverman, told me about how she became involved in the LAWTF:

      Terrie SilvermanOriginally, I was doing my first 12-minute solo performance, which just about killed me. And, I was sitting on the lawn in my tutu on the grass crying because I had gone up on one or two of my lines and then Adilah [Barnes, one of the Co-Founders] came up and said, ‘You should submit that piece to the LA Women’s Theatre Festival.’ And that’s the point when I realized, it really doesn’t matter if there’s a mistake. So that really started me on my journey of becoming a solo performer. And, then I ended up teaching writing performance. And I was honored when Adilah took my workshop. We’ve been in touch for years, and Adilah invited me to be on the board of LAWTF. And every time I go to the Festival, it is always magical. So I love facilitating workshops; I love being involved. I volunteered because there are always such powerful, dynamic, inspiring women. And men are always welcome. And just being around what is created—be it material that is generated from an LAWTF workshop I’m facilitating or attending the festival performances—there is so much synergy, generosity of spirit, heart and soul, that I get inspired. And I love seeing that people know that they have a voice.

      Finally, I spoke to the woman of the hour, Adilah Barnes, veteran actor/writer and Co-Founder of the LAWTF, who told me about the origins of the Festival and Empowerment Day:

      I co-founded the LAWTF because there was a need. There was no solo women’s theatre festival in Los Angeles. That was in 1993, and in 1992, the year before, the Women’s Theatre Festival had come from Philadelphia. They are the oldest solo festival for women in the U.S. They had this vision of satellites throughout the country. Los Angeles was first. Adilah BarnesI was fortunate enough to be invited to be one of their performers. It was at UCLA. But when it was all said and done, even though we got great reviews, and I got great coverage—a picture in The LA Times, they were like, ‘We’re not coming back. It’s too schmoozey in LA.’ And, I was like, ‘What?‘ So, when I had a chance meeting at a conference with Miriam Reed, we found out that we were kindred spirits. We were both at a California Arts Council Touring Roster Conference [in Pasadena]. We discovered that we were doing similar work. We portray historical women. Hers are historical; they are Anglo. Mine are African-American, and by the end of the conference everyone was pulled together for a pow-wow. They asked if there were any announcements. Miriam had the brilliant idea of saying, ‘Adilah, what if I see if there are any other solo artists here and ask them to meet up in the rear of the room to see how collectively we can support each other.’ She made the announcement and women came: all these different genres—actors, dancers, storytellers and more. And two women said, ‘We have a space at the Burbank Little Theatre. We can meet there.’ We met there first, and by the end of the evening the LAWTF was born. I suggested we pick up the torch where the [Philadelphia] Women’s Theatre Festival had left off. And so they wrapped their creative arms around us in the early days—helped teach us the ropes. We have a lot to be indebted to with the Women’s Theatre Festival of Philadelphia.

      What was the idea behind the Empowerment Day and what do you think was accomplished today?

      (L-R) Adilah Barnes (Co-Founder of LAWTF) and instructors Iona Morris, Debra De Liso, and Terrie Silverman.The idea behind Empowerment Day, this being our second year, is to offer a space where women can come together, men too, to support solo artists in their work and take them to the next level, whatever that is. And to give them information that oftentimes we don’t have privy to. So this is a place where you can get information all the way from creating a solo show to crafting a career for working women in theatre—the ark from the beginning to the end, from thought, to pen, to page, to stage.

      Thank you so much for that. There’s a generosity of spirit here, rather than a feeling that you are in a selection process that can so often be in the arts.

      Yes. There is a sharing of information, so that we all are able to grow. And it went very well, the feedback has been incredible, the buzz, the excitement.

      ! The Festival is currently seeking submissions for the 21st Annual Festival, which will be held in Los Angeles from March 26-29, 2015 (application deadline has been extended to September 30, 2014).


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      1. Susan Dobay says:

        I would like to propose a DVD presentation of my VISUAL INTERPRETATION OF MUSIC.
        Please send me your email address. Thank you

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