It started with The Vagina Monologues.
In 2012, Empty Closet Productions and BLAST (Bi, Lesbian and Straight Together) Women of West Palm Beach staged sold-out performances of the show at The Manor as well as at the Compass Gay & Lesbian Community Center. South Florida audiences spoke up—they wanted more productions featuring women’s stories. So Empty Closet Women’s Theater (ECWT) was formed in July 2013, and began the journey towards their debut as a community theater.On Saturday, September 28, 2013, at 7 p.m. at the Compass Gay & Lesbian Community Center, ECWT presents its first performance, Herstories: Voices of Change.Women artists from the local community will share spoken word, poetry and music. Scheduled performers include Vicki Klein, Martina Mehta, Judy Ireland, Dr. Mary Galvin, Gigi Motley, and Penina Polokoff. The evening also features Carolyn Gage’s award-winning one-act play Harriet Tubman Visits a Therapist starring Melinda Jackson and Gwenda Artiaga.
In an email interview with SFGN, Jenny McCready, co-founder and Artistic Director of ECWT, and Mildred Smith, co-founder and Executive Director of ECWT, discussed how they are preparing for the debut of Herstories, why it’s important to showcase women’s creativity, and how the community can get involved with ECWT.
What has it been like to prepare for Herstories?
Jenny McCready: From the conception to the audition notice to the actual production of this company, I have been impressed with the talent we found, the willingness of the women to participate, the trust they have given us, and the support we have received. From the response we have gotten in our advance ticket sales, I see confirmation that this is a need we are filling in our community.
Mildred Smith: There have been many wonderful surprises from the level of talent that has come forth that we never knew existed to the support from community members who do not want to be on stage, but do want to support others who are. Whenever we have asked for help, it’s been there from space to showcase the talent to the after party. The women in our community are eager to have women centered entertainment.
What would you say to women who want to audition for other shows?
JM: We are looking for women who have pieces of work they want to see produced, women who have talent to share, in any form, and women who want to be on stage, novice, or experienced. Contact us at our website for submissions, and keep an eye out for audition notices and workshops.
MS: We will always be open to new, as well as seasoned performers to audition. We don’t just want to cast women who have already honed their skills. Additionally, we are looking to produce new original pieces of work, such as plays and storytelling. We want to help women both on stage and off to explore, develop, and express their creativity.
Why is it important to have events like this for women?
JM: There are many women looking for a place to express their voice and explore expressing their voice. Any time a platform is provided where women can do that, change takes place. We want to provide a place for that, and already we have women stretching themselves in this production. That is a good thing.
MS: When women come together to share their talents, telling their own stories and the stories of others who have created change, more change happens. Legacies are passed on and our community is made stronger. What we do here is important to building a stronger healthier community for everyone.
Why did you select to perform Carolyn Gage’s Harriet Tubman Visits a Therapist?
JM: When I read the play, and saw how historically accurate the role of Harriet was, and the juxtaposition of a therapist “helping” her accept her slavery, I knew I wanted to see it onstage. It really speaks to many societal experiences that women have faced.
MS: This play tells the story of how the suffering of one woman who refused to remain enslaved not only changed her own life but the life of others. It is just one poignant example of how one person can make a difference in herstory changing the lives of generations for all people.
Is the theater committed to telling the stories of transgender women?
MS: The Theater is committed to all women in the arts, show casing their talents, and telling their stories.
How often will performances take place?
MS: We are planning three to four projects a year. We plan to produce Herstories every year, making it our signature show case. Not only do we want to produce known work we are looking for original pieces of work created by women that have not yet been produced.
Empty Closet Women’s TheaterHerstories: Voices of ChangeSaturday, September 28, 2013
Compass Gay and Lesbian Community Center of the Palm Beaches
201 N Dixie Highway, Lake Worth, FL
Advanced tickets available at website