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Centre Stage

A blog for women-related theatre issues worldwide.



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  • 29 Sep 2022 6:14 AM | Anonymous

    Listen to an excerpt from Lou Beckett's audio play " Bletchley Girls".  Bletchley was the headquarters of the code-breakers unit trying to break the secret codes used by the enemy during WWII. 


    Based on a true story of two young women and their remarkable effort to crack some of the enemy’s toughest codes, Bletchley Girls follows an unlikely friendship between Mavis Lever and Margaret Rock. Pressure increases to decipher intercepts which will impact the course of the war, but it’s not all night shifts and Enigma machines; there are dances, pranks and even a little romance.

    Lou Beckett wrote for the stage until Covid lockdowns inspired the director of her play, Bletchley Girls, to turn it into a radio play and podcast. Since then, the allure of having a legacy for one’s work, as well as the continuing presence of Covid, has meant her subsequent plays have been created for radio/podcast.

    Lou’s other works include Rotten Luck, The Parrot, the Poet, and the Philanderer, and  Forbidden Music.

    Upcoming works:

    We Can’t Be, a new audio play, tells the story of two young women who decide their town needs a statue of a woman.

    Lou's  Online Pages

    Website:  https://www.loubeckett.com/

    Facebook Page  @loubeckett.playwright
    Twitter: @loubeckett4

    Instagram:  loubeckett_      

    Amazon Author page  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Radio-Play-Bletchley-Girls-WW2/dp/B08K5Y7831

    Buy the Audio On Audible

    Spotify

    ICWP Member URL

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  • 14 Sep 2022 3:30 AM | Anonymous

    Carolyn Nur Wistrand, Assistant Professor of English and Drama Dillard University reviews 50 years of solo performing art in Nigerian Theatre 1966-2016 by Greg Mbajiorgu and Amanze Akpuda.

    Since the 1970s, Performance Art has championed site-specific artists conceptualizing singular visions as nontraditional theatre practitioners throughout the globe. The collective international rise of solo performances that utilize open spaces as diverse as street corners to shop windows has brought us revolutionary artists whose messages, offered to the people, are not for sale.

    Challenging and discarding many conventional theatre aesthetics, this minimalist theatre style began as a vehicle for agit-prop, in your face, performances to bring spectators into a raw engagement with the performer. 50 years of solo performing art in Nigerian Theatre 1966-2016, is the first anthology to provide an overview of this practice as it has developed in Nigeria. Edited by Greg Mbajiorgu and Amanze Akpuda, this important addition to the study of Performance Art includes over 30 essays from Nigerian scholars and theatre artists, providing a definitive and up-to-date study of solo performance in Nigeria.

    Organized in nine sections, the anthology begins with three essays from Moses Oludele Idowu, Emeka Nwabueze, and Chike Okoye that lay the historical foundations of Performance Art from a West African Cosmology. Chapter One, Idowu’s Words of Power, and the Power of Words: The Spoken Word as Medium of Vital Force in African Cosmology leads off the edition with an essay on spoken word that captures the mystical root of “The Word” in traditional African, Judeo-Christian, and Muslim religious belief systems, before narrowing in on Ase in Yoruba Cosmology. Nwabueze (Chapter 2) continues to trace the origins of Performance Art in his essay through a narrative on the traditional griot as storyteller and guardian of the people that would also be of interest to African American spoken word artists.

    Throughout American streets and college campuses, countless young “Neo-griots” rhyme and recite their poetry unaware of the African roots in their aesthetic. Okoye (Chapter 3) then takes us into sacred rituals surrounding Igbo masks/masquerade and the evolution in scholarly arguments that identify the Igbo Mask as an example of solo performance. The first three essays are vital in locating the foundation of Performance Art in Nigeria far beyond 20th century Western Avant-Garde theatre.             

    Section B targets “Meta-Theoretical, Comparative, Analytical, and Generic Studies” to pinpoint various approaches to the solo performer, from the American comedian Lily Tomlin to Greg Mbajiorgu. Unfortunately, this section falls short, losing an important opportunity to cross the Atlantic by not mentioning Ana Deavere Smith, whose one-woman performances (portraying over 30 characters in each performance) of Fires in the Mirror (1992), Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (1994), and The Arizona Project (2008) have brought international acclaim to Solo Performance Art.

    Throughout the text references to numerous Western artists-Shakespeare, Jean-Paul Sartre, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Bertolt Brecht, and Virginia Woolf (to name a few) are made; to not include the foremost African American Performance Solo Artist, Ana Deavere Smith leaves Section B with a major omission that would have added dimension and scope.

    The Pioneer Nigerian Soloists: Betty Okotie, Tunji Sotimirin, and Funsho Alabi are captured in nine essays in Section C. Tracing the rise of solo performances and the issues in crafting a solo play, the essays consider how various pioneers in the discipline, Okotie, Sotimirin, Alabi, and Mbarjiogu have responded and claimed this theatrical genre in post-colonial Nigeria to give voice to their own creative force.

    Directing the Monodrama Script includes four essays that target real-world issues a director encounters working with a solo performer to flesh out authentic character/s.  This section provides a fascinating discussion of a director’s challenge in capturing the distinct physical, intellectual, and emotional nuances of each character that is brought to life on the stage through one performer (since a solo performer may take on numerous characters in his/her mono-drama).

    The transitions from and to each character are tackled in the direction and enhanced working with other theatre practitioners to mount a one-wo/man production. Section D is also a testament to the evolution of this art form as technical designers (lights, sound, set, and costumes) are considered to enhance the vision of the director.

    It is midway through the book that we are introduced to the creators of Nigerian Performance Art in Section E: Encountering Dramatists/Actor-Dramatists. This is one of the most important sections of the book, highlighting interviews with Tunji Sotimirin,  Greg Mbajiorgu, Tunde Awosanmi, Inua Ellams (arguably Nigeria’s most renowned performance artist in England), and Benedict Binebai. What makes these interviews so engaging is their universal appeal to theatre artists throughout the globe seeking to take risks and forge fresh vision as they create new works for the stage.

    Additionally, personal reflective essays by Akpos Adesi, “My Heritage as a Dramatist and My Monodrama Creations: Reflections and Benedict Binebai, “My Monodrama: The Vision and Philosophy” allow the reader deeper insight into the process by which individual theatre artists forge into the dramatic landscape of monodrama as technique and craft continue to evolve. These artistic statements offer a wealth of primary material for future theatre practitioners and scholars of theatre performance.

    Greg Mbajiorgu, (the editor whose original vision and dedication to monodrama brought this text into fruition), is prominently highlighted in Section F. Seven theatre scholars offer essays that seek to deconstruct Mbajiorgu’s theatre practices in his definitive piece, The Prime Minister’s Son, a modern sorrow song that takes the audience through the harrowing tale of a homeless and bereft young man.

    An examination of Mbajiorgu’s monodrama and his non-binary performance consider the layered subtexts he crafts to bring to the stage the consequences of war, sexual abuse, and shameful discarding of street children in this singular piece through dialogue, poetics, and music. Short excerpts from the play The Prime Minister’s Son are incorporated into the essays, although including the entire script in this section would provide added weight to the criticism.

    Incorporating essays on one singular play (moving dangerously close to a “vanity press” chapter by the editor) from seven scholars demands the reader have the opportunity to access the script under scrutiny. An additional section with a sampling of the major Dramatists works (Okotie, Sotimirin, Alabi, Mbajiorgu, Awosanmi, Ellams, and Binebai) would carry this volume to a wider audience.        

    Two essays on Inua Ellams’ work bringing magical realism to the stage through the voice of the outsider are highlighted in Section G, while Benedict Binebai, (who was interviewed and provided a personal essay in Section E) is considered in three distinct essays in Section H beginning with a discussion of Karina’s Cross and feminist aesthetics in Nigerian monodrama.  

    Chidi O. Nwankwo’s Chapter 38, Idiomaticity of Feminist Aesthetics in Binebai’s Karina’s Cross locates this piece as the first monodrama in Nigeria to incorporate feminine consciousness and empowerment.  Section I concludes this epic study with two essays by Kenneth Efakponana  and Emeka Aniago placing feminist theory at the forefront of their examinations of  Akpos Adesi’s “Whose Daughter Am I?” a one woman play originally staged by The Department of Theatre Arts at Niger Delta University in 2015.

    Eni considers how identity is presented in Adesi’s work (who defines the identity of the female gender-controls the identity of the female gender) as a major theme at the core of this one woman monodrama. Aniago goes on to consider the layers of victimhood in Adesi’s main character, Tarilayefa, who believes her descent into prostitution is the result of misery, poverty, and inequalities-blaming society as her oppressor.   

    The book concludes with short bios of all 36 scholars and theatre practitioners who contributed essays and conducted interviews. At 614 pages, this project is a monumental undertaking that began in 2015. Documenting in one volume the first practitioners in post-colonial Nigeria to create solo performance as a viable stage practice, makes this work, edited by Mbajiorgu and Akpuda, the foundation of all future studies in solo performing art in Nigeria.

    Since none of the monodramas were included in this book, a second volume that provides the major works in one anthology is recommended. This edition should not be confined to Nigeria. 50 Years of Solo Performing Art in Nigerian Theatre 1966-2016 widens the discussion of this innovative art practice to Solo Performance Artists, scholars, and students of African Drama throughout the globe.

    Reviewer: Carolyn Nur Wistrand, Assistant Professor of English and Drama Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

    Mbajiorgu, Greg and Akpuda, Amanze. 50 years of solo performing art in Nigerian Theatre 1966-2016. Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria: Kraft Books Limited, 2018. ISBN: 978-978-918-514-6.

  • 17 Jul 2022 3:53 PM | Anonymous

    Jenni Munday interviews Kari Ann Owen and Kari reads from two of her works.

    Kari Ann Owen is a Missoula, MT playwright. She discusses her comedy routine about Dr. Fauci’s loving lost-lost brother in the Mafia, and her play, Fighting It!, about courageous men and women during the New York Covid Pandemic lockdown. Her plays are published and produced in the USA.

    Examples of past works:
    “Bernie Madoff in Hell”, San Francisco Fringe Festival
    “Modern Life”, a series of one act plays about a disabled computer scientist and his service dog, dot.com, and their conquest of prejudice, produced and awarded playwrighting and directors’ prize at Dominical University, San Rafael, CA.

    Websites
    https://wildhorse.sparkdisk.com/

    THEATRE ENGAGE

    https://kariannowenandtheatreengage.vpweb.com/

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  • 11 Jun 2022 11:47 AM | Anonymous

    “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  ... Plato

    Digitalization of theater has evolved with advancing technology and the need to bring theater to a wider audience. The original intent to record the event for posterity, as with the video recorded plays of Sacha Guitry, in the 1930s, when talking films were a new art form.

    Before Covid, some theater companies began using digitalization to create an interactive experience with a live audience. Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed theater company gave patrons hand-held devices to “vote” during a show about democracy (When theatre goes digital | The Space) Some theaters posted Twitter comments projected on a backdrop during performances to involve the audience in the show in real time.

    As Covid closed theaters, presenting theater on Zoom became a necessity to reach any audience at all. For playwrights, Zoom readings, and even semi-staged shows from separate locations, became the primary vehicle to stay active and connect with a remote audience. It was not ideal, but it was the best solution t keep theater going during the crisis, for theater gets its energy from the interacting between actor and audience and from the shared experience between audience members. A hybrid of remote performance with a live audience is in cinema broadcasts of actors performing as a group to an empty house provided part of the solution addressing half of the equation—the audience has a shared experience with each other, but not with the performers who are spurred on by audience engagement.

    During the pandemic, viewing theater on the screen of a device from any comfortable location served the valuable purpose of creating a vehicle for theater makers to maintain an audience. Now, we have an opportunity to take the tricks we have learned from producing works for online viewing to incorporate digitalization in promoting and staging theater for live and remote audiences.

    Amy Drake 

  • 10 Jun 2022 7:04 PM | Anonymous

    Gender-based violence against women and girls globally has become critical in the last decade. Many women experiencing violence in communities around the world are beginning to recognize what situations they are in and demand safety and better living conditions.

    Women still struggle to combat cultural practices, religious beliefs and social norms that promote gender-based violence against women such as domestic/intimate partner violence, sexual violence, harmful traditional practices and child marriage.

    Following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, women around the world experienced a spike in gender-based violence. Following the lock-down rules in many countries in global north and global south, many women were forced to live at home, restricted to staying with abusive spouses, partners and family members.

    In countries across Africa, women majorly suffered domestic and sexual violence. Many other women suffered economic violence, psychological abuse and an increase in harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. Seeking justice for women in this situation was almost impossible because of the restrictions on work and movement. Alternative solutions and interventions were being sought out to support women facing violence.



    Photo -- Play on domestic violence and storytelling for women in Nigeria (2021)

    During this time, women were only able to get support through theatre, plays of playwrights and play-reading sessions within local communities. In Nigeria for instance, these plays portrayed women going through violence, condemned cultural practices and religious beliefs inconsistent with good conscience and provided options for interventions to women experiencing violence in local communities. The use of plays created a spotlight on the already existing pandemic of gender-based violence against women. Non-governmental organizations, Civil society organizations and Community-based organizations engaged playwrights to produce gender-based violence prevention related content for women in local communities. Due to restrictions on movement, taking these plays to local communities became a powerful tool for women experiencing violence to find their voices and decide to seek justice for themselves. During these plays and play-readings, members of the media, law enforcement agencies, lawyers, doctors and social workers were invited to provide immediate response to women facing violence. Women have been empowered by these plays to find their place in society and speak against stakeholders, government agencies, traditional and religious leaders in their communities who promote violence.



    Photo --Play-reading and storytelling of domestic violence in Nigeria (May, 2021)

    The use of theatre, plays and play-readings has evolved to empowering local communities as a method of community engagement with community members, stakeholders and leaders to educate them on prevention and response techniques to gender-based violence for women and girls of all ages. The heat of the COVID-19 pandemic is over and as communities globally continue to find normalcy in their daily activities, theatre, plays and play-reading have found a permanent place in providing support for women and girls facing gender-based violence.

    Wuraoluwa Soibi Ayodele

  • 10 Jun 2022 6:33 PM | Anonymous

    During COVID, Resonance Works in Pittsburgh – a company known for making opera and choral work accessible to the general public – began a project called the Decameron Opera Coalition (DOC). Resonance’s Artistic Director, Maria Sensi Sellner, was the point person for opera companies whose values included art-for-all initiatives and wanted to continue to reach wider audiences during the pandemic. I was asked by Sellner to write the libretto for one of their short operas by Composer Justine F. Chen. What I learned through that process changed my mind about how we make and present opera.

    Chin and I created a 13-minute opera titled LETTER TO OUR CHILDREN which explore the unsung heroes in our lives, and it streamed on the DOC site from September 2021-May 2022.

    Instead of staging the piece like a traditional opera on a stage with singers in formal attire, we shot a music video in the style of popular videos you’d see on VH1, MTV, or YouTube. The singer was poised on a bridge overlooking the city of Pittsburgh, as she sang, and we cut between her and images of everyday heroes in action. Heroes that we spotlight include teachers, stay-at-home caregivers, and first responders.

    This fresh combination of operatic sound and everyday images shot in a pop music video-style attracted thousands of viewers. The DOC commissioned 13 short operas during the height of the pandemic with similar results. The Company received feedback that viewers who were not comfortable going to the opera house, did enjoy watching the music videos of the operas. They liked and connected with English language opera that told stories they could related to, and would be willing to watch more of them. This is a tremendous finding, especially given that many in opera believe that it is dying due to lack of interest from today’s audiences. Perhaps, it is not lack of interest, but a failure to evolve in form and style with other contemporary forms, that is causing the drop in opera’s audience numbers.

    Learn more about the DOC and other digital theatre activity “outside the proscenium” with me at this year’s digital LMDA Conference which is focused on these new types of art-making: https://lmda.org/2022-conference I will be hosting a Conversation with Maria Sensi Sellner online in which will delve into how they created the project, what they learned, and how they will be moving forward into a digital future.

    Jacqueline Goldfinger

    www.jacquelinegoldfinger.com

  • 06 Feb 2022 7:11 AM | Anonymous
    Sharon Wallace is a past President of ICWP, The International Centre for Women Playwrights. She reads from her play 1967: A Life of its Own.

    " I was inspired to write the play from a short story based on a personal reflection from my childhood memory of the 1967 Riot in Detroit, Michigan. 


    I decided to build characters within the riot setting and develop a story within the conflict of the riot.

    My first experience with playwriting began as an adolescent adapting a story to a play.

    Many years later, studying acting at the National Black Theatre in Harlem, New York, I got into playwriting. I collaborated with my fellow actors to write a play titled "Ouch Outrageous Love."

    However, years later, I committed to the genre of playwriting when I completed my first play, 1967: A Life of its Own, as the creative component of a master's degree. "

    Sharon's other works

    Poetry
    Inheritance, In Search of a Woman, PushCart Evening, Without Skin, 2646 West Grand, My Passions and the Practical Self, Locations Unknown, White Socks

    Upcoming works
    Children's Books
    Marching to See a King, A Mustard Seed of Faith

    Plays
    Long Way Home, Twilight Hours, Out of the Lions Paw

    Contact
    Twitter  @Sharruth4
    Instagram sharonwallace9051
    ICWP Member Directory

  • 04 Jan 2022 12:10 PM | Anonymous
    Joanna Pickering tells the wonderful and uplifting pandemic story about how she moved from the USA to Paris, France and ended up with a showcase of her plays being produced in Paris in December 2021. 
  • 06 Dec 2021 5:53 PM | Anonymous

    After being displaced from my home in NYC in the pandemic, when theatre went dark, I was miraculously awarded a one-year writing residency in Los Angeles. In July, when the residency ended, I decided to travel to Europe to see my family after almost two years of separation.

    I knew, as a Brit and European living in the USA, with the borders still closed, I would be locking myself out of my work and life in the US, as an immigrant.

    UPDATE - Joanna talks about how all this came about in the Centre stage Podcast 

    However, spending time with family was my priority. It was therefore, with incredible delight, that I was taken under the wing of leading literary agent Wendy Goldman Rohm, who had awarded one of my one act plays a scholarship in Paris, in 2019. Wendy, kindly, invited me to her summer retreat workshops in Paris and Biarritz, offering to be my agent on my screenplay, and to work on a novel. In this way,

    I met so many literary artistic souls, who encouraged me to read my plays in salons at Wendy’s house. Wendy suggested I bring them to stage in Paris. This is how this passion pandemic project began. I started to put the word out, and soon, fabulously, experienced thespians and directors, from the Paris literary theater community were reading my work.

    They were praising the writing and they wanted to be involved, despite the logistics and unusual circumstances. In the same way, my finance arrived. Then we had a church. Then I was upgraded to theater space in the heart of Paris. Then I had my amazing actors. It just kept growing from there... My dream to write and perform in Paris was coming true...

    I still didn't believe it was possible (and working as a producer myself). I made a call to The League of Professional Theatre women and the ICWP and they started networking across the pond. Then, all the way over in NY (Barrow Group FAB women) producer Christine Cirker, knowing the plays from the USA showcase, jumped in and said, it absolutely wasn’t impossible (it was).

    I was also, fortunate to have my co-producer Koël Purie Rinchet and Hollywood talent Eugenia Kumina flying in from LA (to read a small role just to be part of my writing). They all made connections (often over the pond) right into the Paris theatre community -- the exact people I needed to know, vouching on my behalf that this had to happen.

    Then, the miracle that is super director Chris Mack arrived. Chris is connected and revered, by the entire Paris English Theatre community. I tend to go for all female directors for my themes, but he sent me his scripts (all written for strong women) and he understood my work and vision, so exactly, and in ways I was yet to experience, especially on 'Cat And Mouse," which is the bravest piece I have written.

    I don't want to write in black and white areas. I want to explore areas that other's are afraid to explore. I think that is our duty as writers, but it's not easy when tacking difficult subject matter (sexual allegations and assault), not to mention current times. The direction of that piece is as crucial as the writing. Every person in Paris replied on my news to have him direct (not only my work, but me, and as a film actress predominately), “You’re in the best of hands.” And, I am. It's a wonderful feeling for my work, it’s themes, and me as a writer.

    Then, I had the magnificent, director Pulchérie Gadmer, who got my work instantly, as a dark British playwright. She has worked on Sarah Kane’s work and came with all these 100% unique ideas, (which I do not want to spoil -- so come and see the show). And then, Alessia Siniscalchi joined -- who worked with all my peers in NY and The Brave New Theatre Company/New School. Alessia is an absolute force to be reckoned with as a director. We are all -- cast and producers -- a little in awe of her directing style.

    It was such a welcoming experience in Paris from US. Even the Parisian thespians and directors who read the work, or auditioned, and sadly, could not make the final line up, mainly due to schedule (or mom's who were sick or in hospital -- hope she's doing okay if you're reading) praised the work and I was flooded with more encouragement. They instantly passed it on to another, forming this magnificent Parisian theatre chain to get my work to stage for me. It was awesome. I am so grateful. It is now a project that grew from the problems of the pandemic into something much bigger than us and carried us on.

    It is a very humbling time for me and lots of crazy hard work. And that's not to say I haven’t made mistakes along the way as a producer, but I love that feeling too, as it means you’re learning new skills. All my team know, at the end of the day it’s about the writing, the plays. I hold the utmost respect for those who bring my words to life. I’ve met so many wonderful people through my writing work all over the world. That’s a gift to me. This is the dream. And anyone who knows me, I never stop.

    We are now in full rehearsals and the work is finally taking a wonderful shape. The impossible just became possible.  

    I can't wait to share it with everyone.

    Link to Ticket Office , Dates and times [ https://www.womenplaywrights.org/marquee/12158525

    Featured in Broadway World 


  • 12 Sep 2021 7:05 PM | Anonymous

    Annie Lanzillotto reads her story  Twelve Rabbis Went to a Party, and talks with Jenni Munday about her story writing and performing, and how she is helping herself and others cope with the COVID pandemic.

    Annie Rachele Lanzillotto is a New York poet, performance artist, actor, director, playwright, songwriter, who has promoted audience participation in hundreds of performances everywhere from street corner mailboxes, to Bronx butcher shops, to the Guggenheim Museum. She is the Artistic Director of StreetCry. Find out more about her on her website.

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