Just in time for Mother’s Day, VOICES brings all-female theater piece to Thunder River
IF YOU GO:
What: VOICES: Women’s Voices Project
Where: Thunder River Theatre Company, 67 Promenade, Carbondale
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Last year, VOICES board member Kristin Carlson came to Renee Prince, VOICES executive/artistic director, with a copy of a Dramatists Guild study.
According to Prince, the study said only 22% of American theater produced in the past three years had been written by female playwrights.
Carlson, a writer and teaching artist from Old Snowmass, said she was shocked when she read that number.
“Twenty percent is too few, especially when women buy over 60% of the tickets,” Carlson said. “I was spurred by a feeling of inequality and how varied those number were. It made us think, what would happen if we put a whole bunch of women together?”
To address the lack of parity, Prince brought the idea of an all-female theater piece to Barbara Reese, founder of VOICES.
“I founded VOICES in the first place because I didn’t have a voice and never had one,” Reese said. “So I know how important that is, to be able to say something that is very important to you.”
Together they assembled a diverse and powerful cast of actors, writers, dancers, directors and producers.
“Renee was talking about doing a women’s project, and I said yes,” said Glenwood Springs local and veteran theater performer Trary Maddalone LaMee.
“I jumped on board immediately.”
The team, made up of Trary Maddalone LaMee, Julie Pickrell, Iliana Rentería Bernal, Alya Howe, Cassidy Willey, Gabriela Alvarez Espinoza, Barbara Reese, Kristin Carlson, Renee Prince, Suzie Brady and Shelby Lathrop, first came together in April to begin work on the new Women’s Voices Project.
Tasked with collaborating to create an original theater piece showcasing female theater-makers, contributors were challenged to bring their visions and voices to the stage as authors, directors and ensemble members, with each woman creating a 10- to 15-minute segment of the show.
“None of us realized our ideas would take so much work. This was a crash course in theater advisement, which Renee does with the high school students,” Carlson said.
“We figured adults could do it, but it’s hard.”
The diverse cast and crew includes veterans and a few rookies to the stage.
“We are going to have poetry, storytelling, dance, and it’s been a really empowering creative process for all of us,” first-time performer Iliana Rentería Bernal said.
Bernal, a resident of New Castle, said Prince has been supportive.
“All of us came up with our own ideas, complete freedom, creating whatever we want to create.”
For Reese, this is her first time on stage.
“I’m leaning heavily on everyone. It’s exhilarating,” Reese said.“The whole production crew is amazing, I’m learning so much, and you don’t realize the depth of what goes into it.”
Carbondale resident Alya Howe, a dance and performance artist, has performed in the valley for several years, but never in a project of this magnitude. She said it’s been like heaven working with this group of women.
“Absolutely inspiring. For me it has been collaborative on so many different levels and in a way that it being a totally female-voiced program,” Howe said. “The connections and layers have been deeply moving and inspiring. The support has been uncanny for exploring our voices, and really bringing it forth and yet there is such a wide perspective of female voices here.”
The cast will take the stage at 7:30 tonight at Thunder River Theatre in Carbondale for a three-show run.
“The experience has been incredible, to be working with a group of amazing goddesses, it’s so inspiring and I feel so grateful for the experience of having a safe space to create,” said Cassidy Willey, a resident from Carbondale.
“I’m really excited about what we have to share with people this weekend.”
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.