Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival to honor 8

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — The 31st annual Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival will take place March 28-31. This year’s theme is “Telling Our Truths.”

“Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival is delighted that we are celebrating our 31st annual festival,” said Adilah Barnes, founder of the organization. “What is particularly exciting this year is that we have an unusually large number of performers from around the country and globally.”

The longest-running annual solo festival for women in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival will kick off this year’s celebration with its annual champagne gala at 6:30 p.m. March 28 at the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, before moving next door to the Theatre 68 Arts Complex-The Rosalie that evening for its annual awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Other programs will continue over the weekend also at Theatre 68 Arts Complex-The Rosalie, 5112 Lankershim Blvd.

The evening will be hosted by Hattie Winston (“Becker”) and Margaret Avery (the original “The Color Purple”). 

“I’ve been hosting this festival for 20 years,” Winston said. “Each year I make sure I put the date on my calendar so I can support the festival. What Adilah (Barnes) has created over the years is fantastic.”

Winston said the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival is a creative outlet for women in the arts.

“The Los Angeles Women’s Theater Festival truly supports women and the arts,” she said. “Having an organization like this means that women can highlight their talent in ways that they don’t normally do. Sometimes we are not allowed in this industry to show our talent as solo artists. This provides an opportunity for women to create their possibilities.”

The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival empowers women artists to engage and inspire communities through the production of multidisciplinary solo performers.

“The purpose of the festival is to highlight the talents of women,” said Winston, who is slated to do a reading of “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years,” on April 13, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. “We should have the festival all month. It’s important. Women have to step forth and step into their empowerment. That’s what the festival gives to women each year.”

This year, the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, founded by Barnes and Miriam Reed, will honor eight women for their exceptional career and life achievements.

The festive evening, directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson, is named “In Honor Of.” The awardees include Shirley Jo Finney (deceased), who will receive the Infinity Award, presented to an artist who has died, leaving a legacy that will always be remembered.

Maria G. Martinez and caryn desai will receive the Eternity Award, presented to an artist or individual whose lifetime achievements have made a lasting contribution to the world of theatre.

Wendy Raquel Robinson and Naomi Grossman will receive the Maverick Award, presented to an artist or individual whose work has set a high standard of individuality and self-styled creativity.

Lisa Sanaye Dring and Carolyn Ratteray will receive the Integrity Award, presented to an artist or individual who has brought credibility and dignity to her work.

Jessica Lynn Johnson will receive the Rainbow Award, bestowed on an artist or individual for her diverse contributions to fostering non-traditional and multicultural theatre works.

The celebration includes live performances by Karen A. Clark in “The Women.”Through music and spoken word, Clark honors women and also reflects on the women in her family, particularly her mother.

Juli Kim will perform “Salpuri Adagio,” a slow-tempo Korean cleansing dance that wishes great peace.

Singer DeBorah Sharpe-Taylor and actor Clarinda Ross will host the March 29 program, which will feature: 

• Tashara Gavin-Moorehead in “Summertime, Sunflowers,” a dance poem that explores the history of African Americans as related to the sunflower.

• Janice Creneti in “My Year of Saying No,” which follows Creneti on her COVID-19 journey of rejecting patriarchy, perfection and guilt to find her way back to herself.

• Vanessa Cruz in “Metal, Plastic, Skin,” which explores how vulnerability fatigue impacts Cruz’s experiences as a disabled woman and how medical equipment has been a form of freedom, survival and assimilation in this inaccessible world.

• And Paige Wilhide in “Break-Up Addict,” a piece that weaves together a hilarious and heartfelt narrative of one woman’s journey to overcome sex and love addiction through her spiritual healing of the heart. 

Singer Florence LaRue of the Fifth Fimension and Rosie Lee Hooks of Sweet Honey in the Rock host the 3 p.m. March 30 program that includes:

• Sona Lewis in “Goddess Dance” and “Tarana,” two traditional Kathak Indian dances that pay homage to 14th-century compositions.

• Jiyoung Choi in “Macbeth’s Lady Shaman,” a Korean monodrama movement piece focusing on female voices in Shakespeare’s works, symbolically giving these characters a spiritual voice of power.

• And Jovelyn Richards in “She Cry Dem Blues,” a piece about a night of solitude, secrets, sensuality and confessions at Tootsie’s, a 1930s Detroit jazz club, where the owner’s unspoken love finally reveals his true feelings.

The 8 p.m. March 30 program, hosted by actor-director Fay Hauser-Price and actor-producer Jahna Cole Houston, features: 

• Clarinda Ross in “Spit Like a Big Girl,” a piece about a southern “daddy’s girl” growing up and learning to fiercely advocate for her differently-abled daughter.

• Valoneecia Tolbert in “Tales of a Blerd Ballerina,” a choreopoem that delves through dance and music into a cultural pride and yearning in a world that often limits Black identity.

• And Kathryn Taylor Smith in “A Mile in My Shoes,” a piece aboutEsther, an omniscient “shoe whisperer,” who walks us through a day of her life on Skid Row. 

The 3 p.m. March 31 program features: 

• Shelley Cooper in “Jenny Lind Presents P.T. Barnum,” that reveals a side of P.T. Barnum no one else might know.

• Alina Cenal in “Cuba: My Return,” a piece about a woman returning to her Cuba, after being gone for 54 years.

• Ada Cheng in “The Memories We Keep,” a piece about a woman reflecting on the meaning of memories in her complex relationship with her mother.

• And Dee Freeman in “Poison Gun,” a play in which a 6-year-old remembers being placed in the impossible position of telling what she knew about her grandfather’s secret to authorities in the Deep South.

The festival ends at 7 p.m. March 31 with: 

• Lynn McNutt in “BLUE: A Rhapsody in Blubber,” a piece about a baby blue whale, an old man and a mother intertwined by whale song dive deep into these separate, yet united, stories.

• Jana Krumholtz in “6 Million Jews Didn’t Die for You,” in which a dancer finds herself amidst the burden and ancestral trauma of the Holocaust.

• And Liza Dealey-Thomason in “Supernova,” a fanciful musical that successfully explores the need to be the hero who tries to take care of everyone else and ultimately arrives at the celebration of discovering the joy of taking care of oneself.

This year’s official sponsors and government grantors include the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, California Arts Council, California Wellness Foundation, city of Culver City, Los Angeles City Department of Cultural Affairs, City National Bank, Blackbaud Giving Fund, 4imprint, KPFK 90.7 FM, and Adilah Barnes Productions.

Tickets for the March 28 gala are $60 each or $100 a pair (including reception). Tickets to each of the weekend’s other five shows are $30. A VIP all-access pass for the entire weekend is $150. Group sales (10 or more) for the gala are $45. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.lawtf.org. For more information, send an email to info@lawtf.org or call 818-760-0408.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.