Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival to mark 30 years

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

HOLLYWOOD — When the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival begins its annual event March 23, with the theme, “Celebration! Empowering Voices of Solo Female Performers for 30 Years,” actor Ted Lange, will once again take the reigns as co-host.

Best known for his role as Isaac Washington, the bartender on the classic comedy, “The Love Boat,” Lange has been co-hosting the theatrical event alongside actress Hattie Winston (“Becker”) for what he said is more than a decade.

Considered the longest-running annual solo festival for women in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival marks 30 years of producing close to 700 multicultural and multidisciplinary solo performers from around the globe.

This year the four-day festival, founded by Executive Producers Adilah Barnes and Miriam Reed and directed by Fay Hauser-Price, will return with live performances.

It all takes place at Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theatre, 4800 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, starting with a champagne gala and awards ceremony with the theme “Brava!”at 6:30 p.m. March 23.

“The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival is amazing,” said Lange during a recent interview. “It’s a wonderful platform for women artists. If I’m available, I am hosting this event. 

“One of the reasons I like going to the event is I’m always surprised and delighted. It’s live, baby. You are sitting in the room with the talent. As a Black man, my path isn’t as hard as it is for women. If I can give something back to women, I will do that.”

The multi-cultural festival of solo artists will honor women of exceptional achievement and contribution to the world of theatre.

This year’s awardees include the late Angela Lansbury and Denise Dowse, who will posthumously receive the Infinity Award, Evelyn Rudie (playwright/director/actor), the Eternity Award; Veralyn Jones (producer/actor), the Integrity Award; Bonnie He (actor/improviser), the Maverick Award; and Mary Apick (playwright/filmmaker), the Maverick Award; and Licia Perea (co-founder of BlakTinx – dance festival/choreographer), the Rainbow Award.

Live performances will include Morgana Shaw (“All About Bette”), vocalist Christina Linhardt, and dancer Ashley Gayle (“Study On A Butterfly”), choreographed by Raissa Simpson.

The theme “Of Self,” for the March 24 session includes the works of Joyful Raven (“Breed or Bust”), Lynne Jassem (“Being Richard Greene”), and Monique DuBose (“Mulatto Math: Summing Up The Race Equation in America”).

With the theme “Culturally Speaking,” the 3 p.m. program, March 25, includes performances by Meg Lin (“What Am I, Chopped Suey?”), Alina Cenal (“Cuba: My Return”), Vannia Ibarguen (“Andean Triptych”), and Bellina Logan (“Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child”).

With the theme, “It’s All Relative,” the 8 p.m. program March 25, includes Misha Gonz-Cirkl (“Hummingbird”), Barbara Brownell (“Finding My Light, Finding Me”), and Dee Freeman (“Poison Gun”).

The 3 p.m. program March 26, with the theme “We, The People,” includes performances from Helen Stolzfus (“Dispatches From the Great Burning”), Kirsten Laurel Caplan (“Is It History or Is It His-Story?”), Kathryn Taylor Smith (“A Mile in My Shoes”), and Rosie Lee Hooks (“A Griot Speaks”).

The 7 p.m. March 26 program with the theme, “Songbirds, and Dancing Feet,” includes performances by Juli Kim (“Moonflower and Autumn”), Alaina Pamela (“All in My Head and Give In To Me”), Vyshnavi Aysola (“A River Poem”), Karen A. Clark (“The Women”) and Lynne Jassem (“Rhythm Anonymous”).

“Over the years, I’ve seen extraordinary performances,” said Lange, who has written 26 plays. “Some of these women are extraordinary. You have to bow to their talent. It is well worth the time if you can come down and see some of the female talents out there. They have a place to ply their wares because of Adilah [Barnes].”

Lange, who recently starred in “Satchmo at the Waldorf” at the San Jose Stage Company, said he continues to co-host each year because of what the show represents.

“When you go to the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, you know you are going to see top-rated performances,” said Lange, who continues to perform, write, direct and produce plays across the country. “Women get a raw deal. They get short shrift by the industry. 

“I love actresses and I love plays with female leads. The actress Judy Ann Elder asked me once to write something for women over 40, so I did. I wrote the play, “Four Queens, No Trump.” Now I make sure to write parts for women.”

Lange, 75, who hails from Oakland, said he “applauds” the work of Barnes and Reed.

“Who else do you know who is doing something like this for women?” he asked. “Adilah is an artist that I respect. We grew up during a time when they said, ‘bring the person beside you along with you.’ She’s passing it on. I believe in that and she believes in that. 

“We have to do that for each other. We have to be there. It’s that hustle. Sometimes you’re tired and you need someone to reassure you that you are traveling the right path. We are good for each other in that way. We are peers. We are not selfish. We don’t keep the info to ourselves. I love how Adilah acknowledges people you may not necessarily know.

Lange said he and several Black actors also continue to uplift and support each other.

“Hal Williams (“227”), Garrett Morris (“Saturday Night Live”), and myself, we bounce stuff off of each other,” Lange said. “I mentor people now. In 1974, Glynn Turman, Art Evans, and I made a pact to look out for each other. People don’t do that anymore. 

“If I hear of something I think is good for them, I will call and tell them. That’s what happens with Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival. You make connections that you can count on. That’s why I stay involved with the organization. Why would I not want to promote that?”

Lange, who has been in show business since 1967, said the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival should be on every woman’s list of things to do if they are interested in showcasing their wares.

“The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival is a hustle,” said the happily married Lange. “The more you hustle, the more chance you have of achieving your goals. That’s the beauty of LAWTF.”

Tickets to the March 23 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 each. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.lawtf.org. 

For more information, questions, or ticket prices, visit lawtfspotlight@yahoo.com 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.

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