Women’s theater group to host empowerment weekend

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By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — The year 2023 is a milestone year for the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival.

Earlier this year, the organization celebrated its 30th anniversary and now it’s gearing up for its 10th annual Empowerment Weekend Sept. 22-24.

The event includes workshops and panels tailored to empower and enhance the careers of solo performers in particular, and an informative event to benefit all performers.

It all takes place at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., in North Hollywood.

“This year we kind of mixed up the workshops and panels,” said Adilah Barnes, the co-founder of the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival. “We gave new names to things we’re offering. At the core, they still cover some of the same areas. Some we gave a facelift. Those who have attended before can feel like, uh, they are switching it up a bit.”

The Empowerment Weekend, which includes a raffle drawing, kicks off Sept. 22, with a conversation with Adilah Barnes on Zoom from 7 to 9 p.m.

“I’m actually being interviewed by Sky Palkowitz,” Barnes said. “I will talk about myself and being a solo artist and co-founding the festival.”

Barnes began her career in Oroville, a city in Northern California.

“I started in a small town,” she said. “The first play I was in, I played a queen in ‘The Ugly Duckling.’ I started my career at 16 without limits and boundaries. 

“At the time, I believed I could do whatever I wanted. I wish the same for the artists attending the upcoming Empowerment Weekend.”

On Sept. 23, the panels begin with “Stories Imagined – From Thought To Pen,” “Mounting A Show With Your Dream Team,” “On The Road With A Suitcase and A Story,” and “Diversity and Inclusion: Theatre For All.”

“‘Stories Imagined – From Thought to Pen’ is designed for those who have a show that has been dancing around in their heads and now they feel it’s time to tell their story,” Barnes said. “The workshops and panels are designed to help solo artists create a successful show and how to take it from one place to another.”

Barnes said “Diversity and Inclusion: Theatre For All” is important because the festival wants to make sure it represents “the community at large.”

“For us, that means including those who represent different ethnicities, cultures, persuasions, different abilities, and more,” Barnes said. “That has made us inclusive. Diversity and inclusion also include different disciplines, actors, dancers, poets, performing artists, and aerialists. I’m proud to say LAWTF has demonstrated our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Panels on Sept. 24 include “Creative Fundraising – A Guide To Successful Grant Writing,” “Artists as Activists,” “Wholistic Self-Care: Taking Care of You” and “Empowered Women: Taking The Reins of Your Career.”

“This is the first time we will have a panel on creative fundraising,” Barnes said. “This one is new. I will conduct it with Jessica Vad. Fundraising is useful to many solo artists who don’t know how to get funding.”

The Creative Fundraising workshop will focus on how to research and approach grant writing to secure funding from government grantors, corporate sponsors and foundations. Also covered will be how to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit entity, ways to receive individual funding through fiscal receivers and personal financing as an artist. There will be opportunities to practice grant writing and explore common prompts including eligibility, budget, narrative and more.

Barnes said the “Artists As Activists” panel “will discuss our responsibilities and the roles of activists and the work that we do.”

The panel explores how solo performers can proactively intersect art with activism.

“It’s more than just getting on stage and performing,” she said. “It’s about transporting and edutainment. It’s about being conscious and contributing to our well-being.”

Barnes said many artists need the “Wholistic Self-Care: Taking Care of You” workshop.

“I did it last year and I loved it,” she said. “I feel strongly about the way we can take care of ourselves. Many artists need that workshop. They have to take care of themselves or they aren’t any good for anyone.”

Meditation, journaling and yoga are just some of the ways Barnes said artists can take care of themselves.

“As artists, we reserve the right to say, ‘No,’” Barnes said. “We don’t have to do anything just to say we have a job. We reserve that right. That’s part of our wellbeing. We’re out of agreement if we do things we don’t want to do.”

Barnes’ hope is that attendees walk away with the tools they need for a successful solo career.

“After attending the panel – “Empowered Women: Taking The Reins of Your Career,” by the end the women can put it all together,” she said. “They have put together the dots. For solo artists, it’s important that they don’t have to always have a day job. I bought my home in 1996 through my solo show where I portrayed seven historical women. I was touring colleges and universities.”

Barnes encourages everyone who wants to be a solo artist, to go for it.

“We can’t look at the odds because if we do, we won’t do anything,” she said. “I don’t look at the odds. I’ve always looked at getting what I want. My hope is that we attract those who really want to hear what we have to offer and leave knowing a whole lot more than when they walked through the door.”

Founded in 1993 by Barnes and Miriam Reed, the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival holds the distinction of being the oldest annual solo festival for women in Los Angeles celebrating powerful women performers.

Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival is a critically acclaimed international festival that has produced close to 700 extraordinary solo artists from around the globe.

Its multicultural and multi-disciplined artists represent such diverse disciplines as theatre, dance, storytelling, performance art, performance poetry, spoken word, mime, music, song, aerial performers and more.

The cost of the Empowerment Weekend is $125 for two full days. The cost for students and union members with a union card is $75 for the two days. For more information, visit www.lawtf.com.

“Making a Difference” is a regular feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making a Difference” profile, send an email to newsroom@wavepublication.com.

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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