Anyone looking to fill an evening this week with good theater that supports a great cause and an even better movement should head over to the Cherry Lane for the Project W Theatre Festival. Running June 6-10, this series of staged readings turns the spotlight on professional theater women in creative and business roles. Pay-what-you-wish donations will be given to Planned Parenthood of NYC, which provides reproductive healthcare and educational programs to women and their families throughout the five boroughs.
The opening night selection, The Club written by Amy Fox and directed by Suzanne Agins, was a chuckle-filled meditation on the importance of nurturing friendships over time. Four women who were roommates in college gather to celebrate one’s long-awaited pregnancy. Over the course of the evening, they are forced to address the cracks that have developed in their relationships. While none of the characters resonated with me — likely due to generational differences — the overall tone and themes rang true.
When done well, staged readings can allow an audience the thrill of filling in the visuals. The rendition of The Club was a terrific example of this performance art. The ensemble — Cindy Cheung, Jolie Curtsinger, Emily Donahoe, Melanie Nicholls King, Eileen Rivera and Jason Liebman as the lone compassionate male voice — had familiarized themselves with the lines well enough to interact with sincerity and listen with intensity. Their ease made the banter flow, which was essential for this particular offering.
Festival producer InProximity was founded in 2008 by Ms. Curtsinger and Laurie Schaefer Fenton to highlight the candid, deep work of emerging female voices. Even in the year in which luminaries Paula Vogel and Lynn Nottage have finally brought their brilliant works to Broadway, gender disparity in the arts remains. It is important to cultivate opportunities to shine a light on the talented women of professional theater.
What was missing from a production billed as part of a “festival” was any element of celebration. No one greeted the audience, welcomed the talent to the stage or delivered a word of thanks. Even the donation basket sat quietly unattended on a side table. Given the presence of co-founder Curtsinger in a leading role and her organization’s commitment to the development new works — a process that can take years of workshopping and rewrites — I had also expected some form of feedback request. The lack of interaction was a letdown and a lost opportunity to build camaraderie around a critical issue.
The Project W lineup continues the rest of the week with
Halcyon written by Danielle Mohlman and directed by Maureen Monterubio on Wednesday, June 7
Still Life written by Barbara Blumethal-Ehrlich and directed by Shelley Butler on June 8
Honor Killing written by Sarah Bierstock and directed by Pamela Berlin on June 9
The Flora and Fauna written by Alyson Mead and directed by Stefanie Sertich on June 10.
All performances take place 8PM in the smaller house at the Cherry Lane Theater. For more information visit http://inproximitytheatre.org.