A Report: The First “5,000 Women” Performance Festival

This past Saturday, May 21st 2011, I produced the first “5,000 Women” Performance Festival at my alma mater, Wesleyan University and I am still basking in the glow. The goal of this festival is to eventually have 5,000 women artists performing at the same time and inspire laughter, healing and transformation in the world. Sound good to you?

For this May 21st performance I was joined by Aleta Staton (award-winning actress and artistic associate at Young Audiences of New Haven), Vashti Dubois (director, consultant, founder of Ft. Mom which transforms and empowers women and the spaces they live in), Stephanie Fungsang (dancer in NYC), Naaz Hosseini (composer, violinist, vocalist who has toured the world with Meredith Monk), Nafeesa Monroe (of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam), Elizabeth Liang (actress in LA – you’ve probably seen her on TV), and Karen Gross (singer-songwriter, cabaret chanteuse).

The effect on the audience was electric, as the head of the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan said “I was so moved by all of the pieces that I was able to see…struck by each woman’s individuality and clarity of purpose, their centeredness and confidence, and their deep commitment to their work. And you, well your intelligent, subversive humor is delightful and so expertly executed so you can get away with murder. I just love what you do and how you were able to transition between the pieces.”

Also on the program was a panel “Making It In the Arts, Is It Possible?” in which the performers were joined by Lisa Anne Porter (actress), Dana Leslie Goldstein (playwright and poet), and Grace Overbeke (marketing and communications director at Theatre J). Panelists fielded questions on how to make your livelihood from following your passion as a woman in the performing arts. As I looked out at the audience I saw people of every age, gender and race. Clearly the topic tapped a nerve. I think the audience wanted to be encouraged in their efforts to bring their dreams to fruition too. There were 180 years worth of experience in the field on that panel, generously sharing with one another, the students, and the audience. I felt aligned with my life purpose to gather and share all this wisdom, talent and advice and disseminating it for everyone’s benefit.

Following the panel, Martha Meade (a muralist) presented her work creating murals throughout LA, Tamina Davar showed a preview of her documentary about Taraporevala (Mississipp Massala, The Namesake) which will be out next year, and there was a screening of FLY AWAY by Janet Grillo (director, writer, producer) about a mother raising her autistic daughter. Each of these Wesleyan “5,000 Women” explored stories of transforming and healing in families and communities, bringing attention to the often overlooked or invisible.

It looks like the “5,000 Women” festival will be presented again next year at Wesleyan. In addition, I will offer workshops and performances this year in the Philadelphia area. If you want to become a fan of “5,000 Women” you can find the fan page on http://www.facebook.com and say you “like it” (and I hope you will!). Once a fan, you can connect to the artists, hear about their latest creations and musings, and eavesdrop on the conversation about what it takes for us –day in, day out — to make our lives a work of art.

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