Women’s Futures Month

Welcome to the Future.

To say it’s been a busy ten weeks since I announced the launch of my SLAM spinoff project, The Future Is Female Festival, would be an understatement. So for anyone wondering why there’s been so much radio silence from me as a writer, a Tweeter, a friend, a human—here’s why:

On March 1st, the Future will arrive in the form of an amazing, more-than-I-ever-could’ve-dreamed-of, fierce, loud, unstoppable festival of new work by over 140 women that will reach 2,000 audience members. The momentum and the excitement is palpable. With twenty-seven festival outposts in eighteen cities from coast to coast and Canada, the future is looking pretty darn female indeed. (Even Hillary still says so.)

It’s so exciting that I want to say it all again and end every sentence with exclamation points, or put the little clapping emoji between each word.

But getting to the point where we’re ready for clapping emojis has not been easy, and here is the singular biggest lesson I have learned in the process: Be the Hot Dog Princess you want to see in the world.

No, really.

tfif-fest-map
The Future Is Female Festival Outposts Nationwide

In case you don’t remember it from last summer, the Hot Dog Princess was the viral photo of a young girl who dressed up for “Princess Day” at dance class as…you guessed it…a hot dog. Shedding all convention, while the other girls portrayed variations on Disney movies, one little girl did what her heart told her to do, and came as a hot dog.

Being the Hot Dog Princess you want to see in the world is more than just being the change you want to see in the world—it’s an extra level of bravery, boldness, and commitment. And in a world where women are 51 percent of the population but only make up about 20 percent of produced work in theatre and TV, and where even the most qualified and dedicated of women still cannot shatter glass ceilings, producing this festival has reinforced to me that indeed, the best way to create the type of change you want is to roll up your sleeves and make it happen. In life, you will be offered lots of princess outfits, but if you want the hot dog costume, you have to bring it yourself.


Being the Hot Dog Princess you want to see in the world is more than just being the change you want to see in the world—it’s an extra level of bravery, boldness, and commitment. In life, you will be offered lots of princess outfits, but if you want the hot dog costume, you have to bring it yourself.


In creating this festival, one of my goals was to do something that would reach beyond the echo chamber of my big liberal city’s theatre scene. I feared at the outset that we wouldn’t succeed, but I was pleased to find that I was quickly proven wrong. In fact, it was primarily small towns and “red states” that signed up first. My team and I ended up having to scout for participants in most of the major theatre enclaves, but the opposite was true for the more remote locations, who mostly signed up quickly and without hesitation, making up a full third of the total outposts. What’s more, many of the groups in smaller towns were artists who were coming together to make this their very first show or a part of an inaugural season, showing me it’s true that if you build it, they will come.

I also learned it’s true that if you build it, it will be hard and it will not make you like producing any more than you already do, which is to say, not very much. I produced a few short play showcases here in NYC with friends through a school club while we were undergrads. And that was hard, and taught me that I don’t love producing. And I’ve self-produced a handful of my own works within larger festivals, and that was hard too, and reaffirmed to me that I don’t love producing.

This project was each of those experiences times twenty-seven, and I knew full well going into it that I probably was not going to uncover a lost passion for being a producer. It helped a lot that behind this particular endeavor was a cause that meant a great deal to me, and I certainly could not have put together a festival of this scale on a volunteer basis for something I didn’t care about deeply. And despite the challenges and daunting To Do Lists, it definitely has brought me satisfaction and a needed sense of purpose in a time of fear and uncertainty, and ultimately I am grateful for it. You know how some people respond to a breakup by busying themselves with three days a week at spinning class and crocheting blankets for all their friends? I respond to a fascist, racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue becoming president by busying myself with producing a nationwide theatre festival.


You know how some people respond to a breakup by busying themselves with three days a week at spinning class and crocheting blankets for all their friends? I respond to a fascist, racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue becoming president by busying myself with producing a nationwide theatre festival.


For those who are still interested in getting involved, you can sign up at almost any time throughout March to host an informal “pop-up” outpost of the festival using a provided folder of submitted plays, to create a reading of any scale. Wanna invite over five friends, crack open a bottle of wine, and read some plays aloud about women’s futures? Congrats! You just amplified the message of this festival. (Quick shout out to my mom, who loves “girl power” and was the very first person to sign up. Heart explosion.)

You can also, of course, go support one of the twenty-seven amazing shows. Check out the Festival Calendar and Festival Map to find one near you. Most benefit a charity, or offer free or pay-what-you-can tickets. A few even include or will feature the work of young women, teens, or college students; perhaps truly the most “future” of all.

Those in NYC can also join us for the festival kick off on Friday, March 3rd at our celebratory Flagship Outpost, featuring short work by incredible, award-winning women: Sara Cooper, Georgina Escobar, Amina Henry, Geraldine Inoa, Winter Miller, Riti Sachdeva, Caridad Svich, and myself, humbly offered alongside these awesome women.

Lastly, my profound thanks are owed to two truly indispensible women who have made this all possible by volunteering with me these last few months: My Co-Producer Lauren Orkus, and Social Media Manager Sarah Cosgrove. Their unwavering dedication to making this festival a huge success tells me that women undoubtedly are the key if you want to get shit done.

In this dark age we have entered into, in which facts can be “alternative,” and families are separated from each other at airports, and walls threaten to divide neighbors, I hope you will join us for this glimmer of hope. See a show in your area, host a pop-up outpost, spread the word, and hashtag with us on Facebook and Twitter: #TheFutureIsFemaleFestival #WomensFuturesMonth.

Onwards!

Originally published on HowlRound.

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Submitting Like the Future Is Female

In the weeks since the election, I’ve found myself struggling, like many of us, to go back to business as usual. In the face of the heightened number of hate crimes, the president-elect’s conflicts of interest and corruption (ahem, crookedness?), the bold resurgence of white supremacy, and so much else, how can I go back to tweeting about gender bias in the entertainment industry? I’m not saying it’s lost all importance, but it certainly feels like it’s lost its urgency.

At the same time, though, I also feel like fighting for equality for women, minorities, LGBT people, immigrants—these things are more important than ever, because the rights and sheer humanness of these groups is being questioned and threatened in a more profound and public way.

futureAnd that’s why today, I am launching a new project, a spinoff of the work I am doing with SLAM (which will continue onwards itself, too), in which I hope to further the voice and visibility of women from all backgrounds in a new way. Until now, Submitting Like A Man has been a project that aims to create change through awareness. It is, as I’ve said many times, a “lens” for examining an experience, and I have truly cherished the discussions it’s inspired and the support it’s received. Now, with the changed circumstances in the world around us, I feel that it’s time to have a branch of the project that is more actionable; something that doesn’t just “evaluate” women’s role in theatre, but which actually champions it, advancing our perception of women theatre artists and of women themselves.

Welcome to The Future Is Female Festival.

You may know the history of the saying “the future is female” (full disclosure, I had to look it up), which has recently resurfaced and evolved, with many women recontextualizing it and bringing to it their own modern interpretation. My personal one is that it’s a way of saying the future contains better opportunities for women. It was a saying that, for obvious reasons, took on significance during the election (on the day I volunteered at Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, at least three women were wearing the shirt). And among the many crushing things about the election results, the sentiment of this phrase—that the future holds greater, brighter, more equal opportunities for women of all backgrounds—felt like one of the things we had truly lost.


I am ready more than ever to envision a future that is female. And I want to see and hear how other women envision it too, and to amplify those messages. 


But that loss is one that I am not willing to accept, and I am ready more than ever to envision a future that is female. And I want to see and hear how other women envision it too, and to amplify those messages. So I am inviting individuals and theatre companies across the US to host productions or readings this March of ten-minute plays written by women of all backgrounds on the subject of “The Future Is Female.” What better way to ensure that the future is female than to ask women writers to create it? And in an industry dominated by men, what better way to help them achieve it than by giving them this experience, which will hopefully lead to new connections, new visibility, new audience members eager to see their work again?

The whole undertaking will fall under an umbrella that I’m spearheading, so that numerous theatres and theatre companies across the country can simultaneously participate in this one unified endeavor about the future of women. By all participating as individual groups within a joint venture, our voices are magnified, much like the amplify concept famously used by the women in the Obama administration to support and further each other.

In this case, we will amplify each other’s shows and the messages about our future contained within them. One of the struggles I’ve experienced following the unexpected results of this election is how to use creativity and art to create change. Art, of course, has always been a vehicle for change and progress. But sometimes, when you’re dealing with low-budget theatre that is only seen and heard by fellow artists in your deeply blue liberal city, it feels a little like screaming into an echo chamber. And so it’s my hope that by joining together in this project, we’ll have a larger impact. Strength in numbers—or, you might say, Stronger Together. Individually we may still end up echoing, but with enough participants reverberating the sound, the volume will be heard.


By joining together, we’ll have a larger impact. Strength in numbers—or, you might say, Stronger Together. This March, instead of celebrating women’s history, we can celebrate women’s futures.


There are a lot of details still to be worked out, and some details I’ve already started working on. If you want to read more, check out TheFutureIsFemaleFestival.com, and if you want to get involved as either an individual or an organization, I’ve made a quick Google Form for you to sign up. One of my major goals is for the festival to have a presence in as many places as possible, so don’t be shy—I’m going to need help from everyone. As the creator of this project, I am also looking to produce a “flagship” production here in New York, so if your theatre company wants to partner or you want to be involved in that, fill out the Google Form. Lastly, I’m hoping this can function as part-fundraiser for causes related to women and equality, with each outpost of the festival donating a portion of their proceeds or asking audience members for small donations at the show.

As you can see, there is much work to be done, and I hope you will join me in giving visibility and voice to women from all backgrounds, so that this March, instead of celebrating women’s history, we can celebrate women’s futures.

Originally published on HowlRound.