A Southland Theater Festival Celebrates Positive Stage Images

Wednesday, Mar 3 1999
Photo by Oscar Elizondo
"The men we love act rather strangely in front of our dead bodies," preaches a young woman dressed, impeccably, as Frida Kahlo. "Diego -- he took a handful of my ashes and put me in his pocket," she continues, emphatically. "It's as if men need to possess us beyond the grave." This excerpt (performed by Alley Mercedes) from A Special Place, at East Los Angeles Library, represents one of more than 40 free performances that Women in Theater will sponsor across the Southland on March 6 to commemorate Women's History Month, "to celebrate the struggles of women with the gift of live performance." The shows -- solo performances, skits and plays with small casts -- all present positive images of women and will be staged at neighborhood venues such as libraries, small theaters, bookstores and museums. Upward of 50 performers and playwrights will donate their efforts.

The event is being organized by actor-writer Miriam Reed, who feels there's increasingly a dangerous conservative attitude among young people. "They don't appreciate how recently we won our suffrage, and they don't realize how vulnerable our rights still are," she explains. "And this is reflected in the theater." Reed feels that our society, particularly as reflected in show business, is more oriented toward men than women. "Look at the movies: 50-year-old men with 20-year-old women -- it's a sign of the times," Reed continues, convinced that it takes strong female mentors to protect young women from that kind of socialization.

WIT, a nonprofit support group for women working in L.A. theater, hopes to make this an annual event, saturating the city with positive female role models every March. "If we can turn on a little light in just one young woman," Reed explains, "empower her and show her she has choices, that's the point." Wrapping up her monologue, Mercedes, still in character as Kahlo, sums up the festival's crux: "Love is . . . no tragedy, no victims, no violence. This is something, as women, we must never forget." For details on the day's programming, go to www.nwhp.org, or call the National Women's History Project hot line: (818) 763-5222.

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