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Leveling a tilted stage Women’s Voices Project gives the under-represented a leading role
Women’s Voices Project gives the under-represented a leading role
Women's voices
Top Row: Alya Howe, Barbara Reese, Cassidy Willey, Gabriela Alvarez Espinoza Bottom Row: Iliana Renteria, Julia Comens Pickrell, Kristin Carlson, Trary Maddalone LaMee

Born in 2016 with a mission of allowing community members to express their voices through poetry, dance, theater, music, painting and drawing, Carbondale-based VOICES has become a sort of megaphone for the under-heard, be they youth, women or immigrants. So when Renee Prince, the organization’s executive director, learned that only 22 percent of American theater produced in the last three years was written by a female playwright, she reacted just like one might expect her to.

“We know for a fact that there are more plays being written by women than are represented by that number,” said Prince. “We saw this in Equity (the Actors’ Equity Association, a theater labor union) and decided that we, at VOICES, were in a position to do something about that in our own community.”

Thus inspired, Prince and the VOICES team will be staging the inaugural Women’s Voices Project, which will show at Carbondale’s Thunder River Theater this Fri.-Sun., May 10-12. The project takes an eight-woman ensemble and allows each member a 10-minute segment in which to use (or not use) the ensemble to create a mini-performance piece.

“Each woman is empowered to create a thing – to make something meaningful,” said Prince. “Some people are using the 10 minutes in a solo piece that they’ve written and are performing. Some people have written a scene for other members of the ensemble to perform. There’s a group movement piece. They get to say and do what they most want to say, and they get to create.”

Directed overall by Prince, the ensemble includes VOICES founder Barbara Reese, as well as local performers Trary Maddalone LaMee, Julie Comins Pickrell, Iliana Rentería Bernal, Alya Howe, Cassidy Willey, Gabriela Alvarez Espinoza and Kristin Carlson.

“We slowly started in people’s living rooms just sharing stories as women, sharing stories from our own lives and personal experiences, just as women and mothers and sisters and wives and human beings,” said Prince. 

“And then we started bringing in stories of ancient women’s wisdom – so, stories that we feel are our birthright and sometimes stories that get lost, mythology and ancient tales where women are in a place of power and wisdom.”

With that as a starting point and with the support of the ensemble – Prince called it a place of “nourishment” and “vitality” – the women were allowed to let their imaginations run wild and give their authentic voices a chance to sound off. For some, like veteran stage pros Maddalone, Espinoza and Willey, it’s another notch in their theater career; for others, it’s a foray into less traveled terrain, but for all, the opportunity to be heard and work closely with a like-minded group set the project apart from past endeavors.

“We’re all recognizing how hungry we’ve all been for a space like this with other women,” said Prince, “and so often in our first meetings, when we would sit down to share stories, we found ourselves spending hours together and feeling like the time had flown because everyone is bubbling over with a need to express what it is like to live this life as a creative person and a woman.”

Seeing that need first-hand, Prince figured it must exist in the general population, too, so she was confident that the stories being told on the stage will resonate with women in the audience. With an aim toward making this an annual event, she also expressed hope that it might inspire other women to participate in the future. As the organization’s ethos seems to be, the more voices that get heard, the better everyone will understand one another. 

Show times are 7:30 p.m. May 10-11 and 2:30 p.m. May 12. Tickets, $20, and more information at amplifyingvoices.org.

Art Base in Basalt hosts student artists

Women won’t be the only underrepresented group grabbing the spotlight this week

Three local student artists’ works will grace the walls of the Charles J. Wyly Gallery at the Art Base in Basalt for an exhibit that runs May 10-30. The trio – Aidan Ziets (Basalt High School), Sarah Teague (Colorado Rocky Mountain School) and Jesenya Lopez (Roaring Fork High School) – are part of the Claudette Carter ARTmentors Program, which pairs students with a professional artist for a five-month apprenticeship. The exhibit kicks off with an opening reception Friday night, May 10, from 5-7 p.m.