We're excited to announce Martha Richards as our next featured member. Martha is the founder and executive director of WomenArts, and joined us on the "Being Agents of Change" panel at our 2014 Annual Conference.
Featured TBA member Martha Richards.
Tell us a little about your theatre work.
I started my theatre career in the box office at Berkeley Rep, and spent 20 years in various theatre management positions, including five years as managing director at StageWest, a LORT theatre in Springfield, MA. In 1994 I founded WomenArts, a non-profit dedicated to increasing visibility and opportunities for women in theatre and other art forms, especially women who address social issues through their art.
WomenArts started out working with four women-led theatre companies in Massachusetts. We now have a website that serves over 500,000 visitors a year. We also coordinate an annual international celebration of women artists every March called Support Women Artists Now Day ("SWAN Day"). There have been over 1,200 SWAN events in 25 countries since we declared this holiday seven years ago.
Do you have a favorite play or a favorite production?
It is hard to pick favorites, but three local productions that spring to mind are Symmetry Theatre's 2011 production of Patience Worth, written by Michelle Carter & directed by Erika Chong Shuch (about a woman channeling another woman); The Ballad of Polly Ann, a 2009 dance-theatre piece choreographed by Jo Kreiter with music by Pamela Z (about women construction workers on the Bay Bridge); and Come Home, Jovelyn Richards' 2008 solo piece about African Americans returning home to Arkansas after fighting in World War II. I am also a huge fan of the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
What do you like about the theatre scene here in the Bay Area?
I love it that there are so many amazing theatre women here, and that we have such great ways to get to know each other through groups like Works by Women San Francisco; the Yeah, I Said Feminist group; and the Theatre Bay Area Gender Parity Committee. I am inspired by this wonderful energy, and I am thrilled that WomenArts is part of the growing gender parity movement here.
Do you have a resource or piece of advice you'd like to share?
The WomenArts website has lots of useful information, including sections on: Women's Employment in the Arts (links to arts employment statistics), Build Your Skills (basic information for artists starting out), Funding Resources (annotated lists of arts funders), and the WomenArts Blog (news about women artists). We also maintain the WomenArts Network, a directory of 1,600 women artists. The League of Professional Theatre Women publishes free monthly newsletters that list upcoming festival, grant & residency deadlines.
Anything coming up soon that you are excited about?
WomenArts just collaborated with Mount Holyoke College to produce our most ambitious SWAN event ever, Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story, a full-length opera by Mary D. Watkins about the 1960s civil rights movement. It was a hit in Massachusetts, and producers in other cities are expressing interest.
For SWAN Day 2015 next March, we want to create an event that will showcase Bay Area women in theatre. Anyone who would like to help can reach me through the WomenArts website.
UPDATE, Nov. 18, 2014: Martha has just been named to the national cabinet of the US Department of Arts & Culture as their senior strategist for women artists! The USDAC is not a federal agency, but a grassroots initiative working to address the lack of meaningful government support for the arts and expand the national conversation about the role of arts and culture in American communities. Go Martha! More information on the USDAC here.
Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community.