by Pat Embry for NowPlayingNashville.com
Hard to believe that women weren’t always welcome on theater stages.
In Elizabethan England, portraying a woman on stage was deemed unseemly for actual women. How unladylike to portray a lady!
Thus, male actors played female rolls. Call it the original cross-dressing. Yes, in the original production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet may well have been played by some guy named Joe.
Fast-forward to the present. The Tennessee Women’s Theater Project (TWTP), kicks off its 10th anniversary season in October with a production of Sharr White’s heralded two-person drama “Annapurna.” A decade-long run for any theater company marks a significant milestone in a most demanding entertainment business. For TWTP, it’s particularly specially. For 10 years, it has been dedicated to producing “plays that express the human condition in the female voice” and providing “acting, directing, design and management opportunities for women in professional theater.”
So consider the “Project” in TWTP a “Reality.” Heartfelt congratulations are in order for company founder and artistic director Maryanna Clarke and crew.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Clarke said in announcing the new 2016-2017 season recently. “Parts of every season are like the long, grinding ride to the top, as we choose plays, review festival submissions and do all the behind-the-scenes work of running a nonprofit professional theater.
“Then,” she continued, “it’s audition and rehearsal time, and suddenly we’re back in the exciting — sometimes scary — race toward another opening night.”
Set for performances Oct. 7-23 at North Nashville’s Looby Theater, “Annapurna” premiered in 2011 and opened Off-Broadway three years later with the real-life husband-wife team of Megan Mullally (TV’s “Will & Grace”) and Nick Offerman (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) playing an estranged couple that reunites after 20 years to comedic and touching effect.
[See Offerman and Mullally discuss Annapurna with writer Sharr White below]
Following “Annapurna,” TWTP’s first holiday offering, “The Twelve Dates of Christmas” (Dec 2-11), will return for a second year. The company also will present its first-ever musical — Dorothy Marcic’s “Sistas: The Musical,” set for Feb. 17-March 5, 2017) as well as its latest edition of its annual festival celebrating the work of women artists, called “Women’s Work 2017” (May 5-17).
In February 2016, Clarke was honored with a 2016 “Women of Influence Award in Nonprofit Leadership” from the Nashville Business Journal. The awards honor leaders for “standing out in their fields, bringing their businesses to the forefront and helping others achieve success.”
Inspired by her daughter, Clarke went back to school and earned a degree in Theater with a minor in Entrepreneurship from Middle Tennessee State University before founding the TWTP.
In addition to bringing more female voices and opportunities for women to the stage, the company particularly seeks to improve the lives of at-risk women and bring live theater to new, underserved audiences.
Worthy goals, all. And a woman of influence, indeed.
Complete details about the Tenth Anniversary season of Tennessee Women’s Theater Project are available online at www.twtp.org.
Tennessee Women’s Theater Project Tenth Anniversary Season:
Z. Alexander Looby Theater
2301 Rosa L Parks Boulevard
Tickets: Purchase online or reserve by phone and pay at the door: 615-681-7220
Annapurna, by Sharr White
Dates: October 7 – 23, 2016
7:30 pm October 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 & 22
2:30 pm October 9, 16 & 23
The Twelve Dates of Christmas, by Ginna Hoben
Dates: December 2 – 11, 2016
7:30 pm December 2, 3, 8, 9 & 10
2:30 pm December 4 & 11
Sistas: The Musical, by Dorothy Marcic
Dates: February 17 – March 5, 2017
7:30 pm February 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, March 2, 3 & 4
2:30 pm February 19, 26 & March 5
Women’s Work 2017 | A Ahowcase and Celebration of Works Created by Women
Dates: May 5 – 21, 2017
7:30 pm on May 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 & 20
2:30 pm on May 7, 14 & 21