Marsha Norman and Sarah LaDuke to Co-Host WAM Theatre Event

Marsha Norman (photo Susan Johann)

Marsha Norman (photo Susan Johann)

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman and WAMC Northeast Public Radio producer Sarah LaDuke will co-host Change Makers, WAM Theatre’s fifth season celebration and benefit at the Mahaiwe on Sunday, August 24, 2014, at 7 pm. The multifaceted event includes a panel discussion with award-winning artist/activists working to effect positive change; a sneak peek at WAM Theatre’s fall production, “In Darfur”; and an onstage reception for top-level ticketholders.

The Change Makers panelists are:

Filmmaker Cynthia Wade has won more than 45 awards worldwide for her work, including Monday’s at Racine, Selfie, and her 2008 Academy-Award-winning documentary Freeheld, which is being adapted into a major feature film with Wade as producer.

Playwright Winter Miller is a founding member of the Obie-recognized collective 13 Playwrights and the author of In Darfur, which was inspired by what Miller saw as Nicholas Kristof’s researcher at the start of the genocide in Darfur in 2004. WAM Theatre recently announced that In Darfur is its 2014 fall production.

Author and actor Jessica Blank co-wrote The Exonerated (with Erik Jensen), based on interviews with wrongly convicted death row inmates, which won multiple prestigious theater awards, and followed up with the drama Aftermath, based on interviews with Iraqi civilian refugees.

Longtime National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer has been recognized with every major honor for photojournalism, including the Robert Capa, NPPA, National Magazine, and World Press awards.

Filmmaker Cynthia Wade

Filmmaker Cynthia Wade

WAM co-founder and artistic director Kristen Van Ginhoven will engage the panelists in a discussion of art as a means to address social justice and human rights. The panelists will share their perspectives on the role of artist as activist and share stories of the challenges they have faced while taking on daunting issues at home and across the world. In addition to this dynamic discussion, Change Makers will also include a sneak peek of “In Darfur”; the announcement of the beneficiary of this year’s philanthropic donation; and an onstage reception for top-level ticket holders.

Tickets to Change Makers, a panel discussion and benefit celebration of WAM Theatre’s fifth season, can be purchased in person or by calling the Mahaiwe box office at 413.528.0100 or at the Mahaiwe.

Norman gained celebrity as the author of ’night Mother, which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, Blackburn Prize, Hull-Warriner, and Drama Desk Award, and was adapted into a film. She won 1991 Tony and Drama Desk awards for her book for the Broadway musical The Secret Garden, and another Tony nomination for The Color Purple, a musical that had a three-year run on Broadway. She was most recently represented on by Broadway the musical The Bridges of Madison County, which debuted last summer at Williamstown Theatre Festival; a national tour of the show is slated for the fall of 2015. Norman has won a Peabody Award for her writing for the HBO series In Treatment. Her latest play, The War on Women, is a commission from the UN and concerns trafficking and violence toward women worldwide. Norman is co-chair of the Playwriting Department of the Juilliard School and a co-founder of the Lilly Awards, started in spring 2010 as a way to honor the work of women in the American theatre.

LaDuke grew up in Saranac Lake, N.Y., where she worked part time at Pendragon Theatre (mostly behind the scenes) throughout high school and college. She has worked at WAMC Northeast Public Radio since May 2006, primarily as producer for The Book Show and The Roundtable. Her love of theatre is familiar to public radio listeners, as is her dulcet voice, thanks to her occasional on-air interviews with actors, playwrights, filmmakers, musicians, and dancers including Carol Burnett, John Patrick Shanley, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Philip Glass, and Jeff Tweedy.

“The work that WAM has done over the past five seasons is inspiring and humbling,” says LaDuke. “I am honored to have been asked to co-host this event – an event I would be interested in attending in any capacity. I can’t wait to learn what the panelists have to say about effecting positive change through the arts – a frequent topic of focus on WAMC and on The Roundtable – and one of personal import as well.”

Actor Jayne Atkinson was originally scheduled to host the event but had to bow out to attend the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.

WAM Theatre’s production of “In Darfur,” scheduled for October 30-November 16, will be the play’s New England premiere. It will be presented at the Berry Family Studio (Studio 3) in the Elayne P. Bernstein Center at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. Tickets will go on sale September 1 on the Shakespeare & Company website.

Based in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, WAM (Women’s Action Movement) Theatre was co-founded in 2010 by Canadian director, actor, educator, and producer Kristen van Ginhoven, who was inspired to take action by the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. WAM Theatre’s philanthropic mission is two-fold: first, to create theatrical events for everyone, with a focus on women theatre artists and/or stories of women and girls; and second, to donate a portion of the proceeds from those events to organizations that benefit women and girls.

Over the past five years, WAM Theatre has donated more than $10,500 to six nonprofit organizations that help women and girls, and provided paid work to more than 100 theatre artists. In its fifth year, artistic director van Ginhoven has expanded WAM Theatre’s activities to include more performances in various venues, including educational outreach and the new Fresh Takes Play Reading Series at Six Depot Roastery and Café in West Stockbridge.

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