(LENOX, Mass.) – “The Suffrage Project,” an online exhibition of original art centered around the theme of suffrage and citizenship by WAM Theatre’s Elder Ensemble and People of Color Ensemble, will be showcased in a free online gallery on the WAM website throughout July and August 2020. In celebration and culmination of the four-month collaboration, WAM will host a special opening reception for “The Suffrage Project” (held on Zoom) on Sunday, July 26, at 3pm.
The individual pieces in the online exhibit include visual art, songs, monologues, poetry, dramatic scenes, dance and photography. The gallery includes reflections on the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in combination with powerful statements about marginalized groups in this country who are still fighting for full and unwavering citizenship.
WAM’s associate artistic director Talya Kingston, one of four teaching artists who facilitated the ensembles, expressed her excitement about opening the gallery to the public. “The pieces were created in social isolation all over the region. But taken together they are a compelling testament to the importance of continued community engagement in the arts.”
Kingston adds, “We are also hoping that visitors to the gallery will be inspired to create their own art, as an empowering creative act during this time, and that they will join us by exhibiting it on their social media platforms using #WAMsuffrage.”
WAM’s Elder Ensemble, led by Kingston and Amy Brentano, and the brand-new intergenerational People of Color Ensemble, led by Lia Russell-Self and Trenda Loftin, have been meeting weekly for three months, experimenting with devising new group pieces over Zoom and holding space for conversations about citizenship in the United States at this time of anti-racism uprisings. Two of these short group pieces will premiere at the opening reception.
WAM associate artist Lia Russell-Self, who co-led the People of Color Ensemble (POC), states that: “Ensemble members are eager to keep the conversation going, staying up to an hour past when the meeting ended just to continue lifting up each other’s work and experiences. The POC ensemble has already transformed from just being a place to possibly create to one of deep vulnerability.”
Co-leader of the POC Ensemble Trenda Loftin adds, “Together as an ensemble, we’re striving to be a space where we all can show up and fully engage the complexities of our identities. This ensemble is anchored in cultivating meaningful connection, creative exploration, and transformational change.”
Elder Ensemble member Nancy Tunnicliffe echoes this sentiment saying “What it means to me to be creating in this time of COVID-19 pandemic is hope. To be together with all my beloved sisters as though we were in the same room via zoom, creating and making something beautiful together, gives me hope that we will in fact get through this together.”
“While we definitely miss creating together in a physical space, this moment of pause and adaptation has made the true purpose of our devising ensembles clear to me. It is always more about the process of creation than the production,” Kingston explained. “Devised theatre naturally absorbs and reflects the time and conditions into which it is created. The most important part of theatre is connection – and we need that now more than ever.”
AT A GLANCE
Created by the WAM Theatre Elder Ensemble and POC Ensemble
Gallery live online: Monday July 13, 2020
Opening Reception (on zoom): Sunday July 26th at 3pm
Gallery will be live through the end of August and visitors are invited to participate by posting their own original art pieces on their social media platforms using #WAMsuffrage
WAM Theatre is a professional theatre company based in Berkshire County, MA, that operates at the intersection of arts and activism. WAM creates theatre for gender equity and has a vision of theatre as philanthropy.
In fulfillment of its philanthropic mission, WAM donates a portion of the proceeds from their Mainstage productions to carefully selected beneficiaries. Since WAM’s founding in 2010, they have donated more than $75,000 to 19 local and global organizations taking action for gender equity in areas such as girls education, teen pregnancy prevention, sexual trafficking awareness, midwife training, and more.
In addition to Mainstage productions and special events, WAM’s activities include innovative community engagement programs and the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series. To date, WAM has provided paid work to more than 400 theatre artists, the majority of whom are female-identifying.
As a civic organization that embraces intersectional feminism (feminism that acknowledges how multiple forms of discrimination overlap), WAM understands that to address one piece of systemic discrimination means we have to address them all. This is on-going personal and professional work at WAM for the staff and board.
WAM Theatre has been widely recognized for having a positive impact on cultural and community development in the region. WAM is the recipient of the Creative Economy Standout Berkshire Trendsetter Award and previously, was named Outstanding Philanthropy Corporation of the Year by the Western MA Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Kristen van Ginhoven, WAM’s Producing Artistic Director, was honored by the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association (BTCA) with the prestigious Larry Murray Award, presented at the discretion of the BTCA Board to a person or theatre project that advances social, political, or community issues in Berkshire County.