The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival is celebrating Women’s History Month from March 26-29 in Santa Monica by honoring women who take to the stage to tell stories of hope, despair, joy and courage. The festival, which honors female solo artists in the theatre, is now in its 16th year and the opening night awards gala will honor five women who have made a difference in the world through their art. Among the honorees is award-winning performance artist, Leilani Chan, founding artistic director of TeAda Productions, a group that produces works created and performed by people of color. Tanna Frederick will also be honored for her work at Skylight Theatre, the Coronet and Greenway Court Theatre, as well as her starring roles in such independent films, as Hollywood Dreams and Irene In Time. Gay Iris Parker will be recognized for her work at Pasadena Playhouse, where she is responsible for cultivating and sustaining a diverse audience base for main stage productions. Adriana Sevan will get kudos for her body of work, including her solo play Taking Flight, which debuted at the Kirk Douglas Theater in 2006. Last, but certainly not least, Eartha Kitt will posthumously receive the Infinity Award. After enduring an impoverished childhood full of discrimination because of her mixed racial background, Kitt began her show business career as a dancer with the famed Katherine Dunham Company. She subsequently won two daytime Emmy Awards and has championed such causes as same-sex marriage equality and opposition to the Vietnam War. The festival’s executive producer and co-founder, Adilah Barnes, said this year’s awards kick-off will be one to remember. “All of our award winners are extraordinary, and I am so happy to be honoring Eartha Kitt, who grew up in poverty and created an incredible career against the odds,” Barnes said. “When she spoke out against the Vietnam war, she put that career on the line and she has always been on the side of children and civil rights.”Barnes went on to explain that Kitt will receive the Infinity Award, which was created last year to honor Yolanda King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The festival started in 1993 as the brainchild of Barnes and Miriam Reed, two women who were interested in finding a voice for the scores of female solo stage artists they met at a conference mounted by the California Arts Council. Barnes and Reed had both been portraying historic women on stage for a number of years when they met, Barnes giving voice to African American women in history and Reed portraying Anglo women. Out of their partnership came the festival, which continues to honor multiculturalism and the female perspective. After the March 26 gala, the festival will get into full swing, showcasing the work of more than twenty female artists in just a few days. In addition to the March performances in Santa Monica, the festival will also play for two dates in April at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood. “This year is really special because a third of the women performing are from other states,” Barnes said. “We have women from New York, Chicago, Vermont and Colorado, to name a few. We also have a wide range of pieces, from stories about Alzheimer’s to one about an African American opera singer who was not acknowledged fully in her day.”Highways Performance Space is located at1651 18th Street in Santa Monica. A champagne reception and light buffet at 7:00pm will precede the 8:00pm awards ceremony on March 26. The event will be hosted by festival honorary co-chair Hattie Winston, of the television series Becker, and Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director, Sheldon Epps. Entertainment will include short theatre pieces by Angela Dean-Baham and Rose Weaver. Tickets are $60 each or two for $100. Call 818.760.0408 or visit www.lawtf.com.
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