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In any given theatrical season, the likelihood of seeing David Mamet, Christopher Durang, or Neil Labute in the lineup is fair. The likelihood of seeing O'Neill, Miller, Beckett, Chekhov, Moliere, or (it goes without saying) Shakespeare is even better. But there is never a guarantee of seeing even one female-written play in a theatre's seasonal lineup -- the work of female playwrights only makes up an estimated 17 percent of new plays produced in this country each year. With Athena Project's "Plays in Progress" series, starting this weekend at Aurora Fox Arts Center and wrapping up July 29 at the Edge Theater, Founder and Executive Producer Angela Astle set out to repair that lack of representation.
The Plays in Progress series is one step toward the Athena Project Festival, an art festival celebrating the work of female artists, to take place in Denver next March. Given Astle's significant directorial experience and her education in business and theater, starting off with a play series was intuitive. See Also: -- Wit Theatre Company gets creative with first production, The Pillowman -- Visionbox's The Othello Project puts classic tragedy into domestic violence context -- V-Day Denver combats violence against women with A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and a Prayer The series runs for three weekends in July -- the first two at the Aurora Fox at 9900 East Colfax Avenue and the last at Edge Theatre at 9797 West Colfax -- and will provide six female playwrights with staged readings for their works in progress, complete with post-show audience talkbacks to help them bring their work nearer to completion. Each show has been assigned its own director, stage manager, and dramaturg; the theaters will provide lighting and other technical support. Many playwrights -- especially women and more especially women of color -- cannot expect even close to that much for their plays. Audiences will be seeing this material for the first time and will have a formative role in the development of the final product. "A lot of plays live in the land of the perpetual staged reading," said Astle, adding, "the act of getting a final production is very different. My feeling is that the audience is that key component. They're the ticket buyers." Moreover, from those six plays, one script will be chosen to receive a full production to headline the Athena Project Festival next spring. The selection will be made based on an audience vote and the recommendations of the advisory board. "The stories speak for themselves," said Astle on the organization's basis for choosing the plays. There was a "blind submission process... every script went through three different reads to determine which scripts would rise to the top." The six plays are Tami Canaday's dark comedy Death by Hairbrush; Kim Merrill's drama about a mother working to forgive her son's murderer, Marla and Her Prayers; The Living, a drama about a woman planning her suicide, by Nina Miller; an examination of race and ethics called Race Relations, by Carrie Printz; Kendall Sherwood's drama about women held in sexual slavery in a basement, called The Record Breakers; and Clinnesha D. Sibley's piece about an elderly couple in Detroit dealing with memories of the rioting in 1940, Tell Martha Not to Moan. A ticket to a single reading of one of the plays costs $10; $35 buys a pass to see all of the plays as many times as you want. For more information about Athena Project Festival, the Plays in Progress series, or how to buy tickets, visit their website.