Winn is not just a mother, but a playwright and elementary school teacher. She spent some time doing theater in Chicago before moving back to Denver to be closer to her family, and soon after had a daughter. "All of a sudden my theater world was cut off because I had this baby," she recalls. "I couldn't go to shows, I couldn't go to plays, I couldn't act in plays, I couldn't direct plays. I was completely cut off from the world. That's about the time I met Connie."
Connie is Connie Findley. The pair met when Findley wrote a short monologue for a magazine, and Winn ended up performing it. That gave Winn the idea of turning the monologue into a play, adding characters and dialogue. Soon the pair had an entire show ready to go, but it was hard to get their play produced, so they did something about that, too.
"Let's write more than a show," Findley recalls thinking. "Let's create this ultimate day- out for mom. So there will be free massages and free food and shopping, and childcare, so anyone can come and there will be this really funny and touching show that moms can watch."
Winn ended up pairing up with Angela Astle to form the Athena Project, which is a nonprofit that promotes and expands women's artistic contributions in Denver. And The Mommy Rants became one of them."Seventeen percent of all plays produced in regional theater, Broadway and off-Broadway are written by women, and I thought that was a shockingly low number in this day and age," says Astle. "So Athena Project is on a mission to bring more female voices to the forefront."
Athena Project's main focus is the Athena Arts Festival it hosts annually in March. That includes a world premiere of a play by a female playwright, workshops of other plays and additional arts events. But year-round, Athena also hosts fundraisers funds for the festival, like Writing with Wine and The Mommy Rants.The Mommy Rants takes place at a baby shower for Samantha, a character who never shows up, so the six moms and one stay-at-home dad start chit-chatting with each other, trading parenting stories. "The audience is right next to the actors, there's no fourth wall," says Findley. "Our actors are trained in improv, and we allow moms with babies under a year to come and sit them on their lap. So if the baby starts crying in the middle of the show, the actors roll with it, they can interact with the audience. It's kind of a non-traditional show."
And even though the play focuses on moms, it's really for everyone. "It was funny to see the sixty-year-old men who never had children say, 'That was a really good play,'" says Winn. "You don't have to be a mom to like it. It's a great show. I'm really proud of it."
The Mommy Rants will premiere Saturday, November 2, at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., with shows throughout the month at the Rocky Mountain Collage of Art + Design, 1600 Pierce Street in Lakewood. Food and massages are included in the $15-to-$18 ticket price, and daycare is available for $5 by calling ahead at 303-219-0882. For more tickets and a full schedule of performances, visit the athena website.