Sonoma County Theater Festival Tells Women’s Stories

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WHO ARE YOU? Juliet Noonan stars in ‘Beyond the Mask’; part of an upcoming online festival of plays. Photo by Morgan Hamilton-Lee.

Heroines, Harpies and Harlots—a theater project born to let all who identify as female have a voice—returns for a second year with another festival of theater pieces that delve beneath the surface of what society thinks a woman should be to find who they actually are through individual stories.

They are presenting, in conjunction with the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, a program of original works titled “In Their Own Voice: a virtual on-line festival about what happens when you let a woman speak.” The festival will stream May 8–16.

The festival features an all femme/female-identifying/non-binary group of Sonoma County artists of varying ethnicities, races, sexualities and ages. “I started looking for artists in the community that I knew had stories to tell,” said festival-producer Beulah Vega. “Artists who I respected as strong human beings, who I saw as people who had stared trauma in the face and who had found ways to grow beyond it. I looked for artists who I saw turning around to help others along the way. I especially looked for artists who had something to say, and were never given a chance to say it.”

Last year, Vega worked very hard to find stories about women/female-identifying/non-binary people that were not focused on domestic or sexual violence, as she believes there is more to telling someone’s story than just the worst moment of their lives.

For this year’s festival, 22 Sonoma County–based artists are working on five pieces in which the authors will also perform. “Yes, some of the stories that came from this are traumatizing,” Vega said, “but some stories are only focused on trauma as a way of saying ‘Look! You wanted to see real trauma, look at it for what it is. Now change it!’”

Vega adds that other stories, while rooted in trauma, are about rising from it and coming back to wholeness.

“Some of the stories don’t focus on or use trauma at all, they are stories about the experience of deciding to be oneself no matter what others say you should be, and no matter what the world does,” she said. “Some are true stories about the artists themselves, some are conglomerate stories about a slew of experiences. There is dance, poetry, storytelling and traditional theater. The voices are multi-racial. The voices are every color on the queer spectrum. The voices come in every shape and size. The one thing that they all have in common is their strength.”

“In Their Own Voice” streams May 8–16. Fri & Sat, 8:30pm; Sat & Sun, 2pm. $12–$25. cloverdaleperformingarts.com