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Festival of women playwrights great success

Last night’s FemNoire experience at The Whistler House, the second annual festival of women playwrights sponsored by the Image Theater, reminded me of going to comedy clubs years ago and watching a revolving door of performers. FemNoire featured nine vignettes that ranged in tone from seriously funny, to intensely dramatic, and deeply sad. The varied topics and styles kept the audience laughing, at times near tears, and always attentive.

As with most creative ventures, reactions varied in terms of which plays people preferred, and with any short piece, the challenge is to grab the audience quickly, get them to care about the characters and situation, and tell a complete story within minutes.

Some of the plays that stood out were Gay Paree by Andrea Fleck Clardy, a tearjerker about a terminally ill friend asking another for help ending her pain—it is a story about the bond of female friendship and the shared joy and agony that is life. Or Lapse by Gail Phaneuf, an hysterically funny skit between a husband and wife that begins and ends with the same line: “Why’d I come in here?” The story was a laugh-out-loud romp about the very real frustration of becoming ridiculously absent minded as we age.  House Broken by Monica Bauer had some of the strongest dialogue with long, fast-paced monologues from a conservative, career Congressman being forced to resign over sexual indiscretions caught on tape with his dog.

Another play, A Parting Gift by Leslie Powell, was an intense look at domestic violence while Wife of Bobo by M. Lynda Robinson featured the most physical comedy of the night in this tale about a woman married to a clown, literally. In all, FemNoire was a fantastic good time well worth the admission price of $19 and a wonderful way to experience women’s voices in the Merrimack Valley in the incomparable venue of live theater. Kudos to all involved!

posted in Theater, Women's issues | 0 Comments

Vote!

I just got back from voting for Eileen Donoghue and heard that turnout is pretty low today. Then I received a timely email reminding me that the right to vote for women was once a hotly-contested issue. This was one of those forwarded emails that I typically don’t bother to open, but it was very well done with photos of suffragettes and a description of how hard they had to fight and the abuse they put up with – being beaten, jailed, vilified and threatened with institutionalization for insanity! The email reminds us that it was only 90 years ago that women finally prevailed and were allowed to vote; it also describes the “night of terror,” November 15, 1917, when 33 women were jailed for picketing Woodrow Wilson’s White House. The warden gave his men permission to teach the women a lesson, resulting in horrendous abuse. The friend who wrote this email mentions a movie starring Hilary Swank, Iron Jawed Angels, which she says is a must-see to give us all some “shock therapy” and a needed reminder of the importance of voting. She adds:

one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because – why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

So, let’s all vote for ourselves, for our daughters and for those women who fought so hard and were so brave. A doctor who was asked to declare one of the leaders insane countered that she wasn’t crazy, but brave, adding, “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

posted in State Concerns, Women's issues | 0 Comments

My vote in the senate primary

With the senate primary this Tuesday, it’s no wonder the campaign volume has risen in recent days, with increased snail mail, recorded phone calls, and emails from the candidates. Today, I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with Dan Murphy, Lowell cc-elect Patrick Murphy’s twin brother and the muscle behind many of his youtube ads. Dan called to discuss Mike Capuano’s candidacy and to ask me to help with phone banking. He’s working the media for Capuano’s campaign and somehow I made his call list. (See LiL for post about his brother’s endorsement.) I like Dan and the entire Murphy clan, and I was happy to talk politics with him. Although he made good points about Capuano: his experience, grassroots campaigning, knowledge on the issues, record of progressive votes, etc—the more we talked, the more I realized, I really want to vote for Martha Coakley. (Prior to this discussion, I thought I was undecided.) I admit, it is hugely compelling that Martha Coakley would be our first women senator from Massachusetts and I could help make it happen. (About time!) Still, I don’t see myself as a gender voter; the bottom line is always the candidate’s values, ideas, and positions on the issues. (For example, I chose Tim Murray for Lt. Governor over two qualified women because he best represented my views and values.) I like Mike, and I like that yesterday a Boston Globe op-ed noted him as the “scrappy” candidate—a plus in a world where we desperately need folks fighting for just causes. But Martha brings her own skill set: she embodies the intelligent, hardworking, ethical female candidate we need in leadership. (The same op-ed described her as “deliberative,” also important in a legislator.) Either one of them would serve my interests in Congress, albeit from different perspectives, but when Tuesday comes, I will vote for Martha Coakley. Whatever your take on the candidates, please show up on election day and vote your choice.

posted in In the News, Local People, State Concerns, Women's issues | 1 Comment

Sharing Michael Jackson’s blues

Being of a certain age, I grew up with Michael Jackson. I remember dancing with my cousin to the Jackson 5 for hours (ABC, it’s easy as 1,2,3) while choreographing our own elaborate steps and twirls. Michael, in particular, caught my imagination from the start.  I watched with the world as his music evolved and his sense of self morphed into something alien that made me sad. Days after his death, I’m still trying to make sense of what his music and persona meant to me. In Sunday’s Boston Globe, Wesley Morris wrote an article about Jackson that resonates, not only because it acknowledges his great musical talent and explains the allure he held for folks of all colors and nationalities, but because it attempts to understand why Michael Jackson was not good enough for himself—just the way he was created—with dark skin, round nose and nappy hair. Morris attempts to explain the struggle some African Americans have being okay with their blackness, and as a white female, I admit it’s not something I’ve experienced personally. But I do know about gender struggles—such as being okay with throwing like a girl, being emotional, or physically weaker than many men. I have experienced my own version of trying to accept myself as good enough as a woman in a post-feminist world that expects super-career-moms who handle jobs, childcare, community service, and managing the home without breaking a sweat. The unrealistic expectations are difficult enough; the fact that they thrive within an historical and cultural context that exalts manhood makes it worse. So yes, Morris hits a chord with me on many levels when he writes: “They – we – could see well past the bleached skin and unnatural Caucasian features. We could see his blues.” Finally, I understand better my empathy for Michael’s madness. On a more pleasant note, this link on Dick’s blog allowed me to revisit why I love dancing to Michael Jackson’s music and why watching him sing and move is still joyful—a gift he leaves us all. May he rest in peace.

posted in In the News, Just life, Local Politics, Women's issues | 0 Comments

Quotes from a heroine

As my own personal launch into Lowell Women’s Week, which begins today, the following are some of my favorite quotes from Susan B. Anthony. I have long admired Anthony for her courage and tenacity, her vision for women despite their long history of oppression, and her amazing skill with language and argument. She was a smart, eloquent, and gifted advocate for women’s rights. See what you think:

On change: “Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.”

On education: “If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.”

On educated women: “I can’t say that the college-bred woman is the most contented woman. The broader her mind the more she understands the unequal conditions between men and women, the more she chafes under a government that tolerates it.”

posted in Women's issues | 0 Comments

March is about honoring women

Tomorrow kicks off a month dedicated to celebrating the many contributions women have made and continue to make in our community. In Lowell, it has become an annual event featuring a week’s worth of activities—from films, breakfasts and lectures, to “Because of Her” awards and opportunities for networking. We certainly have come a long way from when Susan B. Anthony made impassioned speeches about how the mothers, sisters and wives of America were not inferior to men, but deserving of the right to vote and participate in government. Today, women in Lowell are active leaders in business, government, education, non-profits, the arts, and community groups. We still, however, do not hold our share of decision-making positions given our population–only about 25% of the state legislature is women, and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas is the only female representative from Massachusetts. Check out this year’s schedule and make time to participate in an event. It’s important. When women share in each other’s successes, we help pave the way for today’s young sisters to become tomorrow’s leaders.

posted in City Life, Local Groups, Women's issues | 0 Comments

Women making progress in politics

Yesterday on WBUR, I heard Caprice Taylor, executive director of EMERGE Massachusetts, an organization dedicated to inspiring Democratic women leadership, talking about the need for women to run for elected office. In spite of Hilary Clinton’s inability to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for the nation’s top job, women across the country, and particularly in New England, continue to make important strides in gaining political leadership. For instance, our neighbor state of New Hampshire now boasts a majority of women elected to its state legislature. Women (11 of whom are Democrats) hold 13 of New Hampshire’s 24 seats—representing the first state legislature in the country to have a female majority.  (Women currently represent about one quarter of the Massachusetts state legislature.) Yet, here in our home state, we’re making historic strides as well. For an update on how women in Massachusetts fared during last week’s election, check the Mass. Women’s Political Caucus, a non-partisan group committed to increasing women’s involvement in politics. The good news is that even without the top job, women leaders are not alone or afraid to help each other.  In the Merrimack Valley, Congresswomen Niki Tsongas, as well as other elected women, endorsed newly elected State Representative Jen Benson, chair of the Lunenberg School Committee, in her race for Jamie Eldridge’s former seat. As relative newcomers to politics, first-time female candidates need the support and encouragement of established elected women—just as their male counterparts have enjoyed for centuries. I am not an “all-women-always voter” (ideology and candidate matter most), but I believe women, in general, bring strengths, sensibilities, and skills (such as consensus building) that we desperately need, and a balanced governing body is more effective.

posted in In the News, Local Politics, Women's issues | 0 Comments

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