It was a star-studded Gala in early-June when the Culture Project theater, located at 45 Bleecker Street in New York City, was renamed the Lynn Redgrave Theater in honor of the late Ms. Redgrave, who appeared in the theater's 2005 production of Nightingale . But beyond the evening's red carpet arrivals of such public figures as Vanessa Redgrave, Trudie Styler, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, the event was a much more personal one for the Culture Project's founder, Allan Buchmann.
Perhaps it was because he wanted to "create something relevant to the challenges many people face," or because his daughter "experienced a lack of opportunities as a woman in theater" that Allan launched the Culture Project in 1996 as its Founder and Artistic Director. Regardless of the reasons, however, the Culture Project has successfully fostered innovative collaborations between human rights organizations and artists. "We aim to inspire and impact public dialogue, while encouraging democratic participation in the most urgent matters of our time," Allan says.
But it is even so much more personal than that. It was Chitra, Allan's daughter, named after the great warrior in a Tagore play of the same name, who brought issues of particular concern to women to the surface. "As a result of my daughter's addictions, which included an eating disorder, she passed away in 1991 at the age of only 19," Allan recalls. "I believe that if she had received the right level of professional help she needed, however, she could have been saved."
To help shed light on issues women too often face, and as a tribute to his daughter's 'innate theatrical artistic abilities as a producer', Allan therefore chose to preserve the positive memories they both shared in the theater. "By creating the Culture Project's festival for women artists, in particular," Allan says, "I can now provide opportunities for other young women that my daughter didn't have."
So this summer, the Women Center Stage 2013 Festival, to be held July 8 thru August 3 at the newly named Lynn Redgrave theater, will offer works written, directed and produced entirely by women. Built upon a mission to support and vigorously promote the work of women artists and to celebrate the unique contribution of women to social justice and human rights through the arts, the Women Center Stage Festival provides a much needed home for exploring new ideas and inspiration, testing out early stages of new work and putting women artists in conversation with new audiences, potential collaborators, future mentors/mentees and a vibrant community of peers.
From Academy Award-winning screenwriter and playwright Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild), to Girl Be Heard, an organization that uses theater as a vehicle to empower young women to become brave, confident and socially conscious leaders while exploring their own challenging circumstances, Allan is committed to building Women Center Stage into the preeminent presenter of new work by women artists, providing new artistic forums for dialogue on wider social justice and women's issues and galvanizing both the theater community and its audience around supporting the voices and vision of women.
"We are looking for women's voices that really affect our future, voices that are promising and unique and that, with the right kind of nurturing and exposure, can fulfill their promise for the betterment of life," Allan says. "I believe that creating this stage for women is what my daughter would have wanted me to do." "They may not make it to Broadway," he adds, "but they will certainly create an excitement around issues that affect women, and therefore all of us."
Lori Sokol, Ph.D., is an Educational Psychologist and founder/publisher of Work Life Matters magazine.