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DivaFest: 2 weekends, 5 plays, 6 playwrights


Five of six Divafest playwrights: from left, Dija Henry, Tiffanie Bridges, Julie Mauro, Denise Warnsby and Claudia Labin. - DANIEL AXLER
  • Daniel Axler
  • Five of six Divafest playwrights: from left, Dija Henry, Tiffanie Bridges, Julie Mauro, Denise Warnsby and Claudia Labin.

Only about 17 percent of the total number of new plays produced in this country are written by women, yet 31 percent of Theater Communication Group's list of "Top Ten Most Produced Plays in American Theatre" were written by women, according to a 2009 article by Grantmakers in the Arts. The numbers show that women are twice as likely to write a hit show, but half as likely to get produced in the first place.

Now in its third year of bucking that trend, DivaFest gives up-and-coming woman playwrights the opportunity to have their work fully produced on the IndyFringe stage. Six playwrights are responsible for a total of five plays this year, which will be featured in rotation during a two-weekend run that kicks off Friday night.

Here's the lineup:

In Julie Mauro’s Strip for Change, idealism and politics go head-to-head when students shed their garments to aid women in need, only to be shut down by their university.

Tiffanie Bridges' Voice of Angel sees the world's most celebrated gospel singer sitting outside the pearly gates with a piano man, crooning the audience toward glory.

Dija Henry and Denise Michelle Warnsby’s collaboration on Sweatpants and High Heels, inspired by a mother’s comic views of pregnancy, depicts the hell that breaks loose when substitute teacher takes over a “what to expect when you’re expecting” class.

French-born playwright Claudia Labin’s No Place Like Home centers on a vicious property battle between the recently widowed Kat and her ruthless children. The story explores greed, sibling rivalry and elderly care at the hands of merciless children.

Finally, Canadian playwright Christel Bartelse returns to Indy with Chaotica, a fractured re-telling of Alice in Wonderland where Alice is sentenced to hard time in the dystopian netherworld.

Moffat's pitch centers on the unique perspective of woman playwrights: “The humor that these women bring to the stage about everyday things, about the dramas of life, about things that effect family and the influences that people have had on them is delightful and thought-provoking.”

We put a few question to Julie Mauro, who is presenting her second DivaFest show this year.

NUVO: Why have you continued to submit work to DivaFest?

Julie Mauro: I enjoy writing, and the humbling and really exciting experience of seeing your work on stage. I really appreciate how much Indianapolis has grown as a city that is into supporting local art and local playwrights. IndyFringe has been a major supporter of that.

NUVO: Do you think you've faced discrimination in the theater as a woman?

Mauro: Certainly working as a director. It can be difficult for men, and even other women, to take direction from a woman. As a playwright, I’ve been pretty fortunate. My first real experience was one where I felt pretty supported. But it is difficult for people to accept women coming into their own, beyond the traditional pretty actress role on stage. Sometimes, even women playwrights give the "meatier" or more complex roles to male characters and leave women characters the dregs. Why is that? I don't think there's a simple answer.

NUVO: Tell us about Strip for Change.

Mauro: It started as an inside joke among friends. We were talking about how much non-profit organizations struggle. The number of non-profits that are founded each year is increasing, but there is so much competition that it can be hard to get started. It’s sad when a non-profit loses a sense of their vision, their original purpose, in the mad dash to try to get recognized. Somehow this really ridiculous idea of stripping for attention and to raise money came up, and I thought it was hilarious.

NUVO: What do you hope people will take away from all of the plays in this year’s DivaFest?

Mauro: I hope that people are inspired to go out and do more work, women especially. Not just women playwrights, but women artists, musicians, poets, etc. I hope all women are inspired to get back to their project that they’ve been keeping in their desk for a little while.


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