On March 24th, Actors' Equity Association’s Equal Employment Opportunity Committee sponsored Celebrate Women’s History Month 2014 — an event that featured excerpted performances from one-woman shows about the lives of five female activists.
EEO Committee and Equity member Sharon Hope, who portrayed the late U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, organized the event. The occasion also featured Equity members Richarda Abrams as Mary McLeod Bethune, the American educator and civil rights leader who served as an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Shigeko Sara Suga as Ulrike Meinhof, the radical left-wing militant who started out as a journalist and became one of the founders of the Red Army Faction in 1970s Germany; and Dorothy Leeds, who portrayed both Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady of the U.S. and first chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and Empress Wu Zetian, the only woman in Chinese history to rule as emperor. The evening was directed by Passion, a member of the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, and Rosita Timm served as stage manager.
“For a while I’ve been wanting to celebrate various women, particularly women of color who very seldom get recognition, for any number of reasons,” Hope said. “When the EEO Committee had the meeting accepting proposals for various tributes and celebrations throughout the year, I felt that a proposal to celebrate unrecognized females would be appropriate.”
Some of the actors involved in the show have written their own one-woman play out of admiration for their respected character.
“Since I admire Shirley Chisholm, I decided I would like to represent some part of her life,” said Hope. “I had already seen a presentation of Mary McLeod Bethune by Richarda Abrams, so I asked her to participate…I sent out an email regarding and Richarda responded by referring Dorothy Leeds and Shigeko Sara Suga.”
The evening culminated in a Q-and-A and talkback session with the audience.
“The added bonus was the enthusiastic audience response to the work and the talkback,” Passion said. “The event was educational, entertaining and diverse — an exciting experience for all. I was honored to be part of it.”
Since 2011, the Eastern EEO Committee has used a proposal and voting process for all EEOC-sponsored events.
“In an effort to take a proactive approach to organizing and streamlining our EEO initiatives, we now hold annual programming meetings with full Committee participation,” said Christine Toy Johnson, Eastern EEO Committee co-chair.
Each event must be proposed with an overview of the event, a line-item budget, and a description of how it will promote employment opportunities for members of an underrepresented group, and/or educate the membership in a way that supports the employment of Members of an underrepresented group.
“We've found that this approach — including setting guidelines for the intended mission that our events should achieve, as well as parameters for protocol — has given our programming more focus and diversity, and has enabled us to plan efficiently within our budget,” Johnson said. “Since we implemented this way of planning, we have had many highly successful initiatives, which have all been met with great attendance and interest from the membership.”
“I felt the evening was a success,” Hope said of the Women’s History Month celebration. “…And from the comments I heard after the post-discussion, everyone left with ‘food for thought.’”