EXCLUSIVE: League of Professional Theatre Women Co-President on Patricia Ariza's International Theatre Award and LPTW's Mission

By Jon Sobel on Oct 24, 2014 04:30 PM EDT

Next week the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) will honor Patricia Ariza, legendary producer, director, actress, playwright and poet from Colombia, with its Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award. A week-long series of events in New York City from October 27 - November 3, 2014 will celebrate Ariza and 20 other internationally-acclaimed artists.

A full listing of events can be found online. They include video screenings, music, performances and panels, a poetry reading by Ariza and two-time Tony nominee Josie de Guzman, a live interview with the honoree, and the awards ceremony at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center/CUNY on October 27.

Ariza and 20 other women theatre artists were nominated for the Gilder/Coigney award for "work that inspires and educates across cultures, has a visible impact in their home country and abroad, and which demonstrates not only artistic excellence but a support of women's work and issues."

Patricia Ariza endeavors to bring peace to Colombia through theater. In May she organized an international peace conference; another is planned for two years from now. Last month she received the National Award for Human Rights in Colombia. “"The important thing is not me," she has said, "but what I do with the women's movement and social movement in Colombia. I am confident that the theater serves to achieve peace.”"

Ariza was born in 1946 to a peasant family, and moved to Bogotá when her parents were forced into exile. In 1966 she co-founded the experimental El Teatro de La Candelaria. Ever since, her work has been linked to the political and social currents of her time.

For the past 24 years, a press release explains, Ariza "has focused on women artists and the social movement, producing vast works and massive performances that bring together professional artists and victims,– particularly women,– of the long-existing armed conflicts in Colombia. The Corporación, a not-for-profit organization she manages, creates performances and events with widows and children from the most violent regions of the country: abused women who have left their homes, young people living on the streets, and others displaced by war and social upheaval. These women tell their life stories and play an active role in each performance. The company also organizes the biannual Festival Alternativo de Teatro and the internationally acclaimed Festival de Mujeres en Escena ('Women on Stage Festival') annually."

In 2011 LPTW presented the first triannual Gilder/Coigney award to Rwandan playwright, novelist, poet, director and humanitarian Odile Gakire Katese. Maxine Kern, Co-President of the League of Professional Theatre Women, told me that the New York-based LPTW established an international award for two reasons: to expand the horizons of New York women theater artists by connecting them with others from around the world, and to "recognize work by excellent women theatre artists worldwide" whose work hasn't been "sufficiently recognized and known. We feel that women will be connected and strengthened within their countries by this recognition" and here at home "we will all [experience] a deepening and empowering of our work as women in the arts."

The triannual award and weeklong celebration furthers the LPTW International Committee's original intention "to connect with affiliate artists internationally and help them establish similar organizations to support women in their home countries. Secondarily," Kern went on, "as individuals they could be hosted by us when they visited NYC and we by them when we visited their countries. In both instances an exchange of ideas was core to the meetings between women. So far only London has established an organization similar to our League," though there are many affiliates.

Frank Hentschker, Executive Director of the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, one of this year's partner organizations, said of the award, "I regard it as a Nobel Prize for women in theatre." ”Kern explained that Hentschker was motivated to make that statement because the award "aims for peace and justice," and because he "has seen many great women artists who remain in the shadows yet continue to work tirelessly to make art and theatre in order to make social change in their countries."

Upcoming plans for the League of Professional Theatre Women also include continuing its Awards Celebration & Big Mingle, oral history, networking and salon events and research into parity for women. "We plan to become even more actively involved in government advocacy for pay equity for women, for other legislation that affects theatre women in the workplace, and to reach out to other organizations as co-partners in our advocacy for women artists in NYC and nationwide," Kern said.

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TagsLeague of Professional Theatre Women, LPTW, Patricia Ariza, Colombia, Josie de Guzman

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