DETROIT – BoxFest Detroit, an annual theatre festival that showcases and creates opportunities for women directors, has announced the winners of its 2017 festival. BoxFest Detroit 2017 ran Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons and evenings, August 18 – 26, at Planet Ant Theatre.

BoxFest Detroit produces festivals that grant women directors the opportunities to direct original shows of their choice and win awards to help further their careers in directing. The winning director of the festival-long audience vote competition is given the opportunity to direct a show with Planet Ant Theatre’s One Act Series. This year’s Planet Ant Theatre’s One Act Series winner is Charity Clark-Anderson. Charity Clark-Anderson is a graduate of Wayne State University and was employed as a social worker for the State of Michigan for over 30 years. Her retirement in 2010 gave her the opportunity to pursue theatre full-time. Clark-Anderson wrote and directed “Legacy” for this year’s festival.

For the 2017 festival, BoxFest Detroit launched an additional opportunity: a new Mentorship Program. In this inaugural year, there were two mentorship opportunities available: Assistant Directing for Frannie Shepherd-Bates, and the Tipping Point Theatre Sandbox Directorship. These positions grant two BFD 2017 directors the opportunity to shadow, learn, and collaborate with established, experienced, female-identifying directors. The program also gives emerging directors exposure to networking opportunities in the Metro-Detroit theatrical community. The 2017 Mentorship Recipients were Bridgette Jordan and Sarah Hawkins Moan. Bridgette Jordan currently attends Wayne State University and is pursuing her Master’s in English. She was awarded an Assistant Directorship to work with Frannie Shepherd-Bates on Tipping Point Theatre’s production of “The Impossibility of Now.” Sarah Hawkins Moan has been working as an actress, director, and educator across the country for the last ten years. She received the Tipping Point Theatre Sandbox Play Festival Directorship.

The goals of the Mentorship Program are to connect BoxFest directors with the greater Metro Detroit professional theatrical community and other female-identifying directors working within it, support the education of female-identifying directors, remove challenges for BoxFest directors associated with the cost of education and travel, and remove challenges for professional theatres associated with artist salaries.

The BoxFest Detroit 2017-18 Mentorship Associate is Frannie Shepherd-Bates and BoxFest Detroit’s 2017-18 Partner Theatre is Tipping Point Theatre.

BoxFest Detroit had an additional big announcement at their awards ceremony this year: Amanda Grace Ewing will replace Molly McMahon as Artistic Director. McMahon will continue to remain involved as a member of the producing team and also assist with the transition to ensure Ewing’s success in her new role. “Since pursuing graduate studies at University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, my capacity for outside work has changed dramatically,” said McMahon. “Serving as Artistic Director for BoxFest Detroit for eight festivals has been one of the great honors of my life. I look forward to staying on the BoxFest Detroit team as a producer and to continue working with Amanda Grace Ewing and Kelly Rossi on future festivals.”

“I am thrilled to be taking a larger leadership role with BoxFest Detroit,” Ewing said. “As an alumna of the festival, Molly gave me my first opportunity to direct – so I know hers are big shoes to fill. I’m looking forward to continuing the work she started and expanding our new programs to give our directors even greater visibility.”

For 14 years and counting, BoxFest Detroit has produced annual summer theater festivals, which creates the space and support for women directors of all experience levels to share their work with audiences. Learn more about BoxFest Detroit and its programs at www.boxfestdetroit.com.

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Recently, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) asked me to write a regional spotlight on what I see happening in Michigan theatre. My short article is below. Enjoy!

Regional Spotlight: Midwest – Michigan
Spot Op: Amanda Grace Ewing

“I keep a variety of quotes from this year’s LMDA Conference on my phone, which I revisit when I’m feeling stuck or need some motivation. In the past couple of months, I’ve begun to look for a note as I scroll: “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Affliction: trouble, burden, distress, oppress. Comfort: console, solace, support, uplift. Both of these verbs suggest a physical act of resistance and remind me that bodies carry text. As the national conversation around equity and diversity becomes more robust, theatre companies in my region, Southeastern Michigan, are more purposefully considering the dramaturgy of bodies: who gets to tell what stories and how? Who is afflicted and who is comfortable?

My artistic home is BoxFest Detroit (BFD), an annual one-act theatre festival that showcases local female-identifying directors. BFD has, and continues to, function as a springboard for local women and their directing careers. This year, when the organizers met to plan the festival, we began with strategizing how to leverage our visibility as an organization in order to serve more directors. In response to this challenge, we launched a new mentorship program. In this inaugural year, there were two mentorship opportunities available: Assistant Directing for Frannie Shepherd-Bates and the Tipping Point Theatre Sandbox Directorship. The first award granted a director a stipend and the opportunity to shadow, learn, and collaborate with a regional, experienced, female-identifying director at an Equity theatre; and the later award granted a director a stipend and the opportunity to direct a one-act play at an Equity theatre house. Our goals for this program are to: connect BFD directors with the greater Metro Detroit professional theatrical community, support the education of female directors, connect BFD directors with other female directors working in the community, remove challenges for BFD directors and professional theaters associated with the cost of education, travel, and artist salaries. While we are still in our pilot year – we’re excited to see how this program will affect hiring and visibility of female-identifying directors in Michigan.

Another Southeastern Michigan theatre company looking to create opportunities for marginalized communities is Black and Brown Theatre (BandB). BandB was founded in the summer of 2016 to address the inequity of casting in Michigan theatre. Like many other regions, white artists dominate Michigan theatre, and when considering casting, white is synonymous with neutral. Despite the Detroit area’s diverse population, oftentimes actors of color are only considered in casting when the script breakdown specifically calls for a certain race. Since their founding, BandB has worked to interrupt this narrative by presenting staged readings, showcases, productions, outreach, and education for and with communities of color – each action driving BandB towards the goal of becoming extinct in the next five to ten years. One valuable act of BandB is a humble Google Drive of headshots and resumes of actors of color, that casting directors can ask for access to. Currently, the database is viewable by 64 directors and has the information for 84 actors of color. This simple task has completely negated any claim of, I don’t know any actors of color, I can’t find anyone for this role, etc., and generated access for actors and casting directors to each other.

I’m excited that BFD and BandB are challenging narratives around who is in the room doing the work, that there are more companies in our region asking questions about access and equity, and that theatres and artists are using the resources that companies like BoxFest Detroit and Black and Brown Theatre provide. I hope that as all of us connect with each other we can be a force to afflict those comfortable in the white narrative, and comfort those looking to see themselves in the texts we present.”

 

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Nyjae Maria in “Valerie: A Cosplay Monologue” written by Asher Wyndham, directed by Amanda Grace Ewing. Photo courtesy of Kelly Rossi. (BoxFest Detroit 2017)

 

I’m really excited to announce that this year I will be directing at BoxFest Detroit! After taking a few years off to serve primarily as a producer of the festival, this year I am happy that I will be able to do both.

This year I’m working on a one-act called, “Valerie: A Cosplay Monologue”. I’m thrilled to be working with this play that challenges the culture of sexual assault at comic cons through the voice of a single female character. I start rehearsals soon and I’m really looking forward to playing with the comic book style of this play. As an educator, I’m also really passionate about sharing this information on rape culture.

I’m excited to announce that I have been working as the production coordinator on a second Bad & Nasty event. This one is a birthday bash for the 45th President’s birthday. We’re calling it “Patriot Acts: 71 Wishes for 45.” Huffington Post recently did a story on the events happening around the country. Check out the article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/593f11cae4b014ae8c69e345

“The brainchild behind Bad and Nasty, performance artist Holly Hughes, is co-hosting ’71 Wishes For 45.’ Revelers seeking performance art, improv comedy, finger puppetry, blanket forts, and subversive books should head to Bona Sera’s Underground in Ypsyilanti, Michigan to party with Lola Von Miramar (aka Larry LaFontaine Stokes), Annie Zirkel, Margaret Parker, and emcee Patti Smith (the vamp tramp). Donations will go to Count MI Vote, an organization fighting gerrymandering.”

The curators who brought you BAD and NASTY (Not MY President’s Day) Events in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit are coming together and meeting in the middle for the next installment in the BAD and NASTY canon! We invite artists of multiple disciplines and ALL backgrounds and orientations to submit proposals for short (4-5 min) presentational works and/or roving or one-one one performances, at our Flag Day/”Birthday party” for D. Trump (“45”).

The PATRIOT ACTS, or “71 Wishes For 45” performance party will take place during the evening of Thursday, June 15th (the day after Flag Day as well, coincidentally, as Trump’s 71st birthday) at Bona Sera Underground in Ypsilanti. There will be cake and ice cream! Balloon animals! Spankings, and blowing out of 45’s candles!

Consider proposing performances that might in some way offer up your most sincere and/or most raucous wishes for 45!
Submit your proposals including a brief description and any online documentation BY MAY 15th to lightboxperformance@gmail.com.

(Notifications will be received by Memorial Day)

The evening will once again be a benefit — this time for Count My Vote, an organization dedicated to fighting gerrymandering in MI.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

The 71 Wishes for 45 team,
Heidi Haire
Patti Smith
Holly Hughes
Melanie Manos
Callie McKee
Amanda Ewing
Emilia Javanica
Stefanie Cohen

More information here.