Six women with backgrounds as varied as the stories they tell. Among them, one is an EMT; another one, a pulp-fiction novelist. Each has a story worth listening to.
This diverse batch also shares the honor of being finalists in the third annual 6 Women Playwriting Festival, which premieres each of their 10-minute plays in the Louisa Performing Arts Center this weekend.
For this year's playwriting competition, event co-founder Donna Guthrie and her volunteer team asked entrants to explore the theme of "beginnings and endings." They received more than 200 entries from women around the world. The guidelines: Each play had to be an unpublished, original work and scripts could not exceed 10 pages. Since the festival's debut in 2007, Guthrie says the amount of entries has almost tripled.
"From some previous projects ... it occurred to me that people were excited about us showing new work by women. We received such a warm welcome from the theater community here, it seemed like a good idea to start something in the Springs," says Guthrie. "Now this is home and we always wanted to create an artistic home for women playwrights."
Eve Tilley, president of the Pikes Peak Arts Council and director of two winning plays, says the festival is all about making literature tick.
The Wedding Night, written by former Broadway actress Deborah Magid of Cleveland, Ohio, does just that. "This play is so tightly written, it's like a poem," says Tilley, who finds
poignancy and beauty beyond humor in the work.
Stemming from a supposedly true story told to Magid by a woman who claims to have witnessed the event, the script revolves around a quiet conversation between characters Max and Mae, which yields a shocking discovery from their past.
"I have no idea whether it's really true, but it captured me so completely that I wrote the play in about an hour," says Magid.
Although she's written a chamber opera, two musicals and other short plays, this is the first piece the 54-year-old has entered into a festival. The festival committee awarded it first place, with all winners earning a travel stipend and $100.
Another winning play, Home Fire, written by Sharon Farrell of Sioux City, Iowa, may strike a chord with some local military.
A mom grieving the death of her son, who was just killed in the war, must choose between attending a memorial service to honor him or continuing to protest a war she thinks is corrupt. The play takes a surprising turn when an Army colonel shows up to give some unexpected advice.
"Home Fire closely parallels the Cindy Sheehan story, and I think this is where the playwright got some of her inspiration from," says Manitou Art Theatre artistic director and Home Fire director Birgitta De Pree. "Always speak your truth, that's what this story is about. It's also about sticking to your ideals, no matter what the consequences."
A fitting message to come out of a festival whose continued success, beyond creation, can be owed to as much.