Though the pandemic continues to force venues to close their doors, Artemisia Theatre has curated an engaging season that brings compelling female-driven productions to the streaming screen rather than the stage. In 2021, Artemisia is producing not one, but two original works by Lauren Ferebee that honor the group’s passion for feminist plays and use the limits of lockdown life as a strength.
Artemisia Theatre Founder and Artistic Director Julie Proudfoot shared her excitement for the 2021 season – Goods streaming from May 5 through 30 and Into a Blaze: The Triangle Shirtwaist streaming from Oct. 20 through Nov. 14 – as well as her enthusiasm for the We Women podcast and connecting with likeminded creatives during this unprecedented time.
“We are going into the virtual space with these two great world premieres that nobody’s ever seen,” said Proudfoot of the 2021 season when we talked by phone in late February. “I think there are great things you can do and shoot in a theatre and stream online, but to actually make them for this virtual space is a whole new opportunity. Both of these plays really are made for the virtual space.”
“Goods is about two female trash collectors in 2100 and they’re in this junk spaceship cleaning up the mess,” said Proudfoot. “It’s so great because there’s the two of us in this spaceship and it really lends itself to new media.”
Utilizing new media to the best of its abilities was also at the core of Proudfoot’s decision to commission Ferebee to write a production about the tragic events of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 and the positive movements that rose from the ashes. The resulting work, Into a Blaze: The Triangle Shirtwaist – directed by Proudfoot – honors the history of the deadly event while drawing parallels to workers rights campaigns in the current landscape.
“I have always had a burning desire to revisit the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire of 1911 which, I think still stands as one of the worst workplace tragedies in American history, where 168 young immigrant women died. But it’s not just a bummer, because out of that comes one of the most powerful labor rights movements and feminist movements in our history. I’ve always wanted to revisit it and I thought, ‘Wow you could really do this as a Zoom play.’”
Long before the idea of Zoom plays existed, Artemisia Theatre first launched back in 2011 with a mission to share feminist stories while supporting diverse theatre artists on stage and behind-the-scenes. What started as a Fall Festival and one production season grew into a two-show season in 2019, and there is a lot in store in 2021.
“I founded Artemisia in 2011,” said Proudfoot. “It was really in direct reaction to the lack of powerful women on stage and the lack of feminist stories. So, I really wanted to have a theatre where women are in the lead and where women’s stories – no matter how messy or complicated or shocking – could be told.”
The pandemic has inspired Artemisia to tell these stories in a variety of interesting formats, including audio productions. In 2020, Proudfoot created the We Women podcast – which she hosts and co-produces with Willow James – as a way to check in with Chicago creatives while theaters were forced to go dark, and it has grown – thanks in part to her love of reader’s theater – into a full-blown, eight-production season of audio works, each with unique in-depth discussions.
The first production of the season, What About the Children, penned by Sharai Bohannon, directed by Myesha-Tiara, and with sound design by Willow James, features Jessamyn Firzpatrick and Joseph Ramski as Sonya and Matt, a married couple who argue over Matt’s job as an ICE officer. The play itself captures the raw emotion of a woman who can no longer look the other way in regards to her husband’s career, and the show provoked robust discussions inspired by the art and the issue of immigrants rights in subsequent episodes.
“For example with What About the Children, after the discussion then we released an interview with a young woman named Sandra Gonzalez. She is so brilliant and is a young person who’s accomplished these amazing things. One of them is that she is the executive director and one of the founders of the Aurora Rapid Response Team. They help immigrants or refugees or Dreamers who are having issues in the Aurora community. She started it in 2018 with her friends because of what was happening with the Trump administration,” said Proudfoot. “Her whole dedication to immigration justice – and giving rise to especially young people of color – was just an incredible discussion.”
Artemisia Theatre will celebrate its 10-year anniversary this October. Along with buying tickets to upcoming virtual performances, supporters can also donate directly to help fund the We Women podcast – which airs for free – and businesses can become podcast sponsors. Through April 1, Artemisia is offering special half-price tickets to stream Goods from May 5-30.
Click here to pick up tickets to stream Goods and more information about Artemisia Theatre and the We Women podcast can be found at Artemisiatheatre.org. Anyone interested in becoming a podcast sponsor can contact Proudfoot at Artemisiatheatre@gmail.com.