Published in KPBS On Air Magazine April 2000

Creating New Myths, Destroying Old Ones.

Durga 2000, a Women’s Performance Festival, is named for the Hindu goddess of creation and destruction.  

The brainchild of local arts goddesses Gina Angelique (artistic director, Eveoke Dance Theatre), Kirsten Brandt (artistic director, Sledgehammer Theatre), Michelle Grier (author; USD professor of philosophy), Jackie Roberts (Yale Drama School graduate; actor, playwright) and Stephanie Steiner (playwright), the week-long festival (April 1-9) is designed to bring together San Diego’s academic and artistic communities, in an effort to highlight the work of under-represented women.

It’s nowhere near as intense or esoteric as it may sound. “I don’t want it to be construed as some big Maxi Pad,” says Brandt. “It’s not just tits and tampons,” adds Angelique.

In a conversation with three of these high-power, high-energy innovators, the creative juices and the flow of ideas surge and merge with uncontrolled swells of laughter. The joy these women take in their work, in their collaborations and in their commitment to changing the face of the city, is frankly irresistible.

“It’s not just about work by women,” Roberts says of the festival. “It’s more specific than that. The arts community needs to commit to improving women’s lives, not just to representing male fantasies onstage.”

“And it’s not just about performances,” adds Angelique. “The festival will include workshops for young women, age 7-16 — in improvisation, hip-hop, acting, writing–all provided free [April 2 & 9, in Balboa Park]. We want to encourage this new kind of audience, which will help to change and shape future work. We’re not interested in making boundaries more malleable or flat.”

“Let’s get rid of them completely,” Roberts chimes in.

Brandt picks up the thread.   “We’re very excited about the two roundtable discussions we’ve organized with a panel of academics and artists. There’ll be open forums for an exchange with the public about women’s place in issues of art, race, gender, class, age and sexuality [April 5 at Diversionary Theatre; April 8 at USD].

“Durga is the quintessential feminist,” Brandt continues. She is wild, fierce, and will do what she needs to do, without concern for the male gods. We all love that image.”

“This is the seed year for the festival,” says Angelique, who, along with her comadres, has been planning this event for a year. “We expect it expand to a much larger scale. This year, we’re just curating the work. Our work is seen regularly.   The intention is to bring other artists to the forefront, to feature women who aren’t represented.   A lot of this work wouldn’t be done elsewhere because of its political content.”

All told, there will be five shows in nine nights, plus the workshops and forums. The venues are all over downtown San Diego.

An inter-generational presentation of what Angelique calls “performance art dance theater,” involves text, movement, voice and thematic art to create historical portraits of three senior citizens by three young performers (at Eveoke’s theater space, April 1-2).  

Pig Pile Divas, an entertaining peek into the lives of four friends as they embark on a midlife adventure, plays at Sushi Performance and Visual Arts (April 3).

Women in Music highlights various instrumental headliners and up-and-comers at the Casbah club on India Street (April 4).  

Women , Parts I and II, featuring an eclectic assortment of theatrical dance pieces, spoken word and performance art, runs at Diversionary Theatre (April 5) and St. Cecilia’s Playhouse (April 7).

The Butch-Femme Chronicles is playwright/actor/social activist Kimberly Dark’s performance piece about lesbian identity (April 6) and the wacky comedy Maids, by Jackie Roberts, takes a farcical look at the triumphs and tribulations of today’s working black woman (April 8-9, St. Cecilia’s). Deborah Small’s provocative performance art piece and installation, Rowing in Eden, explores the age-old relationship between women and herbs.  

Look for performers dancing in the water, women breaking off their rubber breasts and batting each other, a senior Butoh artist, and other off-the-wall, feminine-energy hilarity, in conjunction with more serious themes. But these women not just playing to the estrogen audience.

“We want everyone to come,” says Roberts. “Men, women, young and old, different cultures. People who don’t usually come to the theater. People who’ve never even been to the theater.”

“This is the opposite of high-brow, white intellectual performance,” adds Brandt.

“Theater is a way of non-violently dealing with the social time-bomb ticking in our society,” says Angelique. “Of course we’re not yet in a renaissance.   But it’s going to happen.”

Catch the feminine fever at Durga 2000.

[April 1-9. A $20 pass provides entry to all events (otherwise, $10 per event), but reservations are required (619-238-1153)].

©2000 Patté Productions Inc.