Celebrating Women and Collaboration

There are many awards and prizes and honors of various names, shapes, and sizes given in the arts community.  All, I would expect, thoughtfully and carefully awarded and all, I am even more sure, deeply appreciated by the recipients.  In a crowded and eclectic field like entertainment, finding a way to shine a light on a particular kind of excellence is valuable and significant to the artists and to the audiences.wam logo

I recently became aware of an award that I particularly like – the Collaboration Award: Women Working With Women, awarded biannually by the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, Inc. (WAM).  This award is designed by WAM to encourage professional women in the arts and media to work collaboratively with women from other arts and media unions and guilds on the creation of new work.  From my personal point of view, it combines three elements closest to my own heart – new work, women working in the arts and collaboration.

The last three awards have gone to collaboration teams working on a piece for the theatre; this time it honors a film collaboration.  It was just announced that the 2013 Collaboration Award has been awarded to the team of Grace Lee and Jane Edith Wilson for their collaboration on the mockumentary Janeane From Des Moines. JANEANE_FINAL_9_19_2012 Both women co-wrote the script, Lee directed and Wilson played the role of fictitious Iowa housewife and Christian conservative Janeane who managed to get up close and personal with Republican presidential nomination contenders during the Iowa caucuses, including Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.

At the film’s screening at the Toronto Film Festival, Grace Lee told the New York Times that her collaboration with Wilson grew out of a mutual frustration with what was going on with the election;  they knew the caucuses would be a good place for political theatre. “… I know how to make a film, and she knows how to act. We thought we could combine those things and start a conversation.”  Janeane From Des Moines seems to have started a lot of conversations.

In 2011, the Collaboration Award was presented to the team of playwright Stefanie Zadravec and director Daniella Topol for their collaboration on The Electric Baby.  The play had its world premiere in 2012 at the Quantum Theatre in Pittsburg (to critical acclaim) and has had subsequent productions this year in Chicago and New Jersey. Two months ago, in July of 2013, Stefanie Zadravec was awarded the $10,000 Primus Prize for The Electric Baby, a prestigious award given annually by the American Theater Critics Association to an emerging female theatre artist.  About winning the Collaboration Award, playwright Zadravec said:

Playwright Stefanie Zadravec

Stefanie Zadravec

New work needs momentum. It’s simply not a reality that a play can be written in the attic and then magically find a production.  Or that one production will lead to a second or third production.  People need to hear about work. They need to hear about the artists who make the work.  There is no question that this award not only helped The Electric Baby become a better play, but it gave the baby a life.

She’s right.  New work does need momentum.  It needs support and champions; it needs to be seen and talked about; maybe, if it’s theatre, it might be tweaked and revised a bit and then seen again and talked about some more.  No matter the medium, it needs to be encouraged, and celebrated when done well.  It’s great that WAM and the Collaboration Award is helping to do just that.

Congratulations Grace Lee and Jane Edith Wilson!

In addition to Lee and Wilson, two other collaboration teams will be honored with Certificates of Achievement at next month’s WAM Gala celebrating the awards: the Honored Finalist team of Stephanie Satie (actor/writer) and Anita Khanzadian (director) for their solo play Silent Witnesses and the Honorable Mention collaboration of Fengar Gael (writer) and Lorca Peress (director) for the musical fantasy The Island of No Tomorrows.

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