Joey Xanders is the series' curator this year, and I recently enjoyed coffee and conversation with her. My first question -- "Why does Brava! discriminate against men?" -- is offered with tongue firmly in cheek and gets a grimace in response. "The focus is not on men," Xanders says, "but on women. We give women the opportunity to present their work, and the time and space in which to do it. Brava! supports the development of theater by women of color, by women with disabilities, by lesbians. Each woman whose work is selected has the chance to work with a professional director and a lighting designer." In addition, Brava! offers Artistic Director Ellen Gavin's dramaturgical support. Xanders explains that " 'Taking Shape' is a remarkable experience for the participants. For many, it is the first time they have been taken seriously as artists."
This year's artists include, among others, Japanese-, Filipina-, Irish-, and African-Americans; straight women and lesbians. Each of three weekends features works in progress by four different women. All performances Feb. 1-4 will be American Sign Language, interpreted by Sherry Hicks, whose piece, Triple Tongues, deals with her experience of growing up as a hearing child with two deaf parents. The range of themes and theatrical styles is extraordinary. Says Xanders: "Just when we thought we'd seen it all, this new group of women comes along and blows the lid off our carefully constructed definitions of identity: Sex and love; race and gender; queer and straight; animal and human are held up to the flame and reconstituted in a different light." Past participants in the series have included such notable writers/performers as Marga Gomez, Wilma Bonet, Ellen Sebastian, Robin Karfo, Grace Walcott, Sara Felder, and Kate Perry. This partial list of alumnae suggests that "Taking Shape" is an experience worth your time. It runs through Feb. 17. For reservations (highly recommended), call 487-5401. Finally, if you have a few dollars, consider sending some or all to Brava! The York renovation is an ambitious and costly project that will serve theater workers and spectators alike.
By Deborah Peifer