Seven award-winning playwrights (Many Shining Lights) — Paula Cizmar, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Carol K. Mack, Ruth Margraff, Anna Deavere Smith, and Susan Yankowitz— have created seven individual monologues into a collaborative work for the theatre based upon personal interviews and oral histories of seven extraordinary women whose work benefits the citizens of their diverse cultures: Russia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Guatemala, and Cambodia. The play is a testament to their extraordinary acts and common humanity in the face of injustice and violence. JOURNEYS is directed by Evan Yionoulis.
The seven women whose stories will be told on stage – largely in their own words – have nothing in common besides the trauma and injustice they have faced at the hands of their governments, national institutions or fellow countrymen and their ability to transcend those experiences to become leaders in the fight to end violence against women.
Marina Pisklakova-Parker, from Russia – In response to the disturbing statistics on domestic violence in her country and the lack of education and advocacy on the subject, Pisklakova-Parker founded Russia's first hotline for victims of domestic violence in 1993. That first year, while working totally alone, she answered over 700 calls—while receiving numerous death threats from angry husbands. That hotline grew into Center ANNA, which, with the support of a coalition of NGOs and government officials, has helped over 100,000 women to date.
Mu Sochua, from Cambodia – One of her country's leading voices against human trafficking, domestic violence and worker exploitation of women, when she was named Minister of Veterans and Women's Affairs in 1998 she became one of only two women in the Cabinet of the Cambodian government. She used her position to negotiate an agreement with neighboring Thailand to curtail human trafficking in Southeast Asia. She also launched a campaign to engage NGOs (non-governmental organizations), law enforcement officials, and rural women in a national conversation on the issue. Today, she works on behalf of NGOs throughout Cambodia, serving as a vital link between grassroots and government organizations.
Inez McCormack, from Northern Ireland – McCormack is one of the most influential civil rights leaders in Northern Ireland today. During a job interview in the 60s, she became aware of equality issues after being asked veiled questions about her religious and social beliefs. McCormack went on to play a critical role in the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords, and continues to advocate for equal rights and fair labor practices for women and minorities as the director of UNISON, the United Kingdom's largest trade union. Having served as the first female President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, McCormack holds many senior positions, including Chairperson of the North/South Health Service Partnership and Senior Advisor to the Global Coalition for Women's Rights/Worker's Rights. She is also a well-known writer and broadcaster.
Anabella de Leon, from Guatemala – De Leon has devoted her career to promoting the rule of law and protecting the rights of all citizens, but particularly women and indigenous peoples. Her interest in these issues came out of her own family's experiences with poverty. After putting herself through college, she became a member of Guatemala's Congress in 1995. Despite risks to her personal safety, she has been unafraid to point out her colleagues' cronyism and corrupt practices, regardless of their political affiliations.
Hafsat Abiola, from Nigeria – A second-generation human rights and democracy advocate, Abiola followed in the footsteps of her parents, who were killed fighting for democracy in Africa. To honor their legacy, Abiola founded and directs the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), an NGO that seeks to advance African democracy and economic development by strengthening initiatives that support Nigerian women. Every year, KIND provides hundreds of young women with experience in leadership programs and skills-training.
Farida Azizi, from Afghanistan – Farida Azizi was born in Kabul, but grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan where her father, a military doctor, was forced to flee with his family after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Her experience in the camps made her especially sensitive to marginalization of women under Taliban rule. Now Special Advisor for Afghanistan at Vital Voices working to promote basic human rights for Afghan women through international advocacy, her work requires regular travel to some of Afghanistan's most troubled regions.
Mukhtaran Mai, from Pakistan – Mai's activism began after her village's tribal council decided to punish her for a crime supposedly committed by her brother (later found to be a false accusation). Following the custom of "honor for honor," Mai was gang-raped and then made to walk through the village in her torn clothing. Instead of committing suicide, which is the action expected of women in her situation in order to restore the family's honor, Mai took her case to court and became an international symbol for justice. Pakistan's government eventually paid her reparations, which she invested in a school for girls (and later, one for boys) to provide education for local children.
Paula Cizmar is an internationally produced playwright. Plays include: Candy & Shelley Go to the Desert, Death of a Miner, Love Song for the Woman Whose Child Shot My Son, Bone Dry (AKA The Copy Editor Murders), and Street Stories, winner of two Ovation Awards. Theatres producing her work include: The Women's Project, San Diego Rep, Portland Stage, the Jungle Theater. Other honors: NEA grant, a DramaLogue, a Rockefeller residency at Bellagio, commissions from Salt Lake Acting Company, The Echo, and Actors Theatre of Louisville. She was a staff writer on the PBS series "American Family," starring Edward James Olmos.
Catherine Filloux is an award-winning playwright who has been writing about genocide, human rights, and social justice for the past twenty years. Her plays have been produced in New York and around the world. She has written the libretti for two produced operas. Her awards include the PeaceWriting Award (Omni Center for Peace), Roger L. Stevens Award (Kennedy Center), Eric Kocher Playwrights Award (O'Neill) and Callaway Award (New Dramatists). Her plays are published by Playscripts, Inc., Smith & Kraus, Vintage, Dramatic Publishing & Seagull. She is a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders.
Gail Kriegel's award winning play, On the Home Front about war and racism among veterans in a college classroom has been produced on many stages and is presently being translated into Italian. The Stan Salfas film, Fragments, adopted from the play, and for which Gail wrote the screenplay, has won Best of Festival in various international film festivals and is presently being shown throughout Europe. Gail is an Alumnae of the BMI Musical Theatre and Lyricists Workshops. She wrote the book, lyrics and music for Sweetie, which will have its World Premiere at The Queens Theatre-in-the-Park, Fall '08. She has just finished collaborating with Curtis McKonly on Rainbow Junction, a children's opera and is developing a new opera, Crown Heights with Hugh Sam. Artist-In-Residence at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center '05-06; receipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and The One World Arts Grant for Theatre that Bridges Worlds, her work is included in the Archives at Lincoln Center. Gail is grateful for the privilege of having interviewed the esteemed Annabella de Leon for this project.
Carol K Mack's recently completed play, The Visitor, was a recipient of a 2005 grant from the Foundation for Jewish Culture. Premieres include In Her Sight, Humana Festival, Actors' Theatre of Louisville; The Accident, American Repertory Theatre; Without a Trace, the Tron in Glasgow then touring Scotland, 2002. Awards include the Julie Harris/Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Award, The Stanley Award, Playwrights' Forum Award and a Rockefeller Fellowship in residence at the Center for Study at Bellagio. Her one acts appear in three editions of BEST SHORT AMERICAN PLAYS. An alumna of New Dramatists, Ms. Mack is a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women.
Ruth Margraff recently received her fourth Rockefeller Foundation commission with Big Red Media/Apollo Theater, a McKnight Commission/Residency, and a Fulbright new opera award to Greece. Her work has been developed and produced by Hourglass/Century Ballroom, BAM Next Wave, the Apollo, CAMI, HERE/Harp, Public, Cooper Union, Lincoln Ctr, Kitchen, NYTW, Guggenheim Museum and regionally throughout the U.S.A. from Louisville to Seattle as well as internationally in Russia, Greece, Japan, India, Croatia, Serbia, Czech Rep., Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Great Britain etc.. She is published in a new textbook from Kendall/Hunt, and in Backstage Books, American Theatre, Theater Forum, Dramatist, Johns Hopkins, Manchester, NuMuse Anthology/Brown, Chain/Temple, Epoch/Cornell, Conjunctions/Bard, Autonomedia, etc and is a co-leader of a Theatre Without Borders initiative on peace-building and coexistence.
Anna Deavere Smith is an actor, teacher, playwright and creator of unique one woman plays based on interviews. Her honors and awards include two Obie Awards, two Tony nominations for Twilight: Los Angeles, and a MacArthur Fellowship. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her play Fires in the Mirror, Ms. Smith is founder and director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University. As an actress she has appeared in many films and on the television series "The West Wing." Her new book, Letters to a Young Artist, was recently published by Anchor Books.
Susan Yankowitz is a playwright, novelist, lyricist and librettist. Among her plays are The Revenge, Phaedra in Delirium (winner of the QRL poetic play competition); Under the Skin; Terminal and 1969 Terminal 1996, both pieces collaborations with Joseph Chaikin's Open Theatre (Drama Desk Playwright's Award); A Knife in the Heart (O'Neill Conference winner; West Coast Premiere October 2002 at Sledgehammer Theatre); and Night Sky, presented throughout the United States and internationally. Her plays have been translated into French, Japanese, Catalan, Dutch and German; they have been widely published and anthologized. She is also the librettist/lyricist of Slain in the Spirit, a gospel-and-blues opera with music by Taj Mahal; Cheri, an opera/music theatre work with Michael Dellaira; and bookwriter/lyricist of True Romances, a musical fantasia with Elmer Bernstein.
Evan Yionoulis is an Obie Award-winning director (1997's Three Days of Rain), who most recently directed Theatre for a New Audience's October 2007 Broadway production of Ohio State Murders. Prior to that, she directed Richard II at the Yale Repertory Theatre, where she has also helmed productions of Carlo Gozzi's The King Stag, George F. Walker's Heaven, Keith Reddin's Black Snow and Brecht's Galileo. Other credits include the Broadway production of Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour, Everett Beekin (at the Lincoln Center Theater) and Daisy Foote's Bhutan at the Cherry Lane. She is currently developing a new musical, Redhand Guitar, with composer Mike Yionoulis.