The Women & The Playwrights

A collaboration by seven award-winning female playwrights, the play is based on personal interviews with seven extraordinary women in the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network who triumphed over enormous obstacles to bring about major changes in their home countries of Russia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Guatemala, and Cambodia.

“The lives of these women provide a portal through which audiences will be able to experience a diversity of cultures while bearing witness to the varied way in which individual women have overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles to justice and freedom.” —Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

Introducing the women of SEVEN and the writers….

Marina Pisklakova-Parker – Russia   &   Paula Cizmar, Playwright
4V&V-MarinaAgainst tremendous odds in 1993, Marina Pisklakova-Parker founded the first hotline for victims of domestic violence in Russia at a time when no one in her country even had a name for such a thing.  Working with reluctant law enforcement and in the midst of threats from abuse perpetrators, Marina persisted and her efforts have since grown into Center ANNA and a coalition of hundreds of crisis centers that has provided counseling services for over 100,000 Russian women per year.

Paula Cizmar is an award-winning playwright and librettist whose work has been produced off-Broadway and in regional theatres from Maine to California. Her many plays, which include THE CHISERA, STREET STORIES and THE DEATH OF A MINER, combine poetry with social/political issues and are concerned with who gets left out of the discussion. Honors include two NEA grants; a Rockefeller Residency in Italy; and a TCG/Mellon Foundation On the Road grant. Her play JANUARY was selected for the MultiStages New Works Festival, and her new adaptation, ANTIGONE X, based on the Sophocles classic text, has been produced at Cal Rep, among others.  Her short opera INVISIBLE, written with composer Guang Yang, has been performed at the Eurydice Found Festival, produced by LA Opera Connects and is scheduled to be seen at SnapShots, produced by West Edge Opera, in 2021.  She is an associate professor of  playwriting at the University of Southern California.

Mu Sochua – Cambodia   &   Catherine Filloux, Playwright

Sochua-91x120Mu Sochua is the former Minister of Women’s Affairs in Cambodia (one of only two women in the cabinet). She grew up away from her home country, having been sent abroad for her protection by her parents, who perished under the rule of Pol Pot.  She was co-nominated in 2005 for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sex trafficking of women in Cambodia and neighboring Thailand. MP Mu Sochua, after door-to-door visits to 482 villages, won a seat in Parliament in July, 2008 and was re-elected in 2013. and

Catherine Filloux is an award-winning playwright who has been writing about human rights and social justice for the past twenty years. Her plays have been produced in New York and around the world. Ms. Filloux is the author of three music theatre pieces including, WHERE ELEPHANTS WEEP produced in Phnom Penh, and THE FLOATING BOX produced in New York. Her plays are published by Playscripts Inc., and her anthology SILENCE OF GOD AND OTHER PLAYS is published by Seagull Books, London Limited. She has received awards from the O’Neill, Kennedy Center, Omni Center for Peace and New Dramatists.

Anabella De Leon –  Guatemala   &   Gail Kriegel, Playwright
Annabella-110x127Anabella De Leon raised herself and her family out of poverty in Guatemala by getting an education, which was exceptional for a young woman coming from the lower economic ranks.  After earning a law degree, she became a congresswoman in 1995, devoting herself to the struggle for human rights.  She has received death threats because of her fight against corruption and for the rights of the poor, particularly women and indigenous peoples.

Gail Kriegel’s musical, SWEETIE about a half white, half black girl growing up in the 1930’s will have its first developmental production at Ford Foundation Theatre of Signature Theatre Center, NYC, directed by two-time Tony Award winner Pat Birch. Gail is presently developing RAINBOW JUNCTION, an operetta for Young Audiences and, with Michael Johnson, a TV series, FAITH & JUSTICE. Her prize winning play, ON THE HOME FRONT, about returning veterans, will have a new production opening Veteran’s Day 2014. Gail’s work is included in the Archives at Lincoln Center and her awards include a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and a One World Arts Grant.

Inez McCormack –  Northern Ireland (deceased 2013)   &   Carol K. Mack, Playwright

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 10.39.11 AMInez McCormack was an internationally renowned and hugely influential human rights and trade union activist. She was the first female full-time official of National Union of Public Employees (NUPE), the first female regional secretary of UNISON (Public Service Union) and the first female President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. She played a critical role in the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords and continued to advocate for equal rights and fair labour practices for women and minorities. In 2006, she founded the Participation and Practice of Rights Project, helping the disadvantaged access resources and services in Ireland, both North and South. Inez continued to advise and support PPR until her death in 2013.

Carol K. Mack‘s plays have been produced off-Broadway and in regional theatres across the U.S.. WITHOUT A TRACE had its European premiere at the Tron, Glasgow, 2002 and toured Scotland. Her new play, THE VISITOR, received a grant from the Foundation for Jewish Culture. Premieres include: THE ACCIDENT, American Repertory Theatre; IN HER SIGHT AND AFTER, Actors Theatre of Louisville; TERRITORIAL RITES, The Women’s Project. Awards include Stanley Drama Award, Julie Harris/Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Award and a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship. Her plays have been selected for four editions of The Best American Short Plays, Applause Books. Her book, A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels & Other Subversive Spirits, was published by Profile Books, London, 2008.

Farida Azizi –  Afghanistan   &   Ruth Margraff, Playwright
farida_azizi_action-135x134Farida Azizi became an activist fighting the marginalization of women under Taliban rule in her native country.  She often traveled alone to rural districts to bring medical supplies and instruction to women who otherwise would have no care and would have to convince Taliban fighters that her work was of value to the local communities.   Because of threats on her life, she has gained asylum and now lives in the United States with her two children and works on women’s rights and peace-building for Afghanistan.

Ruth Margraff’s latest play HARLEQUIN, commissioned by a Playwrights’Center McKnight award, was read at Victory Gardens (Chicago) and the New Group (NYC). Her martial arts opera DRAGON VS. EAGLE marks her 6th collaboration with composer Fred Ho for the Apollo and Brooklyn Academy of Music commissioned by her 4th Rockefeller award. She has toured all over the world with her Cafe Antarsia Ensemble. Ruth was delegated to represent the U.S. State Department on a Peaceworks Cultural envoy to Calcutta, India and received a Fulbright new opera award to Greece. She is an alumnae of New Dramatists, an active member of LPTW and Theater Without Borders/ Brandeis Coexistence International, and an Associate Professor of playwriting at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Hafsat Abiola –  Nigeria   &   Anna Deavere Smith, Playwright

4V&V-Hafsat (1)Hafsat Abiola became an advocate for human rights and democracy following the murder of her activist parents and founded the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy.  The Initiative provides skills-training and leadership opportunities for young women across Nigeria. She now serves as the youngest member of the Ogun State cabinet in Nigeria and is also the Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals to the State governor.

Anna Deavere Smith is an actor, teacher, playwright and creator of unique one woman plays based on interviews. She has won two Obie Awards and two Tony nominations for TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES, and a MacArthur Fellowship. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her play FIRES IN THE MIRROR, Anna 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 WEST WING; LETTERS TO A YOUNG ARTIST, advice for aspiring artists, was published by Anchor Books in 2006.  She is currently a tenured professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Mukhtar Mai –  Pakistan   &   Susan Yankowitz, Playwright

Mukhtar-96x150Mukhtar Mai was gang raped by four men and forced to walk home almost naked in retribution for an alleged honour crime. Mukhtar and her harrowing story grabbed headlines across the world. Instead of taking the traditional women’s route of committing suicide, she brought her rapists to justice, built schools to improve the condition of women, and became an advocate for education in her country. The organisation she founded is the champion defender of women’s rights and education in the Southern region of Punjab Province, Pakistan, a region with some of the world’s worst examples of women’s rights violations, such as rape, gang rape, domestic violence, honour killing, vani (exchange of women in settling the disputes), forced and child marriages.

Susan Yankowitz is a playwright, librettist and novelist whose work has been called ‘moving and poetic’ by the LA Times; ‘magnificent… scorching’ by NPR; and ‘breathtaking’ by the NY Times, the Scotsman, and Pretoria News. Most recently A-Z BOXES won the 2012 award for ‘Best Ensemble Play’ in Ankara, Turkey; TERMINAL, a collaboration with Joe Chaikin/Open Theatre, just completed a run at Butler University; and, THUMBPRINT, her opera about Mukhtar Mai with composer Kamala Sankaram, premiered to standing ovations in the 2014 Prototype Festival, NYC. Her work has been translated into 18 languages and produced throughout the world.