In San Antonio, Texas, three actresses are desperately attempting to put on a play. Holly, the TV celebrity, Casey, the off-Broadway veteran and Lisabette, a former third-grade teacher and aspiring actress are trying to produce “The Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov, but to no avail.
Back here in snowy Montreal, the Women’s Committee of the Canadian Actor’s Equity Association bravely read (for the third time ever) the women’s play Saturday night at Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal. That is, it was performed within the play by Jane Martin called “Anton In Show Business.”
“We wanted to do something fun – a celebration for International Women’s Day,” said director Paula Danckert of the play within a play. “Danielle Skene found the play. She was actually turned onto it by the librarian at the National Theatre School. There are a number of plays with female casts, but, of course, not as much as there are for men.”
The play deals with quite a few touchy subjects, mainly from the perspective of females in the business – the treatment of African American actors, the tobacco industry, sponsorship, frivolous sex and cosmetic surgery are but a few. The character of Holly sums up show business well, “It’s a beauty contest not a profession.”
Some see life for women very much like that.
“I am a bit ambiguous about International Women’s Day,” said audience member Layla Abdel Rahim after the show.
“We shouldn’t need a special day to celebrate women. I find it commercialized, but I like how it was done here.”
Her friend Anna Borissova found that the slight Russian undertones in the play, almost written by Martin as an ode to Chekhov, were particularly entertaining.
“I am originally from Russia, so for me it was very funny,” she commented with a laugh. “I found myself laughing a lot, actually, when no one else was.”
Of course, the event was not for women only. Although all the cast members were female, the audience was not short on males. Sadly, most of them had no idea that March 8 is International Women’s Day and were therefore too embarrassed to comment.
The seven performers, Stefanie Buxton, Danielle Desormeaux, Janis Kirschner, Julie Tamiko Manning, Eleanor Noble, Danielle Skene and Rebecca Singh are all members of the Women’s Committee and appeared on a purely volunteer basis.
“It was a really good thing to get involved with and combine our efforts to raise some money,” Buxton said after the performance.
Not only was the reading of the play a successful reader’s theatre, it also raised well over six hundred dollars for Herstreet/Rue des femmes and Breast Cancer Action Montreal. With the support of theatres around Montreal during the month of February and the days leading up to the performance, the Women’s Committee estimates that well over three thousand dollars has been raised which will be divided equally between the two charity organizations.
“Canadian Actor’s Equity has a national mandate to raise funds and our prior mandate was breast cancer, so that’s how we chose that charity,” said Danielle Desor-meaux, the chair of the committee who was also in the performance.
“As for [Hers-treet/Rue des femmes], we really wanted to go locally to help the immediate community.”
The money raised for the charities will go towards administration costs such as the new Herstreet/Rue des femmes building and the new computers at BCAM.