Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival puts the spotlight on local playwrights, bringing diverse voices to the stage

Polly Edelstein, co-founder of Philly Women's Theatre Festival says, theater exists to tell stories, but also to push boundaries.

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(Courtesy of Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival)

(Courtesy of Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival)

Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival is the brainchild of Polly Edelstein and Christine Petrini, who met in graduate school at Villanova.

Edelstein, in conversation with WHYY’s Priyanka Tewari says, the festival was born in response to a drama professor’s call to create a manifesto that addressed  “what sucked about theater, why, and what we were going to do to change it.”

For Edelstein, at the forefront was parity, and how there were so few opportunities for women, especially women in leadership as playwrights or directors, artistic directors.

Polly Edelstein (Courtesy of Polly Edelstein)
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Since the festival model was a great way to be inclusive and “to make as many opportunities for folks who didn’t normally get opportunities; to tell stories, and push boundaries”, the  Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival made its debut in 2015

(Courtesy of Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival)

When asked what are the barriers facing women in theater, Edelstein says, they are two fold. Some of it has to do with women not feeling like they are as good. But mostly it’s the people in leadership and many of the traditional gatekeepers, of the arts, be it artistic directors, funders and foundations, who haven’t gravitated towards working with women, which has left women and people of color, and people all across the gender spectrum, nonbinary and trans folk at a disadvantage.

Edelstein thinks theater is an important way to connect that we don’t have in our day to day lives. It provides that emotion, that feeling, “that authenticity which is vital to being a human being.”

(Courtesy of Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival)
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Each Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival centers around a theme. This year’s theme explores mental health awareness through theater. There will be new readings of three full length plays, four short plays and a free wellness fair on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival is taking place at the Hamilton Family Art Center on North Second Street in Old City Philadelphia.

For more information, visit their website.

(Courtesy of Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival)

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