Who We Are
Athena Project is a professional group of artists dedicated to supporting and expanding women’s artistic contributions to the Denver stage and wider community.
Athena Project was formed in 2012 by Denver theatre director Angela Astle, who became determined to find a way to support female playwrights after reading a study on gender bias in theatre by Princeton graduate Emily Glassberg Sands that showed only 17% of all works written by women are produced. She recognized the niche for new works in Denver that was not being fulfilled, inspiring Athena Project’s ongoing Plays In Progress Series. She also realized that a women’s play festival had not been held in Denver since 1998.
Athena Project presented its first Plays In Progress Series in the summer of 2012, highlighting works by local writers. The first world premiere play presented by Athena Project was selected from these works, which debuted in 2013. The centerpiece of Athena Project is its Arts Festival, which began in 2012, takes place annually in March. Both the Festival and Athena Project have their roots in theatre, but Athena Project has evolved to be an arts organization that supports many facets of women’s artistic work. Their programs and events include music, dance, visual art, theatre, stand-up comedy, fashion and beyond. Athena Project’s work has expanded to include an education initiative called Girls Create, which empowers girls to lead and effect change in themselves and others through creative learning, participation in local and national conferences on gender parity which include the Statera Foundation’s 2016 Conference and TEDx Mile High, and the development of a survey to understand the role women play in leadership roles in theatres across the Rocky Mountain region. Athena Project has partnered with the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, the City of Denver Mayor’s Office, the 2018 March on Colorado, Benchmark Theatre Company, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts and the 40 West Arts District.
Athena Project’s mission is to empower women and strengthen the Denver community through developing and showcasing women’s and girls’ artistic contributions, while inviting new audiences into the creative process. Athena envisions a world where women’s voices are powerfully expressed and recognized for artistic merit in the community.
Athena was formed to close a critical gap in the creative life of the Denver community. Women’s creativity is still largely submerged in the American—and the Denver—community. The United States is currently in the middle of a human rights battle for gender equality; central to that battle is recognizing and correcting the fact that while women have a presence in the arts, that presence is largely limited to non-leadership roles: directors, playwrights, choreographers, artistic directors, head designers and featured artists are all fields dominated by men. As a consequence, the voices of women are systematically muffled. Bringing those voices out is not just good for women, it builds a healthy society.
We feel that women play a unique role in struggles for social change—especially in telling stories that do not otherwise get told, retaining and reinforcing community and cultural values and shared history, and engaging us all to respond. It is vital for women’s voices to be included and valued equally with men’s.
About the Festival
The Athena Project Arts Festival is an annual full arts festival supporting the voices of women artists from primarily the Denver community. Each year’s festival includes a celebration of music, dance and theatre at various locations throughout the city during the month of March. The festival highlights the artistic contributions of women working in Denver’s artistic community, and fosters a sense of community among these artists and their supporters.
In the innovative Plays In Progress (PIP) series, women playwrights collaborate with directors, dramaturgs and actors, to bring brand new work to the public as workshop performances – and then the audience talks back! (One of these new plays then goes on to be fully staged as our spectacular Premiere Production.)
PIPs are an opportunity for playwrights to work alongside and receive feedback and support from directors, actors, dramaturgs and audience members. This upcoming festival presents five plays at different stages of development, including a table reading, a concert reading, and three workshop productions. Audience and actors’ reactions are so vital to help develop stories further and this series is designed to be a collaborative learning process for everybody involved.
Songwriters and musicians jam brand new tunes, and shine bright slants on classics, over a three-day weekend of music. This year, for the first time, we’re planning a project called Cross Pollinations, in which musicians pair with a playwright, a poet, a dancer and a visual artist over just 12 hours, to collaborate and create mind-tinglingly fresh works of performance art.
A kaleidoscope of performers together explore the excitement and grace of movement in an Evening of World Dance. Previous festivals have featured choreography and dance performances by Bella Diva Dance, Communitas LLC, Tribal Fusion Belly Dance, Marna Ares Dance Troupe, Spoke N Motion and Cleo Robinson Dance.
During the Festival we also celebrate the incredible work of the middle and high school girls at the Girls Create summer camp program with a weekend of performances. Final presentations of the girls’ work, staged, directed and acted, during the Girls Create Celebration, part of our annual festival. Girls Create gives girls a voice in our community, and serves to positively promote girls as leaders in our society.
Since the festival began, Athena Project has highlighted the work of over 41 dancers and choreographers, 34 playwrights, over 39 musicians, and 167 middle-school girls. In addition, four plays workshopped during the Plays In Progress series have gone on to have world premieres around the country, and the World Premiere play in 2017 is being produced this upcoming year.
Angela Astle, Athena Project Executive Producer and Founder : firstname.lastname@example.org
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