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 and national 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 is in its fifth year and 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.
Athena’s programs range from a yearly Arts Festival to educational outreach programs to an interactive service program designed to effect change in our community. We work to support the voices of women in Denver and beyond, and foster a sense of community among these artists and their supporters.
- 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 2017 festival, our fifth, featured the world premiere play The Wave that Set the FIre by Ellen K. Graham. It featured 31 events in 60 days, including an evening of dance, a collaboration with local nonprofit Swallow Hill Music featuring the work of female musicians, and a showcase of work by middle school girls!
- Our Plays In Progress (PIP) Series features workshop level productions designed for audience feedback. This series is made up of new works entirely by female playwrights. Each PIP winner receives two workshop readings, designed with minimal sets, lights and sound. One play from this series is selected to be fully produced as our Premiere Production every year. The 2018 Arts Festival will feature five new works by women in varying stages of development, more than we’ve ever produced before!
- New in September 2018, a new play by a female playwright will be staged as our Premiere Production. The Premiere Production runs throughout the month of September, with several performances each week.
- Girls Create is an educational program which teaches girls in 6th through 10th grade various aspects of performing arts in a unique way. We prioritize bringing in professionals from the community to teach the program, along with guest artists to share their expertise and mentors to provide guidance to the girls and encourage their own creations. Each week long summer-camp program culminates in a final project where the community is invited to see their work. Girls Create operates in collaboration with Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.
Athena features 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.
Current summer camp programs include Girls Write (theatre and writing immersion), Girls Fashion (fashion design workshop), Girls Give Back (visual art workshop designed so that the end creation goes to a community partner), Girls Improv (Immersion in an improv class exploring long and short form), and Girls Access Art (tailored for girls who are deaf or hard of hearing).
Mentors for Girls Create and specifically, Girls Write, are women who have theatre experience and who possess the leadership and initiative to empower girls in their own writing.
- Cause & Affect (pun intended!) is Athena’s newest service program, designed to engage artists by creating year-round opportunities and providing a unique form of entertainment for Denver nonprofits and organizations. We are creating unique art with a cause while effecting change in our community at the same time. We premiered the Cause & Affect program during a fundraising breakfast for the Blue Bench, metro Denver’s only comprehensive sexual support and prevention center. We presented a live performance during their fundraiser, demonstrating the Blue Bench’s mission through theatre.
- Pop Up Performances are a very special part of Athena Project. Our goal is to further our mission supporting female artists beyond the scope of our festival. These are our “passion projects,” and include plays written by female artists, projects or offerings that we wish to collaborate with, or even a project furthering our support of young female artists in any discipline. Past productions have included an improv comedy team competition, curated performances for attendees of TEDx Mile High, a staged play reading focusing on the lives of homeless women in Denver, a “Pop Up” series of mobile performances along the RTD Light Rail, and connecting artists to perform at The Women’s Foundation events including TOGETHER with Michelle Obama!
- We host a variety of exciting fundraising events throughout the year, which include an annual Cocktails and Comedy evening featuring local female comediennes, and Dine + Drink = Donate events at local restaurants around the city.
Angela Astle, Athena Project Executive Producer and Founder : firstname.lastname@example.org
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