From Girl Scouts to street art: Women’s History Month 2017 in Philly

Jasmine Zook and Ren Williams appear in 'MUSE.' (Photo by Khary Sharpe)

A little earlier this year, 50,000 women and their allies marched on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. For those looking to get off the beaten track and keep the spirit going, here's a roundup of ways to celebrate Women's History Month in Philly. 

The Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival (PWTF) celebrates International Women’s Day with its first staged reading of 2017. Local playwright Hannah Van Sciver sets Period Play: Eight Anachronisms from the Future Past on the Market-Frankford Line after the Women’s March, when “a wormhole to the historic past” crashes into “the tumultuous present.” So Frida Kahlo meets Banksy, Sappho and Lilith have it out, and athlete Babe Didrikson plays a round with Tiger Woods.

Lead artist Lani Skelley developed the show, along with director Randi Alexis Hickey and an ensemble of eight.

Sciver says the play is about “refracting tiny glimpses of ‘women’s history’ through the prism of today,” while keeping a critical eye out for the growing we still have to do in relation to the term.

PWTF is mounting the reading at West Philly’s Beardcave on March 8, in partnership with the Bearded Ladies. “Come for the ladies, stay for the hope of progress to come,” organizers say. Tickets are $10 to $15.

Interactive feminist street art

On Saturday, March 4, New Century Trust presents #SpeakUpPHL: A Feminist Art Workshop, a “collaborative street art event.” Artists Blur and ishnits team up to offer a special set of prints, including the mouth design for which Blur is famous, and invite workshop participants to fill in the prints with “exactly what it is you need to say right now.” The finished pieces will be pasted throughout Philly. Workshop tickets are free to those 18 and under and $5 for everyone else. Space is limited and advance registration is required.

Women’s history at Wyck

Throughout March, Germantown's Wyck Historic House, Garden, and Farm will host a trio of special performances ($10 to $20) spotlighting remarkable women for its first series of women’s history programs.

The first event (geared toward youngsters), coming up at 11am on Saturday, March 11, features the life of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low. Local performer Carol Spacht, whom the audience might recognize from the Betsy Ross House’s title role, will play Low for a look back at the Girl Scouts of 100 years ago.

Next, on March 18 at 11am, Wyck presents the Harriet Tubman Living History Experience, in which the Barrymore-nominated actor/writer/producer Millicent Sparks (a veteran Tubman portrayer) brings this Underground Railroad and Civil War hero to life, from her days as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad to her extraordinary military service with the Union army. The program is suitable for ages nine and up.

The final performance in the series is Emma’s Parlor, on March 25 at 1pm and again at 3pm. The play (intended for ages 12 and up) follows the real-life story of Emma Goldman, who was born to a Jewish family in 1860s Russia and arrived in the US in 1885, where her radical ideas eventually made her a very problematic woman to authorities.

Employing “toy theater,” artists Martina Plag and Lorna Howley “use everyday objects one might find in a parlor, of that same period, as playing spaces,” to illuminate an immigrant’s working-class journey and America’s “uncelebrated” Jewish ancestry.

All facets of femininity

For dance fans, on March 24 and 25, MUSE: A Dance Project brings MUSE ($15 to $20) to the Performance Garage. It’s a performance piece “embodying femininity in all its facets,” inspired by the nine Muses of Greek mythology. It covers themes like the false binary of “strong” versus “ladylike” women, mental illness, and intersectionality.

At right: this photograph of Harriet Tubman was taken between about 1860 and 1875. 

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