Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival marches on the patriarchy

The cast of 'Hear Me War.' (Photo courtesy of PWTF.)

This year, the Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival (PWTF), running August 2 through 6, channels the country’s political energy with Hear Me War, its first-ever musical production.

Produced through PWTF’s Women’s Playwriting Cooperative, Hear Me War, with book, music, and lyrics by Sarah Galante and Jaime Jarrett, follows a group of women who fear for their lives in this turbulent political climate. Together, they march on Washington to challenge patriarchy and oppressive policies. The show runs at University of the Arts' Caplan Studio Theater August 4 through 6, directed by Elaina Di Monaco.

A vision of the Women’s March

It was something of a psychic vision of January’s Women’s March. Polly Edelstein, the festival’s artistic director, says Galante has been working on Hear Me War for years.

Hear Me War is a musical about dismantling the patriarchy, an idea that has existed long before today's turmoil,” says Edelstein. “It shines a light on the struggles feminists face both on a macro and micro level while also shining a light on the loveliness of community and how important it is to have a tribe of people who love and support each other.”

That need for women to support one another is the driving force behind PWTF as a whole.

“There is a huge discrepancy in opportunities for men and women in theater,” Edelstein explains, “especially at a leadership level. While the numbers keep shifting and women keep breaking into more and more roles in the arts, there is still a long way to go.”

“Our mission is to create opportunities for women in theater and there are so many women seeking out these opportunities who are deeply talented, just unable to be seen elsewhere,” she says.

Readings, cabaret, and comedy

The festival is now in its third year and has been growing with each iteration. Hear Me War is perhaps the greatest evidence of that growth. Edelstein is excited about the possibilities the musical has opened up for the festival. “Given the size and scope [of the musical], we were forced to grow faster than anticipated, but have received so much support from the community,” she says.

Along with Hear Me War, the festival will also feature an opening cabaret on August 2, and three staged readings: The Elvis Administration by Stephanie Walters, Out of the Wake by Megan Diehl, and Loved Ones by Robin Rodriguez (all happening at the Caplan Studio Theater).

There’s also PWTF’s third annual Women in Comedy showcase, upstairs at Fergie’s Pub (1214 Sansom Street) on Saturday, August 6, at 10pm. Alyssa Al-Dookhi hosts a lineup of local favorites including Nicole Phoenix, Rachel Fogletto, Alyssa Truszkowski, and Chanel Ali. (There’s a $10 cover at the door.)

“I want people to leave the festival and see the talented women out there and realize they need to be given opportunities now,” says Edelstein. “We want people to walk out and demand to see this excellence, diversity, inclusion, and feminism on the stages, back stages, and offices of the larger theaters in town.”

The Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival is coming to the Caplan Studio Theater at the University of the Arts (211 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia) August 2 through 6. For tickets (individual and festival passes) and more information, visit online. For every Hear Me War ticket sold, an anonymous donor will match $1 and donate the funds to the Philly-based nonprofit Women Organized Against Rape