It's not uncommon for festivals to honor someone whose work represents a mutually held ideal. In its inaugural year, the Women's Theatre Festival of Memphis is turning up the volume on that tradition by honoring a dozen female dancers, singers, directors, playwrights, and producers who have made lifelong contributions to the Memphis theater community.
Why so many? For Ruby O'Gray, an actor, playwright, producer, and co-founder of the new festival, there is a sense of urgency.
For years, O'Gray has suffered with crippling arthritis. In 2010, she started having breathing problems and was told that she needed to take better care of her heart. That's exactly what she did.
"I've lost a lot of relatives and friends," she says. "I've always wanted to do something to recognize women. And if I was going to do something, the time to do it was right now."
Although the festival attracted some international attention, O'Gray admits it's a modest first attempt. "We've got the foundations laid on the house. But we haven't brought in the furniture yet," she says.
The Women's Theatre Festival of Memphis showcases local and visiting artists and features workshops in playwrighting, directing, acting, and costume design, in addition to two days of dance, ensemble performance, and readings.
Festival performances include For Goodness Sake by Elaine Blanchard; Harriet Tubman: One Woman's Journey by Jackie Murray; Crazy About You by Amber Williams; Angelique Watt: My Release by Brenda Bell Brown; Prison Stories V by Voices of the South; and Sisters of the Cloth by Ruby O'Gray.
Women's Theatre Festival of Memphis is being held at Circuit Playhouse, Playhouse on the Square, The Buckman Center, and TheatreWorks Friday-Saturday, August 3rd-4th, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Registration: Thursday, August 2nd, noon-7 p.m. For details, call 213-7566 or visit www.womenstheatrefestivalofmemphis.org.