By Darlene Donloe
The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) kicked off its 21st anniversary and a weekend of festivities Thursday night with an opening night champagne gala and awards ceremony honoring five women for their career and life achievements.
The event, hosted by Ted Lange and Starletta DuPois, and written and directed by Shanae Sharon, was held at The Electric Lodge in Venice. The theme of this year’s festival is Giving Voice.
Before a packed house, LAWTF honored Amentha Dymally, Kiha S. Lee, Josefina Lopez, Debra De Liso and, posthumously, Juanita Moore.
Dymally received the Eternity Award, which is bestowed on an artist whose lifetime achievements have made a lasting contribution to the world of theater.
Said Dymally, who referred to the theater as her husband, “He has a lot of mistresses. Although I’m an old lady now, he still calls on me.”
De Liso received the Rainbow Award, presented to an artist or individual for her diverse contributions in fostering non-traditional and multi-cultural theatre works. Said, De Liso, “I’m so blessed. What I do is noble.”
Lee was the recipient of the Integrity award given to an artist who has brought credibility and dignity to her work.
Lopez was given the Maverick Award for her high standard of individuality and self-styled creativity. An advocate for women, Lopez remarked that the world was “fucked up.” And that “as women it’s our job to fix it.”
Moore, best known for her role in the film, Imitation of Life, was bestowed posthumously with the Infinity Award, which memorializes exceptional achievement of a theater artist. Moore passed away Jan. 1, 2014 at age 99.
Themed In Honor Of, there were three performances during the ceremony by Sloan Robinson (Bananas: A Day in the Life of Josephine Baker), Ingrid Graham, who performed a dance called The Passage and Tia Matza, who performed an aerial piece called, Grief and Grace.
As is its tradition, this year’s LAWTF will present a number of solo works showcasing the many voices of womanhood, while celebrating the theatre community.
In its 21 years, the LAWTF, the longest running annual solo festival for women in Los Angeles, has produced nearly 500 multicultural and multidisciplinary solo performers from around the world.
The LAWTF, a non-profit, was founded by Executive Producer Adilah Barnes and Miriam Reed.
For a complete listing, www.lawtf.org.
**Photo of Ingrid Graham is courtesy of Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival. Photo of Tia Matza is by Mari Provenchar. Photo of Amentha Dymally is by Darlene Donloe.