365 Women A Year Festival

They say history is written by the winners. What they don’t say often enough is that while men were writing down their version of things, women were out actually getting things done. For instance, did you know that Chef Julia Child, née McWilliams, was once a spy? Ever hear the one about Jackie Mitchell, the girl who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig? This May 5th-14th, Rover Dramawerks will host the second annual 365 Women a Year Festival in celebration of the accomplishments of women throughout history.

Playwrights Jess Eisenberg and Gina Scanlon created the 365 Women a Year project in 2014, in order to “write women back into history.” That year, 200 women paid homage to such figures as Sylvia Plath and Jackie Joyner Kersee. One of these playwrights was Plano’s own Carol Rice, director of Rover Dramawerks.

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A 2015 365 Women a Year festival play // photos provided by Rover Dramawerks

Carol was immediately drawn to the 365 Women a Year project and last year, Rover Dramawerks hosted their first 365 Women a Year Festival. Year One featured performances of 10 plays written by Texas playwrights. Carol’s first play, titled One Night in the Garden, centered around Anne of Austria, Queen of France, whose relationship with the Duke of Buckingham created the historical backdrop for Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. She considers the play, although with some hesitation, a spiritual prequel.

Last year was such a success for critics and audience members that 2016 will see Rover Dramawerks run 15 plays for the festival and incorporate work from writers in seven states. Carol and Paula J. Sanders represent North Texas, while fellow Texans Donna Latham and Rita Anderson will participate as well.

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This year will celebrate an impressive cross-section of women throughout history, including: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, author Louisa May Alcott, Alice Liddell (the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland), author Shirley Jackson and Ruth Handler, creator of the Barbie Doll.

Carol Rice’s spy-centered contribution involved some super-sleuthing of her own. She knew that she wanted to write about a spy in WWII, but was pleasantly surprised when she found out Julia Child, world renowned chef, had once been a member of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, predecessor to the modern CIA). Interestingly enough, given the subject matter, she says it’s a funny play due to her protagonist’s sense of humor. Carol is ecstatic about seeing it performed this year at Rover Dramawerks.

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Like 365 Women a Year, Rover Dramawerks has sprung forth out of necessity. In October 2000, Carol and four friends decided to begin producing plays that no other theaters were showing. She says the mission has been a hard one, as unfamiliar plays don’t always bring in the crowds. And location was once a problem. Rover takes its name from the fact that for years, the troupe literally roved around Dallas, Mesquite, Garland and finally Plano where it settled in 2006. Since 2014, Rover Dramawerks has operated out of its own space. This is the middle of Rover’s 16th Season.

Rover Dramawerks celebrates plays that you won’t find at every stage in town, which of course makes it the perfect place for the 365 Women a Year Festival. If there’s any woman you can trust to put on plays about hard-working, innovative women, it’s Carol Rice. Now the only question is, do you see the play about the spy, the aviator, the first female paleontologist? Do them all! Starting to sound like a who’s who of the most radical ladies of all time? I think that’s sort of the point.

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