Get Cultured — March 17, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Incredible Women in NYC: Sarah Bennett, The Creator

by

Women. Girls. Females. The other sex. Whatever you want to call them, they represent everything that contains strength, power, and inspiration to many people around the world.

This month we celebrate women because of the incredible beings they are, but sadly we live in a world where most of the celebration ends with empty words. Empty, because for every promise this society gives, it takes another one away. Equality is something that’s talked about, and in many circles thought to be actually in existence, but boil it down to truth and we see it’s not there.

In the entertainment industry, women are part of every aspect. Acting, directing, writing, producing, etc… Yet the opportunities that exist keep them in an eternal survival game where they need to step on each other to get to where most males get without the same sacrifices. For every 2.24 male characters written to be performed, there’s one female. Only 23.3 percent has a female lead. Woman wants to be a female director? Your chances are slim, only 7 percent of working directors are women. Why is this? After so many years of living in a world where men are the ultimate power holders, women continue to try and break in, no matter the challenge. Because of this, this month we focus on women in entertainment that live and work in NYC. Known to be one of the hardest cities in the world, these women wake up every day to fight against statistics that tell them otherwise.

Sarah Bennett is the founder of The Ophelia Theatre Group, a company that was born in Lake Elsinore, CA in 2003. When 2009 came and after writing, directing, producing, and making The Ophelia Theatre Group a known name, her ambitions moved her here to the Big Apple. And she didn’t come alone. A leader in every aspect of the world, Sarah has brought her company here and taken over a little nook in Astoria to make her and her company’s dream true. You can see her new work this weekend, and enjoy her brilliance.

THE FOX AND THE BOULDER, written and directed by Sarah Bennett will be playing till March 29th at the Ophelia Theater (21-12 30th Rd, Astoria, NY) For more information go to www.opheliatheatre.com

sarahbennet

Now meet Sarah Victoria Bennett:

  1. You are originally from Southern California and that’s where you started your company, The Ophelia Theater Group, which you have brought to this city. Which would you say is better for new companies to start in? What’s the main difference you’ve found between the two scenes?

Being as I grew up in California and moved to New York, it would be impossible for me to know how things would have played out had it been the other way around. I will say that growing up where I did put me in touch with so many gifted people looking for an outlet, and I don’t regret that for a moment. It seems obvious that New York offers more opportunity than most other places in the country when it comes to theatre, and I really don’t think that we would be where we are if we hadn’t made the move to this wonderful place we now call home. However, as far as the passion for the art goes, it really doesn’t matter where you’re from.  I have dear friends who relentlessly make theatre happen all over the map.

  1. Tell us more about Ophelia Theater and your new production The Fox & The Boulder, which you wrote and directed.

I founded the Ophelia Theatre Group in 2003 back in Lake Elsinore, California (thus the name), and we moved to New York between 2009 and 2011, roughly. The Fox and Boulder is largely a love-letter to our company. The show is a whimsical story about a group of tightly knit friends who come together on one special night in their usual tavern, only to discover that many of their life’s wishes are about to come true…. only not how they thought they would.

  1. While theater seems more progressive about women in positions of power in the industry, it is still a long ways of being equal. For example, Annie Barker won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014, yet there was not a play by women on Broadway in the 2013-2014 season. 68% of the audience at the time was female, and still they were there seeing plays written by men. Not only that, but for every 3 male characters, there is one female. Does this play into your every day life? How have you felt this injustice? What do you think we can do to break this barrier easier, or do you think there’s no easy way to do so?

I feel that like most cultural problems, there is no quick and easy fix that will have lasting results. I can’t speak for other women playwrights, actors, etc., but my plan is to keep on putting out the best work possible. For instance, The Fox and Boulder’s six female roles are compelling characters that I’m sure many of the men in the cast would love to play, (feel free to ask them.) That’s why I have to keep doing what I’m doing, despite the sexism that still presents itself as an obstacle for so many artists. Rather than choosing to focus on the injustices, I want to produce work that highlights how pointless those barriers are.

  1. Your base is in Astoria, a young and vibrant neighborhood that lacks a strong art scene, yet many of the people around are artistic. How do you hope to bring more art into the neighborhood? There are a lot of groups around Astoria doing theater, film, music, etc., and it seems like they are finally focusing on the area they live in instead of Manhattan. As one of the people on the forefront of this artistic dream, do you think Astoria can become a hub for artists to come and build their careers?

I actually feel that Astoria does have a very strong art scene, but it’s decidedly different than what you will find in Manhattan. For me, that is where the intrigue comes from. Each artist needs to find their own way to build a career, but Astoria has everything from film galas and art expos, live music and wine bars; this place truly has just about everything. That’s why we’re so excited about the Ophelia Theater here in Astoria.  The scene is already here, and we just want to be a part of it.

  1. Ok let’s have some fun — in an absolute dream scenario, if you could write a play about a historical female figure, which would it be? And could you tell us a bit of how you would do the play?

I’d be interested in writing about Louisa May Alcott and her family. So many people only associate her with Little Women, which of course is a wonderful book, but the Alcotts were a very progressive family that took a hard stand against things like classism, sexism and racism. Louisa and her older sister had their own local theatre company, which is how her older sister met her husband, and Louisa’s youngest sister actually mentored Daniel Chester French who went on to design the statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits in the Lincoln Memorial. I think it would be fascinating to write a play that brought out the similarities, as well as the stark contrasts, between the very sweet and mild March family and the controversial Alcotts.

  1. Do you think the artistic community is moving forward or regressing? What do you feel we need to do to progress?

I think we have no choice but to progress. As time goes on, artists are becoming less and less afraid to express what they see around them and what they see inside themselves, and when brave art happens, it inspires others to break out and say something honest. The problem we face, as always, is when money has too much of a hand. We certainly see this in the movie and music industries, but theatre certainly isn’t immune. I enjoy writing pieces that can appeal to a large range of people, but unfortunately, so much of what is out there is pandering and lazy. It’s important to keep exposing people to fresh ideas and quality story-telling.

  1. You’ve done a lot of admirable things, and are one of the hardest working people I know. Anything you want to say to all the girls out there dreaming of being in this crazy industry, which insists on using them as eye candy and gossip makers, what would you like to tell those girls?

We each have a choice as to what kind of artist we want to be. If you have a passion for modeling, and that’s what you really want to do, I say go for it. You just have to know what you’re getting yourself into and refuse to allow the industry to define your inner person. I always enjoyed acting and had an agent in my late teens, but after a dozen auditions it dawned on me that I wanted to be the person on the other side of the table, so that’s what I pursued. There are so many aspects of the theatre that can become your passion besides acting, but if that’s your dream, don’t let anyone stop you. And if someone or some group of people tries to reduce you to eye candy, or gossip making, say no. You always have a choice.

Thank you Sarah Bennett for such an inspiring and no non-sense interview. And to you guys, go see her show!!!!

Twisted Talk: How are you celebrating National Women’s Month? Have you been to any Ophelia Theater shows? Discuss below!

%d bloggers like this:
/body>