On March 31, 135 female artists in Washington, DC will stick their necks out, stretch their wings, and plunge into SWAN Day. SWAN (Support Women in the Arts Now) Day does what theaters, publishers, and other curators of culture too often fail to do: afford visibility to women and their art. The international holiday was begun five years ago by WomenArts, a worldwide community of artists and allies that works for empowerment, opportunity, and visibility for women artists. Celebrated on the last Saturday in March, SWAN Day has been marked since its inception with 700 events in 21 countries.
Washington, DC’s SWAN Day is one of the biggest in the United States. Founded and organized for the past four years by Catherine Aselford, artistic director at Georgetown Theater Company, DC SWAN Day has showcased emerging and established women artists from the DC area, other parts of the US, and India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. This year, DC SWAN Day will host six events at five separate venues, featuring music, visual arts, theater, poetry, dance, performance art, and storytelling.
From 1:00 to 5:00 P.M. a staged reading marathon will be held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Like all the SWAN Day events, the reading is free, although there is a small charge for admission into the museum. The marathon will consist of 13 plays by playwrights from across the US and abroad. The playwrights include Laura Pfizenmayer, Katherine Burkman, Tammy Ryan, Danielle Mohlman, Kelli Herod, Maryam Foye, Rebecca Nesvet, Carol S. Lashof , Barbara Blatner, Marj O’Neill-Butler, Donna Hoke, Abigail Taylor, and Megan Furniss. Directors include Catherine Aselford, Cate Brewer, Mary Resing, Ty Hallmark, Jessica Aimone, Kelli Biggs, Dorothy Neuman, Emily Jablonski, Kristy Simmons, and Krista Cowan.
“To me, the most exciting aspect of SWAN Day is the variety of the art,” Aselford notes. “Not only are many different artistic disciplines represented, but within each discipline, the voices of the artists vary widely. Each poet, each playwright, each performer seems to have a different perspective. One moment, in the staged reading marathon for example, the audience sees a farce, then an abstract play, then a tense drama.”
Indeed, there will be many types of SWAN artists, each with her own kind of grace and–perhaps most importantly–none of them mute.