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#LadyFest Aims To Spur Discussion On Gender Equality

A scene from 'Jack Pork' by Donna Hoke. From left to right: Katrina Beedle, Dan Lafferty, and Ben Hooper
Queer Theatre Kalamazoo

CORRECTION: The original story said Edith Fisher was a playwright. She is actually a poet, not a playwright.  

Fancy Pants Theater and Queer Theatre Kalamazoo have teamed up for #LadyFest—a show featuring short plays, monologues, and a few poems—all under the themes of gender equality and femininity. 

#LadyFest is the second show in Fancy Pants social justice series. In February the theater did a similar program on race and will hold one on LGBT rights in June. Ben Hooper is the vice executive director of Fancy Pants and co-producer of #LadyFest.

“And what we try to do with those shows is—rather than preach, we want to provoke discussion. Cause especially with the crowd in this city, if we did preach we would be essentially preaching to the choir. Which is great and it makes everyone feel nice but you’re not really accomplishing anything. So in this play we have a lot of different ideas coming from different segments. Some of them are just straight-up feminism, empowerment. Others take separate ideas. Some of them challenge the way we look at gender. Some of them might even anger feminists a little and that’s ok. Part of what we want to do is say it’s ok to be angry, join the discussion.”

#LadyFest opens Friday, March 13th at Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative and runs for two weekends. Laura Henderson of Queer Theatre Kalamazoo says each night the second act will be a little different. Friday night, for example, there will be a guided discussion by sociology PhD and poet Edith Fisher, as well as karaoke.

The short plays themselves are a mixture of local scripts as well as those from esteemed national playwrights. The short play “Jack Pork” by Buffalo-area writer Donna Hoke seems to be a cast favorite. It takes place on the set of a retro TV show like Mad Men.

In “Jack Pork,” TV actress Chrissy is objectified and harassed by her coworkers, all in the name of show business. But when Chrissy’s co-star Jack has a problem with a certain part of his anatomy—the director and crew are all about sensitivity. After all, they say Jack is a serious actor that should be treated with respect.

"Would you like people walking up to you, always pointing at your body?" Jack remarks to Chrissy.

Actor Dan Lafferty plays the character Jack Pork.

“Obviously he’s not used to or he thinks there’s something wrong with the way he’s treated about his body, but they don’t see anything wrong with the way Chrissy is treated,” he says.

“So it’s just an interesting take on it and how would a man react to that. And in this show, you know, the man is just as upset as women are. And yet he still doesn’t learn the lesson that women don’t like it, even though he doesn’t like it personally.”

In the play, Chrissy isn’t treated much differently than her character. Actor Brishen Miller says the playwright was probably trying to show how little has changed in our society.

“It mentions blogs and Tumblr, so it is modern era," he says. "But a lot of the dialogue and a lot of the effects come up with a lot of older, patriarchal 40s, 50s, and 60s era stuff. But we’re obviously new people with the exact same ideals.”

The feminist theatre collaboration #LadyFestwill run for two weekends, starting Friday night at 8 p.m. at Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative.

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