Five Minnesota venues present national tour during Women’s History Month

WINONA, Minn. — In honor of Women’s History Month, five Minnesota performing art centers — including the Page Theatre in Winona — will proudly present SEVEN, a riveting documentary play by seven female writers based on personal interviews with seven remarkable women who faced life-threatening obstacles before bringing heroic changes to their home countries of Pakistan, Nigeria, Ireland, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Russia, and Cambodia.

Produced by L.A. Theatre Works, the play makes the powerful and timeless statement that even in the darkest times, one person, one voice, and a single act of courage can change the lives of thousands.

The SEVEN tour in Minnesota kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, at Page Theatre. Following its stop in Winona, SEVEN will be performed in Red Wing, Collegeville, Saint Paul, and Detroit Lakes.

Playwrights Carol K. Mack (who conceived the play), Anna Deavere Smith, Paula Cizmar, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Ruth Margraff, and Susan Yankowitz collaborated to create a tapestry of stories that weave together the words of the seven women, dramatizing their struggles and triumphs over resistance, death threats, entrenched norms, and pervasive violence. Since the premiere in 2008, the piece has been translated into 27 languages and performed worldwide in more than 30 countries.

In addition to the performance, the Page Series will also host an Audition and Monologue Workshop, taught by L.A. Theatre Works company members who are veteran actors of stage and screen. Several local actors will perform, and observation is free and open to all. The workshop takes place at 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, in the Saint Mary’s Performance Center’s Figliulo Recital Hall.

Following SEVEN, the Page Series will continue its salute to women’s history with SPEAK on Friday, March 27. Developed by the Leela Dance Collective in collaboration with Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, SPEAK brings female voices to the forefront of two historically male-dominated art forms: tap and Kathak dance. The artists will also offer residency activities across Winona March 23-28.

Tickets to SEVEN are $27 for adults, $24 for students (age 18 and older) and senior citizens (age 62 and older), and $18 for youth (age 17 and younger). More information is available by visiting pagetheatre.org or calling the Performance Center box office at 507-457-1715 (noon to 6 p.m., weekdays).

THE WOMEN OF SEVEN

Marina Pisklakova-Parker – Russia
Against tremendous odds, in 1993, Marina Pisklakova-Parker founded the first hotline for victims of domestic violence in Russia. At the time, there was no name for domestic abuse in her country. Despite reticent law enforcement and in the midst of threats from abusers, she persisted. Her efforts have since grown into Center ANNA, and a coalition of hundreds of crisis centers that provide counseling services to over 100,000 Russian women per year.

Mu Sochua – Cambodia
Mu Sochua is a human rights advocate and the former minister of women’s affairs in Cambodia (one of only two women in the government cabinet). She grew up outside of Cambodia, having been sent away for her protection by her parents who perished in the Killing Fields of Pol Pot. She was co-nominated in 2005 for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sex trafficking of women in Cambodia and neighboring Thailand. After door-to-door visits to 482 villages she won a seat in Parliament in July 2008 and was re-elected in 2013.

Anabella De Leon – Guatemala
Anabella De Leon raised herself and her family from poverty in Guatemala by getting an education, which was exceptionally rare for a young woman coming from the poorest communities. In 1995, after earning a law degree, she became a member of Guatemala’s congress while devoting herself to the struggle for human rights. She has received multiple death threats as a result of her fight against corruption and for the rights of the poor and indigenous peoples.

Inez McCormack – Northern Ireland (deceased 2013)
Inez McCormack was an internationally renowned and hugely influential human rights and Irish trade union activist. She was the first full-time female official of National Union of Public Employees (NUPE), the first female regional secretary of UNISON (Public Service Union) and the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. She played a critical role in the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords and continued to advocate for equal rights and fair labor practices for women and minorities. In 2006, she founded the Participation and Practice of Rights Project (PPR), helping the disadvantaged access resources and services in Ireland, both North and South. She continued to advise and support PPR until her death in 2013.

Farida Azizi – Afghanistan
Farida Azizi became an activist fighting the marginalization of women under Taliban rule in her native country of Afghanistan. She often traveled alone to rural districts to bring medical supplies and care to women who were abused and persecuted by the Taliban. Threats to her life forced her to seek asylum in the United States where she now lives with her two children. She continues to work on women’s rights issues and peace-building for Afghanistan.

Hafsat Abiola – Nigeria
Hafsat Abiola founded the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy and became an advocate for human rights and democracy in Nigeria following the murder of her activist parents. The Initiative provides skill-training and leadership opportunities for young women across Nigeria. She served as the youngest member of the Ogun State cabinet in Nigeria and the special adviser on the Millennium Development Goals to the state governor. She was educated in the United States at Harvard University.

Mukhtar Mai – Pakistan
Mukhtar Mai, at age 30, was gang raped in a form of honor revenge. Her harrowing story grabbed headlines across the world. Although the custom would be for her to commit suicide following a rape, she instead brought her rapists to justice, built schools to improve the conditions for young women, and became an advocate for education in her country. The organization she founded is the champion of women’s rights and education in the Southern region of Punjab Province, Pakistan. This region is known for some of the world’s worst examples of women’s rights violations. Her story has been the subject of numerous documentaries, books, and an opera.

SEVEN was created with the support of Vital Voices Global Partnership, the preeminent non-governmental organization (NGO) that identifies, trains, and empowers extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities. These women have returned home to train and mentor more than 500,000 additional women and girls in their communities. They are the vital voices of our time. Learn more at vitalvoices.org.

About L.A. Theatre Works

Under the leadership of producing director, Susan Albert Loewenberg, L.A. Theatre Works (LATW) has been the foremost radio theater company in the United States for four decades. LATW is broadcast weekly in America on public radio stations, daily in China on the Radio Beijing Network, streamed online at latw.org, and aired internationally on the BBC, CBC, and many other English language networks. LATW has single-handedly brought the finest recorded dramatic literature into the homes of millions. On the road, LATW has delighted audiences with its unique live radio theater style performances in over 300 small towns and major cities, including New York, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, Beijing, and Shanghai. An LATW performance is immediate, spontaneous, and features a first-rate cast, live sound effects, and a connection to the audience rarely felt in a traditional theater setting. This theater … is an event.

About the Page Series

Now in its 33rd season, the Page Series connects professional performing artists from around the globe with thousands of Winonans each year. With events at the Joseph Page Theatre on the Winona Campus of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, as well as locations across the Winona community, the Page Series offers dance, music, and theatre performances, workshops, classes, and more that inspire, uplift, educate, and invite community members to discover the relevance of the arts in their daily lives.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

This article was originally published on the Saint Mary's University Newsroom