VintAge: Celebrating Older Women Artists

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On October 18, 2014 (1 pm-5:30 pm), Women in the Arts & Media Coalition will hold one of its best-loved events, VintAge, at MIST Harlem. The event—co-sponsored by New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), The Dramatists Guild, The League of Professional Theatre Women, SAG-AFTRA and MIST Harlem—celebrates the achievements of women in the arts and media as they age.

The event’s first Elsa Rael VintAge Award will be presented to Morgan Jenness, agent and dramaturge. In addition to the awards ceremony, the afternoon will include a screening of the documentary Advanced Style, directed by Lina Plioplyte, and the short Just the Three of Us, directed by Angela Tucker and starring Leslie Uggams and Bill Raymond.

There will also be a panel discussion, “The Voice and Vision of Women in the Arts & Media as They Age,” to be moderated by Isa Goldberg, president of the Drama Desk and a Women in the Arts & Media Coalition board member, as well as a networking reception with food from Brooklyn’s Madiba Restaurant.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Shellen Lubin and Avis Boone, co-presidents of Women in the Arts & Media Coalition about this entertaining and enlightening event.

What is VintAge? How did it come to be?
SHELLEN: We are committed to producing events where women can collaborate across organizations, across mediums. VintAge is one of our two signature events (the other one is The Collaboration Awards). VintAge is a chance for us to give a voice to women as they get older. Women can be very marginalized as they age. Not every culture is like this, but ours is. There is so much value and beauty in what older people have to offer.

Artists do not always have the same support systems as other people. And now that more people are facing workplace issues, there is much to be learned from artists’ approach to survival.

AVIS: Diversity cannot be forgotten, either. And needs to be addressed. One of the things we are including is a short film with Leslie Uggams.

SHELLEN: Our panel will also be extremely diverse. There are different feelings within each culture about women and aging. It is necessary to explore these issues.

This year you will be presenting the very first Elsa Rael VintAge Award. Would you tell us about the award and its honoree?
SHELLEN: Elsa Rael is one of the two founders (with Lenore DeKoven). We really grew out of the League of Professional Theatre Women, out of their work with that organization. They wanted something on a larger scale, reaching out not only to women in theatre, but to working women in the industry.

Advocacy for women in the arts is Elsa’s raison d’être. Years ago, when she received a CAPS (Creative Artists Public Service) Grant, Elsa went to Joe Papp and said, “I want to produce a festival for women.” And she started the Professional Older Women’s Theater Festival. Elsa has always been interested in helping older women, women re-entering the industry. So this award was named for her, in honor of her advocacy for aging women in the arts! Since neither Estelle Parsons nor Gretchen Cryer will be able to attend, they both will be sending special video tributes to Elsa.

AVIS: We should also mention that Elsa is also on our board. (Elsa Rael is Corresponding Secretary.)

SHELLEN: Yes, Elsa is also a board member. Tisa Chang, artistic director of Pan Asian Rep, will present the award to Morgan Jenness, dramaturg and agent. Ms. Jenness is being honored for her advocacy work on behalf of playwright María Irene Fornés.

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Just the Three of Us, directed by Angela Tucker (photo courtesy of Angela Tucker).

Would you tell us about yourselves and your work with Women in the Arts & Media Coalition?
SHELLEN: I’m a songwriter, director, playwright, and also a performer. I didn’t perform as much as my kids were growing; but now that the kids are out of the house, I’ve been able to perform more. I’ve been co-president twice. The first time was about 14 years ago, with Elsa Rael. The second term began when we were making the transition from New York Coalition of Professional Women in the Arts & Media Coalition to Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, Inc.

AVIS: I’m an actor—TV, film, commercials. I have been co-president for about one and a half years. It’s been a good experience for me! It’s been great seeing us step into the twenty-first century, watching us grow.

What do you hope to accomplish during this year’s event?
AVIS: Every time you do an event, you hope the next one is even better. So I always hope that every event will be better and better! I am also hoping that we will become stronger. That more people will find out about us, visit our website, find us on social media. That they will want to become a part of us.

SHELLEN: And I hope we can involve more people, younger people just starting out in the online world, especially. Our young social media team will be live-tweeting and posting on Facebook during the event. I would like to get more younger people excited about the organization, and bring older and younger people together.

Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, Inc. is a non-profit organization, which represents more than 80,000 women and men in the performing arts and media through its member organizations and affiliates. The Coalition focuses the power of its member organizations and their memberships together and uses the combined strength to address issues of concern through advocacy, networking, and educational events. Member organizations are: Actors’ Equity Association, Dramatists Guild, Inc. The League of Professional Theatre Women, New York Women in Film & Television, SAG-AFTRA, Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, and Writers Guild of America, East. Affiliate organizations are: Dancers Over 40, Inc., Drama Desk, The Lambs, Inc., Professional Women Singers Association, The Rehearsal Club, The Women’s Media Center, Women Make Movies, WomenArts, and Works by Women. Every individual who is a member of the aforementioned organizations is also a member of the Coalition. For more information, please visit womenartsmediacoalition.org

YLANA KELLAR

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