Arts & entertainment

Athena Project taps into vibrant community

Festival puts spotlight on works by women

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That’s not nearly good enough for the multi-talented women of the Denver area, and so the Athena Project Festival was born to offer women a venue to explore theater. It has grown in the past three years to include all the arts, and now has a home in five different arts districts.

The Athena Project Festival this year is inspired by the theme “Truth & Perception” and is hosting events in the Downtown Denver, Santa Fe, RiNo, Aurora Cultural and 40 West Arts districts March 20 through April 5. The lead sponsor is the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.

“It was always our vision for the festival to include more than the theater,” said Angela Astle, founder of the project. “Artists are mutually supportive of each other — we know the time and effort that it takes to create our pieces.”

The festival includes the world premiere of Marilyn Harris Kriegel’s “Harm’s Way” at the Aurora Fox Studio Theatre, starring Karen Grassle, of “Little House on the Prairie” fame. The play takes a look at paranoia, denial and the desensitization of society toward violence.

The project will host its first full music festival at Cervantes’ Other Side in Denver on March 29. Performing musicians include Serephine, Bianca Mikhan, The Horse Latitudes, Melissa Ivey The Gypsy Rocker, and Wheelchair Sports Camp.

“Last year we had musicians performing before plays start and at some of the galleries, but we wanted to expand our music offerings,” Astle said.

Art galleries will feature works of photography by female visual artists at The ACAD Gallery and Metropolitan State University of Denver Center for Visual Arts, Emerging Artist Gallery, in collaboration with Month of Photography.

The Athena Project is also working with Metro’s Center for Visual Arts to present an Evening of World Dance on March 25. From samba to Bollywood, each dance channels the accumulated experience of generations of women who have developed these dances.

In Lakewood, RMCAD is helping the organization host a fashion show and boutique fundraiser at Weston Solutions on April 1. The show is curated by Caroline Smith of Janie G. Couture and will blend performance art and fashion into a unique show benefiting the Athena Project. Designers include Enuma Duhu, Quieesha Burns Corii, Ionita Pierre, Kirstine Hanson, Caroline Smith and co-designers Darlene C. Ritz/Deserrie Aguirre.

“We’re thrilled to have this show in Lakewood, and our pop-up show at 40 West was a great way to get to know the district,” Astle said.

There will be a film festival, and a roundtable discussion by male supporters of Athena called “Closet Feminism.”

The signature events of the festival are the Plays in Progress series, which gives shows written by women several workshop readings with one play chosen to be produced in 2016, and the Girls’ Write PIP Series.

The girls’ event features workshop productions of 10 to 15 short plays written by members of the Girls’ Write program, all seventh-graders, with participants also acting and helping behind the scenes.

“It’s one thing to write a play, and another to see it performed on stage. The impact this program can have on girls doesn’t last for just one day, but into the future,” said Connie Findley, an Athena Project board member. “I am always blown away by what the girls write about.”

For a full schedule of events, visit athenaprojectfestival.org.

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