Patricia Ariza Wins LPTW Gilder/Coigney Award

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Tuesday October 21, 2014

On Monday, October 27, The League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) and its International Committee will honor Patricia Ariza, legendary producer, director, actress, playwright and poet from Colombia with the LPTW Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award 2014.

"The important thing is not me, but what I do with the women's movement and social movement in Colombia," said Ariza. "I am confident that the theater serves to achieve peace."

Born to a peasant family in 1946, she moved to Bogotá when her parents were forced into exile. At the heart of her purpose is the strong belief in the transformational power of theatre, leading her in 1966 to co-found the experimental el Teatro La Candelaria. Since then her work has been inextricably linked with the political and social currents of her time.

Ariza was chosen for the only theatre award that exists given by a U.S. organization to celebrate the work of a non U.S. woman theatre artist, from a pool of 21 candidates from 19 countries, for her work on the front lines for justice and social change through theater in Colombia for almost 40 years.

For the past 24 years, she has focused on women artists and the social movement, producing vast works and massive performances that bring together professional artists and victims -- particularly women -- of the long-existing armed conflicts in Colombia.

The Corporación, a not-for-profit organization she manages, creates performances and events with widows and children from the most violent regions of the country: abused women who have left their homes, young people living on the streets, and others displaced by war and social upheaval.

These women tell their life stories and play an active role in each performance. The company also organizes the biannual Festival Alternativo de Teatro and the internationally acclaimed Festival de Mujeres en Escena ("Women on Stage Festival") annually.

Frank Hentschker, executive director of the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, points out that "most of the people on Earth are female. It should be a given that their voices are spoken and heard equally, especially in theatre. Stunningly enough, this is not the case."

The Center supports the award as Hentschker feels it is a "brilliant way to recognize women in theatre, to encourage their work, and to present role models we all can look up to. I regard it as a Nobel Prize for women in theatre."

The LPTW Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award was established in 2011 in honor of Rosamond Gilder and Martha Coigney, two legendary theatre women whose work on the international stage proved that theatre knows no international boundaries. Presented every three years, this Award acknowledges the exceptional work of theatre women around the world and aims to make a difference in the life and career of an international woman theatre artist.

The award ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 27 at at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, in New York City, as part of a week-long celebration.

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Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.