The Freshest Festival in the 'Burg Lifts News Plays at the James Museum
American Stage will partner with The James Museum to co-produce the company’s annual Lift Every Voice: New Play Festival. This partnership, the first of its kind in St. Petersburg, means the museum will serve as the venue for the festival and collaborate with American Stage in its continued commitment to inclusivity and diverse voices in the arts.
The festival runs March 3-5, 2023 and will include readings from five new plays currently in development, discussion forums with working artists, and a keynote address from an established playwright.
Helen R. Murray, American Stage Producing Artistic Director and Laura Hine, Executive Director of the James Museum, sat down to talk about the significance of this partnership, how it can bring the arts to life, and why they are passionate about the arts and their organizations. Hine has since announced her resignation from the James Museum, a decision that she released in November, 2022.
Why a career in the arts?
HM: It was one of those things I think I was predestined for. Even when I thought about other careers, it felt like I was playing pretend but trying to make people think it was truth. Even though the arts are playing pretend we know that, there is an agreement with the audience and we are taking this artistic journey together. There was something about it... I think that attraction has always stayed very true inside me.
LH: My background is not in the arts. I have an aerospace engineering degree from the US Naval Academy. After coming back home, I became a general contractor and was hired as project director at the James. A year after the museum opened I was asked to consider a career change and become the director. What’s wonderful about working in the arts is doing work that inspires people - that human connection through art.
Why is this partnership something you both wanted to do?
LH: Tom and Mary James wanted the museum to be a community center for the arts. So we wanted to look at how we could make sure we are doing that, what other organizations could we partner with. It’s the basis of why we are here.
HM: It’s a chance for the arts to intertwine and work together. It gives us the ability to remember we don’t just take in art in one way. We use all of our senses. It isn’t just visual, it all works together. To have this festival in a space for visual arts can make people see visual arts and theatre in a new way.
The Lift Every Voice Festival makes it a point to embrace inclusion and diversity. Why?
HM: Diversity in storytelling includes color yes, but also age, experience and the way in which we tell story. When we talk about diversity in storytelling it is also about helping our audiences learn to take in story and take in art in new ways. Lift Every Voice offers a perfect opportunity to do that – invite people in. When you diversify your storytelling you are saying that I am putting forward a voice that isn’t my own, giving someone a chance to tell a story from their perspective with their life journey behind it.
LH: I love that! I hope that when people visit the museum they see that we live that too. I think we are getting better at making sure more people can see themselves in the art and stories we tell.
What can we expect to see at the Lift Every Voice Festival?
HM: We will present a group of stage readings by different playwrights from around the country and the James Museum will be hosting us. There will be post-show talkbacks, a bevy of different panels, discussions, and educational opportunities. You can buy a single ticket for one reading or a ticket to experience the entire festival
Why was a partnership with the James Museum for the upcoming festival important?
HM: For me, the intersection of the arts makes it so important. It’s taking two like-minded organizations that both care about a community-based approach and a diversity of story-telling, and bringing them together.
LM: We wanted to be a community space for art and embrace the idea of different art forms coming together and heightening the senses. Our arts community has many remarkable offerings, so the more we work together the better.
HM: Every researcher will tell you, the arts lift the arts. It’s supporting one another so that we can keep feeding the arts appetite in our area.
Want to get in on the new play-action? It’s happening March 3-5, 2023 at The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art.