Dallas — After a successful inaugural festival in 2018, Burning Woman is set to take place again at The Wild Detectives on Nov. 2. Only this time, reports co-founder Lori Sundeen Soderbergh, the program has twice as many performers, a new grant from the Moody Fund for the Arts, and planning time that lasted three times as long as it did last year.
Burning Woman, an interdisciplinary festival that celebrates Dallas-based female artists working in a variety of media, is the brainchild of Soderbergh, founder and director of Over the Bridge Arts, and yoga instructor Nicole Jane Shaw. The festival showcases women poets, musicians, actors, writers, dancers, and visual artists. Carrying on a signature tradition begun last year, performers and attendees will be invited to compose notes about a thought, memory, or anything else they would like to “release.” These notes will be pinned to a clothesline and burned at the end of the evening, closing off Burning Woman.
Reflecting on the inaugural festival last year, Soderbergh states that the primary goal of Burning Woman is to build inclusive community. She explains, “I sensed that we touched a nerve, that we met a need, that people wanted to come together and stand together for inclusivity. And in meeting that and in talking about it and standing for it and making this statement, I think that explains why the response has been so positive.
Local poet B. Randall, who will make a return appearance at the festival this year, agreed that it is inclusivity that makes Burning Woman important. “Just the communication between the people who probably wouldn’t sit down and talk to each other a day-to-day basis,” she says of the festival. “There was…this inclusiveness was just so needed, and Lori was dead-on with her timing. You weren’t just entertained, you were educated.”
The goal of inclusive community has driven plans for the 2019 festival. Performances include poetry readings, dance solos, monologues, and more — audiences can even expect a community drumming circle.
About her contribution, Randall reports, “Last year I wanted to share work that we were all connected with…I did a poem about my mom, and I did a love poem. I did different things that made up my life. And I wanted to see how it would resonate with everybody because that’s a big deal with me. I don’t want to write work that only women can be OK with or the African-American community can be ok with. I wanted to break down, see how I could touch, move and inspire groups or everyone. So this year…I’m just going to have fun!” She’ll be contributing selections from a forthcoming poetry volume “When the Heart Speaks.” “It’s all my horrible romances!” she laughs. “All my breakups and all of that, fumbles with love. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Meanwhile, Echo Theatre, the Dallas-based theater company founded with the mission of bringing works by women to the stage, will present excerpts from HEAR ME: Voices of #MeToo. The work originated with an Echo Theatre “Big Shout Out,” a call for entries for new work submissions. This Big Shout Out asked for monologues that related to #MeToo. The response far exceeded expectations. Company members will be presenting a selection of them at Burning Woman.
Kateri Cale, Echo’s managing artistic director, explains the decision to present the voices of #MeToo at Burning Woman, “I know that the #MeToo movement has caused a lot of awareness and has made a lot of inroads, but we still have so far to go in the way that men treat women and speak in work situations and social situations. I think that everyone is a little bit more aware of what they are saying, but I think it’s just a first step. It’s still very needed in the community.”
Thanks to the support of the Moody Fund for the Arts, The Wild Detectives, and Urban Hippie Yoga, Burning Woman is free and open to the public. Soderbergh emphasized this point. Burning Woman organizers hope to attract a female and male audience, and a multi-generational one as well. Cale reported that the performers Echo Theatre is bringing to Burning Woman range in age from twenty-somethings to seventy-somethings and include Latinx, black, and white women.
As for the future of Burning Woman, Soderbergh and Shaw now have plans to expand Burning Woman beyond the annual festival. They are in “full recruitment mode” for volunteers and collaborators who want to invest in the female art community “We really envision this moving into multiple events at multiple sites and taking on different formats. For example, we could have a speakers’ panel, or we could have a pop-up art exhibit. There are a lot of possibilities.”
For Soderbergh, however, the future of Burning Woman is about more than the events themselves. It’s about the future of woman and of gender as a guiding concept. On this point she described how things have changed in her own lifetime. “I can remember the moon landing…I remember so well watching that, and I remember saying I wanted to be an astronaut, and of course I was told, ‘Well you can’t. You’re a girl. You can’t be an astronaut.’ So things have changed pretty radically. We continue to see…a broadening of the definition of sexual identity and gender identities, and some of that will be a part of Burning Woman. And I think that will continue. So what I’m really trying to say is that Burning Woman shouldn’t be taken too literally. It’s a very broad, inclusive concept, and I’m really excited about the future because, as we continue to look at these roles and these identities…I’m hoping we get to the point where we define ourselves simply as human.”
The program also includes: singer R. Nezz; contemporary choreographer/dancer Jessica Thomas; artist and performance artist Erica Felicella; poet Tishun Nikco; Peruvian contemporary dance artist Claudia P. Orcasitas; premieres two dance works: “Imaginary Lines” and “Solo”; and yoga/meditation expert Nicole Jane Shaw leads the concluding inspirational burning ceremony. The drumming circle is led by local percussionists Ken Solomon Springer and Andre Jones.
» Burning Woman will take place at The Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District on Nov. 2. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show begins at 7. The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. Click here for that.