Ince went to the meeting after a colleague referred her to Popio, she knew very little about the festival beforehand. After hearing Popio’s message, she was sold.
“That meeting for me was very inspiring,” Ince said. “One, it was a lot of different women all together in a room — which I thought was great — and so I loved that and the energy seemed very positive and upbeat. I didn’t even know the whole mission at that point, and was like, ‘Yes I’m with it.’”
Another artist inspired by Popio’s purpose was Maribeth McCarthy, who decided to get involved with Women’s Theatre Festival after recently moving to the Raleigh area.
“She is a force — she just has this great way of bringing people together,” McCarthy said.
The festival begins on July 30, with an “Occupy the Stage” event in which 24 hours of staged readings of plays written by local women will be performed.
These events lead into a month of main stage productions, with the last production closing on September 4.
Although it’s based in Raleigh, the Women’s Theatre Festival’s impact will be visible all across North Carolina. There will be shows throughout the Triangle region, along with Burlington, Sanford, Cary and Wilmington.
“We have people from all over North Carolina,” Popio said. “We have a director who is coming up from Fayetteville in order to direct one of our shows. We have submissions for plays written by women from all over the nation, although many of our produced plays this year are by local women.”
McCarthy said she believes festivals like this one will create awareness about the lack of women-led shows that are in theatre.
“People assume because that’s the way things have always been, that’s the way they need to be — which is absolutely not true,” she said.
Ince said the festival will not only benefit women’s theatre, but much of the Triangle community as well.
“When events happen in your community, there are a lot of arms and legs to help get it going. We were coordinating with everything from supermarkets to other theatre companies to printing companies — you name it, someone’s involved and to me, it’s really important to support your community in general,” Ince said.
Popio said she hopes this festival will ultimately elevate women’s voices, both inside and outside theatre.
“It’s time for women’s voices to be heard in the same level as the voices of men are heard,” she said.
“I feel like sometimes major decisions are made by people who don’t really understand women’s viewpoints, and what better way to gain empathy with women than to watch theatre that they created, both by writing and performing.”