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Los Angeles Festival : Celebratory Projects Go In Search Of 'A Woman's Place'

September 24, 1987|JANICE ARKATOV

It may still be a man's world--on and off the stage--but in this full and varied Fringe Festival, a number of entries are linked in their thematic homage to "The Woman's Experience."

The tributes begin in "The Postcard Project: Celebrating Our Heroines," a collection of about 100 postcards on display (through next Wednesday) at the Woman's Building. Under the direction of artist-in-residence Cheri Gaulke, the cards (the handiwork of "students, professionals, whites, blacks, Asians, 16- and 50-year-olds") were designed and manufactured during a six-week workshop.

"We don't celebrate women in this culture; we barely learn about (their historical contributions) in school," Gaulke said. "These are the role models: in art, history, science." The roster includes Amelia Earhart, Julie Andrews, Winnie Mandela, Emily Dickinson--"and some people most of us haven't heard of, like the archeologist's wife who co-discovered Troy."

Gaulke's own commitment to the project grew out of her 1975 introduction to the Woman's Building, "and starting to feel part of a larger community. I wanted to share that with other people. And these cards can be mailed; they really spread the word. It's empowering when we validate our own experience."

Artist Alexis Krasilovsky's "pro-choice" holographic film, "Childbirth Dream," plays Saturday at the Street Gallery.

The movie, Krasilovsky explained, is a byproduct of her association with a self-help health group in the '70s--"when I realized I had to get my male-identified, Yale-educated brain in gear. I wanted to apply '80s technology to the woman's experience in a healing, creative manner. Out of that came the idea for this film: a holography of feelings women have about giving birth. And it's the first to combine real-life images (an expectant mother, then the week-old baby) with animation."

As for herself: "While I was looking at thousands of pictures of babies and umbilical cords, I realized, 'I'm sitting here--not dating, not having my own babies.' It made me realize how difficult our choices are. I couldn't have a baby and do the holograph; it took six years just to get the financing. Earlier this year, 6,000 people saw the film at the Pompidou Center (France) and sure, the publicity and response were great. But over the years, I probably would have made more money as a welfare mother. That's a statement about arts in the '80s."

Lin Osterhage's "Autobiography Reconstruction Project" (11 p.m. Friday, Studio 3A, 454 Seaton St.) "is a real old concept," she said good-naturedly. "My life is my art--and my performance art is about my life." Osterhage began the project last year when, in the throes of a flu attack and dwelling on gloomy thoughts: "I tried to make myself feel better by thinking of positive memories. But memory itself is so selective; everything really comes through a filter.

"So I started asking friends to give me information about my past that I might have forgotten. Then I started asking strangers. I ended up with some great feedback, responses from all over the world--from people I've never met. This started out being just about me, but now I can see that certain events in our life are universal. The quest for romance, hope, dreams: All seem to transcend age, class, even nationality. A lot of women--and men--can understand what I'm saying."

At the core, however, the vision is a personal one. "The focus is the bizarre nature of my life," she admitted. "But because I'm a performance artist, I'm going to weave the stories together: recreate the past and create a future . . . from different points of view."

Those historical dynamos, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, receive plaudits in Miriam Reed's one-woman show "Mrs. Stanton and Susan" (6 p.m. Saturday, Los Angeles Photography Center).

"I'm a lady with a mission," Reed said firmly. "I grew up like everyone else around me, thinking that I was going to be married, taken care of. I never looked beyond what I was supposed to see. It wasn't until I came upon a sentence written by Stanton that I realized that women don't always get married. Well, I thought when I got my Ph.D., I'd know what to do, how to take care of myself. But I didn't. I was stunned by my own blindness, my total lack of consciousness."

Follow-up research convinced Reed that Stanton "was seminal, not only to the women's movement but to American history. The rock-bottom reason for doing this is that I believe fervently in what these women have to say, that their ideas can change lives. The easiest way to get the word out, to educate people, is to do a theatrical presentation. And the recognition of the feminine aspect of our thinking is vital. After all, that nurturing/caring female energy is the only thing that's going to save this planet."

Eve Sigall, who appears in Marc Mantell's one-woman piece, "Apartment" (closing Saturday at the Second Stage) is not at all comfortable being lumped into a category of "women's work."

"When I work on a part," she said, "I don't see myself as a man or a woman; I'm a living soul. Then I go back into society and all these things get put on me. That whole female image: to be soft-spoken, not to be the leader/boss, that to be a successful person I have to be married and have lots of friends. So that part is very real to me. But the play itself doesn't have anything to do with women's issues.

"It's about someone who cannot sleep at night. She goes through fantasies, memories of the past, a projection of her future. In that sense, yes, it's a women's piece. Many of the things she's dealing with--being a wife/lover, successful in an occupation--are demanded of all woman today. So it's about the experience of life, a life. But not mine. I'm an actress. I don't do anything autobiographical."

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