Last year, the theme of the 3 Girls Theatre New Works Festival was “Women and the Body Politic,” which seemed fitting as they expected a woman to be in the White House come January. After Donald Trump won the election, company members were pretty depressed, says 3GT cofounder and artistic director AJ Baker. So when the company started planning their theme for this year’s festival, which runs Aug. 17-27, they decided on “Celebrating Radical Hope and the New Resistance.”
“We thought about a way to remind people what theater can do to raise your spirits,” Baker says. “We thought about what we can do as a group of women playwrights to move forward.”
The percentage of plays by women that are produced in mainstream theater is less than 20 — a number that hasn’t changed in decades. So Baker created 3GT, to develop and promote women playwrights and give people a chance to hear something they haven’t before.
“When people think of stories told on stage, they think they should be hearing a male voice,” Baker says. “To hear women’s voices telling the story is a really important thing, and our goal is to make sure outstanding works by women get out there.”
The festival, which is all free — although reservations are encouraged — includes short plays, readings, and panels. Events include a collaboration with ReproRights! and Girl Talk: The Play, with young actors performing stories about teens.
Comedian Debi Durst, the improv duo Hamilton & MacLean, and an Oakland band called Strano & Reed, will be part of Opening Night: The Not-So-Late Nite Show with 3GT. Baker will also interview actress and director Joy Carlin, one of the original members of the American Conservatory Theater ensemble; a staple at such companies as Berkeley Rep (including being the interim artistic director for a time in the ’90s) and the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley; and a movie actress, including a role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
Carlin, who remembers being moved by Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman when she was a teenager, says playwright and director Bertolt Brecht’s work made a big impression on her and made her realize theater could make you feel and think and want to correct unfairness.
“The pen is always mightier than the sword,” she said. ”If someone sees something that rings a bell for them, but they’re never heard spoken before, they can see that it’s something true.”
Baker is excited — and a tiny bit anxious at the prospect of interviewing Carlin.
“Joy Carlin is the epitome of having perspective and wisdom about every way that theater can be used as a tool rally people around,” she said. “I’m a little nervous. There are some people we describe as a Bay Area theater legend — but with her, she really is. It’s not hype.”
New Works Festival, 3GT Celebrates Radical Hope and The New Resistance, Aug. 17-27, Potrero Stage, 1695 18th St. Free; register with Eventbrite