Austin Pendleton and Jean Lichty, front center, and Robert Dohmen, back right, with the company of Nora.
After experiencing Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, along with my other classmates enrolled in the Barnard College Women's Center's course, Self-Portraits: Women Artists in America, I was moved beyond tears. After seeing 39 place settings for consequential women from every era, I was moved to establish a theater company that explored, highlighted, and honored the female experience. I conferred with my teacher Dr. Lori Rotskoff, who thought that it was an important idea, and my mentor Austin Pendleton, who encouraged me to implement it. So, on July 19, 2013, I registered the DBA (Doing Business As) appellation – La Femme Theatre Productions – with New York State. Then, Robert Dohmen, a veritable theater angel, lent his support, giving La Femme its wings. Incorporated on August 5, 2015, La Femme appointed its first board members, Austin, Bob, and me. At the first board meeting on May 19, 2016, I was elected executive director.
Eager to spread its wings, La Femme collaborated with The Peccadillo Theater Company in the spring of 2014 as associate producer of William Inge's lost gem, A Loss of Roses, which featured Deborah Hedwall and Patricia Hodges. A Loss of Roses explores the disparate and somewhat desperate journeys of three Midwestern women in 1933 Depression America. Heralding the Off-Broadway revival as "a triumphant exhumation," Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal included A Loss of Roses in the WSJ list of "2014 Best Theater." Then, in the winter of 2015, La Femme collaborated again with the Peccadillo on the Off-Broadway production of Clifford Odets's Rocket to the Moon, which tells the story of two woman, one transformed by male attention and the other by the lack thereof. Katie McClellan, Marilyn Matarrese, Ned Eisenberg, and Jonathan Hadary headlined the outstanding cast. Jonathan Hadary earned a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play.
In the fall of 2015, La Femme was ready to take the next step and co-produce. So, it collaborated with the historic Cherry Lane Theatre and co-produced the first Off-Broadway revival of Ingmar Bergman's Nora, a brilliant distillation of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. A riveting tale of a seemingly conventional woman coming to terms with her life in a man's world, Nora poses crucial questions about the role of gender in modern society through the microcosm of a "doll house" marriage. Directed by Austin Pendleton, the production was a resounding success, playing to sold-out houses (with extensive waiting lists) and profoundly engaging women of all ages and backgrounds.
La Femme continued its mission – that of exploring and illuminating the female experience – with its 2017 summer revival of Horton Foote's The Traveling Lady, which follows the lives of 6 women whose ages range from 6 to 80. Directed by Austin Pendleton and co-produced with the Cherry Lane, The Traveling Lady was well-received by both critics and audiences alike.
In the fall of 2018, La Femme produced the first New York revival of Tennessee Williams's A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, which explored the journeys of four women whose survival depends upon their intrinsic love and respect for one another. Austin Pendleton directed the Off-Broadway production at the historic Theatre at the St.Clement's, which was founded by Tennessee's cousin, Reverend Sidney Lanier. Featuring Tony nominee, Kristine Nielsen, and Golden Globe nominee, Annette O'Toole, the show -- La Femme's first solo production -- was a great success, with over 100 press and industry professionals in attendance (including Ben Brantley of the NYTimes), and with sold-out houses the last weekend.
From December 2, 2020 to December 6, 2020, La Femme presented a pre-recorded reading of Tennessee Williams's The Night of the Iguana, directed by 2019 Theater Hall of Fame inductee Emily Mann, featuring Emmy nominee Dylan McDermott and another Theater Hall of Famer, Phylicia Rashad, and beautifully enhanced by the set design of Tony winner Beowulf Boritt, the sound design of Tony winner Darron L West, and the editing of Seth Walters.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with a viewership of 1,000 patrons. A number of patrons even maintained that it was the first time that they understood the play in a "woman-centered and credible" rendering and asked to see it again. Consequently, La Femme restreamed The Night of the Iguana from March 25, 2021 to March 28th, 2021 in celebration of Tennessee Williams's 110th birthday on March 26, 2021. La Femme then experienced another overwhelmingly positive response with a viewership of 1,000 patrons. And I was also honored to moderate a talkback with Emily Mann and Phylicia Rashad on March 25, 2021, which is available on our homepage along with a trailer of The Night of the Iguana.
In April 2022, La Femme inaugurated two new initiatives: Women on the Verge: The Gladys and Mary Dohmen Reading Series and A Woman's Storyland. The first initiative, Women on the Verge: The Gladys and Mary Dohmen Reading Series, showcased two emerging female artists, the actress Carmen Berkeley and the director Kyla Kantor, in a presentation of Megan Mostyn-Brown's girl. that took place on April 11 at the Signature Center. The second initiative, A Woman's Storyland, was ushered in by the promising Haitian-American playwright Phanesia Pharel from April 4 to April 17 when her her beautiful choreopoem Black Girl Joy was developed in an Equity workshop, directed by Regina Taylor.
Both initiatives exceeded expectations and wholly fulfilled La Femme's mission of encouraging young women to follow their dreams. And I look forward to sharing news about La Femme's next live Off-Broadway production.
Avanti, Jean Lichty
Executive Director of La Femme Theatre Productions
La Femme Theatre Productions is an all-inclusive theater company dedicated to the exploration and celebration of the universal female experience. Its mission is to highlight and clarify the experiences of all women, particularly but not exclusively those of adult women, through the texts of both women and men, particularly but not exclusively those of the classic American canon – and to investigate the lens through which both women and men view women. Accordingly, La Femme endeavors to engender stage, film, television, and digital media projects that probe those lenses. Moreover, La Femme seeks to produce works that not only feature significant roles for women but also examine the meaning of female identity in yesterday's, today's, and tomorrow's worlds. And, by presenting and sharing these stories of the female experience, La Femme hopes to encourage girls and women of all ages and backgrounds to follow their dreams – and "break ceilings." To help "break those ceilings," La Femme will act to mentor young women by providing professional internships.