Delicia Turner Sonnenberg “I am encouraged that a new generation of female leaders is emerging”

The rise of women being vocal,  gathering to support each other, and encouraging the change they want to see in the world by doing it themselves may have hit its stride in 2017, but MOXIE Theatre has been doing it since 2005.  Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, and the other founding members; Jo Anne Glover, Liv Kellgren, and Jennifer Eve Thorn created this theatre to help women have more diverse opportunities in theatre. Whether that is as a playwright, on stage, or helping from behind the scenes, by expanding the idea of what is a “feminine” role in theatre, they provide everyone who attends one of their shows the chance to challenge themselves, their ideas, and break new ground in storytelling, performance, and creativity.

Delicia Turner Sonnenberg
Delicia Turner Sonnenberg

The newest show to open at this theatre is “Blue Door,” written by Tanya Barfield, is a show that is directed by MOXIE Executive Artistic Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg.  I had a chance to sit down with her and chat about why this show, which is performed by two men, and was a good fit for their theatre and its mission.

“The main way that we serve our mission is by producing female playwrights.  Tanya Barfield is an accomplished female playwright who we haven’t produced yet, and I really love her writing and the poetry of it.  This play happens to have no women in it, but it has a full female team working on a play by a female playwright, with a female director, and all the designers are female,” Turner Sonnenberg says.  “All of the artists creating this play for an audience are females, with two male actors on stage who are also creating art.  Proving opportunities to female artists is one of the things that MOXIE does to fulfill its mission as well, so in some ways this play definitely fits our mission.”

Delicia likes this show for more than having a female driven team putting it together.  This play, about two African American men, one of whom is a mathematician struggling with his personal and cultural identity, and the other playing a variety of the man’s ancestors, offers added another layer of complexity to what people may think is a topic women write about.

“The reason this is a MOXIE production is because a part of our desire is to change people’s minds about what is considered women’s work, and what women are writing about.  Sometimes women write about men.  It’s interesting for people to see this play, made with a lot of female hands, with two amazing male actors in the production.  I want them to come away feeling that they have seen a stunning, beautiful, funny, and moving piece of theatre.”

With this new cultural and political spotlight on women, equality, and representation, it seems like the mission of MOXIE couldn’t be timelier.  So what is the hope that Delicia has for the future?

“I always say I hope we come to a time where our mission is not necessary anymore, where there is equity, and that is still my hope.  That our mission has to shift because half our playwrights are women or LGBTQ, and that there is more diversity on stage, front and back, and in the ranks.  But I still love the idea that is a safe place for women to create.  I think that’s another purpose of MOXIE, to make a safe place for female artists to try new things and feel supported.  The work they are making will make the main stage and not be lost forever in workshops.”

Delicia also finds that she is also encouraged by seeing more women, and women driven projects, take the lead in shows all around the world. Even in the last year there were a lot of women in New York who brought to life plays that were female driven.  ”Eclipsed” written by Dani Gurira, directed by Liesel Tommy is the first play to have an all-female cast, playwright and director. “Waitress” is the first Broadway musical to have an all-female creative team, including the composer-lyricist, bookwriter, director and choreographer.  “Fun Home” was the first female-written musical to take home the Tony Award for Best Musical. Jeanine Tesori, the composer of “Fun Home” and four other Broadway musicals, finally won for Best Score, and is only the second female composer to win this award.  This is all steps towards parity that Delicia finds promising.

“I am encouraged that a new generation of female leaders is emerging.  I think we will see more female voices in the lead, in all the ranks, not just the top.  I am hopeful for that.  This gender equity conversation is a conversation that is happening right now and people are serious about.  It seems to me, in my opinion that theatres especially here in San Diego but also around the country are looking to be more equitable.”

The definition of the word moxie is “force of character, determination, or nerve” and it seems that, no matter what the future holds, MOXIE Theatre has that in spades.

“Blue Door” is playing through February 26th at MOXIE Theatre.  For ticket and show time information go to www.Moxietheatre.com

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