Westport Country Playhouse celebrates International Women’s Day By Kaela Dockray ’20 and Siri Kanter ’20

People wait in the lobby before the readings begin.

Twelve women, each clothed in a deep purple, presented on the stage of the Westport Playhouse on March 8. Their words prompted laughter, sighs of reassurance and concordant applause.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, these women, made up of actresses, writers and executive directors, read poems and essays written by women of diverse backgrounds and walks of life.

The Westport Country Playhouse hosted the event, “Letters to Our Daughters,” as a call to action for hastening the gender-equality movement through celebrating the social, economic and political accomplishments of women. The event’s title was taken from author and activist Maya Angelou’s collection of essays titled “Letters to My Daughter.”

One of the event's sponsors gives an introduction.

One of the event's sponsors gives an introduction.

One of the event's sponsors gives an introduction.

Attendee Barbara McKay, an avid supporter of the Westport Country Playhouse, deemed it important to attend in order to empower fellow women. “I told my daughter about [the event] and we were both really interested to hear what the performers had to say,” McKay said. “I think it's important for women to know about other women.”

Readers, including actress Melissa Joan Hart, stand-up comedian Wilhelmine Hartong and Executive Director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, Patricia Russo, selected what they presumed to be powerful and inspiring literature produced by women to read to an audience of both genders.

Eileen Belmont, a volunteer usher at the event, believed the night was about celebrating both future generations of women and past female leaders who have helped create history. “This event transmits wisdom to our daughters and all women,” she said. “The poems and excerpts this group recited reminds us of the rich history of female empowerment and the necessity to keep these attitudes alive in this day and age.”

The event’s sponsors similarly spoke about the importance of International Women’s Day. Julie Min Shayait, a representative for US Trust, understood the power of the individual in the movement toward gender equality. “The seed for courage and change begins in each and every one of us here tonight,” Shayait said. “We extend our support beyond our own business connecting women to the resources, networks and mentoring needed to help them achieve success.”

With pieces of literature from authors such as Katie Barsotti, Nicole Chung and Geraldine Deruiter, the excerpts recited represented a variety of themes ranging from questions of sexuality and ethnicity to coping with sexual assault and discrimination. Actress Aleta Mitchell read a poem by Maya Angelou titled “Still I Rise.” “You may shoot me with your words... you may kill me with your hatefulness,” Mitchell recited. “But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

Although unable to attend, Caroline Vandis ’20 believes events like “Letters to Our Daughters” are essential to the Westport community and therefore should be commonly organized. “It’s important that we continue the fight for women’s rights even after International Women’s Day has passed,” Vandis said. “While I back up the event and what it stands for, I think that gender equality must be advocated for more often than annually.”

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