This Theater Production Company Puts Women Center Stage
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Women are under-represented across so many industries, and the arts (particularly film and theater) are no exception. Thankfully, more women than ever are claiming playwriting and director credits today, but there is still work to be done. To help close the gender gap and protect women in the arts, Elizabeth Broghanne Jessamine founded Elemental Women Productions (EWP) LLC.
The 26-year-old founded EWP two years ago after she moved to New York in 2012 to pursue her career in acting. Primarily a stage and voiceover actor, Jessamine tells CircleAround that she had had enough of booking roles that used women's experiences for plot points and shock value that only furthered the male lead's storyline.
To help put women center stage, EWP produces women-focused theatre, film, and more. According to Jessamine, “Each project must be developed and led by women, with the cast and crew made up of at least 75 percent women and non-binary artists.” Even props, costumes, and set pieces must be sourced from women-owned businesses, with at least 15 percent coming from BIPOC businesses.
The work EWP does goes beyond gender and equality in the arts, however. While closing the gender gap is important, the company is just as focused on protecting women in the theater industry. At least 94 percent of women working in the film industry have experienced sexual assault, according to a 2018 survey of 850 women conducted by USA TODAY, in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, Women in Film and Television, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Statistics such as this prove female leadership in the arts is incredibly important, not only to help diversify this industry but to reduce instances of misconduct.
“I am a survivor of sexual assault, and part of the drive to make EWP happen was to reclaim the power I felt I had lost, and reclaim the narrative of my life,” Jessamine tells CircleAround.
Jessamine says that in December 2019, EWP produced a screening for their film, A Series on Surviving. “We paired the screening with a panel conversation about the stigmas survivors face, and how to support them. It is one of the most fulfilling and exciting projects I have ever done.”
Because of the global pandemic, EWP has pivoted to virtual performances over Zoom. The company performed a digital version of Zinnie Harris's award-winning play, Meet Me at Dawn. While Zoom might have some limitations as a platform for theater, Jessamine has found new ways to expand EWP’s creative offerings. “We are starting development for a film to be hopefully produced at the end of 2020 that speaks to eating-disorder recovery programs. We are also beginning work on a virtual performance about chronic pain and how it affects women's lives and relationships,” she tells CircleAround.
Jessamine says she feels empowered knowing EWP is helping women amplify their voices, share their stories, and find positive ways to impact the world. She and other women are helping to pave the way for a better future in the arts, through female ownership and entrepreneurship. EWP continues to help women perform to their maximum potential, and ensure their work can be enjoyed for years to come.