LENOX, MA (September 4, 2022) – WAM Theatre is delighted to announce a series of lively conversations with scholars, artists, and community members who will tell the true stories of Black and Indigenous Women who were Civil Rights pioneers. These FREE events will take place throughout Berkshire County, and in collaboration with The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, and Stockbridge Library. The series is presented in connection with WAM Theatre’s upcoming production of CADILLAC CREW and is funded by the Brabson Library and Educational Foundation.
This special series of conversations is taking place as part of Banned Books Week (September 18-24). The week is a timely effort to underscore the vital role of historically and presently banned books in school curriculum, public education, and access. The Erased Histories conversation series will feature scholars, artists, and community leaders telling true stories that are often missing from history books. We invite you to join us in listening to live and original retellings of stories that changed the face of history.
Our honored speakers will include: Indigenous Historian Heather Bruegl (Oneida/Stockbridge-Munsee), Storyteller Onamuni Jean Moss, Community Leader Gwendolyn VanSant (CEO and Founder of Multicultural BRIDGE), Professor Frances Jones-Sneed, Dr. Eden-Reneé Hayes, Storyteller, Inspirational Speaker Amber Chand, and Artist/Educator Nicole M. Young-Martin.
WAM Theatre is thrilled to be partnering with libraries throughout Berkshire County to present the conversations in free and easily accessible public spaces. WAM’s partners on this series include Berkshire Athenaeum (Pittsfield, MA), Clark Art Institute Auditorium (Williamstown, MA), and the Stockbridge Library Association (Stockbridge, MA). We join together for Banned Book Week to celebrate the power of storytelling as a way to uplift voices that have been historically silenced.
“Libraries are constantly considering our responsibilities to both preservation and access, so we are acutely aware of the dangers of both intentional and unintentional erasure,” said Alex Reczkowski, Library Director of Berkshire Athenaeum. “Last year, through erasure poetry workshops with interdisciplinary poet and author S. Erin Batiste, we explored the concept of erasure directly, and we are excited for the opportunity to deepen that exploration with WAM.”
“We are excited to be collaborating with WAM Theatre on this series of conversations highlighting erased histories,” said Wendy Pearson, the Director of the Stockbridge Library, when explaining the importance of Banned Books week. “In 2021, the American Library Association received the highest number of book challenges on record. These challenges have predominantly focused on books that address issues of racial justice, LGBTQ themes, and the voices of the BIPOC community. Please join us for these timely and important conversations.”
Will Schmenner, the new Director of Public Programs at The Clark Art Institute, echoed this sentiment, stating that: “The Clark is thrilled to be collaborating with WAM during Banned Book Week in September. Not only is it a wonderful opportunity to support local theatre, it is also an important program that focuses our attention on censorship and justice.”
For more information about WAM Theatre’s Community Engagement work and production of CADILLAC CREW, please visit wamtheatre.com
AT A GLANCE
ERASED HISTORIES: A Conversation Series
In collaboration with the Clark Art Institute, the Berkshire Athenaeum, and Stockbridge Library Association.
Saturday, September 17, 2pm
Clark Art Institute Auditorium in Williamstown, MA
Featuring Professor Frances Jones-Sneed (MCLA) and artist/educator Nicole Young-Martin
Tuesday, September 20, 6pm
Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, MA
Featuring Indigenous Historian Heather Breugl (Oneida/Stockbridge-Munsee) and
Community Activist Gwendolyn VanSant (Multicultural BRIDGE)
Saturday, September 24, 3pm
Stockbridge Library Association, Stockbridge, MA
Featuring: storyteller and inspirational speaker Amber Chand.
Available Virtually throughout October
Online as part of WAM Theatre’s Spotlight Series
Featuring Indigenous Historian Heather Buegl (Oneida/Stockbridge-Munsee),
Storyteller Onawumi Jean Moss, and Dr. Eden-Reneé Hayes.
This series is presented in connection with WAM Theatre’s upcoming production of CADILLAC CREW by Tori Sampson.
By Tori Sampson
Directed by taneisha duggan
October 13-29, 2022
Four female activists are working in a Virginia civil rights office on the day of a much anticipated speech by Rosa Parks. From the Civil Rights Movement to the present day, CADILLAC CREW illuminates forgotten leaders who blazed the trail for desegregation and women’s rights. With remarkable insight and unexpected humor, the play asks, what happens when Black women refuse to be written out of history.
CADILLAC CREW is presented at Shakespeare & Company’s Tina Packer Playhouse, 70 Kemble St, Lenox, MA, 01240. Presented in special partnership with the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.
Tickets for CADILLAC CREW go on sale after Labor Day, for more information visit wamtheatre.com.
BIOS OF THE HONORED SPEAKERS:
Heather Bruegl is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and first-line descendent Stockbridge Munsee. She is a graduate of Madonna University in Michigan and holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in U.S. History. Her research comprises numerous topics related to American history, legacies of colonization, and Indigeneity, including the Dakota War of 1812, the history of American Boarding Schools, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (#MMIW). Heather has presented her work at academic institutions including the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the College of the Menominee Nation, as well as at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for Indigenous Peoples Day 2017. Heather consults for a variety of museums and universities and is a frequent lecturer at conferences on topics ranging from intergenerational racism and trauma to the fight for clean water in the Native community. She has been invited to share her research on Native American history, including policy and activism, equity in museums, and land back initiatives for such institutions as the Tate and the Brooklyn Public Library. Heather opened and spoke at the Women’s March Anniversary in Lansing, Michigan, in January 2018, and at the first ever Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, DC, in January 2019. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, Heather spoke at the Crazy Horse Memorial and Museum in Custer, South Dakota, for its Talking Circle Series. Heather is the former Director of Education of Forge Project, a decolonial art and education initiative on the unceded homelands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok in Upstate New York, where she organized public programming and events and led the Forge Project Fellowship program. Now, Heather is a public historian, activist, and independent consultant who works with institutions and organizations for Indigenous sovereignty and collective liberation. Connect: www.heatherbruegl.com
Amber Chand is an inspirational speaker and storyteller, visionary life coach and mentor, author, artist and entrepreneur. Her Dream A New Dream programs and retreats today are designed to support her audiences in living into a new story from a place of courageous love, fearless imagination and enlivened authenticity, no matter how challenging and
difficult the circumstances of their lives. As an Indian woman born in Uganda who was expelled from her country as a refugee and as a recent breast cancer survivor, Amber speaks on the power of the resilient spirit, one that weaves together the sacred and
strategic, the contemplative and the visionary, the mystical and the practical. She asks: How do we bring the power of our intention, intuition and imagination to shape a new narrative for our lives? For two prior decades, Amber was involved in the world of global commerce and enterprise. Drawn to the marginalized, displaced and invisible – those without a voice – she focused on women’s entrepreneurship in vulnerable regions of the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Rwanda Her global work was publicized in various media including Marie Claire, Oprah Magazine, NPR, the New York Times and the Boston Globe. Awards: she received the Entrepreneur of the Month award by Inc. Magazine and was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame by Bay Path College. Current Work: Amber is working on her forthcoming book, The Boatwoman, which is part memoir, part musing, part fable, based on her acclaimed one woman show, Searching for the Moon (the book will be available in 2023). Connect: amberchand.com
Eden-Reneé Hayes, Ph.D. is the Owner of Pluralism Solutions, LLC. She has been involved in cultural competency, retention efforts, and inclusion in organizations for over 15 years. An expert in the social psychological factors related to bias, and the intersecting identities of race, class, and gender identity and expression, she has presented papers on her research at a number of conferences including, The American Psychological Association, The International Convention of Psychological Science, and The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and has published her research in various outlets including The Handbook for Feminist Diversity and Diversity Matters: The Color Shape and Tone of 21st Century Diversity. Dr. Hayes earned a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from Wesleyan University, and a Masters and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Tulane University after which she earned a National Science Foundation sponsored Postdoctoral Fellowship. Before becoming a full time consultant she was a tenured professor at Bard College at Simon’s Rock and Director of The Davis Center, a multicultural center at Williams College.
Frances Jones-Sneed is an emeritus professor of history (Ph.D., University of Missouri) and former Director of Women Studies at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in North Adams, Massachusetts. Jones-Sneed has taught and researched local history for over thirty years. She directed three National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grants on the shaping role of place in African American biography. She also spearheaded a national conference on African American biography in September 2006. She is co-director of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail and a former board member of Mass Humanities, the Samuel Harrison Society, the Berkshire Chapter of the NAACP, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Freedom and Democracy. She was a 2008 NEH Summer Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. She is currently editing the autobiography of Rev. Samuel Harrison, a 19th-century Black minister and a teacher’s guide for W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk.
Onawumi Jean Moss is a storyteller, narrator, keynote speaker and author who encourages pride of heritage, appreciation of cultural differences and recognition of kinship. As a storyteller, Onawumi has made content-rich, thought-provoking and entertaining presentations before inter-generational audiences across the U.S. and in the Netherlands. Her solo performances, workshops and keynotes, offer a seamless blend of story and a cappella singing, and have consistently won high praise from audiences–kindergarten through college. While Associate Dean of Students at Amherst College (1985-2006) Onawumi founded and produced a multicultural storytelling festival (Keepers of the Word 1993-2006) which hosted nearly sixty celebrated tellers of African, Asian, European, Hispanic, Latin and Native American heritage. During that time, she was twice invited by Amherst College students to give story-based keynote addresses (1988 and 2004) at Senior Assembly (the only administrator ever accorded this honor.) TV/Fim: the PBS Special KWANZAA (1998). Writing: co-author of the children’s book, Precious and the Boo Hag with Patricia C. McKissack. Theatre: Onawumi’s autobiographical solo play Seriously…What did you call me? premiered at the Ko Festival in 2015 and went on to be performed at Amherst College, The Nyack Center and NorthWestern University. Awards/Memberships: Precious and the Boo Hag won the 2006 ALA/ALSC Notable Children’s Book award (Middle Readers category); national finalist for: the CCBC Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book Award; Storytelling World Award, Stories for Young Listeners Category (2006) and the Irma S. and James H. Black Honor for Excellence in Children’s Literature Award (2006). Onawumi holds lifetime memberships in the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS) and the National Storytelling Network (NSN). She is the 2005 recipient of the Zora Neale Hurston Storytelling Award, the highest award given by NABS. She is the 2015 recipient of the National Storytelling Network Oracle Award for Lifetime Achievement, granted for sustained and exemplary contributions to the advancement of storytelling in North America. She is also a member of Northeast Storytelling which promotes the development and appreciation of storytelling as a vehicle of entertainment, communication, education, personal expression, healing and change. Connect: www.onawumi.com
Gwendolyn VanSant is an experienced organizational change consultant and coach who works at the intersection of diversity, leadership, equity and inclusion, and strategic planning. She serves as a non-profit leader as the CEO and Founding Executive Director of BRIDGE and the principal & owner of consulting firm, Equity in Practice, LLC. A skilled community organizer, Gwendolyn is also a well-recognized thought leader on racial justice,reparations, gender equity and anti-poverty work. She is a pioneer in integrating research-based positive psychology practices into her equity and inclusion approach. Gwendolyn currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Town of Great Barrington W. E.B.Du Bois Legacy Committee and has served on the Host Committee for the Elizabeth Freeman Monument. She is on the United States Attorney Office Civil Rights Task Force, Advisory Board of Greylock Federal Credit Union’s Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) program, incorporator for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and she is a board member of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Unitarian Universalist Meeting of South Berkshire, Trauma Research Foundation and Shakespeare & Company. Gwendolyn also served on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health COVID-19 Communication Advisory Panel. A longtime activist, Gwendolyn has founded several initiatives based on the principles of equity and justice, the inherent dignity and worth of individuals, and our interconnected web of humanity. Her most recent accomplishment in 2020 is leading the community effort to rename the middle school, W.E.B.Du Bois Middle School over the finish line in the last 3 years. In September 2021, Gwendolyn received national recognition as the Drum Major for Justice by the National Community Action Council Council for her anti-poverty mutual aid response at a community level to the negative impact of COVID on the most vulnerable communities and the design of the New Pathways program to provide education in equity and justice across all sectors in the forms of labs, talks, conferences and learning modules including speakers like Angela Davis and Dr. Beverly Tatum.In 2021, Gwendolyn also published a chapter for her IDEA approach in the textbook, Diversity matters: The Color, Shape and Tone of 21st Century Diversity.
Nicole M. Young-Martin is a writer, performer, producer, musician, nonprofit manager and educator with over 25 years of experience as a practicing artist and over 10 years of working in higher education and the nonprofit sector. Nicole serves as the producer and host of the web series, Black Writers Read, teaches literature, developmental writing, and theatre for Bard Microcollege Holyoke, and works as the Community Investments Manager for the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. She has received artist grants from various organizations including the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts & Assets4Artists, Easthampton City Arts, and Northampton Open Media. Nicole is a WAM Theatre Board Member. She is also a second-year doctoral student in Higher Education Leadership and Organizational Studies at Bay Path University and has a Bachelor of Theatre Arts from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, an MFA in Theatre Management from Wayne State University, and an MA in English from University of Massachusetts Amherst. To learn more about Nicole, please visit www.nicolemyoung.com.
ABOUT THE BERKSHIRE ATHENAEUM
The current library is located in the center of Pittsfield, two doors away from the original Athenaeum building it replaced in 1975. While offering traditional library services- circulating collections, children’s programs, reference, and internet access – the Athenaeum’s strength lies in its special collections of local history & genealogy, Berkshire authors, and materials pertaining to Herman Melville. These special collections attract visitors from all over the world. The Athenaeum has subsequently undergone modest renovations in 1997 and again in 2008 that included state-of-the-art technology upgrades to ensure Pittsfield’s Public Library is poised to serve the present and future needs of local citizens. More information and a calendar of events can be found at https://www.pittsfieldlibrary.org
ABOUT THE CLARK ART INSTITUTE
The Clark is one of only a handful of institutions globally with a dual mission as an art museum and a distinguished center for research and higher education, dedicated to advancing and extending the public understanding of art. The Clark’s mission and geographical location define three essential aspects of its character and identity: the quality of its art, the beauty of its pastoral setting, and the depth of its commitment to the generation of ideas. More information and a calendar of events can be found at https://www.clarkart.edu
ABOUT THE STOCKBRIDGE LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
The mission of the Stockbridge Library Association and its Procter Museum & Archives of Stockbridge History is to be a vibrant center of community life in Stockbridge. The Library serves the needs of the residents of Stockbridge and the surrounding area by supporting lifelong learning, strengthening the community, and preserving the historical record of the town. More information can be found at: https://stockbridgelibrary.org/
WAM COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
WAM Theatre empowers community through art. Community engagement is a central part of our activist mission. Each season, in accord with our main stage productions, we present invigorating conversations, workshops, professional development and devising ensembles that are responsive to the needs of the community and the time in which we are living.
The Erased History Conversation Series is underwritten by the generosity of the Brabson Library and Educational Foundation. WAM Theatre is also supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts through the New England Arts Resilience Fund, part of the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund, an initiative of the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with major funding from the federal CARES Act for the National Endowment for the Arts. Recently, WAM was recommended for an American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. WAM’s sponsors include Adams Community Bank, Blue Q., Berkshire Roots, Blue Spark Financial, Downright Pro, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Garden Gables Inn, Guidos Fresh Marketplace, Health Professional Coaching, Heller & Robbins Attorneys at Law, Interprint, Only in my Dreams Events, Onyx Specialty Papers, Outpost Productions, Prix Fixe, RB Design Co., T Square Design Studio, Toole Insurance, a. von schlegell & co, and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.
WAM Theatre’s 2022 Season is also supported in part by grants from Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Berkshire Bank, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, The Feigenbaum Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), Mass Humanities, Lee Bank Foundation, Scarlet Sock Foundation and U.S. Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant; as well as grants from the Dalton Cultural Council, Lee Cultural Council, Lenox Cultural Council, Pittsfield Cultural Council, Northern Berkshire Cultural Council, Otis Cultural Council, Sandisfield Cultural Council, and Washington Cultural Council.
ABOUT WAM THEATRE
WAM Theatre is a professional theatre company based in Berkshire County, MA, that operates at the intersection of arts and activism. WAM creates theatre for gender equity and has a vision of theatre as philanthropy.
In fulfillment of its philanthropic mission, WAM donates a portion of the proceeds from their Mainstage productions to carefully selected beneficiaries. Since WAM’s founding in 2010, they have donated more than $80,000 to 23 local and global organizations taking action for gender equity in areas such as girls education, teen pregnancy prevention, sexual trafficking awareness, midwife training, and more.
In addition to Mainstage productions and special events, WAM’s activities include innovative community engagement programs and the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series. To date, WAM has provided paid work to more than 500 theatre artists, the majority of whom are female-identifying.
As a civic organization that embraces intersectional feminism (feminism that acknowledges how multiple forms of discrimination overlap), WAM understands that to address one piece of systemic discrimination means we have to address them all. This is on-going personal and professional work at WAM for the staff and board, detailed in their recently released accountability plan.
WAM Theatre has been widely recognized for having a positive impact on cultural and community development in the region. WAM is the recipient of the Creative Economy Standout Berkshire Trendsetter Award and previously, was named Outstanding Philanthropy Corporation of the Year by the Western MA Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Kristen van Ginhoven, WAM’s Producing Artistic Director, was honored by the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association (BTCA) with the prestigious Larry Murray Award, presented at the discretion of the BTCA Board to a person or theatre project that advances social, political, or community issues in Berkshire County.
For more information, visit www.wamtheatre.com