jakub | October 5, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | Petrona de la Cruz Receives Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award

Petrona de la Cruz of Mexico, winner of the 2023 Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award. (Photo by Israel Gutierrez)

NEW YORK CITY: The League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) will present a week-long series of events in celebration of the 2023 Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award (GCITA), with programming to take place Oct. 9-13. Established in 2011 in honor of legendary theatre women Rosamond Gilder and Martha Coigney, the GCITA recognizes the exceptional work of theatre women around the world who are making a difference in their communities and in the lives of women. The award includes a cash prize and travel expenses to New York City for an awards ceremony and a series of special events that celebrate the winner’s work and acknowledge all of the nominees.

The 2023 Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award recipient is Petrona de la Cruz of Mexico. This year’s finalists were Lydia Koniordou (Greece), Maria Tri Sulistyani (Indonesia), and Leila Toubel (Tunisia). The GCITA award ceremony will take place on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. ET at The Lovinger Theater, sponsored by the CUNY Institute for Mexican Studies. Two-time GCITA Finalist Maya Zbib (Lebanon) will also receive special recognition.

Eighteen artists were nominated for the award, including nominees Romina Paula (Argentina), Sonya Armaghanyan (Armenia), Regina Miranda (Brazil), Morm Sokly (Cambodia), Hala Omran (France/Syria), Zana Hoxha (Kosovo), Tania El Khoury (Lebanon), Kiyo Gutierrez (Mexico), Hope Azeda (Rwanda), Cayetana Guillen Cuervo (Spain), Yael Farber (South Africa), Tereza Andersson (Sweden), and Bhanbhassa Dhubthien (Thailand).

Petrona de la Cruz was the first Indigenous person to win Mexico’s Rosario Castellanos Prize for  Literature in 1992, and went on to receive a grant from the National Council for Culture and the Arts in 2002. In 1999, FOMMA (Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya), which she formed in 1994 to support Mayan women and children, received a national award given by IMIFAP (Mexican Institute of Research on the Family and Population) and sponsored by the Summit Foundation for its work in radio, theatre, and education in Mexico. Cruz first practiced theatre with the Sna Jtz’ibajom, a Mayan cultural cooperative dedicated to literacy and cultural preservation in a social climate that discouraged women from speaking publicly of their experiences. There she began to explore community theatre as a medium for addressing problems such as domestic violence, rape, alcohol abuse, migration, and poverty as they affect the lives of women.

Her debut play, Una mujer desesperada, focuses on the seemingly endless violence visited on Mayan women and the impossibility of recourse. It was the first play written by an Indigenous Highland Mayan woman about the real life social drama of family violence. Since then, her plays have been  performed in several countries, and she continues to write as she searches for new ways to encourage economic and cultural development for Indigenous women and children. Cruz currently serves as a congresswoman for the State of Chiapas local Congress for the 2021-2024 term.

In addition to the awards ceremony, a series of hybrid panels themed around Women On Stage and In the Streets will be held at 3 p.m. throughout the week at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, featuring GCITA nominees and other international theatre artists. All events are free but seats are limited, so reservations are recommended.

On Oct. 9, Melody Brooks (USA) will moderate a conversation on Theatre From the Streets, featuring panelists Iman Aoun (Palestine), Dominique La Victoria (Philippines), and Hanane Hajj Ali (Lebanon).

On Oct. 11, Maya Zbib will moderate a conversation on Theatre and Social Change, featuring panelists Joanne Pottlitzer (USA), Sonya Armaghanyan (Armenia), and Leila Toubel (Tunisia).

On Oct. 12, Lupe Gehrenbeck (Venezuela) will moderate a conversation on Theatre Education: Reaching Beyond the Stage, featuring panelists Hope Azeda (Rwanda), Diana Taylor (USA), and Vyana Preti (Venezuela).

On Oct. 13, Catherine Filloux (USA) will moderate a conversation on Social and/or Artistic Resistance, featuring panelists Yael Farber (South Africa), LinDa Saphan (Cambodia), Cayetana Guillen Cuervo (Spain), and Angel Gil Orrios, Translator (Spain/USA).

The Mexican Consulate also plans to host a special event with Petrona de la Cruz on Fri., Oct. 13, with more details to come.

The League of Professional Theatre Women is a membership organization championing women in theatre and advocating for increased equity and access for all theatre women. The LPTW’s programs and initiatives seek to create community, cultivate leadership, and increase opportunities and recognition for women working in theatre.

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