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Red Magnolia Theatre Company takes the lead in female empowerment

Founders and co-founders Melissa Venable, Dori Huffty, Michele Johnson, Paula Shreve, Teresa Alvarez, Beth Bordelon and Elizabeth Canfield at the group's En Vogue gala, which celebrated the announcement of the inaugural production. Photo by Teresa Alvarez Photography.

The women behind Red Magnolia Theatre Company have taken the empowerment of fellow actresses into their own hands with the creation of the first all-female theater group in Baton Rouge. Founded by Michele Johnson and Paula Shreve, RMTC was created to open a new door in the theater world for women. “We’re here to give women opportunities in all aspects of theater,” says Johnson.

Johnson and Shreve were motivated to make a difference after growing tired of the lack of leading roles starring fellow female actors. “Community theater is designed for a general audience where the majority of the cast are male roles. So when a role finally comes around for females and they don’t get it, they’re stuck waiting again,” notes Johnson. “What we’re trying to do is eliminate a lot of that waiting.”

According to Johnson, what started as a few friends casually drinking wine and reading plays for fun quickly turned into much more when they stumbled upon Love, Loss and What I Wore.

“It’s just surreal,” says Johnson. “We all eventually wanted to produce a play, but I’m not sure if we ever thought it would happen.”

Love, Loss and What I Wore is a series of monologues read by women that describe the connection between memories and the clothes worn when they were made. It will also be the first production RMTC performs.

Director Macy Jones says, “I hope that when the audience leaves the show they take away that memories are embodied in us. They’re more than just recalled in our head. We wear our memories in our clothing, they’re held in the music that we listen to and the food that we eat.”

Jones has directed plays in the past, but none that had an all-female cast or a cast this size. Until opening night arrives, Jones’ favorite part has been auditions.

“All these wonderful, talented women of all ages and backgrounds showed up to audition and it was amazing to see how many people were excited about the show,” says Jones, noting that the cast not only includes women from multiple ethnicities, but also a diverse range of ages from 22 to late 70s. “There’s enough audience for all of us.”

Johnson hopes the production can accomplish a sense of equality. “In this day and age, everything feels so divisive and separated,” she says. “People are so opinionated that I feel like it’s important to have those moments where we realize that we’re all people who have the same type of stories.”

Even though the show is about women, Johnson shares that she believes men can connect to it as well. “It gives everyone a sense of equality. We’re all just people going through life. I think it’s important that we remember that,” she adds.

Love, Loss and What I Wore opens tomorrow night, Friday, October 12, at 7 p.m. and will play through Sunday, October 14 at the Mid City Ballroom. For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, visit the company’s website here.

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