The Verdict Is In: Audience Raves about March 19th Program
by Jan Lisa Huttner
More than 200 people crowded into the Claudia Cassidy Theater at the Chicago
Cultural Center on Saturday, March 19, to watch A Jury of Her Peers,
the feminist classic directed by Sally Heckel. Originally released in 1980,
the 30-minute Oscar-nominated feature has recently been re-released by the Manhattan-based
distributor Women Make Movies.
Working with IWPA as the co-sponsors of this Silver Anniversary celebration were three local women's organizations: AAUW-Illinois (the American Association of University Women), CAWHC (the Chicago Area Women's History Council), and WIDC (Women in the Director's Chair). IWPA, however, has a particular claim on the material. Heckel adapted Jury from a 1917 novella of the same name by Susan Glaspell. Glaspell began her career as a journalist, and based her story on events she covered as a court reporter for the Des Moines Daily News. In the course of her distinguished career, Glaspell wrote 13 plays, 14 novels, and more than 50 additional essays, articles, and short stories. In 1931, she received a Pulitzer Prize, making her one of the first American women so honored. Could any author be a better role model for IWPA members?
After the screening, Ms. Heckel fielded questions, then the bulk of the audience streamed into a nearby lecture room to hear Patricia Bryan and Thomas Wolf discuss their new book Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland. Ms. Bryan is a professor of law at the University of North Carolina and Mr. Wolf, her husband and collaborator, is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Their book's formal release date is April 1st, however, given the fact that it analyzes the real case on which Jury is based, the publisher, Algonquin Press, agreed to have copies available for the Book and Tape Signing reception which followed the lecture.
The Saturday afternoon program was just one set of events in WIDC's 24th annual festival, which ran a full five days from Wednesday to Sunday. This was the first year, however, that WIDC's objectives were publicly supported by three other women's organizations, coming together under the banner of WITASWAN (Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now!).
None of this could have happened without the hard work of many staff members at the Chicago Cultural Center, most especially Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas, the CCC's Director of Volunteers. Marianne, herself an IWPA member, was the key link between WITASWAN and WIDC during the planning phase, and personally coordinated the mailing of thousands of flyers. Additional kudos go to Marion Gold and Linda Heacox, who staffed the IWPA Table outside the theater before the screening, and checked people in at the reception. Marion also created and raffled off a fabulous gift basket to help cover ancillary PR costs.
Everyone agrees that the day was a huge success, and Cecilia Green already
has ideas on what we should do next year when Women's History Month rolls around
again in March 2006!
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