Mad Cow Theatre’s new festival celebrates women

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Mad Cow Theatre has some people they’d like you to hear from. They are playwrights, they are female, and they are sharing new work with the public in a series of readings for the downtown Orlando theater’s first Women’s Voices Play Festival.

Jessica Kaschube, Mad Cow’s director of special projects, is spearheading the project, which assigns a female director to each reading. She’s clear on why such a festival is needed.

“It still is predominantly male work that gets produced on a large scale,” said Kaschube of the theater industry. “Let’s bring some female voices and female leaders to the community.”

The festival, which runs Aug. 11-16, kicks off with a roundtable discussion moderated by Florida native and Rollins College graduate Arlene Hutton, the author of such notable plays as “See Rock City” and “Last Train to Nibroc,” which had a lovely production at Mad Cow Theatre last season.

The idea of highlighting female theater writers has long been on the minds of the theater leadership, Kaschube said. When the coronavirus pandemic shut down production of the theater’s regular 10-show season, though, there was finally time to move the project to the front burner.

Taking COVID-19 into account meant putting the festival online — but even that had unexpected benefits.

“In some ways, the digital aspect has made it easier,” said Kaschube, pointing out that fewer expenses and logistics, such as travel and hotel stays, had to be managed.

Also: People had time to submit their work. The theater, which connected with the National New Play Network’s New Play Exchange, received 140 submissions.

“It was very hard” to whittle that down to five festival participants, said Kaschube.

The selected entries, perhaps unsurprisingly, have women at the heart of their stories: A frontierswoman punishing herself over an extramarital affair; female friends locked in a psychological battle of wills; the little-known story of Albert Einstein’s first wife — herself a scientist; a primatologist with a secret; roommates who would do anything for one another.

Kaschube says the plays were chosen for the festival because although they are new, they already have a degree of polish.

“They are all ready to be seen by an audience,” she said. “We didn’t select plays that need a lot of work.”

The readings, though, can provide insight into the craft of creating theater.

“Audiences can see a little more behind-the-scenes of how theater comes to be,” she said.

And possibly theatergoers will walk away in this uncertain time with a little more hope for the future of the arts.

“We’re still creating. Creation hasn’t stopped,” Kaschube said. “We can meet some new playwrights. And we can lift them up.”

Women’s Voices Play Festival

Events are all at 7 p.m. — except for a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Aug. 16 — and are free, though registration is required for readings. Register at A $10 donation is suggested for each play reading.

Aug. 11: Women’s Voices Roundtable, moderated by playwright Arlene Hutton (“Last Train to Nibroc,” “See Rock City”), streamed at

Aug. 12: ‘One Stone’ by Kathleen Cahill, a Pulitzer Prize nominee for her play “Charm.” “One Stone” is a passionate, history-based love story between Albert Einstein and his first wife, physicist Mileva Maric. The play raises the question of whether gender influences the perception of success — and if female scientists have it easier today.

Aug. 13: ‘My Life as You’ by Laura Rohrman, creator of a children’s playwriting program in New York City. In “My Life as You,” sparks fly when two female friends pursue happiness with “grass is always greener” attitudes.

Aug. 14: ‘Mountain Law’ by Melissa Leilani Larson, an award-winning Filipina American playwright and screenwriter whose work has been seen on four continents. The story: In 1850 on the Western frontier, a woman convinces herself God is punishing her for her extramarital affair. When she prays for forgiveness, an old friend comes on the scene — but is his arrival the answer to her prayers?

Aug. 15: ‘Sapience’ by Diana Burbano, a Colombian immigrant whose work specializes in social issues. In “Sapience,” a doctor of primatology hides the fact she is in on the autism spectrum. But she is forced to confront her views when her nephew, also on the spectrum, forms an unexpected bond with an orangutan in her care.

Aug. 16: ‘As I Was Not As I Am’ by Alice Hakvaag, a queer playwright, director and actor based in Philadelphia. Her play is about going the extra mile for friends. When Laurel gets sick, without health insurance, her roommates desperately plot to help her. The advance publicity intriguingly poses this question: Will setting a car on fire help?

Find me on Twitter @matt_on_arts or email me at Want more theater and arts news? Go to


©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting