Original voice of the woman
Women have played a pivotal role in American history for centuries but were often over looked for their efforts. From their medical contributions during the Civil War to Susan B. Anthony and Seneca Falls Convention to the women’s liberation movement, women have made their presence felt in an environment that did everything to minimize it. In the present time, society is on a mission to turn back the hands of time and erase women’s accomplishments from history, with moves such as the abolishment of women’s history in textbooks in states like Florida and Texas. The Ebell Theatre is one place that displays and embraces women’s liberal accomplishments throughout the world.
Late last month, the Ebell Theatre, 741 South Lucerne Blvd. located just off Wilshire Boulevard, hosted an open house that included a tour of the campus and a little history lesson about the building and what it stands for. The Ebell Theatre will also have live performances from different theater companies.
“This beautiful and incredible campus has become a hub for communities to come together and uplift, inspire, and cultivate creativity and leadership, and is a landmark for Los Angeles residents,” said Stacy Brightman, director for the Ebell. The campus, including the lush gardens and the famed Ebell Theatre, was built in 1927 and designed by architect Sumner Hunt. It was built with a mission to serve as a central hub for the education of women with a focus on service and the arts, and to this day, the grounds continue to serve as a gathering place for scholarship, community, and art discovery.
Brightman, when talking about the history of the Ebell, references social activist Harriet Russell Strong, the founder and first president of the Ebell of Los Angeles, the first women-led focus group in Los Angeles, as a pioneer for Los Angeles and the women worldwide.
“When talking about the legacy of this building, that is the first woman I think of because she is the epitome of what a woman can accomplish when we put our minds to it. Strong among many other women have set the bar, and the next generation is tasked with raising it,” Brightman said as she talked about the importance of reminding people of the legacy left by women of the past and encouraging the women of today to raise the standard. “I find it to be thrilling but a real challenge in figuring out what are we as women of the present going to do to move the ball forward and be worthy of our predecessor.”
Two ladies continuously pushing boundaries and the norm are Nancy Davis-Bellamy, executive Producer of Town Street Theater and one of few women in a leadership role at a theater company, and actress Erin Fleming of the same theater. “The fact that women can act in movies, TV shows, or plays is monumental because, at one point in time, it was a fever dream,” Fleming said as she talked about the obstacles women had to go through to get the ability to do simple things like act. “ We were viewed as prostitutes and criminalized for stepping on stages, but performing at the Ebell makes the experience so much more impactful, as this building is for women to be women and treated equally.”
Davis-Bellamy talked about the current state of the education system, how they are banning women’s history, and the importance of women standing up and coming together to stop the erasure of their history.
“Textbooks in school about women’s history are inaccessible, and history overwritten, it is important that we remind people of the history and accomplishments of women and that the world wouldn’t be the same if women didn’t challenge the patriarchy,” Davis-Bellamy said. She highlighted The Wilfandel Club and the impact on women in Los Angeles. The Wilfandel Club is a private club for African-American women, founded in 1945 by Fannie Williams and Della Williams (No relation). This club was designed for African-American women during segregation, as Black women weren’t permitted to gather or utilize public spaces. The club is a prominent landmark in Los Angeles as countless activists, civil rights leaders, and prominent Black figures visited and held events there.
Brightman also agrees with Davis on the need to emphasize Women’s history during this time of uncertainty. “Women’s contributions are hidden in plain sight, and we need to change that.” Brightman said as she used the saying, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” referring to young girls needing to see women in different roles in society so they won’t feel boxed into fitting gender roles.
The Ebell is hosting its first-ever season-long Amplifying Women’s Voices program, which highlights prominent women in Los Angeles. The line-up will be bursting with opportunities for Angelenos to enjoy innovative performances, thought-provoking discussions, illuminating workshops, films, brunches, and so much more, all focused on showcasing the accomplishments, challenges, and stories of the women of Los Angeles.
All three ladies agree with the message of increased representation of women in all aspects of life.
“I would like to see the women’s perspective being emphasized more not only in theater but in all aspects of life,” Fleming said. Davis-Bellamy followed up with the desire to see more women in leadership positions in theater and other fields across the entertainment industry. “I want us women to collaborate, inspire more, and demand more leadership roles because we work just as hard as men and get less credit for it.”
Brightman’s vision for the Ebell is to continue creating a place where everybody, especially women, can gather as a community, create joy, optimism, and inclusivity, and spread knowledge and love to everybody involved. “We have to push that wheel and create a space for people to connect, their community, and their heart and mind,” Brightman said.
The Ebell Theatre hosts weekly events and gatherings at their campus for their amplifying women’s voice program, and all are welcome. Ticket prices vary for each event. Learn more by visiting ebellofla.org