Our Mission —

The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) celebrates artistic diversity through the production of traditional and innovative performances and educational outreach. The Annual Festival honors the achievement of extraordinary women in theatre.

In addition to our Mission Statement above, The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival endeavors to empower women artists to engage and inspire communities through the production of multidisciplinary solo performances.

Photo: Joyful Raven in “Breed or Bust”

Our History —

The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) was founded in 1993 by Adilah Barnes and Miriam Reed, who met at a California Arts Council Touring Roster Conference in Pasadena and discussed the possibility of giving solo artists within Los Angeles their own festival and circle of support. The duo was shortly joined by Helene McCardle, Joyce Guy, Judith Heineman, Nina Kaufman, and Phylise Smith. Their wide-ranging backgrounds in the performing arts led them to become LAWTF’s seven co-founders.

They were inspired by the already-established Women’s Theatre Festival in Philadelphia, which came to LA in 1992 looking for a satellite in order to expand their organization into what they were hoping to call the “National Women’s Theatre Festival”. However, opinions quickly changed as the Philadelphia Festival decided not to say in Los Angeles, unknowingly allowing the city to come into its own.

Photo: Danny Glover and Hattie Winston Co-Host the 25th Anniversary Annual Festival

Photo: Adilah Barnes as “Harriet Tubman” in I Am That I Am: Woman, Black

“The beauty is that by the time our group came together the following year, I said, ‘Why don’t we pick up the torch where they left off last year? They brought something wonderful here, something we did not have here—let us not end it.’”

It wasn’t long before soloists flocked to the group and sent them submissions in the hopes of being selected for the festival. According to Barnes and Guy, solo acts were less common in the early ’90s, which made LAWTF that much more attractive to the often overlooked theater community in this city, although the acting was not the only category that was showcased. “We wanted a variety of people,” says McCardle, “Not only actors but dancers and movement and poetry—as much of a broad range as we could.”

Longest Running Festival of Women Artists —

Now, LAWTF is the oldest and longest-running festival of female solo artists in Los Angeles. The organization has also expanded to include multiple services designed to help aspiring performers all over the city. Barnes says that part of its mission statement from the very beginning was to include community outreach programs. As of 2018, the organization has served over 5,000 youths through the 

performer Heather Dowling

2023 Festival Performers

LAWTF 2023 Festival Performers

LA Unified School District and continues to offer classes for adults, seniors, underserved artists, and women recently released from prison.

It’s become a landmark in LA that people look forward to happening each March of the year,” says Guy. “The number of women performers has widened. It’s not just LA people—it’s people from all over.”

Past Performers

LAWTF is committed to reflecting the progressive attitude of Los Angeles by bringing audiences a lineup of performers who represent our larger community, and are diverse in age, ethnicity, and culture.

words from our co-founder

“What I strive most for in my work is honesty and truth. Equally important to me is maintaining my high standard of integrity. I am very selective in the roles I accept and the work I devote my time and energy to. Wherever I have lived, I have initiated something that I felt gave more to the arts community. At UC Santa Cruz, I co-founded Black Magic Theatre, in the Bay Area, I co-founded the Bay Area Black Artists Connection, in Los Angeles I co-founded the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival and co-founded Circle of Sister: A Reading Circle. Most recently, in the Atlanta area, I have founded The Writer’s Well, a year-round literary retreat for women.” — Adilah Barnes


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