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Actors, from left, Jerel Giarrusso, Irene Warner, Ariana Walls, Anna Colar, Susan Simoneaux, Christina Normand and Anne Wood rehearse in Baton Rouge Community College's Black Box Theatre for LA VOW's production of 'Women Who Built Baton Rouge.'

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DON COUVILLION

Aileen Hendricks believes that women's voices need to be heard now more than ever, and she intends to amplify them on Oct. 13.

That's when the Louisiana Voice of Women — or LA VOW — opens its 2017-18 season with "Women Who Built Baton Rouge" in Baton Rouge Community College Black Box Theatre. 

Hendrickson is founding artistic director of the theater company, which focuses on works by women playwrights.

This time, Hendrickson is the playwright, basing the production on interviews she conducted with influential women in the city. Most of the interviews were conducted in 2002, and some of the subjects are now deceased.

But their voices are still strong in "Women Who Built Baton Rouge."

"These are women who made a difference in our community," Hendrickson says. "We're also including Sarah Morgan, based on her Civil War diary, and I also interviewed Sharon Weston Broome this year."

Morgan lived in Baton Rouge and recorded life here during the Civil War, beginning in 1862. The diary was published by University of Georgia Press in 1991.

Broome made history in 2016, when she was elected the first woman and first African-American woman to serve as mayor-president of Baton Rouge.

Hendrickson directs eight actors, who will be portraying 18 personalities through monologues.

"The actors will take on the personalities of these women, but you have to remember, each personality will be portrayed through a monologue," Henrickson says.

There will be no sets or costumes, only words to carry the stories.

"I did most of these interviews for Baton Rouge's first Women's Week in 2002," Hendrickson says. "It was after 9/11, and Robelyn Abadie was president of the Women's Council and its Celebration of Women. Hers will be one of the voices in this show."

The program also will include the stories of Sylvia Steiner, Jean Armstrong, Marjorie Sellers, Betty Levine, Georgia Watts Brown, Pam Baldwin, Charlotte Mattmiller, Valerie Jackson Jones, the Rev. Jennifer Jones, Betty Lou Roundtree, Polly Williams, Evelyn Robinson, Robbie Madden and Mary Frey Eaton.

"Not all of these women were in public office," Hendrickson says. "A lot of them were volunteers, some of them did professional work, but they were all influential."

And in Baton Rouge's centennial year, the timing couldn't be more perfect.

"It's also during this time that now, more than ever, it's important for women's voices to be heard," Hendrickson says. "Above all, we're trying to create equity; it's not anti-male. It's about creating a balanced society. Women made our country great, but their voices haven't necessarily been heard."

Henrickson says she's an idealist, but given the recent violence in Las Vegas, she believes more women's voices could result in a more peaceful future.

"We don't have a balance at this particular time in history," she says. "I don't think we would have as much violence in the world if more women were listened to and if more women were in positions of power. Imagine all of the wonderful energy and creativity we would have in all areas, including science and medicine."

Which is why LA VOW is focusing on women's influence on Baton Rouge. 


Women Who Built Baton Rouge

A Louisiana Voices of Women production

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13-14 and 3 p.m. Oct. 15.

WHERE: Baton Rouge Community College Black Box Theatre in the Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion, 201 Community College Drive.

TICKETS/INFO: $25. Call (225) 362-2847 or visit LaVOW.org.

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.