Women’s voices take the stage — Staged reading to support endowment for UI playwriting students


The University of Idaho Theatre Arts Department is presenting a staged reading of Micki Panttaja’s “Conversations of My Mothers” at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Hartung Theater.

“Conversations of My Mothers” is about the life of a Swedish immigrant and her descendants during the 1890s. Ariana Burns, stage manager for the production, said the play is a generational story of women and their experiences living in America.

Troy Sprenke, the play’s director, said the play isn’t easy but it has a lot of depth and is a worthwhile theatrical experience.

Alexandra Stutzman | Argonaut
Sandy Shephard and Rhonda Osborne Dater rehearse their lines during a rehearsal of Conversations 7 p.m. Thursday in the Forge Theater.

According to the Theatre Department’s webpage, “Conversations of My Mothers” won the distinguished Jane Chambers Playwriting Award in 1987. This award recognizes plays written by women that present a feminist perspective and contain significant opportunities for female performers.

The event is a fundraiser for the Micki Panttaja Playwriting Scholarship Endowment and will support the work of an undergraduate or graduate student studying playwriting at UI. According to the Theatre Department, the endowment needs an additional $13,950 to reach its funding goal of $25,000. 

Burns said the fundraiser is a collaboration of current and former UI theater department members, some who were close friends with Panttaja. The six-person cast is made up of UI alumnae, faculty and a current student.

There is no cost for admission, but seating is limited to 417 people, so tickets are required. Tickets are available at BookPeople of Moscow, at Shoup Hall in room 201 or at the door. Donations will be accepted at the event and can also be made online on the UI website.

Panttaja was the first Moscow city arts coordinator and served as the executive director of Festival Dance and Performing Arts, according to the Theatre Department webpage. She also worked for the Theatre Department and the College of Letters Arts and Social Sciences at UI for many years, but died in May 2016 after a long battle with cancer.

“She had a luminous spirit,” Sprenke said.  “She had an inventive mind, and she was always exploring her craft.”

Sprenke said Panttaja was a very good mentor to a lot of students at UI. She said she wants people to attend the event to remind them the UI Theater Department is alive and well.

Burns said she is excited to not only work with and experience Panttaja’s writing through the theatrical process, but to share it with the community as well.

She said she hopes people are inspired to see the endowment fully funded and to continue Panttaja’s influence on theater and the art of playwriting as well as her focus on the individual.

“Micki guided and inspired others to hone crucial assets they now use wherever life takes them,” Burns said.

Sprenke said the cast and crew are working really hard because they have a limited number of rehearsals since the production is so early in the semester.

“There’s a lot of pressure on the gals to deliver, but it’s coming along really well,” Sprenke said. “They’ve been really dedicated.”

Jordan Willson can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @jwill7476

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