Women influencing the arts


BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 15 – Donna Thompson: Third year M.F.A student, Donna Thompson, poses in the theatre graduate suite in Henderson Hall.  Photo Credit: Maggie Gough

by Maggie Gough–

The gender gap that exists everywhere makes it feel like there are few success stories of females, especially artists. The problems of gender bias leads to many challenges and obstacles for women in the arts. However, instead of only focusing on the hardships women face, Donna Thompson understands the importance of discussing what women are currently creating out there and celebrating all their success.

Donna Thompson, an M.F.A arts leadership student in the School or Performing Arts at Virginia Tech, has created a Women Influencing the Arts speaker series to spark celebratory discussions of women artists who are thriving.

Speaking about challenges through a celebratory lens – Donna Thompson

Thompson is very excited that the speaker series is finally up and running. The first event of the speaker series kicked off a few weekends ago with the “Bechdel Project” co- founders Maria Maloney and Kimberly Faith Hickman. The co-founders started off the weekend with a presentation and then led a weekend-long workshop with Virginia Tech undergrads.

“It was really exciting to see such a great turn out for the very first one,” Thompson said. “I had about 35 people in attendance and only opened up reservations for 25 so it surpassed my expectations which was really cool”

The Bechdel Project is a theatre project that is dedicated to “telling stories that pass the Bechdel test.” For a story to pass the Bechdel test it must have a scene with at least two women, the two women must talk to each other, and they must talk to each other about something other then men. The Bechdel Project challenges our society to start telling new and unique stories; stories that women want to hear and are proud to tell.

Virginia Tech senior majoring in theatre, Kenzy Forman, attended the Bechdel Project workshop where she was given the chance to write her own content.

“The workshop was so inspiring because I got to create meaningful art with my female – and some male – peers,” Forman says. “The environment was really supportive and so it allowed us to explore who we are and what it means to be a female artist.”


BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 4 – The Bechdel Project Workshop:           Bechdel Project co-founders Maria Maloney and Jens Rasmussen pose with Virginia Tech undergrads in Theatre 101 after finishing their presentation of stories. Photo Credit: Catie-Reagan Palmore


The Speaker series continues with three more events:

  • Thursday, Sept. 29 — Girls Rock Roanoke: Inclusivity & Transformation in Nonprofit Arts Education.
  • Thursday, Oct. 13 — Women Supporting Women: Examining the Importance of Having a Network.
  • Thursday, Oct. 27 — Emerging into the Professional Landscape: Exploring Balance, Generating Income, Rejection, and Community Support.

More details about the Women Influencing the Arts speaker series can be found online.