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Long Island's 'Future Is Female Festival' uses plays, poems and music to inspire women

Donna Stovall, left, Laura Jens-Smith and Cindy Clifford

Donna Stovall, left, Laura Jens-Smith and Cindy Clifford rehearse at Dark Horse Restaurant in Riverhead for "The Future Is Female." Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Rather than spend Women’s History Month looking back, one New York writer is encouraging people to envision what’s to come.

Mya Kagan, a Brooklyn-based playwright, created the concept for The Future Is Female Festival. The nationwide event — for and about women — imagines what the future may hold for females through a colorful program of short plays, poetry and music.

There are more than two dozen outposts of the March festival in 18 cities across the United States and Canada. The Long Island production takes place Thursday, March 23, at Dark Horse Restaurant in Riverhead.

“There is something very empowering about a room full of women,” says Cindy Clifford, who, along with Debbie Slevin, coproduces the local leg of the national movement. “Sharing what we go through, how we feel and what we’ve learned can be validating and encouraging, and an enormous help to someone who’s struggling.”

Hoping to widen opportunities for theaters, groups and voices to participate, Kagan had three stipulations for any offshoot: that it take place during Women’s History Month, that at least half the program addresses the future and that it benefit an organization.

The “Future Is Female” phrase began as a 1970s lesbian separatist slogan.

Clifford and Slevin chose to host a free two-hour event where they will collect donations for the East End Fringe Festival and Planned Parenthood.


Clifford says she and Slevin spent about two months collecting more than a dozen pieces “that look ahead, look back or just take a strong look at what it is to be a woman.”

Among the planned performances is “Daughter,” a poem about a mother’s promise to her future child, and “Sit Down and Shut Up,” which tells the story of one woman being silenced until a big event shifts her attitude.

The program they have curated is at various points thoughtful, comical and inspirational.

“So the audience will alternately laugh, cry, fume and rally as we reflect on our collective lives, which are at times hilarious and appalling,” says Clifford, a Riverhead resident.


One comic skit they selected follows a woman on a job interview in 2037; another set depicts the president of the United States as a woman introducing Congress to new legislation; and one of Clifford’s favorites, an opinion piece titled “What Young Women May Not Know,” highlights women’s struggles over the past 100 years. The essay, by Sharon Weeks, went viral last month after she posted it on Facebook. It has garnered more than half a million likes and was later published in the Leader-Telegram, a daily newspaper in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

In it, Weeks pleads with women to be alert, writing: “Please don’t be complacent and too comfortable with your life. Be aware of what has happened over the years, decades and literally centuries to get you here.”

Weeks gave approval for her essay to be included in the Long Island festival and is flying out from Wisconsin to see it performed.

Events like this help to create unity, Clifford says, adding, “I hope that people leave feeling proud, grateful and hopeful.”

The Future Is Female

WHEN | WHERE 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 23, Peconic Room at Dark Horse Restaurant, 1 East Main St., Riverhead

INFO 631-488-1145


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