Many have spoken of the magic of theater, but Franco Moschetti sees a more specific kind of magic – a maternal magic. Moschetti, who has written both plays and screenplays, is the Art Director of the Cabrini Repertory Theater and the Founder/Creator of the Venus Theater Festival, a playwriting contest held specifically for women.
While the winner of Best Play at the festival will receive a prize of $2,500 and the winner of Best Actress receives $500, Moschetti said this is not a monetary enterprise. The intention of the Venus Festival is, he said, to help create new art by providing a supportive atmosphere for women to work in. Women writers and directors will have the opportunity to direct their own never-before-seen shows and develop a sense of casting, staging, use of lights and direction. The festival is held in the Cabrini Repertory Theater 200-seat proscenium theater in Washington Heights, New York.
Moschetti, who says all of his friends are women and his best friend is a transgender playwright, has observed women in a professional capacity for years and hopes to create an environment of support for people who, he said, are intimidated by a system that does not support their methods of working.
“Women are more visual, more sensual,” Moschetti said. “They have an intuition in applying the power they have. [In their scripts] they have a tendency to play with very important issues, but to hide them in the scripts. It’s a gentle way to share things that are missing in the male world.”
Men and women work differently, according to Moschetti, who said, “in a regular process, women step back. They need to respond, back off, and think about it. There is an approach, a message behind, a sensitivity that needs space.” He observed this and was inspired to mount the Venus Theater Festival, when watching a festival last year held at the Cabrini and noticed that out of the 20 plays that were accepted, 13 had been written by women. When the winner’s play was mounted, Moschetti said he was “sitting in awe.
“It was a pure magic moment. I fell in love with that energy, that vibrance, that freshness,” he said. “They have so much to say, so much love. I was so exhilarated. I was so thrilled to see this was happening for women.”
The Venus Theater Festival is designed to give each play as much support as possible as well as prime exposure. The performances are arranged to allow as large an audience as possible, on nights and weekends, and Moschetti attends each performance. To prepare for the performances, Moschetti collaborates with the playwrights as much as possible but strives to respect their work and creative control.
“I want to make sure everything happens where women can be totally supported,” he said. “When you’re in a friendly environment, it’s so much better.”
The festival’s name was inspired by the goddess Venus, who Moschetti said possessed one of the finest intuition in the world of mythology. He said women possess a more refined sense of judgment, while men view issues more in a sense of black and white. This intuition has been demonstrated throughout history, especially during wars, when, he said, women helped communities to survive while men were fighting. He mentioned World War II, when he said women preserved everything that was preservable, when everything around them was destroyed.
“In wars, the ones to survive are women. I’ve lived all over the world, never seen any better working group,” he said. “Men would crash against the wall. Women stop and talk to each other.”
Moschetti has observed women struggling with the demands of balancing a career and a personal life, commenting on it saying, “This new generation is different…Somewhere they gained their life, but they lost it, too.”
The resourceful nature of women, and their ability to survive, is something Moschetti said he respects deeply and hopes will be more respected in the future. When asked for his thoughts on female bosses being considered “unlikable” or “bitches,” he said without pausing, “Usually those things are said by men.”
Describing the set of a production as “very male,” Moschetti said different types of art can only be created if the atmosphere of power changes.
“We keep repeating, unless we create a new environment,” he said. “Somewhere, somehow, things will go better.”