By Randall Jobe
A HOUSTON WOMAN’S VISION
Laura Moreno’s fascination with the theatre and movies was not about the make believe damsel-in-distress or the princess and her savior prince. Rather, early on, as a little Hispanic girl growing up in Houston, Texas, with unlimited access to the latest Hollywood and foreign films, courtesy of her parent’s video store, she spent endless summers studying classic films. She was particularly drawn to and in admiration of women — powerful women with thoughts and ideas of their own — a sharp contrast to much of what she observed growing up. The concept of a strong woman seemed rare in what she knew as a man’s world.
She also love historical female figures and longed for more knowledge. She was reading biographies on Marie Antoinette and Queen Elizabeth as early as middle school. At 14, she was taken with the story of the formidable Nina Vance who, through sheer grit and determination, founded the Alley Theatre. It inspired her in a way that that has stayed with her much like the Alley’s long, successful and respected run. Despite the theater’s recent scandal involving Gregory Boyd, former Artistic Director, the Alley continues to do excellent work.
Ironically, long before the #metoo movement, Moreno was compelled to connect with other woman and the need to fight for equal rights and equal pay. She knew that change would take time and she set on a path of one step at a time. She began by listening to many women from this city, especially to those within the theatre community. She discovered they felt alone, under-represented, unwanted and unheard. It was an abundant problem and the women were looking for a place to talk, connect and refocus to hopefully find inspiration and support from others like themselves. She felt as is something called the “theatre community” seemed somewhat exclusive. It was clear to her that was a need for a “sisterhood” to create female-driven stories that are told and shared again and again.
In addition to her desire to celebrate women in Houston and their hard work and accomplishments, Moreno wants to expand, investigate and share the experiences of women in other parts of the country, as well as throughout the world.
Moreno’s vision starts with a group called Women in Theatre. The mission is “to unite woman in the Houston theatre community. Create a network…to celebrate our skills, hard work, versatility and individuality… to put the theatre women of Houston on the national and global map.”
Immediate goals are to create a network of women to meet once a month to socialize and talk shop. Along the way she hopes to create a place for women to continue training in their art, to share issues, and seek advice and counsel. Moreno also hopes the women will inspire one another by sharing their successes in the theatre. Eventually she hopes to bring in speakers from around the country and the globe to tell their stories, share struggles, insight and victories, and offer support for new opportunities within the community. She also would like for Women in Theatre to be able to commission works from female playwrights about female driven stories. There are also plans to create scholarships and workshops to encourage and train young artists.
Moreno’s concepts and ideas have been in her head and in her heart for a long time and it seems as if the recent dramatic shifts in Hollywood and the theatre involving the empowerment of woman, taken by women and driven by woman may make its own history. She is hoping for participation from women in all aspects of theatre, including writers, directors, actors, educators, administrators and more. The future must improve on the past. Visions like that of Women in Theatre may be the key: one step at a time.