The first year of the Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund included many memorable moments.
Dedication of the Virginia Giordano Amphitheater
The stage dedication of the Virginia Giordano Amphitheater was beautiful. It happened in two parts: First, a small private dedication ceremony on the actual outdoor amphitheater stage on Thursday September 7, with Jim Fleming, Eleni Kelakos, Polly Laurelchild-Hertig, and SisterSpace Board member Karen Marcune.
The public dedication of the Virginia Giordano Amphitheater was a featured part of the festival opening on the evening of Friday, September 8, led by Eleni Kelakos, with many of the VGMF Honorees present onstage.
Performing artists were introduced as VGMF Honorees as they performed on the various stages, so audiences heard about Virginia throughout the festival. Virginia Giordano honorees were also named in the festival program, along with a 3-page spread about Virginia's life and legacy.
We felt Virginia's spirit all weekend. People who had never met Virginia got to hear about her amazing life and work. People who knew and loved Virginia reminisced about her and what she meant to them. A new generation got to experience Virginia's legacy through the Fund.
Behind the Scenes: Mentoring Young Production Professionals
Virginia mentored many women in business, technical, and production skills and gave them opportunities to build their careers in nontraditional fields. One of the goals of the Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund is to help behind-the-scenes workers to get experience and grow their careers in the performing arts. Senior SisterSpace staff mentor these young women, giving them opportunities to develop and use their skills during the festival. We also serve as references for future employers.
Four hardworking, talented young women spent the 2018 SisterSpace Festival as Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund honorees/interns, working backstage. All 4 interns were present from tech load in through strike.
The Artist Liaison intern interacted with performers on all stages. Winona Wyatt was mentored by SisterSpace's long time Artist Liaison Manager (who is also a Board member). Winona was in charge of Artist Hospitality and Transport on Saturday during the 2018 Festival, and assisted on all other days. She will return in 2019 to take on additional responsibility in this area, including in advance of the festival.
Each of the 3 technical/stage workers had active roles on several live stages through the weekend:
- Lauren Hunter was mentored by SisterSpace's long time Assistant Night Stage Manager. She will return in 2019 as understudy to Polly as production stage manager, including advance work.
- Kelsey Snively was mentored by SisterSpace's Lighting Designer (also Board President), Jo-Ann McIntyre, and by our Day Stage Manager in stage management. Her post-festival feedback includes: "In my experience as a VGMF honoree and as an intern I had an incredibly positive experience at SisterSpace. I was surrounded by incredibly positive role models and an upbeat work environment. It was a great experience... I learned new ways to play with lighting ... and [learned] how light can change the appearance of different skin tones in a much more hands-on way. ...I was included and respected as a team member. Everyone was warm and welcoming from open to close. It was the first festival I ever worked in, which required a different approach as opposed to theatre. Everything was much more active during the show and I had to learn to work under pressure....This experience has encouraged me to seek out other opportunities in similar areas."
- Samantha Ruszkowski was mentored by Jo-Ann McIntyre in lighting. Sam called us in great excitement several months ago to tell us she had parlayed her Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund/SisterSpace internship into paying theater work in New York City. Sam is now working full time in her dream career. She says "Thank You, Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund!" for the experience and the opportunity.
On Stage: Artist Support
Virginia was noted for helping the careers of many artists who went from relatively unknown to filling major concert halls, thanks to Virginia's long range visionary promotion over the years. One of the goals of the Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund is to identify talented artists whose names are not yet household words, and give them national promotion as part of the SisterSpace Weekend Women's Festival roster of featured artists. Being onstage at SisterSpace exposes artists to new audiences. SisterSpace can also serve as a reference to other promoters.
In 2018, the Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund supported 10 artists/groups performing live on 5 stages:
Indigie Femme wrote the following about their experience as VGMF Artist Honorees:
"Ya a t’eh, Talofa lava, Kia ora, hello...We were so grateful to participate at the 2018 SisterSpace as Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund Artist Honorees (VGMF). We have been blessed to perform in festivals both nationally and internationally and a major admiration we had from attending SisterSpace was your “consciousness” for showcasing women of color artists! Thank you! The sisters we met, both performers and attendees, were all extraordinary in their own ways. We were well taken care of and grateful for the travel accommodations which we would have otherwise been unable to afford...Ahe hee (thank you)," --Tash and Elena
Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund Visibility
The Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund was featured in announcements on SisterSpace's website; Facebook pages, and other social media.
In August 2018, Holly Near spoke about the Fund during an interview on Philadelphia's "Amazon Country" radio show.
The 2018 SisterSpace Festival program featured a 3 page spread on Virginia, plus bios and photos of each of the Fund-supported Artists, and the names of the behind the scenes interns.
It was an auspicious first year indeed for the Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund.
Peace, love, blessings!
Jo-Ann McIntyre, Board President, SisterSpace of the Delaware Valley
Polly Laurelchild-Hertig, SisterSpace booking manager/production stage manager