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V-Day and Ashe Cultural Arts Center Present SWIMMING UPSTREAM in Baton Rouge, Santa Fe, & Houston


Contact: Jen Hirsch | Group SJR | 646.495.9723

V-Day and Ashé Cultural Arts Center
- with Support from Open Society Foundation -

Present the Critically Acclaimed Play SWIMMING UPSTREAM
in Baton Rouge, Santa Fe, and Houston

New York, NY - March 11, 2011 - Five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf South, V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, in partnership with Ashé Cultural Arts Center, will present a series of special performances of Swimming Upstream, a stunning piece of theater telling stories of the storm and those who survived, in Baton Rouge, Santa Fe, and Houston.

As a city of what was once 500,000 continues to struggle to rebuild, the rest of the country have probably forgotten the brown water line that still stains homes, stores, and churches. Many have forgotten the thousands who lived through the terror of leaving their homes, the hours of waiting outside in the rain, the nightmare of the Superdome, the one wet blanket to sleep on amid the masses, the lack of food and water, and the fear of rape in the bathrooms. We think the country should never forget.

To document those incidents, for a year and a half following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 16 women from New Orleans-- including a gospel singer, a teenage filmmaker, a former Vegas showgirl, and a Mardi Gras Indian matriarch--met monthly to share stories and develop original writings about their experiences before, during, and after the storms.

In a process facilitated by playwright and activist Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) and Carol Bebelle, Executive Director and Co-founder of Ashé Cultural Arts Center, the writers crafted a powerful theatrical production that tells the raw and soulful stories of women who lived through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita with grace, rage, humor, strength and great resiliency.

"Women kept New Orleans together. Through love, through sheer ingenuity, they kept New Orleans moving forward," said Eve Ensler, V-Day Founder and playwright."

Swimming Upstream is no mere docudrama. It is a testimony, a prayer, a blues ballad, a hallelujah, an affirmation, a nightmare, a battlecry, a eulogy, an incantation, an epic poem.

Premiering at the Louisiana Superdome in April 2008 during V-Day's "V to the Tenth" celebration, and with subsequent shows in Atlanta, New Orleans, and most recently at the world famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, Swimming Upstream has played before rapt audiences with casts featuring writers of the play, native New Orleans performers, Liz Mikel from Dallas; and celebrity guest stars, including Jasmine Guy, Shirley Knight, LaChanze, Phylicia Rashad, Anna Deavere Smith, and Kerry Washington.

The cast will now include five of the New Orleans writers and two New Orleans singers. Via monologue, poetry, and song, the production amplifies the seldom-heard voices from the ground, sharing the frustration and hopes that New Orleanians felt during one of the United States' most tragic moments. The piece also illuminates the intersectionality of the larger American experience - posing important questions about how race, class and gender are tightly intertwined, and how they determine how we as Americans experience our society.

The show will tour three cities - Baton Rouge on March 14 and continue on from Santa Fe to Houston on March 21. As Carol Bebelle explained: "The formula was to create something that could run around the world. New Orleans survived a flood and lived to tell about it. All of us are challenged to weather the storms of life. "Swimming Upstream" is our manifesto and our journal how to persist in seeking the victory over life's trials. It's a love song to the world that says the way through the storm is with fellow travelers on the same or similar journeys."

V-Day and Ashé's body of work is proof that when actors and audience members are brought together for a performance, theater can become an intangible force for social change that has real and quantifiable results, shifting the culture and making policy and political change possible.

New Orleans performers include Anne-Liese Juge Fox, Karen-kaia Livers, Troi Bechet, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes and Susan Wentz and singers, Michaela Harrison and Leslie Blackshear Smith.

The writers who captured these stories for stage-life are Carol Bebelle, Troi Bechet, Reverend Lois Dejean, Asali Devan Ecclesiastes, Anne-Liese Juge Fox, Adella Gautier, Briceshanay Gresham, Herreast Harrison, Karen-kaia Livers, Tommye Myrick, Cherice Harrison Nelson, Kathy Randels, Dollie Rivas, Dina Roudeze, Karel Sloane-Boekbinder and Carol Sutton.

This tour is made possible through a grant from Open Society Foundation. A portion of the proceeds will benefit V-Day and Ashé Cultural Arts Center.

Baton Rouge:
Monday, March 14, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
Baton Rouge Community College, Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion,
5130 Florida Boulevard
FREE event

Santa Fe:
Friday, March 18, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
Tickets available at or 505.988.1234 -
$25 general admission, $15 students

Monday, March 21, 2011 at 7:30pm
The Alley Theatre
Tickets available online
$25 general admission

"In many ways the work resembles an engaging church event - complete with gospel songs, testimonies and hand-clapping redemption."
- Variety

"If art is therapeutic, Swimming Upstream is a breakthrough."
- The Times-Picayune, September 11, 2010

"Swimming Upstream ... is the poetic equivalent of a breached levee. What begins as a flood of raw human emotion becomes a source of healing, transcendence and new beginnings."
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 2008

About Ashé Cultural Arts Center
The mission of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, (Ashé) an Initiative of Efforts of Grace, Inc. is to promote, produce, create and support programs, activities and creative works that emphasize the positive contributions of people of African descent. The Ashé Cultural Arts Center has been a key institution in the revitalization and rebuilding of New Orleans in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the subsequent levee failures and has partnered with many organizations focusing on community development.

About V-Day
V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler's award winning play The Vagina Monologues. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $80 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, launched the Karama program in the Middle East, reopened shelters, and funded over 12,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic Of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. The 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.