Charlotte’s Web offers Jan Phillips & Ronnie Gilbert

This is Women’s History Month, and Charlotte’s Web offers two outstanding women performers at two venues this weekend. Get your tickets and check them out!

Womanspace (with the Web’s help) presents Jan Phillips, in a multi-media performance, “Art & Soul”—a journey into your own creative landscapes, combining music, poetry and images. She will perform at 7 p.m., Friday, March 21, at the Mendelssohn Club, 415 N. Church St. Phillips, a California writer, photographer and musician, combines music, poetry and images into multi-media presentations. In Friday’s presentation, she will address who you are and why you are here, allowing and encouraging people to make choices and commitments. For tickets, call Womanspace at 877-0118. Cost is $20. Phillips will also conduct a workshop called “Untying the (K)nots That Bind Us” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday at Womanspace, 3333 Maria Linden Dr., for $40. Both programs are sponsored by Womanspace with assistance from Charlotte’s Web.

Ronnie Gilbert—a dangerous woman?

Charlotte’s Web is proud to present “An Evening With Ronnie Gilbert” at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 22, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St. Don’t miss this opportunity to spend an evening with the legendary Ronnie Gilbert as she shares readings, songs and reminiscences of a most remarkable life and career. Through seven turbulent decades, “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” has championed social change as a radical musician (The Weavers) and a provocative theater artist.

Ronnie Gilbert has had a long and colorful career. In the ’50s, her joyous contralto and vibrant personality enriched the celebrated singing group, The Weavers. Ronnie, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman made records that sold in the millions, bringing folk singing into the music mainstream. Their hits included “Goodnight, Irene,” “Tzena Tzena,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and “Wimoweh.” Suddenly in the hysteria of the McCarthy era, The Weavers were branded “subversives” by the Un-American Activities Committee for the group’s well-known background of progressive social activism. Blacklisted from radio and TV, the quartet’s meteoric rise to mainstream stardom was aborted. Nevertheless, they found a devoted and eager audience in colleges and concert halls around the country, and The Weavers continued to tour and record for 10 more years. Their story is told in the world-renowned documentary about their last concert, The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time!

In 1963, Ronnie was raising her daughter Lisa and beginning a solo singing career when she met Joseph Chaikin, then a young actor/director with a fledgling experimental theater group, the Open Theatre. She joined the group, and that association changed the direction of her working life from music to theater, a path she followed for most of the next 20 years. In the course of her long and varied career, she participated in the creation of many innovative dramatic and musical theater works with Chaikin, Meredith Monk, Elizabeth Swados, Peter Brook and others. She has acted and directed plays in the mountains of British Columbia and appeared on Broadway; performed Sam Shepard and Chaikin’s solo Tongues and Savage Love and Beckett’s Happy Days and played a variety of roles, from Medea’s Nurse to the singing and dancing Mrs. Fezziwig in a version of A Christmas Carol. She has worked in feature films and documentaries as actor or narrator, and appears in several noted documentaries about people she has been associated with.

Her concert career is once again flourishing. In addition to year-round solo performances, she has shared national concert tours with singer Holly Near, with HARP (Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie, Pete Seeger) and with Si Kahn, and in Australia with Judy Small, as well as appearances with Tom Paxton and Odetta. Critics acclaimed her as “one of the greatest women’s voices to be heard today.”

Gilbert’s recent recordings are the live album Love Will Find a Way, the first issue on her own label, Abbe Alice Music; The Spirit Is Free, available on Redwood Records; Lifeline (album with Holly Near); HARP and Singing With You (with Ms. Near). Together Again (with The Weavers) on the Loom label and The Best of The Weavers on MGM are also available, and Vanguard Records has reissued several other Weavers’ albums on CD.

Gilbert’s current major project is a one-woman musical theater piece on the life of the legendary American labor agitator Mother Jones.

Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Tickets are available at Rockford Area Arts Council, 713 E. State St., 963-6765; The Postal Shoppe, Edgebrook Center, 397-7301; and Tin Whistle, N. Main & Auburn, 963-0270; or by mail with check and SASE, 10928 N. Main, Rockton, IL 61072. For Web information, call 964-2238.

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