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  • Writer's pictureSpotlight News Hampton Roads

United We Are a Force, and Individually We Are W.O.N.

Images Courtesy of BA Ciccolella

March is Women's History Month and to celebrate Spotlight kicks off its new series Women of Note. W.O.N. celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions.

The idea for Women's History Month began in Santa Rosa, California when the Education Task Force of Sonoma County organized a Women's History week in 1978. This led to the founding of the National Women's History Project in 1980 which has since become the National Women's History Alliance. The same year, President Jimmy Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8th to be Women's History week, stating:

From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first Native American families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.

That week was chosen to correspond with International Women's Day on March 8th. Fast forward to 1981 when Congress passed a law designating the week of March 7th-13th of 1982 as "Women's History Week". Congress continued along this line until 1987 when the first Women's History month was established, by Presidential Proclamation, a tradition that continues annually.

In Hampton Roads, some of 2021's Women's History Month celebrations include programming by Zeider's American Dream Theatre, Slover Library, Colonial Williamsburg, The Sandler Center, and The Little Theatre of Norfolk. And here at Spotlight, we're kicking off our series by introducing you to the woman behind Spotlight, our co-founder and editor B.A. Ciccolella.

Affiliation(s) (past and present):

President, Spotlight News Hampton Roads; President, Little Theatre of Norfolk; Self Employed Theatrical Designer/ Technician/ Production, Event, and Hospitality Manager (when there isn't a pandemic)... I have a day job as an Administrative Assistant, and have worked before as a Field Director for a state campaign, and a Legislative Assistant in the Virginia General Assembly.

How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?

In high school I participated in the school musical and wrote for/ eventually edited the school newspaper. I guess I've been doing this for a while, because back then we literally used scissors and glue to cut and paste the layout for the newspaper.

How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?

I've been in town since 2006.

What advice would you give young women going into your field?

I'm going to answer this from the perspective of a theatrical designer/ technician/ manager as I've been doing that for a few decades now. There's plenty of advice out there for women that all sounds similar, but the biggest thing I wish someone had told me when I was starting out is to keep in mind that the tools you will use are not built for you. I spent many years as carpenter, assistant technical director, and technical director, and power tools and work tables are designed for average male bodies. Ergonomically, they simply don't fit the average woman, and therefore you are going to be putting a lot of stress on your body "fitting into" a world designed for men. Do not, therefore, let any of your coworkers goad you into lifting things your body isn't designed to lift, or doing things your body simply can't do. Don't be afraid to ask for help, or for a team lifting partner. I promise, the other members of your shop don't really want to lift heavy things alone either- many times they are just too proud or too scared to say it out loud. Oh, and if you do find one of those "let me get that for you little lady" type men, it's the ULTIMATE power move to just say "Oh! Well thank you!", watch them haul whatever it is across the stage, and then ask THEM if they would like some help with the next piece when they get back. Finally- there isn't a point in adulthood where you magically and suddenly know what you are doing. Everyone is simply doing their best to make it up as they go along. Yes, lived experience helps, but don't wait until you "are an adult"- you are ready RIGHT NOW. You can only get that lived experience by trying, and sometimes failing, and then trying again until you succeed.

Have you faced challenges in your field because of your gender or have you found your gender to be an asset? What kinds of challenges or advantages, and how have they affected your life?

We want everyone to be heard and seen, but also understand that this question can be difficult, and some people are not ready to talk about these challenges yet. Feel free to skip this question if it will cause any hardship.

When I first started out as a carpenter, I sent out a variety of resumes, some with my full legal name, and some with my first name listed as "BA". I'm going to let you guess how many call backs I got from each. I used to very much enjoy reporting to work and introducing myself, and then having my new supervisor say "You're... not what we expected." I would always try to give them an out by asking "Female or more tattoos?" Every single time it happened, they took the out. (For the record, I don't have any tattoos...)

Has parenthood impacted your career or shaped your perspective as an artist? In what ways?

Honestly, I have never hit a point in my life where I wanted children, and that is probably the reason that I was able to stay in the performing arts field for so long. First off, the rumors are true- working in theatre doesn't pay that well. Secondly, up until a few years ago when my body basically decided it *could not* do it anymore, my jobs were all very physically demanding, and also demanded a good lot of my time as well (anyone who has worked in regional theatre can talk to you about 120 hour weeks during technical rehearsals). It would be a whole other article to discuss all the things that need to be changed about how the performing arts as an industry tends to take advantage of those who choose it as a career, and what changes are needed to make the industry more accessible and equitable, and maybe someday I will have the time and energy to write that Op Ed. In the meantime I will say, attempting to juggle my career path with parenthood, for me, would have been an impossibility, and I highly respect both the women I know who made it work, and the women who decided to leave the industry because they could not make it work.

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