Photo by Laura Marie Rivera: The Shattered Glass Project creator Rebecca O’Neil sits outside the Madrona library last month. O’Neil created the TSGP to connect with and amplify voices marginalized by sex and gender in theater.
Photo by Laura Marie Rivera: The Shattered Glass Project creator Rebecca O’Neil sits outside the Madrona library last month. O’Neil created the TSGP to connect with and amplify voices marginalized by sex and gender in theater.

Rebecca O’Neil, a longtime Madrona resident, was looking for ways to connect with and amplify other women’s voices and talents when she created The Shattered Glass Project as a graduate school project.

The program grew out of O’Neil’s desire to create opportunities in theater for women and other voices marginalized because of sex or gender and tell those untold stories in the Seattle area.

“I wanted a place that would give women and nonbinary folks the opportunity to work as actors, directors, playwrights and producers,” O’Neil said.

During her journey, she said she has learned a lot more about the benefits of diversity and “how heterogenous teams achieve more than non-heterogenous teams.

“When we work with a group that is not the same as we are, we can achieve more and be more creative,” O’Neil said.

The Shattered Glass Project came together while she was working toward her arts leadership master’s degree at Seattle University. The graduate program brings together leaders from across the arts communities with the goal of empowering a new wave of arts professionals. It teaches business, management and community engagement skills, while incorporating social justice into all it does.

O’Neil started the master’s program in 2017 while she was working at Seattle University’s Law School doing continuing education and events management. Her cohort was larger than usual, but she said members “really liked each other,” and they all had their “little quirks.”

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to start a theater company that would feature women and especially older women,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil, a Pacific Northwest native who studied drama at Mills College and in England for a year, has been acting semi-professionally for years.

She knows, however, that no matter how good an actor is or how great their training, only so many roles are created for women, and even less for women of a certain age. As well, while the majority of ticket buyers may be women, there continues to be a gender gap on the stage and behind the scenes.

According to 2020 statistics from Women in Hollywood, a movement that educates, advocates and agitates for gender diversity and inclusion in Hollywood and the arts, less than 30 percent of screenwriters were women, less than 10 percent were Black, Indigenous and people of color women, and only 1 percent were writers with disabilities.

O’Neil said The Shattered Glass Project is a fiscally-sponsored Shunpike program designed to encourage new voices and create professional opportunities and growth and “to say to the rest of the community: Look at the great work these people are doing.”

Alison Kozar first met O’Neil in 2020 and had the opportunity to direct a Zoom reading for TSGP. Kozar, who uses they/them pronouns, describes themselves as “mixed, brown, outsider, queer, ADD and weird,” and said they were not expecting O’Neil to grant so much freedom in TSGP.

“It was really unexpected to have someone put their full faith in me like Rebecca did,” Kozar said.

They are also the stage manager for the TSGP’s upcoming production of “Want,” the company’s first production inside a theater, later this summer. Kozar said they are looking forward to calling a show again. The stage manager’s job is “a bit like conducting an orchestra, controlling anything that moves on the stage, when the lights go off and on, and all of the sounds happening,” they said.

“I say when and how it happens,” Kozar said.

And things are happening at The Shattered Glass Project. Since O’Neil’s thesis project in 2019, TSGP has been refining its incubator mentorship program, which is non-hierarchical and everyone can teach and learn.

“You’re going to walk out of here and know a lot of people and have a network to get jobs,” O’Neil said.

TSGP is allowing participants to do just that. “TBD (To Be Devised) A Celebration” is the first in-person production of any kind produced by TSGP.

It was created by incubator/mentor alums Sophe Friedman and Darby Sherwood and the cast. The outdoor performances will take place at 7 p.m. June 24 and 2 p.m. June 25 at Dr. Blanche Lavizzo Park, 21 South Jackson St. Admission is free. Go to https://www.shatteredglassproject.org/tbd-a-celebration for more information.

“Want,” written by Barbara Lindsay and directed by Maureen Hawkins, is a stirring play about the impact that poverty and jealousy can have on love. Performances will take place from July 28 through Aug. 14 at Center Theater in the Seattle Center Armory Building, 305 Harrison St. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to https://www.shatteredglassproject.org/want.

For more information on The Shattered Glass Project, visit www.shatteredglassproject.org.