The Broad Stage and National Geographic highlight migrant women’s stories

By Bridgette M. Redman

When they were open for live shows, one of the most popular offerings at The Broad Stage was the National Geographic Live series. At 7 p.m. on April 14, they’ll host one a digital show, this time on a slightly more serious topic than they usually do.

National Geographic Live’s “Women and Migration” features the work of three photographers capturing the stories from among the more than 270 million people in 2019 who were migrants, refugees or immigrants. More than half of that number were women, often leaving home because of famine or violence.

The show will be followed by a live moderated conversation and an audience question and answer session with the photographers.

“Our hope is that the audience finds this type of programming valuable so that we can expand types of presentations we do with them when we do them in person,” said Eric Bloom, The Broad Stage’s director of artistic planning.

Photographers give voices to the unheard

The photographers—who hail from such places as Istanbul, Madagascar and Pakistan—are professionals who document displacement and migration, human rights, healthcare, climate change and gender issues. The are part of The Everyday Projects, photographers who use their medium to give voices to the unheard and to shatter stereotypes.

The moderator, Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel, is a National Geographic photo editor. She selected these three photographers because of where they were embedded and the work they were doing there:

  • Danielle Villasana: A photojournalist who is based in Istanbul, Villasana’s work focuses on human rights, gender, displacement and health around the world.
  • Miora Rajaonary: A documentary photographer born and raised in Madagascar, she is currently based in Mauritius. She focuses on identity and the social impacts of and adaptations to climate change in Africa.
  • Saiyna Bashir: A Pakistani photojournalist, Bashir is currently based in Islamabad. The over-arching themes of most of her long-term project publications involve human rights, healthcare, migration, climate change and gender.

While migration slowed in 2020 because of the pandemic, The Everyday Projects photographers set out to document how women everywhere are affected by migration. These stories were gathered in a National Geographic magazine feature and in several online stories.

It is on that project that the livestream show at The Broad Stage is based upon.  Audiences will get to see the work that documents how social, economic, political and climate issues are forcing women to leave their homes.

They’ll talk about a shift, “the feminization of migration,” that has a greater number of women traveling to wealthier countries and taking jobs in childcare, eldercare, domestic work, manufacturing and agriculture.

The Broad Stage commits to important community issues

It’s a topic that Bloom says is important to them as an organization and to the city as a whole.

“We are part of the Santa Monica College community which is a safe haven for dreamers and has as one of its core values protecting people who are trying to get their education there,” Bloom said. “The idea of displacement and migration is certainly one that’s close to our particular community. One of our core values as a cultural institution is to present work that speaks to fundamental, structural problems that we’ve identified in society in general.”

Since 2012, The Broad Stage has presented three to four of the National Geographic Live episodes per year. After having to cancel some of their planned joint events when the pandemic hit, National Geographic came to them with a new virtual series and offered them several shows to pick from.

Previously, most of their National Geographic offerings were science-based programming that they connected to their educational outreach. Those were shows featured on animals, space, oceans or environmental issues. Going to a virtual offering, they felt they could pivot in more ways than just the delivery medium.

“We felt this was a really good opportunity to try something a little bit different with National Geographic,” Bloom said. “We haven’t really done anything in the political realm with them before. Because the virtual space opened up possibilities for new audiences for a more affordable access point in terms of ticket price, this would be the right time to try this.”

They weren’t able to adopt the whole six program series that National Geographic offered them, but this one stuck out as important to do.

“It’s our responsibility as an arts organization to do what we can and what we do well—which is to present art and artists,” Bloom said.

Virtual show opens up opportunities

The show, which is being offered as “pay what you can” with $20 being the suggested starting point, is a 60-minute program with live and pre-recorded segments. When audience members purchase a ticket, they’ll be sent a unique link that they’ll be able to use to access the show.

It will open with a live introduction of all the photographers and the moderator and then proceed to a series of pre-recorded presentations showing the work of the photographers and their experiences. That will last 45 minutes and then there will be a 15-minute segment for the audience to ask questions.

“This is going to challenge the audience more than what you would get typically,” Bloom said. “That’s really exciting because coming through this pandemic, we don’t want to do everything the same as we were doing it before. We have an opportunity to take a new approach and look at things in a new way.”

The show is also designed, both because of the price and the virtual delivery, to be more accessible than some of their past shows. Bloom said that the series has sometimes been hard to access because of the high ticket price or because they are so popular that they sell out.

“This is a great opportunity to experience it from home,” Bloom said. “It’s a short program—only an hour—and in a way, it’s extremely intimate and also extremely meaningful.”

While the pandemic has forced everyone to change the way they present art, Bloom says he is glad that being at home has given new opportunities for access that didn’t exist before.

“While our venues are still closed for potentially another six to nine months, we want people to know that we’re still active in presenting important cultural and artistic programs,” Bloom said.

Dates: Wednesday, April 14 at 7 p.m.

Ticketing: Pay-what-you-will with suggested beginning at $20

Tickets and information: