Photo: Courtesy of Amber Tamblyn
Photo: Courtesy of Amber Tamblyn

Amber Tamblyn Set For Poetic Debut at Kennedy Center

At 34, Amber Tamblyn has accomplished a great deal in the entertainment world. She’s achieved success as an actress, writer and director, and has been nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Whether it’s her breakout role as the title character in Joan of Arcadia, playing rebellious Tibby in the popular movie adaptation of Ann Brashares’ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or even her years as young Emily Quartermaine on General Hospital, Tamblyn is a favorite to many.

Apart from her success onscreen, she is also an accomplished writer and poet, and has been invited to take part in the ninth annual Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival, produced by Brightest Young Things and curated by writer/actress/stand-up comedian Tig Notaro at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, October 28.

Joining Tamblyn onstage will be poet and activist Andrea Gibson, whose powerful work ranges across topics of gender, bullying, war, class, sexuality, love, spirituality and more. For those coming to the show, Tamblyn previews they will see “some of the best, most invigorating and heart-challenging poetry they’ve ever seen.”

“I’ve toured with Andrea Gibson before, and she’s incredible,” Tamblyn says. “[She’s] one of my favorite poets to perform with. Andrea and I both know Tig. Tig came to us and asked us if we wanted to do the show, and of course we said, ‘Yes.’”

Although the styles of Tamblyn and Gibson are very different, their messages are fiercely tied by being feminist, political, daring, funny and strong. Tamblyn views performing at the Kennedy Center as a huge honor, and she can’t wait for the night to arrive.

“Years ago, I was invited by Hillary Clinton to be a guest when she was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors,” she says. “I campaigned for her in both 2008 and 2016. It was such a gorgeous space, and I remember thinking how lucky the artists were that got to perform there.”

Tamblyn recently grabbed headlines for a strong op-ed in The New York Times in which she spoke out against sexual harassment and the importance of women being believed, detailing a run-in with actor James Woods when she was just 16. This was weeks before any of the Harvey Weinstein allegations surfaced, and is believed to be a catalyst to all of the women coming forward against the movie mogul.

“Here’s a great example of an action feeling less about choice and more about survival,” she says. “I had to write that article lest I be a hypocrite and lest I allow other women to continue to be shamed and not believe. Even if no one had read it or I had been sued for writing it or any other various awful things, I had to write it to speak to other women and girls in a language that only we speak – to acknowledge our most painful silences. It’s important for me to be an ally in this world, however that may come about. And that means being an intersectional ally; making sure that I care and pay attention to everything that’s going on not just in front of and behind me, but also directly next to me – to the women around me.”

In Tamblyn’s view, there’s no such thing as “no sacrifices” if one wants to see their visions through.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot to get where I am and to be able to speak with the voice I have,” she says. “Plus, I have an infant daughter, which adds a whole other layer of intensity to my life. Kathleen Hanna from Riot Grrrls once said to me that she didn’t feel like music was a choice for her, that there was no choice in it. It was an act of survival. I completely agree with that. I didn’t choose to write and produce content in film and television; it was something I had to do to really start living my best life, regardless of whether I failed or not.”

On a lighter front, Tamblyn is optimistic about the chance of there being another sequel to the popular The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie franchise, which she stars in along with close friends Blake Lively, American Ferrera and Alexis Biedel.

“The fourth and final book is a powerful one, and one that is very personal and important for us sisters to tell,” she says. “We are hopeful that another film will get made.”

Meanwhile, fans can check out Tamblyn’s most recent work, Paint It Black, which she wrote and directed based on the novel by Janet Fitch, on iTunes and Amazon.

“I’m extremely proud of this film and I believe it speaks to complexities of the female experience.”

Catch Tamblyn at the ninth annual Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival on Saturday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit here.

Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org