Women Who Influence — the Development of a New Program

May 20, 2010 at 6:33 pm 5 comments

This weekend I performed as part of a 3-woman show: Women Who Influence Our Lives.
* The Concept – to honor  the women in our lives who have influenced us or whom we have influenced.
* The Goal – not to create a storytelling program, but to create a spoken word performance piece more in the theatre tradition of monologue. But, of course, with three of us we would be ….. triologue?
* The Process – We took the stories we love to tell — mostly personal but not totally — and categorized them into universal themes: being a mom, marriage, our moms, cancer, self-esteem, body image, on being a kid, our kids, aging, strangers we meet, etc. Then we worked on a program of laughter and meat from that. We knew we wanted it fast-paced, so we re-wrote our stories to be 5 minutes or less. Sometimes we just talked about the theme of the original story and used some of the imagery. Other times we took a kernel out of a longer story and developed it for the theme of this program. My 15-minute table saw story was my longest piece — 5 minutes. My 12-minute dancing with my dad story was about 2 minutes as it focused on the one song — Too Fat Polka — that had to do with my mom’s size. We’ve all got songs in our programming which worked perfectly. So we sang, the audience sang, we chatted, we talked, we interrupted one another with a comment or two. We practiced multiple times so we kind of ‘knew’ about the interruptions, so the challenge was to sound spontaneous.

* The Result — It is an unusual program in that we present vignettes rather than stories. The program lasted an hour, but each of us never spoke longer than 5 minutes at any one time. Some of it was banter lasting 30 seconds. Some of it was a 1 or 2 minute story. That’s how fast-paced the program is; it is intended to seem more like spontaneous conversation around the clothesline in the backyard than practiced story.
Of course that clothesline image required props! We set up one of those wooden drying racks for laundry. On that we hung underwear — some big old tidy whitey and some smooth’n-slinky, hats, boas, bras, scarves, ties, colorful shirts — all the props we needed for our stories. We had big picnic baskets with other props like a hammer, a stack of greeting cards received during cancer treatment, and a singing/swinging James Brown. We brought 3 stools to sit on, 2 tv trays, matching mugs for our water and the cancer-survivors toast, one red and one pink shawl to cover the tv trays, and more. So you can see we did not travel light as is the storyteller’s tradition.
We were fun and funny and poignant and fast-paced and relaxed and interrupted one another and played off of one another and they loved it. The audience reaction was interesting — they just kind of inhaled the program. We had them laughing and crying and listening and leaning in and they just had to hang on for the ride.
We were very pleased afterward and knew we had done very well.
One woman said it was better than the musical Menopause. I have seen that show and consider that quite the compliment! I think she was exaggerating, but I don’t really have to care, do I?
We are looking for more opportunities to tell the program again, and we do plan to add to the program over the summer. We already see ways to make it ‘more’ and not just about women.

A future theatre production? A fringe piece?
Not sure — but definitely something worth pursuing both for our audience and us.

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Entry filed under: Living Out Loud.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Priscilla  |  May 20, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Sue, this sounds great! I could definitely see it as a fringe piece.

    Reply
  • 2. Marilyn  |  May 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    I love this idea. Wish I could be there in person to experience a performance.

    Reply
  • 3. Yvonne  |  May 20, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Wow! Wish I”d been there. You, Donna & Linda? Try marketing to to Business/Bank/Professional women. They often have groups within corporations/professions specific for women and look for programming to jazz up a schmoozing session. Also there are many small theaters in your area. Maybe you could rent one & produce your own ‘play.’ What about community programming/art centers in small towns away from the Big City? The people who bring in “Sister Mary Whomever” or “Late Night Catechism”. Put 1 minute videos on youtube & your websites & social media wt info on how to book the show. Good luck. See you soon!

    Reply
  • 4. Karen Chace  |  May 20, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    I knew it would be fabulous Sue. How could it not be with you three wonderful women? I so wish I could have been there in the audience. How lucky for those women who were able to live and laugh through your stories. This is one to take on the road!

    Bravo!

    Reply
  • 5. Mike SP  |  May 27, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Sounds great! So you’ve got Thanksgiving, Mothers Day, Invention of Clothesline Anniversary, and quite a few opportunities to put it in the public way. Power to ya!

    Reply

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