Amazing Things Art Center

We are invited by Amazing Things Art Center to put We Did It For You! on there in January 2018. We are very excited to be in an actual theatre for a performance.

WDIFY_AmazingThings

We have worked into a routine to have a full rehearsal in the space we are performing at about 2 hours before the performance. Our rehearsal goes well, and then we sit down for a nice lunch. When we are about to start the performance, it has to be delayed because so many audience members are having trouble parking. We picked the weekend of the Women’s March anniversary to start our performances at Amazing Things. And though it looks planned, it wasn’t. We are in contact with the Women’s March and get some good publicity because of it. We have rented head mics from The Guitar Center so that everyone almost is wearing one. It’s a great performance, and being in a theatre makes me not want to put it on anywhere else again. In the audience is Kate Carney, a former Broadway director and performer. She wants to help us.

The director of Amazing Things asks us to perform regularly and we agree. We write a grant for performing during Women’s History Month in March. Another great performance. And then we agree to start performing regularly in June.

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We start off 2018 with more performances

On January 13, we perform at the Walpole United Church. We get a lot of help from people there. It takes a few logistics runs to Walpole to finalize everything. The church is so beautiful but old, so we have to figure out about the slide projection. We now have someone helping with the slides. Our crew and cast are growing!  A reporter from the Metrowest Daily shows up at our dress rehearsal and takes photos. An article comes out of it. So do some great pictures. It is Christine’s first time in the cast and she does great. More 12 and 13 year olds wanting to be in it. We audition them and say yes to all!

On March 10, we perform at the Unitarian Church in Middleboro. This also takes some doing in this amazing church. We need two slide projectors, a screen, lots of cabling. The people are very helpful.

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More 2017 performances

We received some local cultural council grants from towns in Massachusetts to put on more performances. We had to find local venues in Norfolk and in Natick.

The Norfolk Public Library has a great space for meetings and performances. The cast was very excited about putting on another performance but we did have to make cast adjustments. We’ve been auditioning women who are hearing about what we are doing.

We’ve learned to take ticket reservations. For Norfolk, we got 100 people to make reservations. Husbands of cast members help take tickets and set up the chairs. The November 18 performance goes great.

On December 10, 2017, we perform in Natick at the Common Street Spiritual Center. Another 14-year-old wants to be in the show. We take her name. Carolyn Waters is the musical director at Common Street and she plays Rosa Parks and Anna J. Cooper. (pictures © 2018 Damianos Photography)

We Did It For You! Women's Journey Through History (musical performance)We Did It For You! Women's Journey Through History (musical performance)

 

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Starting performances in Massachusetts

Many of us went to the Women’s March in January 2017 and came away feeling like we had to do something for women’s rights. At the march in Boston, there were thousands and thousands of women and men. We were standing on the Boston Commons trying to get to the march but because there were so many people, we could only move about 20 feet every hour. When we finally got to march, we were ready. It was exciting. So much support. I knew when I got home there was something I could do. And in May, I suggested to some women who had marched that we put on We Did It For You! on Women’s Equality Day in August. I handed them the script and they read it aloud, taking different parts. They were hooked! We spread the word and gathered a cast. Even a crew.

Expresso Yourself Coffeehouse in Medfield was looking for someone to perform that August. When I said we could put the play on there, they thought it was great. We rehearsed all July and August. We created a theatre in the vestry of First Parish complete with 2 projectors, wings, backstage, and seating for 135 people.

It was standing room only. A reporter from Hometown Weekly arrived and took pictures and loved the play. Everyone did.

 

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Workshop with high school students

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We have done the We Did It For You! Women’s Journey Through History workshop with women’s organizations, conference attendees, churches, lifelong learning institutes, and community colleges. Tomorrow, we are doing our first workshop with high school students. We have added a ‘Call to Action’ handout in their packet. We are very excited and have begun receiving grants to continue this work with high school students. Will it make a difference?

This is the question: can participating in this experiential learning event change someone’s attitude? Can it put them on a path towards compassion and cooperation? Can seeing 450 years of women’s history help them connect the dots so that they become part of the change and care about the oppressed and not stay as part of the problem?

Since the 2016 election, many people are worried. They wonder what they can do. I believe that bringing these concepts to high school students — about Gandhi’s seven social sins, about the impact the patriarchy has had on us, and that there are other ways for societies to be — we will have a more informed electorate in 4 years. This is our work.

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Paying attention – a letter to the new generation

Thinking about history and the stories of people far removed from us can be boring. I heard Sherry Turkle once say how we now can use our smart gadgets to get us through the boring bits of life. I admit it, I pull out my smart phone when I’m bored. We’re encouraged to; besides, receiving emails and tweets from our friends feels great.
But there is a danger to not paying attention. While we are allured into a wonderland of entertainment and companionship, we let others take control, take over, and be in charge with their own agenda. And they have and will take our freedoms.
We live in a ‘rule of the fathers’ system that started thousands of years ago where men had dominion over the public sphere (politics, business, society) and women had dominion over the private sphere (servants, food preparation, child rearing). When you study ‘women and work’, you are studying the way women fight their way out of the private sphere into the public sphere. Since the public sphere is where all the money and power is, men are hanging onto it. They have had the public sphere because they took it, not because they earned it.
In the essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack, Peggy McIntosh talks about the unearned advantages and conferred dominance of whites and of men. She says that men ‘may say they will work to improve women’s status…but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s.’ Think about it. Women want equality to men, and today most men in the U.S. will agree. But are they willing to give up some of their unearned advantages?
In We Did It For You!, 18th century Mary Wollstonecraft recognized that women were trained to quote ‘be brutes’ unquote, as if they were cute puppies or farm animals. She said women needed a better education, not just sewing and painting. 19th century Susan B. Anthony recognized the problem with being an uneducated second class citizen and said women needed external rights, i.e. political rights. Elizabeth Cady Stanton said no, women needed to first internally believe that they are equal to men. Nevertheless, she stood up in 1848 and suggested the vote for women. Stanton was laughed out of the hall because women were brought up to live in the private sphere.  In the United States of America, the fight for women to get the vote and crack out of the private sphere took 72 years. 72 years of the majority of men being unwilling to relinquish their conferred dominance and an unearned advantage regarding voting. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton died before women’s suffrage (e.g, voting rights) was realized. It took others picking up the banner and literally putting their lives on the line. Women like 20th century Alice Paul were willing to be tortured and to die so that you in the 21st century can own your gadgets and you could participate in the public sphere. They paid it forward. To you.
Some of you come from other countries and don’t care about the history of the United States. I say this. Tell me who in your country cracked open the private sphere for women. And if it hasn’t yet happened, who is going to do it?
But We Did It For You! is more than just a peek into U.S. history. When I talk before groups of women who come from countries with less freedoms, they say they want blueprints, guidelines for achieving what we have. We Did It For You! is that blueprint. In order to write it, I wove together six categories of rights that women need to break into the public sphere: political rights, civil rights, careers, education, personal rights, and leadership. What I left out is what Elizabeth Cady Stanton complained about: women’s internal rights – the belief they are as good as men. I leave that to magazines and self-help gurus.
I now challenge you. What are you willing to pay forward to future generations? Thanks to ‘the rule of the fathers’, your generation is facing the worse calamity that has ever faced the human species. People have known since 1896 that putting billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere will have immense consequences. Since the first oil well 150 years ago, we have been ruining our environment. The evidence is clear: our addiction to fossil fuels is destabilizing the planet and pollution is poisoning our common resources. And yet, the powers that control the public sphere act as if nothing is wrong. Where are the Susan B. Anthonys and Alice Pauls of today who will say this is wrong and who are willing to put their lives on the line so that there is a future generation?
I think you know the answer.
We of the older generation cannot help you through the problems you are going to face. But this is my advice: learn as much as you can and don’t be hypnotized by entertainment, whether it’s coming from your smart gadgets, the Internet, television, or the political circus.
What are you willing to do for your daughters and sons? Without millions of women joining the public sphere, this antiquated system of the ‘rule of the fathers’ will continue. In We Did It For You, Hillary Clinton says, “If women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations flourish.” She went on to say that ‘as long as women and girls are fed last, fed less, overworked, underpaid, not schooled and subjected to violence inside and outside of the home, the potential of the human family to create a peaceful and prosperous world will not be realized.’ (see full speech) No one would ever make a statement like that about men and boys. Why is it different for men? Our system is built upside down with men focused on money and power in the public sphere, smugly unaware of their unearned advantage and conferred dominance. We need you to stand up for a world built right-side up where families are flourishing in a system of ‘rule of the equals.’

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Workshop at Irvine Valley College

We were invited by Dr. Pauli Merry to run a play-reading workshop at her class on Women’s Studies at Irvine Valley College. I love working with college students. There were enough students so that everyone had a role. My mother joined in the fun. I assigned her the role of Eleanor Roosevelt because, I explained to the kids, “My mom knew Eleanor from her days volunteering in the canteens during World War II in Washington, DC.” My mom had learned how to eat fried chicken with a knife and fork from Roosevelt. What was going through their minds as I told them these stories? After we went through the script, we discussed the cultural constraints that act on women and hold them back. It’s always an eye-opening experience for them. My greatest prop, though, is my mom. I tell them how my mom, who is turning 100 years old in July, was alive on this planet when women could not vote in the United States. They look at her as the dinosaur they think she is, but then she jumps up and dances around their chairs and tells them “be kind to each other.”

I read their reviews of the workshop afterwards. Dr. Merry made them all fill one out. You can’t tell what the kids are thinking or absorbing, but then you read their feedback and see it: the workshop was a huge impact on them.

I love doing this work.

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