Play reading at First Parish UU

Greg started the play by opening up the service as the UU does, lighting the chalice light, reading a wonderful quote and making announcements for the community and then we started.

My smile just makes me feel giddy.  Watching the participants read their lines; watching the audience absorb the words of the We Did It For You character women past and present, watching their faces, listening to them laugh and witnessing their silence.  Alice Paul talking about her hunger strike and being force fed through a tube in her nose strikes silence in the audience.  Singing the songs is priceless with the looks on faces young and old.  Billie Jean King reminiscing about beating Bobby Riggs and Hillary Clinton giving her famous speech about women’s right are human rights!

Presenting this play reading to a UU parish is a great idea.  The congregants are the characters.  it didn’t matter whether they were men or women, young or old.  As long as they can read it works!  Two young boys ran the audio visual; Sam following the script being prompted to change the pictures projected digitally.  Jack was in charge of filming a master shot of the reading.

Radical 60’s woman was played by Chris, Eva’s husband.  He was adorable letting his shoulder length Hawaiian black hair down, wearing sunglasses, a headband, an “I Love the Beatles” T-shirt and a tie-dyed skirt.  He played the part beautifully.  A picture was taken of him and I for posterity.

After we sang I Am Woman, I got back up on the stage and grabbed the hand mic and thanked everyone.   I spoke about where the play has been and where it can go, where it needs to go.  Afterwards everyone was so enthusiastic.  The Peace and Justice Committee at other UU churches were there and they want to do it.  I started a cast list for volunteer people wanting to be in a play production.

The young woman who played Bella Abzug told me afterwards she just experienced discrimination in her job.  She was amazed how she felt, because she’s a women’s studies major and knew about discrimination but never really felt it.  The play had a big impact on her.  Two young sisters under 10 y/o came up to me and said they loved it, especially the beginning.

I feel we are on our way.  I handed out lots of postcards.  Everyone in the audience has become an agent marketing the play and their enthusiasm will sell it.  It’s all very exciting.

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April 10, 2012 – Victor Valley College Performaing Arts Center

We were invited by the AAUW-Victorville for their annual event Celebrating Women in Mathematics and Science. It took about 2 hours to drive out to Victorville, but it was well-worth the trip. There were about 200 teenage girls there, and we were the keynote of the day. The kids were pretty excited about our performance. To them, our characters are from a far away history. But we were able to tell the stories of powerful women making a difference in the world because they fought back.

The kids thought we were awesome. You can see their comments on the students’ testimonial page. They said things like:

“This was wonderful!! I learned even more than I thought I knew. Thank you!” – high school student

“The show was very informative, making me understand the role of women. I liked it very much, especially its wonderful actors and humor.” – Oak Hills High School student, San Bernardino County

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March 28 – Ft. Irwin National Training Center

We were invited to perform at the Ft. Irwin National Training Center. Since it was 3 hours away, we drove up the night before, grumbling about the distance, not knowing what to expect. We didn’t know if it would be for women soldiers only or men and women.

Cast rehearsing beforehandIt was a long drive. We were met at the Welcome Center by our host Sargeant. It didn’t take too long to realize she was 8 months pregnant. What a perfect example of the steps women have had to go through to be part of the men’s world.

We could not believe the reception to our performance. There were hundreds of soldiers — Susan B. Anyhony with soldiersmostly men — in the audience. Some of their wives were there. There were women soldiers as well.

Plaque we receivedThey laughed, they applauded. Our performance was spot on, and they loved it. Our host – a colonel – gave us a framed picture with the cover of the program and a dedication to us. And then he gave us a Certificate of Appreciation.  We took pictures of the cast with some of the soldiers and officers.Certificate of Appreciation

Receiving lineAnd then they all descended upon us and shook our hands. We were suddenly in a receiving line listening to person after personal telling us how they appreciated it.

We also thanked them. We stood at the podium and thanked them for what they are doing for us. It was incredible to have a standing ovation from them, while we were also applauding them.Woman colonel with Susan B. Anthony In the receiving line, we met with some women officers. They were very aware that they were a product of everything we had just presented.

We got lots of feedback. See the testimonials above to see what they said.

Members of the cast have some of their own memories:

“I’m still in awe of it all – what a wonderful group of people and an awesome experience. WOW!  The Colonel gave EACH OF US a Medal for Excellence!!  Mine is on display and will continue to be.” – Beverly (aka Radical 60s)

“I was pleased with the gracious reception we received. The group of soldiers were completely present with our play; their enjoyment of the characters we presented was evident in their laughter and applause. I was especially impressed by the “reception line” in which each of them filed past every one of us and personally thanked us for our play. Easily one of the best and most appreciative audiences we have ever had. It was wonderful to serve those who serve us…”  – Ginni (aka Eleanor Roosevelt and others)

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March 25th in Santa Monica

We were invited by the AAUW-CA to perform in Santa Monica at the YWCA. Unfortunately, it rained! When does it rain in Southern California? Like once a year, and that’s the day we had to drive 60 miles up the 405. We almost got hit by a sign being pushed by the rain and wind, and then another car started fishtailing in front of us. Driving on freeways in the rain in SoCal is no fun and dangerous because there is no drainage.

But what was fun was performing! We had two new cast members Nancy Klann and Mary Schmidt to replace Shirley (who moved to Massachusetts). It was their first performance and they were a little nervous. They did fine, as did everyone else.

Before the performance, we acknowledged Ginni for winning the Ms Senior Orange County contest. A friend of hers had gotten her into the contest and she was totally shocked that she won. We weren’t surprised at all. After all, she plays Mary Kay for us.

The AAUW-CA presidents were in the audience for our performance. They were very impressed by the show, even though it was the third time they were seeing it.

It still amazes me how we are doing this. Ten women, ranging in skills from first time performers to seasoned actors, ranging in age from 40 to — well, beyond. They gather their energy, they rehearse, they travel, they schmooze, and they sing and act no matter with whomever else is on the stage with them. We’re all doing it, yes, because it is fun, but more importantly, we believe in what we are doing.

When we started this two years ago, women weren’t equal to men, but there wasn’t the viscious attack on women the way there is today. Our doing this is growing in importance, not lessening. People tell us high school students need to hear this show, but it’s more and more important that voters here this message. Do we want a political climate that further subjagates women? Or should we be out there educating women about their political power as a block? More women in the US are voting than men. They have the power to change the political discourse of this country.

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Women’s History Month – March 2012

March is our busiest month. With our connection with the National Women’s History Project and word of mouth, we are getting more and more visibility. On March 6th, we had a “mini-tour” going to universities in two counties to perform the play.

First we drove out to Cal State San Bernardino. The student center has a beautiful theatre that the Women’s Resource Center rented in order to have our production on campus for the women students. But it wasn’t just women in the audience! We had quite a mixed showing. It’s always hard to tell what students think, they kind of internalize their reaction. But we got a lot of positive feedback and an invitation to return in the future.

We took ourselves out for a relaxing dinner afterwards at Rutabegourz, an incredible restaurant in Orange County. We had a bit of fun especially when I handed out awards to the cast. Marty got the “Who Am I Now Award” since she plays four roles.

Cal State Fullerton – we were welcomed by Dr. Renae Bredin of the Women and Gender Studies Program, along with her students. They were so glad to see us and made our visit with them great. The audience was packed with Women and Gender Studies students — both men and women — and they were very, very appreciative of the play. See just some of their comments on the “Student Responses” page.

It was a long day. We left Orange County at 8:30 am and returned at 10:30 pm. Very tired, but we were glad to do it.

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Play-reading workshops a big hit

It’s amazing. I give women a copy of the script and we spend three hours reading it and discussing it. I’ve done 6 workshops now, three in California and three in Massachusetts. There is something about this script that doesn’t wear off. I’ve written other plays and I know I couldn’t be doing this with some regular type of script where you want to see if a character in the foreground is going to succeed or not. These characters are all in the background but are telling compelling stories that one can listen to over and over again. Even if the readers cannot act. I love watching their faces as they take on these powerful stories.

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New idea – Play reading workshops

While traveling across the country, we came up with an idea to do play reading workshops. When I show people the script, they grab it and start reading it. So many people after our shows have told me they learned something, I started thinking why not meld all this interest into a reading workshop — then they can experience the play first-hand. Even my mom, who has seen the play now maybe 10 times wants to do a reading. I’ve been talking to people about doing these workshops and everyone loves the idea. I look forward to doing the first one.

Table read of the script

My belief is that doing a reading like this will really affect the participants, maybe even change their lives. Can you imagine freshmen in college doing this? Or senior citizens doing it and then sharing their own experiences from the ’40s and ’50s?

I’m very excited about this.

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