Since coming to Conn, I have become a professional novice, frequently trying out new experiences to find my place within the community. My first semester here I joined the Ultimate Frisbee team and tried out for the improv comedy group N2O. Second semester I tried out for “She is a Tempest,” the Women’s Empowerment (WE) Initiative’s annual show.
The WE Initiative is a student organization that hosts a yearly performance made up of a collection of monologues. As a first-year student, the show was my first exposure to a performance that reflected personal testimonials written by my peers. Nineteen monologues were anonymously submitted and one collective final piece was written by members of the cast.
Part of the premise of the show is self-acceptance, a topic that many women, including myself, struggle with. The tone of the pieces varied. The purpose of the show is to give a voice to specific occurrences that women have faced. At times some of the content can be tough or triggering. About a quarter of the pieces dealt with experiences of sexual assault. The reading committee chose this ratio to reflect the national statistic of female victims of sexual violence.
During casting, I was placed into a piece called “It's All in your Head.” The piece had a serious tone that highlighted the author's struggle with self-acceptance and the stigmas surrounding mental health. I was a part of the chorus for this piece. We represented negative voices and self-doubt within the author's head. Two women were center stage, and they represented the author and her battle with these voices. As part of the chorus, I was responsible for shouting the author’s fears, uncertainty and anxiety at the cast members standing in the center of the stage. After our first rehearsal in front of the entire cast, I felt guilty because I did not want to shout those negative things at the women in the center, and it made me sad that someone felt so terribly about themselves. However, my director, Moll Brown, and my castmates helped me understand that the author wrote the piece to draw attention to the very issues I was confronting, and by performing it we were supporting her.
After several rehearsals, we began “tech week” where we learned how to position ourselves on stage. To my surprise, tech week was about much more than stage positioning and lighting. It served as a bonding experience where I was able to feel the impact of each member's voice. It’s extremely powerful to be surrounded by 124 women who are unapologetically themselves and are so committed to honoring their peer’s experiences.
The WE Initiative’s performances help create a safe space for women within the Conn community through the telling of shared experiences, and addresses the overarching political disparities that face women across the United States. One of my friends in WE told me “I look forward to the Women’s Empowerment show every year, it’s like a holiday to me.” At first I didn’t understand what she meant, but after the show I find that hearing about other people's struggles and resolutions helps to create a dialogue about problems that can sometimes feel isolating. I can’t wait to do it again next year, and maybe I will apply for a leadership position to be even more involved.