civic womencentered600Photo by Ali Diemecke

Civic Ensemble, in collaboration with The Lehman Alternative Community School, presents She Persists, a devised performance using personal narratives from women-identified members of the Ithaca community. She Persists is the culmination of a yearlong workshop aimed at creating a 'community of women.' Using the template of consciousness-raising groups that sprung out of the Women's Movement, the women's performance workshop creates a safe space for women to talk about their personal lives and socially relevant issues. From these conversations, participants shape their stories into an interwoven performance.

She Persists is Civic Ensemble's penultimate play of the season, contributing to a year of performances that have unapologetically dealt with issues surrounding oppression, black lives, corruption, gentrification, and misogyny. She Persists complements a year of women-centered events in Ithaca, including Sue Perlgut's Women's Wisdom Project, The Bad and Nasty Political Cabaret, the Ithaca Women's March, Tompkins County Legislature's proclamation that 2017 is the "Year of the Woman," and Civic Ensemble's upcoming co-production of 4 Plays - 100 Years with The Cherry, Hangar Theatre, and Kitchen Theatre Company.

"The Women's Performance Workshop sprung out of a performance that myself and a few Cornell undergraduates and graduates put up last year as part of an experimental theater lab," says She Persists facilitator Jayme Kilburn. "I wanted to create a piece of theater that allowed women to tell their own stories. I am fascinated with archival feminist performance groups that give the performer the power to dictate how they will be represented onstage. During the course of creating this show, the women in the group have turned an empty room into a sacred space where we can talk about anything."

She Persists decentralizes the hierarchal power relationships usually found in traditional theater productions. Each workshop participant has served as the director of their own show and each story has been created with the input of the entire ensemble.

The performance will feature Ithaca community members Sue Brightly, Sherron Brown, Ali Diemecke, Jazlin Gomez, Rachel Gould, Amelia Habicht, Jayme Kilburn, Gloria Majule, Sue Perlgut, Margaret Reed, Anna Sannes, and Erin Stoneking.

"This process of finding our voices, and of collaborating with other women to hear and support our stories together and then share them with the community is so empowering," Brightly says. "Our group includes women of diverse ages and backgrounds, and every time we gather I appreciate something new. I can't help but feel that this is a particularly important time for this kind of work, and that the confidence we're gaining in telling our stories will have a lasting impact."