The theater lobby was packed by 7:15 on the evening of April 24. Students, families and friends of Lick and Urban alike chattered the time away while waiting in line. The doors opened at 7:20, and many a red-and-black-clad lady could be seen sitting in the front; these were the women who performed at Lick-Wilmerding’s second-annual GirlTalk event.
The performers looked like an army assembled for battle, an army of all ages. Freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors spent weeks preparing for this night, the culmination of Lick’s Gender Week and a successful collaboration between the Lick-Wilmerding Organization of Women (LWOW) and Urban’s Students for Women’s Equality and Rights group (SWEAR). At 7:35, the lights dimmed. The show had begun.
LWOW leader Jacqueline Blaska ’15 started the night off with a bang—the “I Have a Dream”-esque piece she performed, titled “Girls on the Street Holding Signs,” recieved snaps and whoops from the audience.
Performances ranged from informative, like Urban junior Niki King Fredel’s performance of “Ease of Being a Feminist,” to the emotional and downright sad. Some were lyrical, like LW senior Keturah Nobles’ performance of “My Empty Heart” (exquisite and heartbreaking), and LW senior Loie Plautz’s “I a Female Rapper.” Some were questioning—LW senior Reishan McIntosh performed a piece titled simply “Why?” The performances brought up questions that need answers, questions that don’t have answers, questions that never will, and questions that might.
The topics addressed in these creatively interpretive pieces were diverse and far-reaching. Instructions on “How To Be a Girl” were outlined by LW sophomore Annika Salmi, and a personal anecdote added weight to Urban freshman Maya Olin’s piece “Gender Bias in the Classroom.” The pieces performed by Lick women had been written by others and submitted anonymously to GirlTalk. Each performer was assigned one of their top five favorite pieces by the LWOW leaders. Most Urban women, on the other hand, performed their own pieces.
The goal of Lick’s practice of anonymity was to insure freedom for both the writers and performers—without fearing judgement or repercussions, much-needed candor ensued, and women could freely speak their minds through the mouths of others. There was no need to guard anything. Blaska spoke of the power behind hearing someone else say the words you’ve written, of being affirmed in your fears, thoughts, and experiences.
In “A Letter to my Eleven Year Old Self,” LW sophomore Bonnie Castleman extrapolated, “There is nothing to apologize for.” Similar sentiments were expressed in the piece performed by LW senior (and LWOW leader) Claire Fry titled “An I.O.U.”—”I do not owe you…” began many passionate statements.
Humor was especially hard-hitting: senior Alexa Almira’s piece “Sexy Time” brought rolling laughter and blew the audience away with its brilliant energy and expression. At the same time, audience members were left pondering the truth of Almira’s words: are our expectations for sexual encounters healthy?
Twenty-nine LW women and eleven Urban women performed thirty-seven pieces in two acts. The first act was closed out by Urban junior Abby Lim-Kimberg’s harp interlude, and the second act began with a performance by Lick’s all-female acapella group, The Muses.
The objective of the event, according to LWOW leaders Blaska, Fry, Bix Archer ’15 and Natalie Gable ’15, was to create a safe and unique space for women to share their thoughts, and for people of all ages and gender identities to listen, learn, and interpret. LWOW took inspiration from Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues and Urban’s SWEAR show, and with GirlTalk they wanted to create something completely relevant to the Lick (and greater SF) community, a genuine product of the women in our collective community.
The event was free, but donations were encouraged and all proceeds were given to La Casa de las Madres, a local organization working to provide extensive support for victims of domestic violence. The event raised over $500.
GirlTalk has grown a great deal since last year; there was a tremendous range of topics addressed and mediums utilized. Importantly, many people who don’t usually attend LWOW meetings took it upon themselves to get involved by writing for, performing in, and attending the event.
The show closed with a heartfelt message to freshman girls performed by LW seniors Mina Ching, Emily Dwyer, and Gable. The audience and the performers reacted positively to the event and the messages conveyed. The leaders of LWOW and the audience alike considered it a total success. Conversations were sparked, voices were heard loud and clear, and the hope is that GirlTalk will continue to grow and evolve alongside the Lick community.