Photos by Fred Field
Over eighty students participated in the second annual production of RISE: Untold Stories of Bowdoin Women last weekend. Through almost fifty distinct monologues, performers shared a variety of narratives and perspectives from women on campus: topics ranged from exploring the #MeToo moment, to complicating the angry black woman stereotype, to acknowledging asexuality. RISE sold out for each of its three performances in Kresge auditorium.
Up until last year, Bowdoin students put on a production of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues each February. Among discussions about the Monologues’ emphasis on upper-class, cis-gendered white women, Amanda Spiller ’17 spearheaded an effort to create a play that represented the stories of women at Bowdoin. And so the project of RISE was born. “One of the goals of the show,” said Shannon Knight ’18, a writer for the production this year, is “to open up the floor to female students, staff, and faculty of all intersecting identities and provide them with a platform to share a story that is important to their identity as women.”
With the foundation of Spiller’s team’s work, this year’s RISE leadership team could move the show in a more inclusive direction. Lucia Gagliardone ’20, one of this year’s co-directors, expressed her gratitude toward last year’s pioneering producers. “They literally created [RISE] from scratch. Based on their efforts, we were able to reach more people on campus this year when we asked for stories, and I think this resulted in an even more intersectional, authentic script. We did not alter any of the words written by the women, except for length. This was intentional; we were very committed to remaining true to the stories people submitted and emphasized this during the writing process, which I think is an important change this year.”
Eskedar Girmash ’20, Gagliardone’s co-director, emphasized that the show still does not perfectly portray the experiences of Bowdoin women. “While we aim to amplify the voices of women from a wide range of identities,” she said, “we understand that there are still many identities, backgrounds, and experiences that are underrepresented or not represented at all.”
For Gagliardone, RISE serves three crucial functions. “The first is empowering women by giving them a chance to share their stories and have a public space for their voices. The second is giving other women a space to both perform these stories and hear them; this purpose is so important because it fosters a community of support, compassion, and strength among women on campus that is not as visible in other aspects of campus life. And the third function is providing a space for men to actually listen to women’s stories and reflect on the ways in which they are complicit in the culture of violence against women.”
Each of these leaders hopes that women will feel compelled to submit stories for next year’s production—especially if their perspectives currently go un- or under-represented in the show. This week, the leaders shared a link with all students encouraging submission for the 2019 show.
For now, if Girmash could tell RISE’s audience one thing, “it would be to continue to listen, continue to learn, continue to support.” Knight summarized RISE’s purpose through a line from the show’s opening monologue. “‘We are here and we will stay.’”