Feature: Voices of Women invites women to share their stories
Theatre Thoughts is proud to share insight from the Artistic Director of the Voices of Women program, Lliane Clarke, as well as connector, influencer, fashionista and Wiradjuri Elder, Cheryl Penrith OAM as they prepare to debut 'Embellishment' at KXT on Broadway.
Sharing their roles and insights into the importance of female voices, Artistic Director of the Voice of Women program, Lliane Clarke, promotes "seeing diversity of our cultures and backgrounds as a richness and not something to shy away from or be afraid of."
Collaborating with Wiradjuri Elder, Cherly Penrith OAM, Clarke is preparing to debut Embellishment, an immersive collage of voice and music that weaves together the power of a woman's story. Embellishment promises to "dive deep into our heart’s desires" and allow audiences to "revel in the intangible beauty of connection and our relentless determination to thrive."
Voices of Women, a not for profit organisation, is, at its core, a platform that recognises that women have powerful stories to share. The program is committed to "breaking down barriers, presenting voices from First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse communities, women living with disability and LGBTQI+ communities." You can find out more about Voices of Women by exploring their Youtube Channel.
Theatre Thoughts Q&A with Voices of Women’s Lliane Clarke
(Voices of Women Artistic Director) and Cheryl Penrith OAM (Connector, Influencer, Fashionista, Wiradjuri Elder)
Tell us about your role in the program. What has it been like collaborating together?
Cheryl: My role is a writer and a performer and supporting the program, aiming ultimately to bring people together. Collaborating on this program has been a wonderful experience for me. I never thought that at my age this was what I would be doing. When we ran the workshop in Wagga, I knew the women in the workshop and I knew them to say hello in the street, but this program has really brought us all closer together. I could see that they also have a real talent. We don’t know how talented people are until we sit down with people. Just like everything we do, it goes past the performance, it goes beyond just the show, it weaves these little connections with each other. It inspires me to look at other women and think, "hey you could be telling your story". You don’t expect that to happen – in the workshop we made telling a story into a whole new artform.
Lliane: My role is the Artistic Director and I see that as a guide and mentor essentially - to connect with women writers and artists nationally and internationally to enable the stories to be brought alive in the strongest possible creative form. When we started this program in 2018 collaboration and First Nations connection was very much at the heart of it. How can we connect? What can we share together? It’s about seeing diversity of our cultures and backgrounds as a richness and not something to shy away from or be afraid of. Fear drives division and intolerance. Collaborating with Aunty Cheryl Penrith and the amazing community in Wagga Wagga that she sits at the heart of has been life changing for me and a truly deep and beautiful connection. She has taught me a lot and still does!
How does this production/program empower women to share their stories? Why do you think this is important?
Lliane: The program invites all women to come forward with their story - it might be about them and it might be about someone else. It’s important because many women have not been encouraged to speak, or even write about what has happened to them, and also to release their inner voice. Many may have been asked to be silent, to not speak, both passively and also violently, or told that they have nothing worth saying - again both passively and also violently in their domestic or their political situation. This program works with both established writers and also non established ones to allow that story to come alive into the public realm and release their creative voice out of their head. It’s genuinely important to share stories like this so we can all see ourselves reflected and be reassured that we are not alone, that another’s experience is also ours and that it’s okay to feel angry or upset or confused about it. It also allows us to look inside others experiences and understand where they are coming from.
Cheryl: It’s really important because women are the nurturers and the people that pass on a lot of the stories to younger generations. This is especially true for Wiradjuri women as we are a matriarchal society. Our stories as mothers and grandmothers and aunties are really important for the next generation of our women - they are really important in every aspect of our life.
Photo credit: Noni Carrol Photography, taken March 2022 at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery at a previous show titled Amplify presented in collaboration with Booranga Writers Centre and Easter Riverina Arts. From left to right: Leanne Hall, Director of Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Cheryl Penrith OAM, and Lliane Clarke, Artistic Director of Voices of Women.
Do you think this addresses the challenges women face in sharing their stories?
Lliane: We want to make this program as inclusive as we possibly can - so the workshops and the competition ask openly for women to take part - in their own way. So they can submit something they have already written or they can come to the workshops and we can work together. We endeavour to reach outside what you could consider traditional writing circles and involve women who may not consider themselves writers because its not recognised in their life. To call themselves creative is sometimes a barrier personally or culturally - and yet we all have lots of ideas and stories to tell. Everyone does. What’s your story?
If you could relay one thing to the audience about the show's creative vision, what would it be?
Lliane: The creative vision is to take the audience on a fast and furious rollercoaster of spoken story and world of sound, voice and solo saxophone. We want to immerse them into the minds of women across the globe so they go out into the blinking sunlight inspired to write, connect, laugh, love.
Embellishment runs at the KXT on Broadway theatre from 9th - 12th August for a strictly limited season.
The Management Board and Advisory Board of Voices of Women