Portraits of GRRRLS is a short performance piece created by participants of the program, GRRRLS with HEART. During GRRRLS with HEART we work in Vienna, VA for two weeks. The first five to six days are spent creating: choreographing dances, writing autobiographical pieces, writing a song and other theatrical pieces, and doing some visual artwork. The second week we spend piecing everything together into an autobiographical theater piece rooted in personal storytelling. All participants are teenage girls from around the world, ages 12 – 18.
Where did the idea come from and why is it important?
Jenna & Brooke: Our producer, Rhonda Eldridge, has a passion for giving young girls the tools to live and lead their best and most powerful lives, and she has decided to bring that passion to life. The mission of GRRRLs with HEART is to empower teenage girls in an intentional community by allowing them to creatively find their authentic voice and strengthen communication skills through an interdisciplinary collaborative arts program culminating in a self-expression based performance of original work. Our hope is that grrrls will go on to impact the world around them using art and creative self expression, strong communication skills from NVC, self-affirmation, and the ability to approach all communities with mindfulness and our core HEART values: harmony, ease, authenticity, respect, and trust.
How does the show become a show? What is the rehearsal process like?
Jenna & Brooke: There are so many pieces that will make this happen! First, we spend time creating. Using prompt-based exercises and explorations, we spend a week with the girls moving, writing, singing, etc. exploring who they are as strong, empowered women. This, combined with visits from guest instructors and guest artists, influences how we piece together the show. When it comes time to create Portraits of GRRRLS, we as a team will choose what pieces will be put into the show. Each piece created individually and collectively will be thrown together to make a creative stew, each ingredient different and unique but it makes something great in the end!
What is the rehearsal process like? We have no idea! Since there is no content created yet, there’s no telling what the process of putting together the show will be like. The only things we know for certain are that all content will be created by the girls, and that Portraits of GRRRLS will be a performance based in personal storytelling and female empowerment.
What is it about this project that appeals to you/what attracted you to the project?
Jenna: As a teenage girl I went through many difficult moments in life where I could have just given up. Luckily, I was given a safe environment to share my heartache and joys through journaling. Ever since I have used writing as a tool to help me cope, sort things out, look toward the future. Being invited to help create GRRRLs with HEART and ensure other teenage girls would have a place similar to what I had at their age was an opportunity I could not turn down. I learned and continue to learn so much about myself and my life through journaling, and I am so excited to see these girls shine through the art form that speaks to them.
Brooke: Growing up, I was always the weird, random, curious girl who couldn’t sit still. Ideas and questions were constantly swimming around in my brain and younger me did not know what to do with so much creative energy. I became lost in my head and it became harder and harder to be present in my daily life. Performing arts saved me, creating an outlet for all of that energy and curiosity. When I heard about GRRRLS with HEART, it was everything I wish I had growing up. The opportunity to provide a safe space where girls can tell their stories and create a greater sense of self is invaluable, and I cannot wait to create with this year’s group of GRRRLS!
What exactly do you do? What are you individual responsibilities?
Jenna: Since I connect most with the writing aspect of the program, I work to produce prompts and exercises specifically for writing. During the program I will be a facilitator providing guidance to the creative process during our first week together, and during the second week I will be a director of the show helping piece together the content the girls create. I also hope to be an example to girls who do not connect much with the movement or visual aspects of our program to exemplify that as long as they are willing to try they will have fun with the process.
Brooke: Having an extensive background and affinity for dance movement and theater, I’m working to create prompts and explorations that use our bodies to tell stories and access parts of ourselves that haven’t been explored much before. During the program I will be facilitating portions of the creative process during the first week. The second week I will be serving as a director, staging and putting together Portraits of GRRRLS with Jenna. My goal is to share more art forms with these girls and give them permission to express themselves fully in a physical manner as an opportunity to grow and gain confidence.
How does GRRRLs with HEART’s production of Portraits of GRRRLs speak generationally to older and younger people?
Jenna: I feel that Portrait of GRRRLs will make audience members of all ages excited about the future. Older members will be able to look at these young women with adoration and hope for the future of women in which outspoken and authentic women will be the norm. Younger members will be able to see these young women as an example of confidence and empowerment and be excited that someday they could be like the teenage girls they see on the stage. Each member will resonate with different stories and pieces based on life experience, but I believe each person will leave the theatre feeling hopeful about the future and with a new lens to dream through.
Brooke: Ideally, Portraits of GRRRLS will open minds to the potential of a younger generation. These young women are the next movers and shakers of our society, and hopefully our audience sees the tools that will carry us through and keep society moving forward. Empowered women are becoming our societal norm more and more, and Portraits of GRRRLS highlights that. Women with powerful, constructive, open voices will change the world, and I hope audience sees that through these girls and their stories. People will hopefully leave optimistic and open, ready to share just a little more of their world with the important people around them.
Jenna Stotts is so excited to be diving into this new endeavour that is GRRRLs with HEART. She currently lives in Nashville and attends college there as a business major with a focus in nonprofit management; her ultimate goal with this degree is to create or work with nonprofits focused on youth programming. She has four years of previous leadership experience with a writing and performance program based in Nashville. Jenna is a firm believer in the importance of girls’ voices and is grateful she is able to help girls find the power in their stories.
Brooke Viegut is thrilled to be joining GRRRLS with HEART this summer. She is a St. Louis-based director, choreographer, teaching artist, and dramaturg. With a passion for new plays, music, and musical theater, her work has been seen in venues across St. Louis, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Pittsburgh areas. Favorite recent credits include Ipseity (director/deviser), Grease (director/choreographer), To Kill a Mockingbird (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, assistant director/dramaturg), and Shrek: The Musical (Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, assistant director). Brooke is also the founder and current Artistic Director of the Envisage Play Festival, a festival of new plays at Webster University in St. Louis, MO. She is passionate about new work and allowing young people and developing artists to find their voice in a safe, supportive, creative environment.