Atrium Launches Girls' Theatre Club
In mid-March, fifth to eighth grade girls launched Girls' Voices Theatre Club, specifically designed to foster girls' voices and identities. Sixteen girls enrolled in the class, led by Sophie Rich '03, Atrium's Performing Arts Specialist. The program allows students to explore their experiences of being a middle school girl in today's world, creating a place where they can speak openly about their thoughts and opinions and use theatre to express their power as emerging young women.
"I believe that there is a unique level of comfort empathy created in a girls-only space," Sophie said. "It is important to create a zone where the participants feel totally free of judgment, and I think single-sex spaces help create the type of comfort one needs in order to speak deeply and personally. It is also a space where we are specifically exploring issues and topics that impact girls and women. I think drama is the perfect vehicle to help explore these topics because it requires collaboration, empathy, and communication."
"It's important that it's a girls' group because it gives everybody a chance to be themselves," Rosa, a fifth grader, explained. "With a coed group, people could feel like they're being judged."
"I decided to join this group because, especially right now, it's very important to be in the know and actively support feminism," seventh grader Talya said. "I was hoping for this to be–and it is–something that supports girls so that in their everyday lives they feel compelled not to hide from feminism, but to be open about it and support it."
The girls meet on Tuesdays after school before a final performance at their last meeting on May 1. In their first session, they discussed the meaning of gender identity, and how typically they only see female characters who are born female, identify as female, and present as female. They also examined the presentation of female characters in movies, plays and media.
"We took a look at some musical theatre songs that present stereotypical feminine characters, and brought these songs to life through tableaux, or frozen pictures," Sophie explained. "We then re-wrote the lyrics of the songs to convey what we felt to be a better message about what women value and how we want women to feel about themselves."
"This group is solely focused on talking about feminism and empowerment," said Talya. "People chose to join because they understand or want to learn about feminism. Having a group of people focused on this helps us to get things done and get our message spread out in a more powerful way."
This week, each student chose an empowering quote from a woman of her choice, and then the group wrote and staged responses to the words. Coming weeks will explore body image and social media, before culminating in a final performance comprised of selected elements from each student's work strung together in a collaborative piece.
As the program continues, Sophie hopes "the girls gain a sense of sisterhood within the Atrium community, that they feel empowered to speak up and make change–without justifying or apologizing for their ideas–and that they leave feeling both confident and creative."