earlier this week at unabashedly female, my darling julie says (among many other noteworthy things) “. . . this witnessing of story, of voice, of truth by one woman to another. This is where we find power.”
over at renegade conversations, ronna detrick writes about how coming out of the shadows requires two things: counsel and companions.
tonight i am going to see a rehearsal for “steel magnolias” performed by the senior apprentice company in the theatre company my daughter started back in 2005. my daughter is directing these 12 teenage girls, and oh the experiences she’s opened up to these girls. oh the opportunities. she divided the girls into two casts, and when cast a is performing, cast b is the backstage crew and vice versa, giving them hands-on experience in providing support and receiving support. each girl has also been assigned a production assignment, not only affording opportunities to learn new skills, but to see that any one production takes an entire village of people that are all too easily overlooked. without the steel magnolias willing to do production, there’s be no tickets sold, no press releases written, no web site updated, no programs, no concessions, no venue, no sound and lights.
three years ago, i played m’lynn to daughter alison’s shelby. to say it was a clarifying, once-in-a-lifetime experience rings hollow and falls way, way short. one day i will write about it and the context around that experience that made it all that it was. but today there’s something else on my mind . . .
“steel magnolias,” as you probably know, is a story of women who support and encourage and hold the space for each other, and that’s why my daughter chose this particular play for these 12 teenage girls: she wants these girls to experience (both onstage and off) the feeling of women coming together in support of one another instead of the cattiness, back-stabbing, nitpicking behavior that too often defines women’s togetherness. as i wrote in a note accompanying the holiday gift my daughter and i conjured up for the girls: Steel Magnolias are a special breed, and we need more of them. Steel Magnolias are strong women who delight and celebrate being female. They own who they are – even the polarities – without explanation or apology, and they encourage and cheer others to do the same. Steel Magnolias are not into woman’s inhumanity to woman, choosing instead to support each other without judgment or personal agenda; listen more than they talk; be available without hesitation at 3 a.m.
by exposing these girls to steel magnolias even before they have the life experiences to fully appreciate and convey it, my moxie hopes to teach them about theatre, leadership skills, communication skills, and perhaps most importantly: female friendship. she takes on big projects, my moxie, and this is one she’s willing to devote herself to because she knows it truly does take a village to make much-needed change, and she wants to do her part to change the way women relate to each other. the rest of us can do our part by supporting, encouraging, and affirming each other. by forging and forming the relationships we want to enjoy.
i am so so fortunate to have steel magnolias right here around me, women i turn to when i need help or retuning, to laugh or to vent. and today we have something the ladies of chinquapin, louisiana did not have: the internet. since rejoining twitter last december, my steel magnolia forest has grown rich and lush and bountiful. i don’t know when i’ve ever felt so supported, so encouraged, so affirmed. i grow as i find women who share my interests, and i grow as i am exposed to things i never knew existed. if i get lost in my steel magnolia forest, a trail of breadcrumbs readily appears left by women who have experienced the same or similar. if i stub my toe in this forest or if i am stung or bitten, healing ointments and remedies are generously offered. the trees in my forest rise above the little scrubs and ankle-biters, choosing fresh air and light over thorns and sticky bushes that want to draw blood and hog the sun. in the forest with these women, i grow comfortable enough to tell my stories and speak my truth, southern accent and all.
to all of you who are trees in my steel magnolia forest (and most, though not all of you, are on my traipse page), thank you.
about the photos:
i tend to commemorate things in cloth, as i did when i took to the stage as m’lynn back in 2007. woven strips of blue sky torn to find the true grain. images of tears born of both laughter and crying – often at the same time. enough raw edges and stray threads to make it real. sparkling beads laid down in the shape of a heart in shades of shelby’s pink. on the back side, we have an earthy fabric, fertile, a place for love to take root, and we see the seemingly randomly-placed stitches that hold it all together. all bound at the edges with soft pink shibori dyed by talented friend, a digital steel magnolia called glennis.