Sometime in 2012, a few women who have since dubbed themselves Seriously Fun Productions, headed by Diana Lindsay, realized they wanted to learn more about the local women they met in coffee shops, at workshops, at the gym, or choosing vegetables at the local farmers’ market. And how about the artists, the farmers, the full-time professionals, and the stay-at-home moms whose paths they hadn’t yet crossed? They knew there were fascinating stories everywhere. They decided to create an invitational version of TED Talks, focused exclusively on the stories of women who live on Whidbey Island.
Since then WOW – Women of Whidbey – has become an annual two-day celebration of the amazing diversity and sheer magnitude of great women who live on this oddly-shaped island of ours. The tickets are always sold out within a few weeks. I had never ordered one in time, and so had never gone to a WOW festival. Then last year, a wise friend bought a bunch of tickets the day they went on sale (maybe THAT’S how they get sold out so quickly!), and she offered me one of her Saturday tickets. (Thank you, Janice.)
So it was, that on March 12, 2016, I heard and saw my very first WOW stories. I was enchanted beyond anything I could have imagined. And, even more amazing for a confirmed introvert like me, I knew that I wanted to present my story too.
Here’s a secret that almost no one else knows (until now): that very night, on the drive home from the theater I began visualizing what my performance might look like. But a WOW!Story performance is limited to ten minutes. How could I summarize my twenty-five years of service in settings from slum streets to psychiatric hospitals to nursing homes to hospices to court rooms? In just ten minutes? But when I got home I grabbed my laptop computer, sat down with a cup of tea, and wrote out a script. It timed out at about eleven minutes! Then I put the script away, and waited.
In October of 2016, I was called by one of the “WOW Mammas,” asking if I would “consider” telling some part of my story, as a WOW presenter at the sixth annual WOW!Stories conference in 2017. Of course I knew my answer. But I held back for a dignified amount of time – at least a nanosecond or two – before I said Yes!
Then there was the conundrum of how to create the mannequin I’d need. It had to be life-size, life-like, androgynous, believable as I demonstrated a “street massage” from my years working in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. It also had to have sufficient “muscle” that I could move my hands in natural ways through the sequence of massage. And it had to be light-weight enough that I could carry it easily. A tall order. Two dear friends, Anna and Pip, worked long and hard to create “Jo,” the perfect partner for my performance.
My performance on March 11, 2017, on the main stage of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, was a high point of my life. I will never forget what it felt like to share my story, to connect with 250 people in the audience, to feel their collective attention; to know, as I left the stage, that Jo and I had managed to bring stories of the People of the Margins into the lives and hearts of everyone who watched.
A week later I was asked to repeat the performance in April, at the Healing Circles Center in Langley, WA. I arranged to have it videotaped in that more intimate setting (40 people rather than 250) , and the performance this time was followed by forty-five minutes of Q&A with the audience, which I loved.
So now I invite you to be a part of the audience at that April performance. Return to the Welcome page of this website, and scroll down just a tad, to see the video of the eleven-minute performance. And then, if you wish, send me with any questions or comments by using the “post a reply” space below this blog post, or by emailing me at. Jo and I look forward to hearing from you!