wrapping it up: my thoughts on the 2010 GRRL WRAP Festival

Over the weekend Grrl Action hosted the 2010 GRRL WRAP Festival at The Off Center, in which girls who participated in the 2009-2010 year long Grrl Action program showcased their work. The Festival ran both Saturday and Sunday, and while I wish I could have attended all the events, I was only able to attend Sunday evening’s performances. Based on the small sample of installations, exhibits, and performances I witnessed on Sunday I’m sure the entire Festival was amazing.

The final night of the Festival started promptly at 7:45. Before sitting down to enjoy the first performance, I walked over next door and perused the art installation titled “Victorian Gothic” by Charlee Koonce. The installation involved a room, decorated in what Koonce refers to as a “pseudo Victorian” style, in which there were Victorian-styled furniture, including lamps and mirrors. The room also acted as an exhibition for Koonce’s art pieces, including a graphite on paper art piece titled “Shut Up + Listen” which shows a girl with her mouth sewn shut. The drawing is unsettling, especially displayed amongst the Victorian styled set pieces. One of the most arresting pieces in the installation was a miniature doll house, and the level of detail noted in the piece – down to the decorate stencils on the 2nd floor windows – was amazing to see close-up. Koonce decided to incorporate her smaller art pieces into a larger installation project in order to invite people to interact with her art. She even encouraged people to pick up items and hold them, and help themselves to the sandwiches and treats displayed on the table. This particular art installation is the first of a four part series, in which Koonce will create an additional room each year. I for one look forward to interacting with each additional piece.

Back in the main building, I took my seat for the first of 3 performances for the evening. First up was a play titled “Suicide Sister” written and performed by Eliza and featuring local actors Jodi Jinks, Chell Parkins, and Aron Taylor. This first performance was somber to say the least. The story follows the tragic events leading up to the death of a young girl, Chelsea, and the play touched on issues of rape, drug abuse, poverty, prostitution, suicide, and murder. The subject matter was so heart-wrenching, and presented in a brutally honest/raw fashion, that Grrl Action posted disclaimers at the entrance to The Off Center noting that the first performance might not be suitable for everyone attending the Festival. Overall, Eliza and the rest of the cast did an amazing job bearing their souls and telling this story with minimal props, costumes, and space. Moreover, it was touching when Eliza talked about how she wrote the play based on her own experiences and the experiences of friends, and how she hopes to continue shedding light on issues of drug abuse amongst youth.

From the somber to comically fretful, the second performance titled “Esperanza’s Science Experience” was written and performed by Alma. The premise involves a young girl who tries to study the night before a big science test at school, only to accidentally fall asleep and wake up in a panic. In trying to calm herself before getting ready for school, Esperanza’s mind rushes all over the place and she thinks about everything and anything – from how the earthquake in Chile shifted the Earth’s axis, to the paper she wrote about women’s movements from the 1970s and 19990s in South America. The performance addresses the pressure girls feel to succeed in school, while also highlighting the ways in which girls find that strength and self-confidence at the last minute to rise to the occassion – including taking a time-out to dance around in their bedrooms to relieve stress.

The final performance of the evening titled “Songs,” showcased Chloe’s voice as she sang two cover songs and performed two of her own songs. Meg Sullivan, one of the Program Directors for Grrl Action, helped set the mood for the audience by decorating the stage with red lights and flower petals. For the first two songs, including a cover of Alicia Keys’ “Falling,” Chloe performed them a capella. For the final two songs Chloe was joined on stage by her mentor, Erin Ivey, who sang backup vocals and played an acoustic guitar. With her soulful inflections Chloe’s performance was beautiful and touching. Given that we’re so used to seeing contemporary pop stars require an entourage, designers, and tons of costumes and props to pull of an engaging performance – it was powerful to see Chloe outperform many of those singers with just a microphone, her notebook, and her voice.

After the final performance I spent the remaining time visiting the exhibits on display in the main building. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to spend on each exhibit, but I appreciated Georgia’s piece titled “Joan of Ocean Manga.” which incorporated the first several panels of Georgia’s graphic novel along with a song she created for her novel. The exhibit was setup so that visitors could put on headphones and listen to an original song Georgia composed for her graphic novel in progress, of which there were several preliminary panels on display.

Overall, the performances, exhibits, and installations were amazing. I can’t quite describe the joy and elation I feel watching these girls perform and showcase their own creative work. Or how gratifying it is to see so many people give up an hour of their Sunday evening to support girls and this incredible non-profit organization. It’s not just the fact that they are teenage girls and are utilizing multi-media platforms to express themselves, the works themselves are truly incredible and equal to anything I’ve ever seen by so called (adult) professionals. Maybe the experience is still fresh in my mind, but I feel as though I can’t quite express how it feels to attend this Festival and see these works of art. Instead of groping around for the right words or expressions, I’d like to quote Jill Dolan, who blogs at The Feminist Spectator, and her thoughts on attending a 2006 performance associated with Grrl Action:

“As a spectator, I had little investment in the performance . . .  I hadn’t paid for my ticket. I was giving up 90 minutes of my time. And yet my experience was filled with moments of hope, moved as I was by the work these girls’ had done, and touched as I was by our presence listening to them. I believe that their experience with Grrl Action changed their lives. I know that seeing them perform changed mine.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

~ by actyourage09 on May 18, 2010.

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