Women of Word Celebrate 10 Years of Performance Art
The annual showcase tackled mental health, domestic abuse, COVID-19, and more
In a non-pandemic year, the artists involved in the annual "Women of Word Feature a Few Man Made Words" performance would walk onto the stage at Edinboro University's Diebold Theater in front of a full house.
In 2021, they found themselves in front of a COVID-19 mitigated crowd at the Raymond M. Blasco, MD Memorial Library's H.O. Hirt Auditorium. Celebrating their tenth anniversary a bit differently than they had hoped, "Women of Word" used their Womens' History Month event to entertain, grieve, laugh, and reflect with each other and their audience. It was also streamed live thanks to CAMErie.
Thasia Anne Lunger, creator and performer in what she affectionately calls "WoW," recalled Friday night poetry readings that inspired and led to the creation of the project. Following a serious brain injury, she used those readings as a tool for her healing process to get herself through what she was experiencing.
"I had this concept right away that you could use poetry to talk about tough stuff in a way where you wouldn't break down crying," Thasia explained. "You could read words you've already written on a page and you could talk about the subjects in front of other people in a way that might be healing to them also."
As part of Women's History Month, "WoW" touches on universal themes such as mental health, domestic violence, and death through specific individual experiences. This year, that included lived experiences through navigating the global pandemic. With a new venue, new restrictions, and a smaller audience, Thasia hopes next year the cast will be able to have a larger audience and host their usual meet and greet after the show. To Thasia and the cast, talking to others after their performance has been a key factor in continuing to produce the event.
"Hopefully by next year that will be different and we'll be able to talk to people," said Thasia. "A lot of people in the audience want to talk about this or that that's been brought up in the show." Describing an interaction after a show a few years ago, Thasia said: "The year we did invisible disabilities, a young man came up who was attending Edinboro who has autism, and he said it was so nice to see that being talked about because, in his opinion, people treat him negatively because he's not as quick as they are, he's not as articulate as they are. So, those kinds of things are very fulfilling, my vision really comes true and people let me know that it works and that it's helped them."
With a pile of ideas already ready for next year's performance, Thasia said that each show's material is pulled from experiences or ideas that she writes down throughout the year. Whether they spawn from the music she's listening to, ongoing global events, or lived experiences, Thasia hopes that through "WoW," audience members will always have something they can relate to or empathize with at each performance.