Maria McLeod likes surprises.
For example, when she was interviewing a Buddhist feminist who she’d heard was into Tantric sex, the subject of the interview instead wanted to talk about menopause—the good, the bad and the very scary.
“I follow those surprises,” McLeod, a freelance journalist, documentarian and assistant professor at Western Washington University, says of the variety of unexpected topics that arose during a series of interviews she conducted with women across the United States that have since been transformed into monologues that will be performed Sept. 28-29 at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center.
Originally inspired by a startling sexual history questionnaire McLeod was handed at a doctor’s office, “Body Talk: Sexual Triumphs, Trials, and Revelations” is, she notes, a way for people to get a glimpse of what it really means to be a woman.
“The stories presented are intimate and real, and there’s a no-holds-barred component to these tellings,” she says. “The stories are funny, touching and, in moments, sad and tragic, but overall it’s a pretty textured representation of the scope of female experience.”
To tell the tales—which include true stories focusing on everyone from a mammogram technician who underwent a mastectomy to a marathon-running nun, a new mother, a transgendered woman, an esthetician, the aforementioned menopausal Buddhist feminist, and others—McLeod tapped into local talent. Writer, musician and actor Karee Wardrop is directing the show, and actresses Sheila Goodwin, Marie Eaton, Kari Severns, Sarah Eden Wallace, and Pam Kuntz will bring the women’s words to vibrant life.
Additionally, there’ll be live music courtesy of cellist Janet Peterson and pianist Alexa Peters, who’ll play original compositions in the transitions between monologues and, during Friday night’s performance, ASL interpreters who’ll share their language skills during the show.
After viewing a recent rehearsal that blew her away, McLeod says she’s confident those involved are making her vision a reality. She does want to warn audience members, however, that although the show isn’t meant to be seen by kids, the title of the performance may be a little misleading.
“It’s not Sex in the City or ‘my butt looks big in these jeans,’” McLeod says. “It’s not about surgery or breast augmentation. It’s not about any of that. I really want people to know that these are real women, and these are their real stories. I think there will be someone in the audience who feels a relationship or connection to each woman’s experience.”
McLeod points out, too, that each woman’s story is different, and if all her interview subjects were in the same room together, there’d probably be lots of ways they’d talk about the female experience that would differ from each other. And that, she says, was precisely the point of the interviews and the resulting performances—presenting different views of what it means to be a woman in this big world of ours.
“It’s a way of entertaining people, but also educating them and giving them things to think about and talk about,” McLeod says. “I’m really hoping it leads to informing people a little bit about women’s lives in a way the mainstream media does not. They are not objects. They are the subjects and the narrators of their own lives.”
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