A troupe of teen actresses telling their stories through writing and performance

Welcome to the Girls Surviving blog. We are creating this blog to reflect on the process we use in our work with teenage girls. We are two artists, Paula and Carolyn, who have been teaching writing, theater, and storytelling for many years. We are also mothers of daughters who had a hard time navigating their teens. We believe they would have benefited from a program that provided them with a safe place to talk about what it's like to be a teenage girl and to discover their unique artistic voices. Seven years ago, we began to form a troupe of teen girls who, we thought, could write and perform plays based on the experiences that inform their lives. Since then, we've watched the girls in the Girls Surviving troupe begin to take control of their lives with self-confidence and courage. We are writing to parents, teachers, counselors, and other artists who interact with girls in the hope that this blog will raise awareness of and open conversations about the lives of girls who are growing up in our complicated times.

“I have lived a very hectic life. I would consider myself as not a survivor but as a girl surviving.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

End of Summer

Summer is officially, if not technically, over, and our long break from Girls Surviving workshops is also coming to an end. We have taken a break from the blog this summer, but we haven’t stopped writing about the program. In fact, Carolyn and I spent much of the summer working on revisions of our Girls Surviving manual and writing an article about our process. We have also worked closely with Gina Moran of Morris Arts to apply for additional funding to keep the program on its feet. And we were able to get together with some of the girls in the troupe for the first official Girls Surviving End-of-Summer BBQ.

In early August I received a text message from Jessica, one of our senior girls.
“Oh my gosh!!! You cut you hair!!! I was in a car and saw you walking and I almost didn’t recognize you!!! (pause; writing…) Are we ever going to have that summer get together? I think Carolyn mentioned a BBQ. Or maybe it was Alejandra.”

Neither Carolyn nor I had planned a get together. It was something the girls had talked about at one of our last workshops, but it wasn’t official. Personally, I put it out of my mind because I figured the girls would forget about it as soon as summer vacation began. However, after receiving Jessica’s text, I told her to poll the other girls to see if they were interested. She posted on our private Facebook page and, to my surprise, response was overwhelmingly positive. So, we set a date, the girls got organized, and last week we met for a meal in my back yard.
Actually, it was a lot like a Girls Surviving workshop. Carolyn and I supplied most of the food. Only one girl showed up at the scheduled start time. The others straggled in, one by one, during the next half hour., and a couple texted last minute that they couldn’t make it. When we finally got settled with plates of food, one of the girls suggested,
“We should have a check-in.”
We arranged come chairs in a circle and each of us took a turn telling about her summer.

When I was in high school, there is no way I would have spent a summer evening with two of my teachers, especially two old lady teachers. So, once again, I was surprised to realize that the girls enjoy hanging out with us. I’m not surprised that they like us, and after much reflection on and analysis of the issue, I think I understand why they trust us, but it still surprises me when they include us in their plans with the rest of the troupe. After all, if they wanted to see each other, they could have easily arranged it without contacting us.
I think the answer lies in the group experience or, as the girls say, the sisterhood. Something about being in the Girls Surviving climate is fun, comfortable, and reassuring to them. Recreating the atmosphere during the last week of August was a good way to transition from the freedom (and boredom) of summer to the excitement, rigor, and anxiety of the school year.  To create the atmosphere, they must recreate the workshop space, and that means including adult leaders, sitting in a circle, and sharing food and stories.

 Of course, the BBQ was fun for us, too. It was good to see the girls again, to hear about their summer experiences, to get an idea of where they are currently holding with respect to school and social activities. We are, after all, members of the sisterhood!!!