Act Like a GRRRL NoVa!
ALAG-NoVa is on hiatus for Summer, 2017 while we research ways to be a more effective voice to empower women and girls in the Washington, D.C. area.
If you are a theater maker in the D.C. area and are interested in being involved as an ALAG facilitator, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out about training opportunities.
"It's wonderful that this program uses Fringe for its culmination, giving the participants a real experience of putting on a public show... I was so moved by these young artists' skill and generosity in sharing their stories and thrown back into my own experiences at that age. This show was a real treat."
Eames Armstrong, DC Metro Theatre Arts
"Anyone with a vested interest in the future of feminism in America need look no further than here. And, to the GRRRLs: I'm sorry. I was a fool to have ever doubted you. I should say one more thing: I've given Act Like a GRRRL a well-deserved "four" rating, but in large part because I am required to rate everything I write about at Fringe. If I were to repay them with the same honesty they showed me, I wouldn't give these GRRRLs a rating at all because they deserve no qualification. To borrow their own words, they themselves are enough."
Quill Nebaker, DC Theatre Scene
Here's the scoop:
WHO WE ARE:
Act Like A GRRRL (ALAG) is an autobiographical writing and performance program for teenage girls to develop self-identity, articulate values and gain public voice while working with female mentors and peers from diverse backgrounds.
We form an intentional community where girls from varying schools, neighborhoods, cultures, faiths and socio-economic backgrounds come together to support each other in the process of self-discovery. We write about our lives, learning to critically and compassionately examine beliefs, values and goals while holding each other accountable to the values associated with independence and empowerment.
ALAG was founded by Vali Forrister. Read more here.
WHO CAN APPLY:
We are seeking 8 - 10 teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 17 who love to write, are interested in self-discovery and want to change the world for the better. You must be available to attend the full program (no drop-ins), have a deep interest in the process. Beyond that, applicants are accepted on a first-come basis. There are a few need-based scholarships available; so, don't let money be an obstacle if you're interested! Apply now.
WHAT WE DO:
At ALAG, you'll learn important life skills like team building, negotiation, compromise and leadership in addition to enhancing the your writing, dancing, acting and singing talents.
Over the course of the program, the group will:
• write over 20 narratives, working with mentors to edit and clarify their thinking and descriptive ability.
• dance for 1.5 hours/day, learning new forms of movement and deepening their connection to their bodies and exercise as an ongoing practice.
• sing for 30 minutes/day, coming together as a collective to create harmonies and melodies to express their feelings.
• create at least 1 original song and 2 original dances for public performance.
• create an original script based on their writings, dances and songs.
• stage and perform the original script before a public audience for two performances at the end of the program.
As Vali explains, "We discover the power of creating something from nothing. We begin every year with a blank page. At the end of the process, we have scripted and performed a new theatrical work. In the process, the grrrls learn their power to create their own reality and transform from the girl they used to be to the 'grrrl' they want to be."
WHEN/WHERE WE DO IT:
ALAG-NoVa will take place July 6-17, 2015:
July 6-17 - excluding Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the community house at Blueberry Hill Co-Housing.
Performances scheduled for July 16-17, 2015.
HOW IT WORKS
The Act Like a GRRRL Model is based on Vali's graduate work in the performance of personal narratives for personal and social change. By bringing together young women from diverse backgrounds who otherwise would not have met, ALAG becomes an incubator for radical personal growth. Vali developed a three-step process of scripting, sharing and performing that has been successfully used with teenage girls, adult women, incarcerated women and a multicultural collection of teenage girls in Bolivia.
"In my experience, the way to connect girls is to remove competition and give them an impossible task that can only be accomplished if they work together," says Vali. "Today's 'girl culture' does not serve girls. It feeds them the lie that there is a limited amount of beauty, intelligence and attention in the world and they have to fight each other for it. Act Like a GRRRL exposes the competition myth as an artificial construction that distracts us from realizing our true potential. In the GRRRL World, we get to make our own rules. We all get to be beautiful, talented and intelligent. We get to create the reality in which we want to live and author our own lives in an empowered way."
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Act Like a GRRRL intervenes in a teenage girl's life at a time when she is getting cultural messages to become more passive. Research shows that adolescent girls are encouraged to be silent, to conform and become invisible. At the precise moment that people are asking her to "sit down and shut up," ALAG invites her to stand up and speak out. As cultural anthropologist Sherry Ortner explains: "In adolescence, girls begin to deny what they know to be true from their experiences in order to maintain their relationships and function in the world."
"Scripting and performing one's own life story in this climate of silence, conformity, invisibility is a rite of passage experience. To stand in the spotlight saying: "This is who I am. This is what I believe. This is what I worry about. This is what I dream of..." is an act of great courage and personal agency," explains Vali.
Act Like a GRRRL capitalizes on the rapid changes in the adolescent brain. Recent research in neuroscience explains that adolescents' brains work differently from those of younger children or adults: it is built for risk-taking, low impulse control and heightened emotional reactivity. These factors often combine to create behaviors that increase their likelihood of death or illness such as unsafe sex dangerous driving, alcohol and drug experimentation and self-mutilation practices. But, researchers point out that positive risk-taking is necessary for adolescents to fulfill their universal need for independence, developing a separate identity and testing authority. Neuroscientist, Dr. BJ Casey identified ALAG as a great example of positive risk-taking activity because it is a rigorous and demanding program that involves public speaking and performance (around which most people have substantial fears) and includes the possibility of failure.
WHAT THE GRRRLS SAY:
"Act Like A GRRRL helped me realize I don't have to follow in the footsteps of past generations, I don't have to focus on the bad moments that have happened in my life. I can set and achieve my own goals, be the shining being I'm supposed to be, and most importantly have tremendous faith in myself." --- Jenna, age 16
" Act Like A GRRRL is the group you thought didn't exist. The one that you could only dream of having." -- Augusta, age 16
" Act Like A GRRRL is probably the best thing to happen to me. It opens up so many opportunities that I probably would never have imagined possible. It helps me to embrace how brightly I shine. It reminds me daily that I can do whatever I set my mind to. Act Like A GRRRL changes lives. It sure did change mine." -- Chelsey, age 18
" Act Like a Grrrl is an intention to build a community where there are no judgements, and where we seek to break the stereotypes of girls being negative toward one another. Without ALAG, I wouldn't be as brave or accepting as I learned to be and I wouldn't have chosen the career path that I did. Every young woman who seeks to better herself and her community should be a part of this group." -- Kamilah, age 22, Middle Tennessee State University
"ALAG inspires you to reach beyond the boundaries you didn't realized you had imposed on yourself. You can take charge of your life and allow your fullest ambitions to be realized. ALAG instilled in me a spirit to "prove them wrong," and go after typically male-dominated studies and professions, specifically in astrophysics, optics, and philosophy. I feel smarter and more capable now than I ever thought I could be." -- Haviland, age 23, graduate of Agnes Scott College, preparing for graduate school in atmospheric science
WHAT PARENTS SAY:
"ALAG has, quite simply, CHANGED MY DAUGHTER'S LIFE…helping her find a path that is meaningful and true. She loves who she is now, as well as the woman she will be. More young women should have the opportunity to participate in programs like this."
"My daughter has given me very concrete examples of incidents and issues in the past school year where she has drawn from her act like a grrrl wisdom…I noticed how relatively well she handled these situations and was glad she had finally achieved the tools to cope so beautifully with things that in the past have been much harder for her."
"I can tell you, without any hesitation, that this experience has changed and shaped the destiny of my daughter in nothing but the most positive ways. At 15 years of age, she possesses not only a healthy self-confidence, but a remarkable understanding of the wisdom and beauty and challenges of girls and women all over the world. More importantly, she has been imbued with a desire to be an agent of change, to better herself, and in some way, to help build a better world."
WHAT EXPERTS SAY:
Dr. Steven J. Tepper, Associate Director, Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University:
"Arts organizations and arts leaders in America find themselves struggling to remain relevant in their communities as new technology alters how we engage with arts and as cultural tastes shift. Increasingly we must see the arts not as grace notes and sites of leisure, but as critical ways in which people nurture their expressive lives. The arts are relevant when they build community and when they help us to construct compelling narratives about our world and ourselves.
As I travel around the country and talk with arts leaders about new models of arts participation, one example I often come back to is Nashville's own Act Like a GRRRL. Act Like a GRRRL is a national model for deploying the arts to build community and to help teenagers navigate the challenging years of adolescence. Not only does the process of creative writing, personal reflection, and performance help empower the participating girls, but the process also produces a compelling piece of art for the broader community.
When the Act Like a GRRRL troupe presents their final performance each year, their stories - embedded in dance, song, oration, and theater – produce one of those rare artistic moments that sociologists call "collective effervescence." In such moments the boundaries between performer and audience blur, both feel vulnerable and empowered, and there is an empathic bond that touches deep universal truths. Act Like a GRRRL is a Nashville treasure and a true example of the power of art to build community and transform lives."
Dr. Alison Piepmeier, Director of Women's Studies at the College of Charleston:
"Numerous studies have shown that when they hit adolescence, formerly assertive, confident, healthy girls begin to change. They stop excelling in math and science courses, they develop eating disorders and anxieties about their bodies, and many become depressed or engage in self-destructive activities; in short, they begin conforming to the demands of a culture that is often hostile to them. ALAG creates a place for girls to express themselves, to practice speaking out and learning what they have to say, to practice being strong and loud, to practice taking up space. ALAG introduces the girls to strong women through readings and guest lectures who make healthy decisions about their own lives and bodies. ALAG gives girls the tools to analyze critically the culture in which they live so that they become active change agents rather than passive recipients of cultural messages. ALAG celebrates girls' strength and girls' voices and by so doing, promotes girls' leadership."