We've been waiting our whole lives to dress up in cloaks, light candles, and share stories about our experiences of womanhood in a cemetery—and finally, the day has come. LA-based producer Trish Nelson is bringing her storytelling event, The Secret Society of the Sisterhood, to the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on May 29th, where special guests Amber Tamblyn, Lorri Davis, Yamanieka Saunders and Dhonielle Clayton will take the stage.
We spoke to Nelson about how The Secret Society of the Sisterhood came to be.
How did you come up with the event?
Outside of being a woman, a producer and a creator, I’ve also been a waitress for 25 years, and I am a part of the group of women who came forward to reveal the solicitous abusive behaviors of Mario Batali and Ken Friedman in the restaurant industry. And I really was taken aback by my idea that there was this divide between the well-heeled and the working class, because I have been part of the working class for over two decades of my life. When the #MeToo movement happened, I could not believe that it did not matter where you were on the planet, what position in life you had—it was a general theme that affects every single woman that has been born, or that has become a woman. If you have a set of breasts, and you’re working in a heterosexual world, it’s a universal theme, these abuses, the general storyline. So I created an event for anyone who identifies as a woman to come together and celebrate our life experiences, keep topics on the table, and generally have a night of understanding that we’re all in this together.
What I do is bring prolific, iconic women together. My goal is to have women from different mediums who have found notoriety for themselves within their field come together and tell stories within the theme of the night. The thing that’s incredible about these storytelling events is that when you bring a group of women together, even though the stories are all diverse and unique, the central themes are always the same. It’s the humanness. And then one thing that’s beautiful about women is that, especially now with the strength that we’ve gained from being honest rather than silent, we have this ability to be human and vulnerable, and it’s not about ego, it’s about saying, “These are the actual things that have happened to me"—the failures, the triumphs, the misery, the things that bind all of us together as human.
Can you talk a little bit about the theme for this event?
So the theme is “Soooooo…. that happened!” It’s supposed to be stories based around an event that took place in your life, something that either mortified you, or that you triumphed over; something that caused some sort of change to happen in your life. But it’s definitely a particular moment that is a pinnacle in your memory.
The theme doesn’t really imply anything specific, but even so, do you think a lot of the stories will end up being about assault?
It really, really varies. The show that we did in Los Angeles was themed “You gotta be kidding me,” and in that theme there was a lesbian woman speaking about her first kiss, there were two stories about experiences with assault, there was my story about getting a DUI. It really is all over the map. But I think because of the climate right now with regards to gender, there will definitely be some stories about those experiences.
Why the location (the Green-Wood Cemetery)?
It’s funny, it started nearby a cemetery in Hollywood near the Masonic Lodge [where our LA events are held]. The Masonic Lodge is strikingly beautiful—I wanted to do it there no matter what, and there just happened to be a cemetery nearby. What I discovered after doing a show there is that we usually think of cemeteries as being morbid reminders of death, but cemeteries are these historical celebrations of life. We’re all going to be out there together on the full moon, with 400-500 people, in this cemetery, with all of the stories that we’re listening to, and all of the stories that are surrounding us of people who came before us. I just think it’s a very energetic, magical place to do a storytelling event.
Are you planning to expand to any other cities?
A national tour is in the works. I do want to bring this to other markets, and find prolific women in Boston or Chicago or Indiana, and bring together women across the country. Within the next twelve months, there will be a tour.
Is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked you about?
This is not an exclusive event, this is an inclusive event. Anyone who identifies as a woman, or anyone who is a fierce ally of women, this is for all of us to come together and connect in our human-ness. In Los Angeles, half of my audience is men, and I find that fascinating, and very exciting, because there are some revealing things that are discussed, and I think it’s an important experience for them to witness. I think it’s important because the only way forward is to open up conversation. And this is across the board, with everything in our culture: we have to be able to open up these conversations, to really discuss these things that are painful and difficult. And that is what evolution is. We will move forward. And I don’t want this to be like, “You go to your corner, we’re now in this corner wearing cloaks and lighting candles.” Men are welcomed into our world.
What: The Secret Society of the Sisterhood
When: Tuesday, May 29th, 2018; 8pm show (7pm doors)
Where: The Green-Wood Cemetary
Tickets: $25 presale, $30 door; purchase here
Photos: Heidi Hartwig
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Elizabeth F. Olson is an editorial intern at BUST. She mostly writes about her experience with mental illness through a feminist lens, and sometimes she writes fiction. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.