Looking for Lilith was founded by Shannon Woolley Allison, Trina Fischer, and Jennifer Thalman Kepler in New York City, 2001. LFL is committed to collaboratively creating original theatre based on women’s history, both oral and written, both past history and history in the making.
LFL’s first production was Crossing Mountains, which premiered in NYC in the fall of 2001. Allison and Fischer journeyed to the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County, KY to conduct oral histories and research primary sources. This production continued to tour regularly throughout Kentucky for the rest of this year and the following year. The School has continued to be supportive of this production as LFL has revived several versions of Crossing Mountains over the years. Kelly McNerny joined the company during this time, and LFL became a member of the regional social justice and arts organization Alternate ROOTS.
2003 saw the creation of LFL’s second original production, What My Hands Have Touched, which was performed in both NYC and Louisville. This production was based on wartime memories of friends and families of the LFL founders. A staged reading series in NYC that year included Voices by Susan Griffin and Keely and Du by Jane Martin.
Company member Jennifer Thalman Kepler returned from a year in Guatemala in 2004 and LFL created Faith Stories Project as an international outreach program to continue to explore the common themes of women’s experiences from two very different cultures: rural Guatemala and urban America. LFL artists traveled to Guatemala for the first time in the summer of 2005. Continuing to reflect on the experiences of women who are important to the LFL company, Class of ’70 was created in 2004 and performed in both NYC and Louisville that year. Subsequently, the company relocated from NYC to Louisville permanently.
2006 saw the creation of LFL’s fourth original production, the one-woman Women Speak: IRAQ. In addition to its premiere this production toured extensively to colleges and conferences, and continues to do so. During the summer, LFL once again returned to Guatemala to work with more women, an opportunity sponsored by Presbyterian Church funds. During this year a Board of Directors was recruited, creating an infrastructure for the company that remains strong to this day. Typh Hainer Merwath and Sara Canary joined the company during this time and LFL became a founding member of the Theatre Alliance of Louisville in 2006.
LFL continued to create new work and to revisit its already-created productions the following year. What My Hands Have Touched was revived both for a production in Louisville in 2007 and for touring 2006-2007. The Louisville production coincided with LFL’s Fifth Anniversary celebration, hosted by our Board of Directors. During the same period, LFL created Strangers/Extranjeras, the first bi-lingual production for the company, based on mission volunteer experiences in Guatemala. In the summer of 2007, Faith Stories Project continued to expand as the Guatemalan women learned to facilitate their own workshops, mentored by LFL artists.
In 2008, LFL ventured into new territory, embracing an already-created text as a mainstage production. Women of Will is a compilation of Shakespearean scenes featuring his femle characters. LFL also presented a reading of its newest original production Fabric, Flames, and Fervor: Girls of The Triangle. The Faith Stories Project presented its first public production during the now-regular summer trip by LFL artists. In addition to mainstage and touring productions, LFL artists also engaged in after school drama programs, drama residencies in schools throughout the commonwealth and summer drama camps, which continue to be a core company activity. Kathi E.B. Ellis joined the company at this time, and LFL joined both the Southern Arts Federation (now Southarts) and the Network of Ensemble Theaters.
CHOICES, which premiered in 2009, is LFL’s first commissioned work. This Forum Theatre production focuses on cyberbullying and teen suicide, and was commissioned by the Make A Difference for Kids Foundation, formed by two families who lost teenagers to suicide as a result of cyberbullying. The first iteration of this production was created for high school student audiences, and the Jefferson County Public Schools’ Computer Education Support sponsored productions for every ninth grade in the district. March 25th saw the premiere of Fabric, Flames and Fervor on the 98th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire; this production inaugurated an ongoing-relationship with the local AFL-CIO chapter. LFL artists again traveled to Guatemala during the summer, adding women from Presbyterian Churches in this country as participants in the Faith Stories Project, bridging the language and cultural barriers between the American and Guatemalan women.
In 2010, LFL returned to Crossing Mountains, remounting the production not just for Louisville audiences but also to tour to the Hindman Settlement School, performing for the Daughters of the American Revolution during the School’s 110th year, and to Alice Lloyd College. CHOICES continued to expand as LFL developed a middle school version and began performing the production beyond school versions. The middle school version brought a new partner to LFL, Fern Creek High School, whose students perform the show for their middle school peers. LFL hosted another cross cultural experience with American and Guatemalan women, and trained Guatemala project participants how to use their theatre skills to educate others about important social issues, identifying three areas through which the Guatemalan women would like to use their theatre skills to address, Hunger and nutrition, Women's health and domestic violence. In the fall of this year, the Kentucky Theatre Association recognized Looking for Lilith Theatre Company with its Karen Willis Award for Artistic Excellence and Changing Kentucky through Theatre for CHOICES. Karole Spangler and Laura Ellis became associate company members this year.
March of 2011 saw Looking for Lilith returning to NYC to participate in the Centennial Remembrances of the Triangle Fire, performing Fabric, Flames, and Fervor at Manhattan Theatre Source, three blocks from the original factory. In addition, LFL performed the show in Kentucky as well. That summer, LFL again produced an already-scripted show, J. Shafer’s Hunting the Basilisk and in the late summer LFL was invited to Fort Knox to perform a suffragist-themed production, Failure is Impossible by Rosemary H. Knower. In a reversal of direction, LFL hosted a Faith Stories Project participant, Juana Herlinda Yak in Louisville when she visited this country as a guest of the Presbyterian Church. Dawn Schulz joined the company as an associate member at the end of 2011.
For the 2011-2012 season, Lilith developed a structure for a three-show season that would include an existing script, an original production (new or remount) and a partially-new/partially created production. The first production was Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba. In the spring, LFL adapted Jane Wilson Joyce’s book of poetry Beyond the Blue Mountains for the stage. The final production of the season was a unique repertory program to celebrate LFL’s tenth anniversary: Looking Forward, Looking Back. LFL’s newest original script, Becoming Mothers, reflects on the experiences of company members, friends, and families trying to get pregnant, and was presented as a staged reading. Ten Years/Seven Stories featured short vignettes of each of the first seven original productions created by LFL. The closing day of the production included both shows and an anniversary reception. Another summer trip to Guatemala was planned with the ongoing support from American Presbyterian congregations.
The 2012-2013 season included an all-female production of Much Ado About Nothing, the World Premiere of Robin Rice Lichtig’s Alice in Black and White, and the fully-staged production of Becoming Mothers. In addition LFL continued to tour many of its productions, conducted residencies, and facilitated after school and summer programming.
The 2013-2014 season began with a revival of an LFL original piece, Class of '70, directed by founder Shannon Woolley Allison. LFL began an ongoing partnership with Lincoln Performing Arts School with this production, performing the show in their brand new theatre and conducting theatre residencies with their students. This season's Women's History Month production was a regional premiere. Catherine Filloux' Luz brings together LFL's mainstage and Guatemalan outreach program, as the story follows Luz's desire to leave Guatemala and emigrate to the U.S. LFL was delighted to partner with the Hispanic-Latino Coalition for this production. The season wrapped up with Annie Baker's Body Awareness, a second regional premiere this season, performed in the Thrust Theatre at the University of Louisville, in partnership with the Women and Gender Studies program and the Paul Paletti Gallery. LFL and JCPS begans a partnership through an ongoing professional development program, working with JCPS teachers to integrate drama tools into teaching high school students become teachers. In addition, LFL continued to develop new programming for their after school initiatives.