In October 2014, our Guatemala partners made their first visit to the U.S! Read more about this exceptional collaboration and their recent visit in the Courier-Journal and The Winchester Star. More video and photos coming soon!
Our most recent production, UnCaged/Desenjualadas, is a reflection on the past decade of LFL’s groundbreaking collaboration with women in Guatemala, as they discovered their artistic voices by sharing their stories and creating theatre based on their experiences. Hot on the heels of the Guatemalans’ first visit here in Louisville with LFL, this performance was shared at Walden Theatre, as part of the 3rd Annual Slant Culture Theatre Festival.
Looking for Lilith is excited to start our first on-going Faith Stories Project group here in the Louisville. Through a partnership with Eastern Area Community Ministries, Looking for Lilith artists are guiding a group of Latina immigrant women through the Faith Stories project process. The women are sharing stories about their experiences as immigrant women and reflecting on those experiences but creating scenes based on them. We will meet with them once a month throughout 2014.
What is the Faith Stories Project About?
The object of this project is to empower women in the church in Guatemala and in the US by artistically exploring the complexities of how faith affects women's lives. The project will provide a space where women can share their faith stories and participate in the creation of a theatre piece based on their stories. It will provide mutual support and encouragement, build self-esteem, and create a sense of community for women in the church in both countries as we struggle to tear down barriers and explore how we are more alike than different.
Faith Stories Project History
In 2003, Looking for Lilith’s Community Outreach Director, Jennifer Thalman Kepler, spent a year living in a rural town on the west coast of Guatemala, through the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA). Using her background in Educational Theatre, Jen taught literacy and leadership skills to women in her community—a task that was daunting due to the patriarchal and oppressive nature of the church structure within which she was working. When one of Jennifer’s workshop participants asked her what her job was back in the states, and she explained that she worked for a women’s theatre company that created original plays based on women’s experiences, the woman said, “Well, why don’t you bring them here, and do that with us?”
Jennifer began to think about how she might share her skills and experience in Theatre of the Oppressed work to open a conversation among the Guatemalan women based on two questions: “How does your faith liberate you?” and “How do the structures of your faith oppress you?”
In 2005, 3 artists from Looking for Lilith traveled to Guatemala and worked with over 100 Guatemalan women, both indigenous and Ladina (of European descent), collecting oral histories and creating theatre pieces based on responses to those two questions, which were then shared back with the Guatemalan participants. The women’s response was that seeing their stories performed was incredibly validating, and the project has grown exponentially over the last 9 years, as our Guatemalan sisters have moved from being our students and our audience to being our partners and collaborators. Each step of the process has been prescribed by our Guatemalan sisters:
In 2006, the participants asked to train as actors and perform their own stories, and LFL artists spent two months working with them to build their theatre skills and create scenes based around the two central questions of the project mentioned above. In creating scenes based on these experiences the women were able to reflect in their experiences in a dynamic and collaborative way.
In 2007, the participants asked to learn to more about facilitating and leading their own theatre-based workshops in their communities. LFL artists created and implemented a training program and Spanish language leader’s manual to this end.
In 2008, the women created a 45 min play and performed it publicly for the first time and the audience was riveted! After the performance, the women reflected on how much they had grown and what an empowering experience it was to perform publicly the participants began a yearly cultural exchange with delegations of women from the States that accompany LFL to Guatemala
In 2009 and 2010, the participants began a yearly cultural exchange with delegations of women from First Presbyterian Church, Winchester, VA and Fairfax Presbyterian Church, Fairfax, VA that accompany LFL to Guatemala.
In 2011, they decided that they wanted to use their theatre skills to explore other topics of women’s oppression in their society. As a first step toward this together we created and shared a theatre-based workshop on doctor-patient communication with health-care workers in the Mayan community Pacjac.
In 2012, they studied the ways in which systemic economic oppression affects nutrition, and created an interactive piece and workshop on this topic, which was shared with women on public assistance in Pacjac.
In 2013, Looking for Lilith artist, the women from the Churches in Virginia and our Guatemala partners spent a week studying the issue of violence against women as it manifests itself in Guatemala. Together we reflected theatrically on our week of study, creating movement pieces that represented our reflections. We also created two scenes one depicting a situation of domestic violence and the other a home with out violence. We are currently working on creating a workshop around these scenes.
In 2014, our Guatemala partners made their first visit to the U.S. Read more about this exceptional collaboration and their recent visit in the Courier-Journal and The Winchester Star. We have also started our first on-going Faith Stories Project group here in the Louisville. Through a partnership with Eastern Area Community Ministries, Looking for Lilith artists are guiding a group of Latina immigrant women through the Faith Stories process. We will meet with them once a month through 2014.
For more information about how you can participate in the Faith Stories Project, contact Community Outreach Director Jennifer Thalman Kepler at 540-664-8779.