7 voices, 3 days: Women in the Yampa Valley SPEAK out
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The woman in line at the grocery store. The little girl playing hopscotch on the sidewalk. The woman sitting across the aisle on the bus.
Each has a story to tell — a voice beckoning to be heard.
“SPEAK is the way women blossom when they realize that people really are here to listen to them — that their stories, their opinions matter and deserve to be heard,” said Emily Waldron, Young Bloods Collective board member and creator of “SPEAK: Performances From Women in the Yampa Valley.”
During seven performances, featuring six actors over three nights and at three different Routt County locations, “SPEAK” will uncover authentic, empowering and inspiring accounts of the female experience.
In all of its humor, honesty and stark candor, Young Bloods Collective’s second annual “SPEAK” returns with an opening night performance Thursday at the Wild Goose Coffee in Hayden followed by a Friday performance at the Circle R Gastropub in Oak Creek, and Saturday’s show at the Chief Theater in downtown Steamboat Springs. Doors open nightly at 7:30 p.m., and the shows are slated to begin at 8 p.m.
“Each week, voices got stronger, and apologies for stumbles or emotion were uttered less,” Waldron said about the practices leading up to this week’s performances. “Perhaps the most valuable thing SPEAK does is it creates this space for a few months each year where women are encouraged to speak without apology.”
From spoken word, slam poetry to stand-up comedy, music and dance, SPEAK will feature a variety of styles for the hour-long performance of work written and performed by women living in the Yampa Valley, all prompted by year’s theme, “Collaborate Don’t Compete.”
“Many common threads run through this show, but the one that resonates deeply is that of women being seen,” Waldron said. “Whether it’s seeing the influence other women have had in their life or finding courage for others they could not find for themselves or seeing the struggle of the next generation and vowing to make it less.”
Heartwarming and heartbreaking, stories in this year’s SPEAK bust stereotypes and myths. Raw and real, these women were inspired to be silenced no more — they were encouraged to SPEAK.
The women of “SPEAK”
“Salvation? Why Bother?” – Written and performed by Kim Erickson
“To me, SPEAK is a microcosm of what is happening at a universal and national level,” Erickson said. Her piece is about a few tragic experiences she endured and the hope and love she found through those harrowing times.
“Fear and shame are silencers, which protect predators,” Erickson said. “Yet, those of us who have been violated can allow the pain to transform us into women who value life in a new way, so that we speak in truth and love to educate and prevent suffering in the lives of others.”
“Such a strong life-lesson she not only lived but now has found the courage to share it with all of us,” said Tera Johnson, another performer who found Erickson’s piece resonated with her the most. “It takes a brave woman to live through pain, an even braver one to talk about it. But to find a lesson above all? That’s a warrior woman if I’ve ever met one.”
“Hopefully, people will walk away with the ability to look at the woman sitting across from them on the bus or at the grocery store – no matter her skin color, accent or breast size – with a new lens of insight and curiosity about who she really is,” Erickson said.
“Who Are You?”- Written and performed by Beth Lavely
“Telling one’s story can offer a powerful step towards individual healing and personal development and offer a vehicle for larger community change,” Lavely said.
Through SPEAK, Lavely discovered a community where she could fully express herself, something she had sought after but hadn’t found.
“I wrote my particular piece to heal and to help understand something difficult that happened,” Lavely said. “I have found both healing and transformation around events I discuss in my piece through the ability to craft the final story.
“For me, my piece has grounded me by remembering aspects of my identity and powerful women who have helped shape my path,” she said.
“I think sharing a story is a sacred act and respecting how someone wants to do so should be honored,” Lavely said.
“Between Borders” – Written and performed by B Torres
One of the inaugural SPEAK performers, Torres wrote a piece for this year’s performance on a more personal level, shedding light on Routt County’s Latino community and white privilege on a local and national scale.
“Storytelling gives us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a world different than our own reality,” she said. “It opens our perspectives a little bit more and allows us to explore other worlds. In sharing parts of ourselves, we can empower other people to express themselves, as well.”
“Often, our Latino community goes unseen or ignored,” Torres said about her piece. “I’m Mexican and take pride in my culture and history.”
“It’s incredible to witness the vulnerability in each of the performer’s pieces,” Torres said. “They share common themes, but each is still so different. It’s an opportunity for people to listen to women and to believe our stories.”
“Standing for You” – Written and performed by Olivia Hobson
Originally, Hobson’s piece was written for the Steamboat Springs High School Dance Showcase as a statement about feminism. It was also performed at the local Women’s March.
“It’s about standing up for what you believe in,” said Hobson of her piece about a little girl who feels limited in her abilities growing up. “My little sisters inspired me, and I hope that I inspire the audience to cast aside limitations and barriers holding them back from what they want to do.”
“Even though they aren’t from one person, one background or one story, each of our pieces can be related to another with absolutely no purposeful intention of doing so,” Hobson said. “The stories are deep and complex and beautiful, and simply listening to them will lead to a moving experience.”
“Fraternize” – Written by Rachel Jackson | Performed by Jennie Lake
“SPEAK is an event for women to share their stories and be heard, whatever they are, and it’s important to me that we have a chance to do that,” Jackson said.
Her poem “Fraternize” is an extended sestina, which allowed her to be creative in both the structure and content of the poem. The word “fraternize” inspired her on the basis of its surface-level meaning, to become allies or friends with someone, encompassing collaboration.
“I thought it would be interesting to explore how women are not always encouraged to collaborate but rather to compete against other women to get ahead,” she said.
The root of the word also means “becoming a brother,” rather than a sister, she explained.
“It made me think about how women often have to make themselves appear more masculine to succeed,” Jackson said. “It’s a poem advocating for collaboration among women but not without thinking first about who that collaboration is really benefitting and under what societal constraints it exists.”
“There’s connection, support and understanding in spite of our differences,” Jackson said. “I think there often can be a lot of judgments, or even blatant disinterest, when people hear about an event for women, but it’s important to leave all those ideas behind and come in with an open mind.”
“Fraternize” – Written by Rachel Jackson | Performed by Jennie Lake
“It’s an opportunity to bring the voices of the area to life,” Lake said. “These women all have unique and interesting experiences and have all found creative ways to share them in an encouraging, creative environment and have brought such diversity in their pieces.
“The piece is a remarkable illustration of feminine power in a really unusual and powerful way,” she said about “Fraternize.” “I only hope my performance of it illustrates the power of the writing.”
“Listen and take something away with you,” Lake said. “Every piece is very different from the rest. And every piece is a unique view of being a woman in the world today as women are finding new strength.”
“I am”– Written and performed by Tera Johnson
“The Goddess” – Written by Tera Johnson | Performed by entire cast and Emily Waldron, creator and director of SPEAK
“It’s a collection of women in our community, expressing their artistic talents through voice and song,” Johnson said. “It’s a way for us to unite and advocate for other not-so-vocal women around us, letting them know we’ve got their backs, too.”
“Listening to the words of each woman is a special moment in time, where she’s letting down her guard and exposing her softer side,” Johnson said. “Be willing to really hear what she’s saying, empathizing with her feelings. But ultimately, remember that these women could be any woman. They could be you, me or a stranger on the street. So, let’s take the time to honor them.”
Tickets can be purchased online at youngbloodscollective.org/speak or at the door. Proceeds from the $20 tickets will be donated to United Way’s Routt to Work program.
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