Champaign-Urbana’s latest export: #womensupportingwomen

Champaign-Urbana's latest export - #womensupportingwomen

What do a real estate agent, a bank branch manager and a retired clinical psychologist all have in common?

In the case of That’s What She Said, not only are they all women who live in Central Illinois, they are individuals with a story to tell that is worth hearing. These stories of resilience can range from the hilarious and touching to tear-jerking, organizers say.

Way before the #metoo movement took off, The She Said Project became a way for women of different backgrounds and ages to share a wide range of personal stories in Champaign-Urbana. And after five successful years in Champaign-Urbana, That’s What She Said is branching out and coming to Bloomington-Normal’s The Castle Theatre on Friday, Sept. 27.

This is the first show outside of Champaign-Urbana, where the show has been embraced by the community, says Jenette Jurczyk, national director of The She Said Project and the director of the Bloomington show.

A native of New Jersey, Jurczyk found herself at University of Illinois where she studied theater. After living in New York for a couple of years and a decade in Los Angeles, she moved back to Champaign in 2009 and married the man she dated in college.

She started out by directing the early productions of That’s What She Said, and later she took over the project from its founders and this year adds the team was pleasantly surprised that 11 women’s stories drew an audience of more than 1,200 other women in Champaign who were hungry for more.

“It is everyday women doing something bold for themselves and for the community,” she says of the aims of the stage production.

Back in April, local politicians including Champaign County Board Member Tanisha King-Taylor shared their stories that can now be found on YouTube.

The She Said Project has also recently finished recording its podcast of past stories told on stage that will soon be broadcast on WILL-FM.

A photo from the podcast

But most importantly, Jurczyk is in the process of expanding to other cities in Central Illinois and across the nation. There is a database of people interested in participating and the aim is to offer training and support to others willing to follow The She Said model, which includes working with a local non-profit to give back to the community with sharing a portion of ticket sales.

Ten Bloomington-area women have been busy preparing their stories for the stage with theatrical training that ranges from theater games such as improv to enliven their story telling technique.

A rehearsal underway

It’s similar to the training Jurczyk has done with a teen offshoot project that has been conducted with the local Champaign Park District to help girls find their voice and amplify their stories on stage. The third session of That’s What Teens Say starts in November.

Sally Brumfield, vice president and branch manager for Busey Bank in Bloomington, is one of the women who are preparing for the show.

“I know firsthand that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of the women in my life,” Brumfield says. “I am so excited to share a part of my story with the women in my community.”

This event brings together women from all across the community, to laugh together, to cry together, to nod their heads along to those “Me Too” moments, according to Jurczyk. In addition to Brumfield, the other local woman participating in the Bloomington show are: Meenu Bhaskar; Lana Branch; Amber Cook; Laura Lamberti; Genevieve Pilon; Feli Sebastian and Vera Traver.

Proceeds from the Bloomington-Normal performance will support the YWCA McLean County, including YWCA Labyrinth Outreach Services to Women.

The audience is also encouraged to donate gently used sneakers and running shoes to The Shoe Said Project in the lobby of The Castle Theatre at the show. The shoes will be donated to local agencies, as well as to the Share Your Soles Foundation to be delivered to impoverished communities around the globe.

Photos provided by The She Said Project