As We Climb

Original Music by Luke Shepherd

Student Choreography by Arista Detter and Tyler Jung

Photos by Tom Charlesworth and Jordan Linton


The Central Question:

Why are we so afraid of Feminism's invitation to honor the full humanity of all individuals and end systemic oppression?

Fear and Feminism?

In describing the show to others, I found myself facing unexpected fears and wanting to qualify the work saying “Oh, but it’s not about that kind of feminism.” I have been conditioned to fear the “F” word most of my life. I’ve been conditioned, like most women, to apologize for wanting agency and to not rock the (gulp) patriarchal boat. Ultimately, we created a healthy balance of speaking truth to patriarchal power that oppresses us all and sharing a story of people searching to have their full humanity recognized and accepted. How could I have been afraid of that?

How did we get here?:
Our Process and the Cube

As for our process, the etymology of “devising” hints at this journey. The Old Latin dividere and the Old French deviser suggest a process of dividing, and that is what we did—divide and conquer. Over the weeks of rehearsal, we divided readings, curated citations, conceived of characters, created physical and vocal scores, improvised, wrote, rewrote, and with the help of many, many, mind maps, post-it notes, dry erase markers, easel note pads, and my incomparable dramaturg Serena Alexander, we organized our thoughts into a moldable fledgling story.

The Cube

From day one we were vocal about out fears as we embarked on this adventure. In the midst of uncertainty, I wanted to give the students as much to hold on to as possible so I conceived of "The Cube." Like the six sides of a cube this devising framework gave us six points to anchor, clarify, and shake up our work if we felt uncertain or stuck. The six points are: Dramaturgy, Movement, Text, Design Elements, Filter (how we focused a moment), and Fun.

I offered that if we ever felt stuck all we had to do was "roll the 'cube' and have some fun."

As We Climb

Select Sources

  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

  • Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

  • Man Enough by Justin Baldoni  

  • The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks 

  • Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks 

  • The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future edited by Alexandra Brodsky and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff 

  • Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto by Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser 

  • Feminist Manifestos: A Global Documentary Reader edited by Penny W. Weiss 

  • Manifesto for Young Asian Women by Shiuan Butler 

  • The Transfeminist Manifesto by Emi Koyama 

  • Feminisms: A Global History by Lucy Delap 

  • Ain’t I a Woman? By Sojourner Truth

  • The Truth Will Set You Free but First It Will Piss You Off by Gloria Steinem 

  • bell hooks and Gloria Steinem, Dialogue at St. Norbert College

  • Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at the United Nations 

  • Hilary Clinton’s Address at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women 

  • Educator’s Pledge to Teach the Truth from the Zinn Education Project 

Where did it All Begin?

The inspiration for this show came from two feminist revolutionaries of the past and present: Olympe de Gouges and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Olympe de Gouges, one of the world’s first published feminists, was guillotined for her abolitionist and feminist writings during the French Revolution and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a celebrated author known for her TED Talk and book We Should All Be Feminists. These inspiring women led me to pursue more global voices and my research led me to manifestoes, histories, documentaries, and utopic dreams cited in this program. Despite my search for global influence, I found the most impactful sources right in my own “backyard” and it is the writings of bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, and the actor/activist Justin Baldoni that served as foundational texts for this production.