Secret Candlelight Storytelling in a Brooklyn Cemetery
On Tuesday, May 29th , under the first full moon, various female writers, actors, performers and musicians will gather together by candlelight at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn to share personal stories of failure and triumph, of injustice and absolution all written under the theme ‘So…That Happened’.
Inspiration strikes in the strangest places.
Writer and producer Trish Nelson was living in California when she visited the famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery and its Masonic Lodge. She was inspired by the atmosphere and the iconic gothic thrones that sit on the lodge’s stage. “There’s something pretty magical about sitting on those thrones especially because there was a time when women would have never been allowed in that room at all. It does kind of feel like a Skull and Bones society.” Nelson con, “I knew I had to start a series around them, so I decided to start this one. Since it’s the Masonic Lodge I decided to call it the Secret Society of the Sisterhood.”
The first Secret Society reading was written to the topic Reclaiming My Time, inspired by Maxine Waters. Performers for the sold out show ranged from Academy Award nominated actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste to transgender icon Our Lady J, a writer and producer for Transparent. Says Nelson, “This is for women and anyone who identifies as a woman and our audience is full of women and allies of women. It’s really an inclusive event.”
The people Nelson picks to read aren’t based on political beliefs or what she thinks they might say. She simply presents a theme and asks them to write a personal story that relates. Says Nelson, “I don’t even know the pieces that are going to be spoken until close to the night of the show and sometimes not until we get on stage.”
It would be hard to imagine that topical things like politics and the #metoo movement won’t be brought up but Nelson doesn’t micro manage the storytelling,” I 100% do not dictate to any of the readers how they should form their stories so I would not be at all surprised if people came out with strong stories that leaned towards their political beliefs. My goal is to be inclusive, I’m not here to tell anybody what they should believe.”
After the first performance at the Hollywood Forever cemetery Nelson learned how powerful a night of truth-telling can be. She says,” You left feeling like you weren’t alone in this.” While the stories themselves remain unrevealed until the night of the show she is sure of one thing, “What I love about this is that there are moments of laughter until you are peeing in your pants then there’s moments where you’re balling your eyes out. It’s everything you want to see in a good movie or stage play but it’s reality.”
Storytelling by candlelight in a cemetery is a unique way for women to share their stories and find common ground. “I would love for this to be an experience where we come together in an understanding that the divide is not as extreme as we’re being told.” Says Nelson, “My hope is that people leave that night understanding that we’re all in this together.”
The Secret Society of the Sisterhood reading this Tuesday features actress Amber Tamblyn, writer Lorri Davis, comedian Yamaneika Saunders, author Dhonielle Clayton with music by Kaki King, Treya Lam and DJ Tikka Masala. Proceeds from the show go to Girls Write Now a program that provides mentors for girls across Manhattan’s five boroughs.
For more information and tickets click here.