T h e  H e r s t o r i e s  P r o j e c t

An 8-Week Theatre Workshop for Women

Who are your ancestors?

How have their struggles & achievements affected your life and identity?

What legacies do you carry in your bones?

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About the Herstories Project

Arising from a six-month collaborative process of research and community building, we have been using collaborative art and creativity to promote cooperation and invoke an alternative vision of a society that values everyone's voice and self-expression. Through workshops and the creation of performances, the project has engaged diverse artists and communities in cross-cultural dialogue and alliance building around issues of social oppression that have historically kept us divided. As we weave our individual stories of difference, struggle, and resistance into a collective story of unity and liberation, we promote understanding of our unique struggles among our audience members.

Why focus on the ancestors?

We, the inhabitants of this present moment in history, are products of the actions of ancestors that came before us. Sharing, understanding, and making contact with the stories of our ancestors empowers us in relationship to our current conditions and in community with one another. To understand where we are now and how we can evolve individually and collectively, we need to know how we got here. We need to recognize the patterns of cause and effect that create the conditions of society, so that we can make informed and effective choices. As we begin to understand these patterns, we acknowledge our responsibility as ancestors to future generations. We begin to heal the wounds of history within ourselves and our ancestors by giving voice to their silence, acting to rectify their mistakes, and paying homage to their memory and struggles.

Why only women?

Women's voices, stories, and wisdom have been largely silenced and devalued in our culture. The Herstories Project retrieves the wisdom in women's stories that is absent from mainstream, male-centered, war-dominated historical narratives. Through retelling their personal and ancestral herstories, women become both the authors and makers of history. As stories of resistance and solidarity emerge that have been buried or erased from the history books, we reclaim a sense of hope, interconnectedness and agency. We bring women's stories and knowledge to the center of public discourse in order to engage women's leadership and improve their social status. In diverse narratives we discover alternative tools and visions of human potential that affirm and sustain the resources of life and community, benefiting society as a whole.

Why is story telling so important?

Stories are one of the fundamental ways that humans make meaning of their lives. Ancestral and personal story telling cultivates empathy for ourselves and for each other. These stories allow us to build a common ground of compassion, understanding, commiseration, and forgiveness. By understanding different ways of thinking and being, we open to new ways of interpreting our own experience.

Oral history practices, when generated in a collaborative group context, have the potential to build bridges of connection between individuals by understanding how our identities are shaped by social constructions of privilege and oppression. Through analyzing their personal histories in relation to the collective, participants open doors of new possibility and transformation.

Why is diversity important?

The Herstories Project provides a laboratory for conducting direct research and analysis into the ancestral, familial, and cultural stories that reveal our origins. Issues of racism, classism, sexism and heterosexism have historically divided our communities. We confront these issues directly and examine how we have internalized legacies of oppression and privilege. By understanding each other's stories, and the complexity of the choices our ancestors made, we strive to heal these divides and build alliances of understanding and solidarity.

Our intention is for participants to acquire the tools to become role models and leaders in their communities, teaching others how to work together across lines of diversity to resolve the problems that we confront as a society.

Past Performance Information:

BONE SONGS: Echoes of the Unknown Mother

8pm Friday & Saturday evenings
January 21, 22, 2005
The Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts
1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek

The Herstories Project is excited to announce that our new production of Bone Songs, opened October 8, 2004 at the Exit Theatre in San Francisco. We joined the Drama Mamas' production of Stretch Marks: Growing Into Motherhood in an exciting evening of women's and mothers' voices. In one night of innovative performance, enjoy two original works that are guaranteed to move, delight, entertain, and transform you, as we uncover the source from which we all arrived and discover our enduring connections to it, as we look into the lives and minds of the women who are our mothers, the mothers we have and will become.

The Herstories Project presents a new, thirty minute adaptation of the original Bone Songs: Echoes of the Unknown Mother, featuring five members of the original cast in a deepening exploration of what it means to be a woman at this moment in history, carrying the stories of our foremothers, honoring the ancestors that accompany us on our journey. How do these legacies shape our lives and relationships in the present, and how does our transmission of them shape the future of ourselves, our communities, and our culture?

In March 2004, Bone Songs: Echoes of the Unknown Mother premiered to sold-out houses in San Francisco and Oakland, also performing a benefit for the Oakland First Congrational Church and by invitation at the Rivera Theatre of City College in San Francisco. Our performances and workshops drew an audience of over 1,000 people! If you missed us the first time, or if you shared in the amazing energy, tears, laughter, and applause of our first journey in community, please join us for this new voyage!

Bone Songs is directed by Emily Burkes-Nossiter and currently being performed by Aryeh Shell, Vika Teicher, Karla Brundage, Nicola Wagenburg, and Betsy Bryant. It is based on the ancestral and personal stories of these women and the women of the original Herstories Project.

Check out the PHOTOS from our 3/14/04 performance!

HONORING THE BONES: An 8-Week Theatre Workshop for Women

Who are your ancestors?

How have their struggles and achievements affected your life and identity?

What legacies do you carry in your bones?

If you're looking for a new source of creative inspiration and support for your life and work in the world, come explore these questions with a group of amazing and diverse women in a supportive space!

Our 8-week workshops incorporate theatre, ritual, multi-media arts and creative writing, to build community and explore our herstoric roots. We share, honor, grieve, celebrate, and give voice to our ancestral legacies. Our series culminate in a community - based performance for an invited audience. Join us for a powerful process of ancestral exploration, personal inquiry, healing and community building through:

* Ritual
* Art
* Story sharing
* Interactive theater
* Creative Writing
* Performance

We intend to create a diverse community. Women of color, working class women, and LGBTQ women are especially encouraged to apply.

To apply or for more information, email herstoriesproject@yahoo.com

"..I got connection, I got community, I got to meet AMAZING women; the opportunity to release and feel, be held and connect." Workshop Participant


East Bay Express Article

Press Release

Support the Herstories Project

The Herstories Project is partially funded by a grant from the City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program and supported by the Oakland City Council and Epic Arts

Contact Information

Aryeh Shell, Founder & Project Director

Original Cast Bios

Bios with Photos

Aryeh Shell
Aryeh Shell is a social justice educator and organizer. She is the founder of the Herstories Project, seeking to cultivate social transformation by turning to the ancestors and bringing women's voices to the foreground. She has been a member of many organizations and coalitions including Direct Action to Stop the War, Art and Revolution, The Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble and the Institute for Deep Ecology. She teaches workshops internationally in anti-racism, arts activism, street theater and giant puppetry. She currently works with Mayfair Improvement Iniative, an immigrant rights organization and Teatro Vision, a Chicano-based theater company in San Jose, developing popular theater for social change. She is a graduate student at SFSU in Education: Equity and Social Justice. Aryeh recently participated in a peace delegation of American military and Iraqi families who came together to share testimonies and deliver medical aid to the refugees of Falluja. She is currently perfoming a one woman show entitled "Call to Prayer", to weave and share these testimonies with the American people.

Betsey Bryant
Grandmother, artist and writer/poet, a lover of the arts, whose work has been shown throughout the Bay area, Betsey is passionate about her grandboys, using the creative process for healing, and helping others to find and express their true, artistic self.

Black Star
Born and raised in San Francisco, 47 years old, an urban Native, Blackstar is a self-taught musician who plays from the heart. There are times when a wiser voice comes and she becomes a storyteller as well. She feels very privileged and blessed to be a part of The Herstories process with these other strong women.

Ching-In Chen
ching-in. poemsender. a loudmouth organizer hoping for liberation. sometimes bridge, sometimes islanderdweller. daughter. lover. sister. karaoke singer. budding filmmaker. a sunrise. lover of the thrift store. keeper of secrets, scraps and misplaced beauty.

Elenna Rubin Goodman
Elenna Rubin Goodman began secretly dancing at age 5 and since then (which was a while ago!) her work as a soloist and ensemble dancer, choreographer and director has been shown in Oakland, San Francisco, Washington, Mexico, Brazil and South India. As a writer, performance artist, and facilitator of peacemaking projects, she gets to practice of devotion to the ancestors, justice, beauty and community building.

Emily Burkes-Nossiter
Emily Burkes-Nossiter joined The Herstories Project as theatrical director in 2004. She holds a M.A. in Counseling Psychology, concentrating in Drama Therapy, from the California Institute for Integral Studies. Emily trained in theatre and creative arts therapies at Columbia University, the New School University, and the New York Open Center, and has written, directed, and performed with numerous theatre companies. She pursues healing and social change through the arts as drama director for Marin Country Day School's Beyond Borders program, with adolescents at YWCA's Come Into the Sun and the McAuley Intstitute at St. Mary's Hospital, and as president of the Northern California Chapter of the National Association for Drama Therapy. Emily is a drama therapist in private practice through the Living Arts Counseling Center, San Franciso, (www.livingartscenter.org).

Isoke Femi
Isoke has been singing since she was seven years old. From blues to gospel to Italian arias. For Isoke, singing is prayer. She is a doctoral student, an elder and a foundation, and a voice of infinite and, sometimes, trickster wisdom for the women in The Herstories Project.

Jennifer Fox Bennett
Jennifer, engineer-by-day/poet-by-night, is an Ojibway/Odawa Band member of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on the ethereal Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada. She has lived in many places between two oceans: a suburban wasteland in Florida, the menacing halls of Cornell University (where she received her B.S.), and the dirt roads and boréal forests of her Reserve. She now finds herself in Oakland. Left To Shatter, Jennifer's first book, a collection of poems and short stories, will be available from Monkey Book Press (San Francisco, CA) in February 2004.

Karla Brundage
Karla Brundage was born in Berkeley, California. Her poetry and essays have been published in Bamboo Ridge, Ishmael Reed's Konch Magazine, Hip Mama, Oahu Review, Kaimana and La'iLa'i. Other essays and poems have appeared in Multi-America: Essays on Cultural Wars and Cultural Peace (Viking 1997); Adam of Ife: Black Women in Praise of Black Men (Lotus Press, 1992); Intersecting Circles: Voices of Hapa Women in Poetry and Prose (Bamboo Ridge Press 1999). She has performed her written work with Rhodessa Jones in "The Medea Project" (SF Yerba Buena Center, 1994) and with Joyce Lu in "Carving Circles" (Earl Ernst Lab Theater, 1997).

Karla Robinson
Karla Robinson is a crafty 26 year-old youth advocate and writer/storyteller from the Bronx. In the words of our ancestor Audre Lorde "What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will one day sicken and die of them still in silence? My silence has not protected me. Your silence will not protect you."

Nícola Wagenberg
Nícola is an artist and educator. She loves to create, explore and express through painting, video, voice, music and movement. For the past 13 years Nícola has facilitated groups of diverse ages and backgrounds in using the arts for personal and community exploration, healing and transformation. Nícola is the filmmaker for The Herstories Project. She's been filming the making of the project with the purpose of creating the Herstories documentary.

Shanique Scott Scott-Tyehimba
A distinguished comedienne, Shanique has been seen at Stand-up NY Comedy club, NY Comedy Club, The Punchline (San Francisco, CA), Kimbles East (Oakland, CA), Sidelines (Santa Rosa, CA), LGBT (San Francisco, CA), and performances with names like "Sisters doing comedy, Shades of Laughter, Inc." Shanique also holds to her credit several theatrical performances the latest being "In Search of a Legend, The Josephine Baker Story" A JonAl Production (San Francisco, CA). She is also a very talented writer. She is currently working on her first novel, Francine Anafiene and touring "Reflextions" a one-women play about her life as an inner city youth, written and performed by Shanique.

Sparlha Swa
Sparlha, 23 years old, is a powerful upcoming Bay Area singer and songwriter. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in the States, she graduated from Stanford University, and, for the past 3 years has been honing her craft. Her first CD, Uprising, is available at shows and online. An irresistible blend of soul and folk, with simple yet powerful guitar accompaniment and profoundly moving lyrics, her voice carries you into the deepest within yourself, and there offers insights that heal, inspire, and uplift. Under the auspices of CASAMENA (Oakland, CA), she is currently recording her second album. For Sparlha, The Herstories Project has been a profound blessing and an opportunity to deepen her connection with the amazing women building the project, to bring her love of the stage into a multimedia setting, to open the door to an awakened communication with her ancestors, and for healing. Check out her website at .

Vika Teicher
Vika Teicher is the founding producer of the Herstories Project. She is a teacher, performer, and Thai Massage practitioner. She studied spirituality and creative arts at New York's Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. She is now a seasonal faculty member of Omega's Holistic Studies Program, teaching theater and body image workshops and leading dance rituals for Omega staff. She has taught and served diverse communities in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. She performed in "Being Beautiful," a local dance theater production about body image, from Spring 2002 through Spring 2003.