This semester, fEMPOWER, a student-run organization, is tackling the task of virtually producing the annual show “RISE: Untold Stories of Bowdoin Women,” which showcases the stories of Bowdoin women, while also trying to connect with the Bowdoin community through initiatives such as their new Instagram page.
FEMPOWER has produced the annual show “RISE” for the past four years, with performances usually held in February. Each year, the script includes a different collection of personal stories submitted in the fall by self-identifying women at Bowdoin.
The general format and style of the show was developed by a group of Bowdoin women in the 2016-17 academic year, who took inspiration from Eve Ensler’s well-known play, “The Vagina Monologues,” which had previously been performed annually at Bowdoin. These students aimed not only to create a similarly empowering show, but also to diversify the voices showcased. Unlike Ensler’s 12-women show, upwards of 70 Bowdoin women have been involved in each performance of “RISE.”
This year, the five members of the fEMPOWER leadership team—Adedunmola Adewale ’22, Usira Ali ’22, Bri Canning ’21, Julia Jennings ’23 and Katie Reid ’23—have had to reimagine the format while attempting to maintain the impact of “RISE” on the Bowdoin community.
“Content wise, it’s gonna look pretty similar to other years,” said Reid in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “In terms of the actual show, it is going to probably have to be virtual, and so it’s not confirmed yet, but we’re looking at maybe doing some kind of live-streamed version of the show on the weekends that it would [normally] be in person.”
“We’re thinking about how to incorporate emotions into the show,” added Adewale in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “You [usually] get the audience feedback; the laughing, the clapping—and it’s silent [when it’s] heavy, but [virtually] we won’t have this.”
Working to form these connections during a remote semester, the members of the leadership team took to Instagram this week, each posting a brief biography introducing themselves to the Bowdoin community. Adewale says that with most people not being on campus, the group wants to ensure that they are still reaching out to people and forming community.
fEMPOWER hopes to host other events during the academic year, such as conversations on female empowerment and gender-based violence. While the board is enthusiastic about planning these events, Reid and Adewale acknowledged that they will probably not take place until after the production of “RISE” begins.
This week, fEMPOWER will begin collecting written samples from Bowdoin women about their experiences through a form that will be sent to the community. After the stories are selected and compiled into a script, the group will hold virtual auditions to cast students in the show.
Despite the challenges of auditioning students over Zoom and coordinating the show virtually, the leadership team is working hard and is excited for what “RISE” will become this year.
“I feel like acknowledging the fact that it’s definitely gonna be different this year, but we’re still really trying our best to make ‘RISE’ have the same effect it does on campus,” Adewale said. “We’re dedicated to producing a show like that. And making people know that we support them.”
Julia Jennings ’23 is an Associate Editor for the Bowdoin Orient.