This weekend, the fifth annual production of “RISE: The Untold Stories of Bowdoin Women” will be available for students to watch remotely. The production, put on by the student-led club fEMPOWER, includes over 30 student performers and will be streamed at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
“This year, RISE is more necessary than ever. I think it has always been an event that has brought our community together … I feel like when you watch it in small groups, knowing that a big part of the community is watching it, it’s going to bring confidence to a lot of women that these stories are still being shared despite the distance,” said RISE cast member Renata Gonzalez-Chong ’23.
Last year’s production of RISE was performed in person in February. This is the first time the show has had to be re-imagined to allow for both remote participation and remote viewing from numerous locations and time zones.
“It’s just been so awesome that, even though obviously this time is so hard for everybody, people were still able to come together and make [RISE] happen, because it is no small feat to get this production up and running,” Katie Reid ’23, a member of the the RISE leadership team, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I am just so impressed and inspired by everybody who was involved to be able to make RISE happen this year.”
RISE ordinarily takes the form of a live, in-person performance in Kresge Auditorium during which Bowdoin students who identify as women in a way that is meaningful to them read monologues submitted by other Bowdoin women. This year, it will be delivered through a compilation of videos of student participants reading their assigned monologues, edited together by RISE team members Reid and Julia Jennings ’23.
“RISE is an annual production that casts Bowdoin women to share stories and to raise awareness of gender-based violence, challenge traditional gender norms, and start dialogue about the wide range of self-identifying women’s experiences on campus and in the general world,” the RISE team members—Reid and Jennings, along with Adedunmola Adewale ’22, Usira Ali ’22 and Brianna Canning ’21—wrote in an email to all students on Wednesday.
Lisa Peterson, director of gender violence education and prevention, has been advising the RISE team throughout the production’s creation and planning. Peterson explained that the show will only be available for screening at specific times because some of the monologues describe situations that could be challenging for students to view on their own, such as instances of gender-based violence, and she and the RISE team wanted to make sure to have resources available to any students while they watch the show. Students can access two channels of support if they need to do so during the show or in the hour after it concludes: a Zoom call and a helpline.
Peterson and representatives of Cumberland County domestic violence resource center Through These Doors will be on the Zoom call to provide general community and support to students who need it, while the helpline is for students who need more private and individualized advocacy.
“If folks are hoping to talk more specifically about a personal experience that they had and get some more advocacy-based support, [Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine (SASSM)] will be holding a helpline also through those times, so while the show is happening and also for an hour after,” Peterson said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
A PDF document with links and numbers for the resources is available on the same CampusGroups page where students will access the link to stream the performance. Short videos about each of the external organizations have also been included in the introduction to the show itself.
In addition to Through These Doors and SASSM, another organization has been involved with RISE this year—Purity Pact, a comedy group open to women and non-binary Bowdoin students. The group released a promotional video, “Drunk History of RISE,” which followed Comedy Central’s “drunk history” series. Purity Pact co-leader Manuela Velasquez ’21 explained that the RISE team had reached out to the group over winter break about the collaboration.
“[The RISE team was] feeling like the show focuses obviously on a lot of important multitudes of womanhood but has continuously been missing new comedic infusions,” Velasquez said. “A lot of the funnier, more joyful expressions of womanhood have been the same stories reused over and over again, and they wanted to infuse it with something new.”
Purity Pact members shot portions of their video by themselves or with their pod mates, and Velasquez edited their contributions together into a video that was released on Instagram in the days leading up to the show.
Aside from figuring out new ways to support viewers and looking to include intentional joyful moments, the path to producing RISE involved many of its usual steps. Reid, Canning and Adewale explained that the process to put together this year’s production of RISE started in the fall, when they solicited new monologues and put together a script. These earlier parts of the production process were more similar to past years, but the leaders had to come up with a new structure for auditions, rehearsals and the show itself.
“Normally we would do auditions and the story collection and everything in the fall semester, but we did auditions over winter break because [the] first semester was just crazy for everyone,” Adewale said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Collecting stories actually ended up going very well. In the beginning, we were scared we wouldn’t have enough stories, but everything worked out.”
Instead of the group rehearsals that have been typical in the past, the leaders held a virtual retreat for all cast members toward the end of winter break, and during the following week, they asked each cast member to log onto Zoom for individual rehearsals with just them and the RISE leadership team.
“We only did rehearsals once—just come into Zoom with us, we’ll give you feedback,” Adewale said.
But this was not the only time the leaders were accessible to cast members for support and assistance; rather, while they did not ask participants to put in as much time as they usually would, the RISE team members still wanted to make themselves available. Accordingly, they scheduled open hours on Zoom, during which members could drop in if they had anything they wanted to discuss.
“If you feel like you need extra support … before you do the final recording, we are available,” Adewale said. “So we tried to make the best of the pandemic and people being in different places, different locations—we tried to be flexible and we tried not to be as time-consuming as we would have.”
Diyaa Yaqub ’23, a cast member in the production, was nervous about how it would feel to watch the production on the same medium that she uses to watch virtual class lectures, but she said that these concerns were dispelled when she turned in her final submission.
“When I uploaded the video [of my monologue] and I kind of saw other people’s faces and little snippets—I played little snippets as I was scrolling through—I realized that wouldn’t be the case,” Yaqub said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “And I realized how powerful it still was through the screen.”
RISE: Untold Stories of Bowdoin Women is available to stream on 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 9 a.m. on Sunday with a Bowdoin Login on CampusGroups. Julia Jennings ’23 is a member of the Orient staff.