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That's What She Said: Before it went national, it came to Bloomington-Normal

The three women who founded "That's What She Said," a storytelling event aimed at empowering women, knew it was special.

"I like to think of 'That's What She Said, as 'Ted Talks' meets 'The Vagina Monologues,'" national director Jenette Jurczyk said. "That kind of gives you the idea of what that energy is like real fast."

Originally envisioned as a one-time event in Champaign in 2013, "That's What She Said" became an annual fixture in the city, eventually expanding to add a counterpart for teen girls and then outside of the Champaign-Urbana area.

"I tested it for the first time in a new market: I launched the show in Bloomington in 2019 because we wanted to see if it would have similar success," said Jurczyk. "We believe that it did, that the community embraced it: We had a sold-out show at the Castle Theatre in September 2019."

The show went on a brief hiatus due to COVID-19 in 2020, before returning in 2021 and moving this year to the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts, a "much bigger and professional theater" for this year's setup, said Jurczyk.

The show is at 7 p.m. Friday.

The event lineup featured City of Bloomington communications director Katharine Murphy, family members Anna, Cecilia and Sarah Ruffin, as well as Illinois State University spokesperson Rachel Hatch, among others.

"It's (going to be) a place where you can come and hang out with a couple hundred of your closest friends," Jurczyk said. "We get involved in these women's stories that they've written for this performance. We laugh together, we cry together, you look around the room, and you see women nodding their heads in solidarity, like 'Yes, I know how that feels.'''

The event is aimed at being representative of a given community and the women who speak go through workshops on how best to tell their story. Local organizations are included in sponsorships and before-and-after parties as well; a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales go to a local nonprofit, with this year's being Bloomington's Dreams Are Possible.

Jurczyk said given its success in the Twin Cities, the event has expanded to Peoria, St. Louis and Allentown, Pa. Plans to expand into Columbia, Mo., and Indianapolis are in the works for 2023.

"We want to see a nationwide theatrical movement that raises women's voices and builds community and brings us all together. That is our mission," Jurczyk said.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.