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'She Said Project' Director Believes Women Sharing Stories Can Have Worldwide Impact

That's What She Said stages Friday night at The Castle Theatre
She Said Project
"That's What She Said" stages Friday night at the Castle Theatre.

“That’s What She Said” is similar to a TED Talk. Except all 10 women simultaneously inhabit a stage crafted to look and feel like a living room. Nine watch as one-by-one, each nervous speaker takes her turn sharing intimate, personal stories to a majority female audience.

The show stages Friday night at the Castle Theatre.

Director Jenette Jurczyk said the concept was birthed in 2013 when three Champaign-Urbana women thought they could make a better place for their daughters by giving everyday women a microphone to share their personal stories. That evolved into an annual production first at the University of Illinois Krannert Center, then recently at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign.

Jurczyk visited WGLT this week to talk about the inaugural Bloomington-Normal show, and why this concept now has added importance:

“In the political climate these days, women have something to say,” said Jurczyk. "'That’s What She Said' is a safe space for women to come together to share what’s on their mind and in their hearts and impact each other.”

Ten women are scheduled to speak Friday night at the Castle Theatre, but that number can vary slightly. Jurczyk said what doesn’t change from performance to performance is the impact both speaker and audience have on each other.

“These women are choosing to be vulnerable and share a personal story about their lives in front of a group of women who are actively listening with compassion and empathy. The energy in that room is palpable,” said Jurczyk.

She said topics covered on stage are wide. That includes fertility and miscarriage, overcoming childhood trauma, and even the funny stories about awkward teenage years.

“What we like to say is 'That’s What She Said' is the party after the party, where the small-talk is done and we’re really getting raw and sharing those real-life stories,” said Jurczyk.

Speakers are chosen strategically and one of the first things Jurczyk looks for someone who is not a polished speaker, such as “the girl next door” or a woman doing “amazing things” that hasn’t been highlighted in the community.

“Because we want to empower everyday women to share their extraordinary stories,” said Jurczyk. “We’re not looking for a political or religious agenda, we’re not a training or inspirational conference. We’re just everyday women sharing stories.”

The dynamic of non-polished female speakers sharing those intimate stories to an audience of mostly women creates both a window and a mirror for both.

“The women watching from the audience can look for the women sharing on-stage and either see a reflection of something they’ve been through and can relate to something being shared themselves, or they look through a window and learn something new about a woman in their community, and learn something about themselves in the process,” said Jurczyk.

Jurczyk’s passion for the project is also palpable. The University of Illinois theater grad is excited about the possibility of taking what is now a central Illinois project and making an impact worldwide. She’s now assembling the recorded stories into the She Said Project Podcast.

“We have an opportunity to produce a live show in Johannesburg, South Africa,” said Jurczyk. “And when we share one of those stories on the She Said Project Podcast and a woman from Iowa can hear her story and understand what life is like for that woman on the other side of the planet, it’s going to have a global impact of compassion and understanding like nothing we’ve seen.”

Jurczyk said She Said Project shows always tie into the local community, with portions of the proceeds donated to local organizations. Proceeds from Friday’s show at The Castle Theatre will benefit YWCA McLean County and Labyrinth House Outreach Services.

Guests are encouraged to donate gently used sneakers and running shoes to The Shoe Said Project in the lobby of the theatre. Shoes will be donated locally and to women and children in developing nations through the Share Your Soles Foundation.

The full WGLT interview with Jenette Jurczyk.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.