Finding Voice, a powerful original production depicting empowered women survivors of domestic violence, will be presented on the Hazel B. Abbott stage on the campus of Converse College March 24th. The curtain rises at 7 p.m.
Admission is $10 with all proceeds benefiting the Spartanburg SAFE HOMES/Rape Crisis Coalition. The production, which is made possible through funding through Converse’s Creative Collaboration program, is also a partnership with USC-Upstate and Wofford College in celebration of Women’s History Month. It is sponsored by the Converse music therapy student organization, Musicians Helping Others.
Featuring a minimalist set, Finding Voice is a collection of true stories of survival and empowerment in spite of domestic violence, expressed through song, dance, poetry and storytelling. The play was written by Dr. Elizabeth York, associate professor of music therapy and Chair of the Music Education and Music Therapy Programs. York created the piece while on sabbatical during her tenure as Director of Music Therapy at Utah State University.
“The initial purpose of the research was to document how women survivors (who were members of an on-going support group) entered into a variety of expressive arts experiences including visual arts, poetry, dance and music therapy,” explained York. “The project culminated in what would become the performance piece entitled ‘Finding Voice,’ initially written and performed by the women participants themselves. It shows impressively that music and the expressive arts can be used to empower and educate the community about domestic violence. ”
There are 12 roles in Finding Voice, each based upon actual events. According to York, a total of 40 women participated in the development of the original script, and a CD recording of the entire play was also produced. The play has been performed 13 times in Utah since 2003, as recently as January at Utah Valley University. The original script has been revised to reflect experiences of local women served by SafeHomes. The new cast is comprised of Converse students and community members.
Lisa Woirhaye of Salt Lake City, Utah, was a member of the original Finding Voice cast. “My children had been sexually abused by their father, which is why I was there; I think I just needed to be heard, I wanted to be validated,” she said. “My ex-husband was charged with the offense of child sexual abuse and is currently serving a 30-year prison term at the Utah State Prison. I felt very afraid for what my children had witnessed in their lifetime, and I had excused it. I also had guilt for not leaving sooner, and guilt for what they went through.”
Woirhaye went on to describe how Finding Voice began to transform her and her fellow cast members from victims to survivors. “As I became more and more involved in Finding Voice, my self esteem began to grow tremendously, and I began changing my attitude from that of a woman with no future, to a woman with goals, and aspirations for her life–a woman who can do anything she puts her mind to. When I look at where everyone is today in contrast to where we all were back then it is amazing. Several of the women have gone on to get masters degrees; one has her Ph.D. Most of us work in very rewarding occupations, and volunteer in our communities. I am the shelter manager of the YWCA of Salt Lake City’s battered women’s shelter. I do not think would be where I am today without Finding Voice.'”