About a month ago, I found myself writing in a journal about the struggle of reaching out to businesses and individuals regarding our preview of Carried by the Current and not being sure if they’d reply. Or say yes if they did reply. And as I wrote, I thought again of the ladies from Texas who inspired this play. Here I was, 150 years after they lived their story, writing letters to get support for it to be seen on stage. In the same way they wrote letters to get the support they needed while the story was happening. They claimed dreams as the inspiration for their letter writing: I just claim a love of letter writing. Although I do have dreams as to who should receive these letters and potentially put their seal of approval on the play.
The difference between my letter writing and that of the Sanctified Sisters is volume. When they wrote to the Governor of Texas, for example, to ask him to free one of the sisters from the asylum at Austin, I’m pretty sure their letter landed on his desk. Because shortly thereafter that sister returned to Belton and continued the independent lifestyle that had caused her brother to have her declared insane in the first place. When I sent letters to some of the managers and players at the Seahawks earlier this summer, however, I imagine they ended up in a big pile of fan mail and never reached the recipients. And I’m not sure e-mails would get me much further. So then how do I reach out to the Seahawks with this idea of having them support the production of this play and have it hit the mark?
Hashtags, my young friend Hannah told me. Put it on social media and use the hashtag #seahawks. I heard her and thought, I can’t do that. That’s not in my comfort zone. Then I got to reflecting on it for a while and realized that nothing the Sanctified Sisters did was in their comfort zone. These were wealthy white women, who had been provided for most of their lives, and in order to step away from the beatings that came with the provision, they took on chopping firewood and churning butter in the Texas heat in their long, Victorian dresses. They also washed laundry for the townspeople that stood against them. The same townspeople that dragged the sisters in and out of court to answer to charges of trespass, heresy and insanity. And I was letting myself get hung up over a little shyness to use #seahawks on social media?
The thing is I know how well social media can work when used appropriately and creatively. I’ve seen businesses mushroom into notoriety because their posts are thought provoking and tasteful. Some of my favorites cause me to slow down and read then re-read the words, savoring the ideas communicated in those itsy-bitsy paragraphs. That sounds exactly like the kind of pleasure I derive from reading a hand written letter. So why wouldn’t I think that kind of “post” wouldn’t be right up my alley.
While I was chewing on this I had a couple of wonderful epiphanies about the play itself. On two different hikes with two different friends the subject of the overall benefits of a safe house came up, and I realized that in addition to giving people a protected space in which to build—or rebuild—their lives, the communal sharing aspect of the space was also invaluable. Being amongst others can show us that we are not so very different, that our behavior isn’t wrong or provocative or outside the norm. There’s a lot of personal growth to be gained from that knowledge. As the Sanctified Sisters began to grow from their shared living situation, the community around them couldn’t help but see the benefits of that growth. The financial benefits. These women were good at what they did and that fed back into the overall wealth of the community. So the townspeople switched from standing against them to protecting them in their safe house. That’s an aspect of the story that I haven’t explored much in the play and I’m excited to delve into it now. Especially since I think the women found a way to give back to the town for the protection they ultimately received from them. Meanwhile, I think I should add #safehouse to our social media posts, Maybe also #communalliving. And because of what the Sanctified Sisters gave back to the town, and to American history in general, #womensupportingwomen.
In addition to this, one of my hiking friends also sent me the following photo of an short news article. It’s about a play performed as readers’ theatre on the subject of safety in older generation farm workers. You’re going to have to blow it up on your phone or tablet to read it, but it really speaks to the value of theatre for communicating ideas. And theatre that isn’t just performed in theatres. Reading this made me think we don’t have to limit our previews to corporate venues. We can do them anywhere—in coffee shops, church basements, street corners, art studios, historical societies, book clubs, bookstores, classrooms—and create a wave. #awave of people that want to see this play on stage in Seattle.
And maybe that wave will reach as far as the Seahawks and they’ll let us bring the preview to them as I requested in my letter. Why do I dream of the Seahawks teaming up with us on the production of my play? Because the worst day for domestic violence in the US is Super Bowl Sunday. Because of the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative and Russell Wilson’s Pass the Peace. Because powerful men getting behind the story of women coming from behind to go on to great success is likely to be heard by those that need to hear it. And because Seattle is also the home of the 12th woman. Or should I say #seahawks #12thwoman #safehouse #carriedbythecurrent.
If that’s not motivation enough, I need to remember what Alex Borstein said in her acceptance speech at the Emmy Awards last month. She told the story of her grandmother, who was in line to be shot in a pit and asked a guard, “What happens if I step out of line?” He replied, “I don’t have the heart to shoot you but somebody will.” So her grandmother stepped out of line. “And for that,” said Borstein, “I am here and my children are here. So step out of line, ladies, step out of line.” The Sanctified Sisters stepped out of line. It’s time I did, too.