Keeler theatre troupe unveils women’s stories
Readers theatre production is intensely personal
The women who perform with the Keeler Women’s Center theatre troupe are playwrights as well as performers.
They don’t rely on Oscar Wilde or Tennessee Williams to put words in their mouths. Rather, they tell their own stories in a gritty and intensely personal reader’s theatre production. Director Deb Campbell weaves their stories into a spoken tapestry that captures both the joys and the sorrows of being a woman.
No two performances of the production “A Vase of Fresh Flowers” is ever the same, changing as women and their stories come and go.
About a half dozen women make up the Keeler theatre troupe, which rehearses weekly and performs for church groups and service organizations around the metropolitan area. Recent performance venues have included parishes in Kansas and Missouri, the Zonta Club of Johnson County, the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse in Leavenworth, Kan. See list at right for a schedule of upcoming performances.
The troupe is the inspiration of Campbell, a Benedictine College graduate and former high school drama teacher who was working through Kansas State University drama therapy program..
She approached Keeler Center director Sister Carol Ann Petersen to see if there might be room on the Keeler Center calendar for a drama therapy group. Campbell wanted to give back to the sisters who had made a difference in her life.
There was, and the first session was scheduled.
Women have come and gone as the years have passed. The women who currently make up the troupe are as varied as their stories:
- Arnita, who was attending other groups that meet at Keeler. Campbell met her and asked if she had any interest in theatre. “I always wanted to do drama in school, but didn’t think I was good enough to do it,” Arnita said, so she took this opportunity and has been with the group ever since.
- Mina, who met Deb through involvement in another organization, was involved in another project at the Dooley Center and thought drama sounded interesting. “This is the bravest bunch of females I’ve ever met,” she said.
- Colleen, who read about the program in a Kansas City, Kan., Public Library bulletin and has read every part in the play. Even before she added her own voice to the production, she said she could feel the strength of the other women onstage. “You find some strengths,” she said. “You’re not aware that you can do things until someone pushes you.”
- Mieko, who had brought a friend to the Keeler Center for counseling services and saw the drama group on schedule. She thought she was making a three month commitment when she joined the group, but has been a member for several years.
- Jeanette, who had met Campbell when she did an earlier drama session but had no idea what she was getting into when she said “yes” to Campbell’s invitation to be part of the theatre troupe. “I like how it developed,” she said, “how it is still developing.”
- Judy, who has volunteered at Keeler since it was established and describes herself as “a good talker.” In sharing her story, she’s discovered that some of the life experiences that she had regarded as “not a big deal” have helped others.
As they perform, the women can see the impact their stories are having on the audience. They’re mindful that drama can open up old wounds, and Janette said the troupe always provides information about resources available through the Keeler Women’s Center that can help with healing.
- Members of the Keeler Theatre Troupe rehearse.
- Jeanette, left, visits with Keeler Theatre Troupe director Deb Campbell.
- Mieko, left, smiles as director Deb Campbell applauds during a rehearsal.
- Mina, far right, peers off to another performer while Arnita, far left, looks on.
- Arlita, Judy (partially obscured), Mina, Colleen and Mieko rehearse.
- Jeanette, a member of the Keeler Theatre Troupe, dances during a rehearsal.