'Girls Only': CLO Cabaret show celebrates theater for women
By Alice T. Carter
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 10:42 a.m.
Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2012
A night at the theater can be a source of female bonding.
Once women shared secrets, experiences and laments at girls-only events such as quilting bees, afternoon teas or home-based housewares and cosmetic sales events disguised as parties.
As men increasingly invade the once-female sanctuary of bridal and baby showers, an increasing number of theater events are focusing on women.
Eve Ensler's serious 1996 play "The Vagina Monologues" may have led the way for shows where few men dare to tread. Others, such as Jeanie Linders' "Menopause the Musical" and "Girls Night: The Musical" are more light-hearted.
On May 23, the latest example of this genre to play here will begin performances at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown, when Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein arrive with their openly girl-centric stage show "Girls Only -- The Secret Comedy of Women." Gehring and Klein will perform the show through July 1, before passing the roles on to local actresses Theo Allyn and Christine Laitta, who will perform through Sept. 2.
A combination of sketch comedy, improvisation, musical numbers and audience participation, "Girls Only -- The Secret Comedy of Women" developed not from a conscious marketing plan, but from accident, improvisation and laughter.
"It's not going to challenge you," Klein says. "This is just happy. We don't make fun of men or bring up issues, or explore the dark side. It's not a choice we made. But it's written from our experiences growing up, before you knew about boys and understood consequences."
Gehring and Klein were friends as well as two-thirds of the Denver-based A.C.E. comedy trio that performed with Matthew Taylor. Inspiration for what became the show began when they rediscovered and shared their junior high school diaries.
"We got together and laughed," Gehring says.
It took them back to another era: "It's that carefree, innocent world of childhood before being a girl took on a different meaning," Gehring says.
The diary entries sparked reminiscences that led to creating sketches for a single show written to cover a booking they had while Taylor was on vacation.
"When we got the big nuggets together, it was like a secret girls' club meeting. It reminded us of the secret clubs we started in our bedrooms," Klein says.
The first night they did the show was magical, she says. They both came to the conclusion they were on to something.
"We realized the show was not about us," Gehring says. "The reason why it's popular is it takes women back (to their youth). You get to share your childhood with friends you didn't grow up with."
The show welcomes men. But few show up, Gehring says.
"Three hundred women, one guy, is very typical," Gehring says. "When they do (attend), they very much enjoy the show."
Gehring and Klein designed the show with women in mind.
"The pieces we do are more interesting to women," Klein says. "We create something true and honest that will bring women to the show. ... In general women laugh from their heart and their understanding. Men laugh more with their heads."
Women also find humor in ways that are different from men, says Abby Fodor, a Shadyside actress, comedian and improv artist who performs as part of the all-female improv troupe Frankly Scarlett.
"In my experience and personal opinion, there is a lot that is universally funny. But people laugh at things they relate to, understand, and that connect them with their past, their present," Fodor says.
To illustrate, she talks about creating a sketch around the (misunderstood) Mayan calendar prediction that the world would end on Dec. 22, 2012. The situation revolved around a mother and daughter planning a wedding for Dec. 22.
"Guys don't think about the Mayan apocalypse in terms of wedding plans," she says. "How they might get there is how it would affect the Steelers' schedule. Women and men experience life differently. The joke is the same but they get to it in different ways."
Laughter isn't the only pathway to bonding at these shows. They're an opportunity to connect and share an experience with other women.
"Women gather differently than men do," Gehring says.
The stories the women tell inspire audience members to share their thoughts and experiences with friends and total strangers.
That's what Karla Boos was hoping to accomplish when she created Ladies Night, Quantum Theatre's event that encourages female attendees. It's generally offered for each production, not solely for plays that might have themes geared to women.
The performance is preceded by a reception with drinks and hors d'oeuvres and lots of conversation. Men are welcome to attend, but they seldom do, says Boos, the company's founder and artistic director.
There's an instant comradeship among participants, Boos says. "Even if you don't know the others, you are all 1 degree of separation (from each other)."
The event began two seasons ago when Quantum Theatre produced "When the Rain Stops Falling," a play about the known and unknown intertwining relationships between a group of people.
She invited women friends and friends of friends to attend on a specific night, knowing that they would all share the experience of being women.
Do women react a little differently when in groups like this?
"Of course they do. Maybe they are encouraged by the idea that they are sharing similar things or a point of view," Boos says, and offers a specific example from a recent production: " 'The Electric Baby,' (a play focusing on a mother with a fragile baby) moved all genders. But what was not lost on us was that we were sharing a mothering point of view together."
Among the area's upcoming events for female-bonding packages are:• Southside Works Ladies Night Out includes a screening of "What to Expect When You're Expecting," as well as a pre-show reception with cocktails and mocktails, hors d'oeuvres, health and pampering opportunities and mini-psychic readings. The event this Friday begins with happy hour from 6 to 7:30 p.m., followed by the screening at 7:30 p.m. at SouthSide Works Cinema. Must be 21 or older. Admission: $35. Details: 412-481-8800 or www.southsideworks.com • Girls' Night Out: Manicures, Massages & Martinis includes all of the pampering in the title at Verve 360, 142 Sixth St., Downtown, followed by a martini and a 7:30 p.m. performance of "Girls Only -- The Secret Comedy of Women" at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown. Upcoming events are scheduled for June 3, July 20 and Aug. 17, but additional dates may be added this week. Admission: $46.75. Details: 412-325-1582 or www.pittsburghclo.org/cabaret • Quantum Theatre designates one performance of each of its shows as a Ladies Night . The event includes a pre-show reception with drinks and appetizers, followed by the performance. Quantum Theatre is expected to announce its 2012-2013 season of plays and dates for Ladies Nights performances next week. Details: 888-718-4253 or www.quantumtheatre.com Previous performances geared toward women include:• "Menopause the Musical," which has been performed in Pittsburgh several times during the past few years, including a three-night stand in April at the Byham Theater.• Frankly Scarlett, an all-female improv troupe, has performed twice this year in the Cultural District, and likely will be back.• "The Vagina Monologues," written and first performed by Eve Ensler, makes regular appearances, particularly on local college campuses. Look for it around Valentine's Day, when some women's groups celebrate another meaning of V-Day.
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