Workshop teaches history of women's accomplishments in Marion
Written by Andrew Carter and published by The Marion Star
April 30, 2022
Students at The Ohio State University at Marion (OSUM) had the chance to develop their creative talents during a recent workshop offered in conjunction with the Marion County Federation of Women's Clubs.
Marion native Julia Hansen and Stephen Cedars from the Colorado-based JNS Theater for Social Change were the facilitators for the workshop, during which students from Ohio State Marion had the chance to each write a short play centered on the topic "The Landscape of Women's Rights." The plays were then presented in reader theater style on April 9 at the M Women's Club Home on E. Center Street.
Ten students in Professor Margaret Sumner's American Women's History class at OSUM participated in the project.
"I teach that class every year with the partnership with the Marion Women's Club," said Sumner, an associate professor of American History at OSUM. "And this year with that partnership, we added Julia Hansen's theater program to have a really fun class. The students have been doing research in the Marion Women's Club archives and then taking information and historical discoveries and writing short plays based on their discoveries. The students have really dug into the archives to find out what the women who organized the Women's Club in Marion were doing from the 1890s all the way to today."
Hansen is the founder and artistic director of the JNS Theater for Social Change, which, according to its website, is "a program that works with university students and community groups throughout the United States to consider multiple sides of important questions through dramatic storytelling."
Stephen Cedars from the JNS Theater for Social Change served as one of the facilitators for the project conducted in conjunction with history students from The Ohio State University at Marion.
Hansen operates the program in partnership with Cedars, who is the managing artistic director. The program is now in its sixth year of partnership with The Ohio State University at Marion, where it has been endowed and will run in perpetuity.
"We've come in to facilitate their writing the plays and show them how to do that, with the intention of trying to have them open their minds to the fact there's always more than one side to an issue," said Hansen. "By writing a play, if we can be sensitive to more than one side, then it's a lifelong lesson to learn, hopefully."
Cedars said the students only had a short period of time to write their plays and he was impressed with their enthusiasm and creativity.
"Some of them were so excited and some of them, at first we didn't get anything out of them, but they came around and really did well," he said. "I think the pedagogy in the classroom, we do fine with that, but I think the reason it happens is because there's a level of getting to know them on an individual basis through one-on-one meetings. In those meetings we really find out what they want to do with the plays and then we can help them to achieve that."
Briana Geisey, a first-year student at OSUM, said the workshop allowed her to expand her horizons and learn some new skills.
"It was a really entertaining and different experience," she said. "I've never had to create a play and I've never had to perform, so I though this was really interesting to do, especially in a history class. It gained my interest into wanting to be in this class. I thought this was a really good idea that they came up with."
Geisey, a Marion resident who is majoring in early childhood education, noted that it was good for her to try some new things that were outside of her comfort zone.
"This was way out of something that I'd never do," she said. "So, it's changed my aspect of what I could really do. Trying out new things is really nice to do."
Classmates who participated in the project with Geisey included Kyla Armstrong, Emily Harbison, Rachel Miller, Ariel Monroe, Marci Morgan, Sydney Schryer, Emily Tibbals, Nichole Voorhies, and a student who asked to remain anonymous.
Nancy Hafer of the Marion County Federation of Women's Clubs said the program is a great way to encourage young women to become involved in the community.
"We don't know what seeds we're planting with these young people, but we are working to continue a legacy here and that legacy is to get the next generation as passionate about the history of this club and this beautiful building as the previous generations have been," she said. "So for them to witness and to have their hands on our archives and to read those stories of those women is just so powerful. I hope it touches their hearts. I hope the ones that do stay here in Marion never forget this experience."
Hansen said she was glad to be able to bring the program to Ohio State Marion, noting that Marion will always hold a special place in her heart.
"I've never left in heart and I've never left behind what I learned here as a child and how formative it was," Hansen said.
Email: email@example.com | Twitter: @AndrewACCarter