Moments of Shared Learning


When the Diversity Council of Rochester and Rochester Civic Theatre partnered five years ago, their main goal was “Celebrating Diversity and Inclusivity in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”  The long list of events that has been presented has received overwhelming support from both presenters and participants. Fundamentally, the partnership has lead to looking at injustice from a theatric point of view. The goal is to sustain a welcoming attitude to all people, keeping that in mind when making decisions for the Rochester community. 

Gregory Stavrou, Executive Director of RCT says, “We asked several focus groups for input on future programming. We also raised the question, ‘how are we doing?’ Many ideas were floated and the decision was made to highlight women’s inclusiveness. It was also suggested we expand the conversation and events.” According to Hollybeth Anderson, Rochester Civic Theatre’s Committee Outreach Chair, “We are continuing to broaden our programming to be effective in our outreach. In 2014 the celebration and programs will run January through March with the theme ‘The Power of a Woman’s Voice’.” An analogy Stavrou used to explain the decision to concentrate on women’s issues was that of a garden. “When looking back, a lot of weeds have been pulled, but the garden is only as good as the soil; it’s time to fertilize and work on the soil.” “It’s time to celebrate women and refocus on issues. It means more than adopting male models for the organization where they work; it means more than providing services for victims of sexual exploitation or physical and mental abuse. That means listening to women, not telling them what they should do,” says Stavrou.


JAN. 15, 29 & FEB. 12, 5:30 – 7 P.M.

Stavrou is very excited about an event, called Women on Wednesdays, a series of three facilitated discussions covering issues related to incarcerated women, support for women in abusive or challenging relationships, and contemporary women in visual, performing

and literary arts. “The conversations will revolve around how we, in Rochester, have evolved when it comes to major issues. A variety of people have been invited to join in,” says Stavrou. Extending the inclusiveness concept to the county jail, Stavrou, along with help from Stacy Sinner from Olmsted County Corrections, is embarking on a seven-month project with incarcerated women. “They have amazing resiliency,” he says.



Inspiration for this event was taken from Malala Yousafza, the girl in Pakistan shot for speaking out in favor of education for women, who said, “I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing…I have the right to speak up.” Jean Marvin, a member of the Rochester Civic Theatre Outreach Committee, says, “We are taking part of her quote as our theme and have asked area women to share a story about a time in their life when they said or did something that was important to them or someone else. A time when being a woman didn’t keep them from making a difference, when the voice of another woman had an impact.” Stories and photos of about 20 women from many walks of life, ages and diverse backgrounds will be displayed in the theatre lobby. Photographer Ann Eldredge of Tangible Moments studio worked on the project. “She has certainly done a wonderful job of presenting the beauty of each of these women,” Marvin says.


AMPLIFIED — FEB. 22, 7:30 P.M.

A sequence of inspirational performance pieces will exemplify the concept of multi-faceted art and its influence on women in the Rochester area. “People learn in different ways. We are hoping to produce a major impact by providing a sequence of beauty: hearing a poet read her work, an expression of self though dance and the performance of music,” says Stavrou.


Spanning a period of three months, “The Power of a Woman’s Voice” begins with a concert January 11 at 7:30 p.m. by Annie Mack who brings her story and vocal artistry to the stage, then the 6th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Poetry Contest on January 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. The Diversity Council Annual Celebration at the Rochester Art Center on January 23 at 5:30 p.m., and ends with Etta…Tell Mama, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. a dramatic biographical musical about Etta James performed by Thomasina Petrus. Recognizing that change is slow and believing that concepts must be reinforced frequently, Rochester Civic Theatre and the Diversity

Council are allocating their energy to keep the dialogue going as the need to hear women’s stories becomes the underlying thread in the conversation. Debi Neville is a Rochester freelance writer who remembers the first whispers of “Women’s Liberation.”