'That's What She Said': Women telling stories

Pop culture often likes to portray girls as mean. And mommies as being in mommy wars.

Every time Kerry Rossow, a mom and blogger who has a large following, sees or hears those concepts she thinks: "That's so not us."

In this story, "us" would be Rossow, Casey Wakefield and Jill Youse, all Champaign moms/friends who meet often and have come up with a concept for combating the negative stereotypes.

With gumption, they decided to put on a show that would feature women telling their stories, among them Angela Shelton, an activist, actress, screenwriter and documentary film producer.

And without trepidation, the three decided to go for it by asking to have the show at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the top A&E venue in C-U.

"That's What She Said" will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 in Krannert's Colwell Playhouse.

It was inspired by TED talks, "Saturday Night Live" and "Listen to Your Mother," a national series of live readings by writers in celebration of Mother's Day that was created by blogger Ann Imig.

Rossow, author of the HouseTalkN blog (http://housetalkn.com/), auditioned for and participated in "Listen to Your Mother" in Valparaiso, Ind.

After she returned, she met with Wakefield and Youse on the patio behind Youse's home. Rossow said not all great ideas begin in the boardroom.

"This one was born in the backyard," she said in a news release from Krannert. "We were sitting around the patio table, talking about what we hoped for our girls someday. We realized that as mothers, we need to set the example in what we do and the way we talk. Then we decided to bring the idea to life on stage by turning the spotlight on women who have made the decision to live an authentic life. We hope that by sharing these stories, we can encourage each other to live purposefully."

They selected seven women who range from age 20 to age 85; each will each have seven minutes on the stage. They and the titles of their talks:

— Rossow, a humor author/local streaker: "Naked on Healey Street."

— Nicole Leigh Shaw, author/typo artist: "My Father, Whose Name Art Kevin."

— Nicole Knepper, blogger/author: "45 Minutes."

— Keesha Beckford, dancer/writer: "Searching for the Skinny Mirror."

— Casey Wakefield, cause entrepreneur: "This Might Surprise You."

— Shelton: "Bang a Gong."

— Peyton Stewart, art student/aspiring rapper: "Are You Okay?"

A special guest will be Ruth Latham, 85. The featured artist will be Karyl Wackerlin.

Rossow, Wakefield and Youse promise that audience members will "ugly-cry" and "snort-laugh" during the show.

And they almost can't believe they're doing "That's What She Said," which they hope to make an annual event.

"We're all three so different, when you think about it," Rossow said. "It all happened so fast."

At first, they had zero budget. They looked for funding and said the entire program has been driven by serendipity.

"A couple of strangers called and said, 'We heard about your project and want to help,'" Rossow said.

A number of other sponsors stepped up, with Christie Clinic a major one.

The "community partners" include Armstrong Lumber, Busey, Caitlin at M.J. Reed Jewelers, Checkered Moon, Circles Boutique, Dixon Graphics, Dr. Jeremy Youse in Christie Clinic's Department of Dermatology, House TalkN, The McDonald Group Real Estate Company, O'Brien Toyota, NEOI Marketing, and Stevie Jay Broadcasting.

A portion of the proceeds from "That's What She Said" will benefit local women's charities.

Rossow said the target audience is women of all ages, except for young girls. Men are welcome, too. She rates the show PG-13. "It's certainly not a show for children," she said.

Tickets are $25 each ($15 for students) and go on sale starting at 10 a.m. Saturday — when tickets go on sale for 2013-14 events at Krannert Center.

For information or tickets, call 333-6280; TTY, call 333-9714; or visit KrannertCenter.com.

For more on "That's What She Said," go to http://www.SheSaidProject.com.

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