Once a month, on the full moon, a group of women come together at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a ritual of sharing and solidarity. They conjure ghosts from their pasts, as well as moments of pleasure and pain, and tap into their personal power, all amid the gothic splendor of the historic Masonic Lodge. They wear cloaks and they carry candles, but there are no spells or potions. They create magic with words by telling stories. Some are read from prepared scripts, others are improvised, but all of them are honest and true forms of expression intended to reveal, amuse, and arouse.
At the Secret Society of the Sisterhood‘s storytelling events no topic is off limits. The women speaking on stage are given a loose theme and invited to interpret it however they choose. The inaugural event last month (which occurred on the night of the rare super-blue-blood moon) was centered around the theme “Reclaiming My Time,” and featured actress Mara Wilson speaking about coming out to her parents, author Jade Chang exploring the phrase “That’s what she said,” and writer Randa Jarrar talking about her experiences with S&M, to name a few. Transparent writer Our Lady J provided a rousing climax to the evening, performing a song at the piano. Female artists sold and talked about their work, and all the women (and a few men) in attendance were invited to an after-show party with wine, snacks, and more free-flowing conversation.
Women sharing stories and connecting has always been necessary, and in light of the #Metoo and #Timesup movements, it’s more essential than ever, especially in L.A., the entertainment industry’s home base. Show producer Trish Nelson is pretty new to L.A. (she moved here last year), but she has been doing these types of events for years in New York with her group Banter Girl, featuring famous and non-famous writers and performers in various venues. When she moved to L.A., she says she was surprised at how few live shows of this kind there were.
“I’d been going out and seeing shows and trying to get a sense for Los Angeles and this community,” she explains.
“The market isn’t as saturated as it is New York for stuff like this. In New York you cant walk past a bar without there being some kind of live thing going on—highly produced in unexpected environments. I kind of call that ‘the New York experience’ …you go into a room and all of sudden you’re watching Janeane Garofalo or Ashley Judd talking to a tiny group of people. That’s what I love. I think it’s electric.”
The Masonic Temple at Hollywood Forever is definitely one of L.A.’s more unique spaces and Nelson let it inspire the evening. “I 100 percent built this show around the venue,” she says. “I’ve never seen a place like it. I saw a photo of the chairs [throne-like seats where the readers sit] on the stage and I had to do something with them. And the history of the room…. I love doing an all-female show in a space where women were not allowed. “
For this month’s show, Nelson has invited another stellar group of prolific women, including author/rock ‘n’ roll queen Pamela Des Barres; comedian Nicole Byer; adult film actress Kayden Kross; poet and memoirist Michelle Tea; and author Siel Ju. Live music will end the show once again, this time from the appropriately named Venus and the Moon.
Des Barres’s turn on stage with the Secret Society is sure to be a highlight. As one of L.A.’s best-known female authors, she’s been holding writers’ workshops geared toward women for years, and her books, which sought to redefine the groupie paradigm, were as much about sisterhood and female bonds as they were about affairs with rockstars.
“I’ll be reading about early days of groupiedom, a feminist pursuit if there ever was one,” she reveals. “Beatlemania, pursuing my Fab Four dreams against all odds. Doing what a groupie does before the word existed and then writing a best seller about it. I’ll also read a bit about the GTOs, and how we went from dancing onstage with bands as the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company to one of the very first all-girl groups.”
“Being able to shine on a light on incredible women, especially at a time like now, is so important,” says Nelson. “Making a place where women can congregate and realize that we are a part of a connective experience.”
Nelson points to the beginning of the show, when she asks the audience to join hands and take an oath as an example of this connection. “You see the energy change in the room when you unite strangers together,” she says. “The location, it being a full moon…there are so many elements to this that are magnetic.”
Des Barres agrees. “I am always amazed by the friendships made and the acceptance, empowerment, and enlightenment that happens in a room full of creative feminine energy,” she adds. “I hope the men who show up can take the heat!”
The Secret Society of the Sisterhood at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thu., March 1, 8 p.m. $25-$30.
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