Glorious= Sisterhood, Inspiration, Learning With 2 Gloria's At Take The Lead Event
They came for the history. They left with inspiration for the future.
More than 200 supporters and guests arrived at New York’s Daryl Roth Theatre Saturday afternoon, arriving from Illinois, California, Iowa, Maryland, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York and other locations for a fundraiser performance for Take The Lead of “Gloria: A Life.”
The acclaimed new play about Gloria Steinem, stars Christine Lahti, and features a second act with a live impromptu conversation with Gloria Steinem. For this special, historic performance the conversation featured Take The Lead co-founder and president, Gloria Feldt.
Philanthropist and author Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, board chair of Take The Lead, donated all seats in the house, with proceeds from sales going to benefit Take The Lead.
Founder of Women Connect4Good, and author of the upcoming In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other in Business and Life, O’Reilly says, “This is all about women supporting other women.”
In a reception prior to the performance, theatre founder Daryl Roth, told more than 60 donors, sponsors including Shearman & Stearling, The Harnisch Foundation, Persistent Sisters, The Cause Collection and Lyft, as well as Take The Lead board members, ”I think Gloria’s story is the reason we’re all here. She is one of the most important women whose shoulders we stand on.”
Roth, who is responsible for the blockbuster hit “Kinky Boots” and many other productions, says this production of “Gloria: A Life” is the brainchild and creation of an all-women team. First conceptualized by Steinem and creative consultants Kathy Najimy and Amy Richards, the production has an all-female cast, all-female casting and is directed by Diane Paulus, with a female team of producers and a mostly-female design team.
Saluting the alignment for this event with Take The Lead, Roth says, “This organization encourages women to have confidence and to use the tools. Sometimes we don’t feel we are ready. It takes courage trying to push the fear away; it’s what Take The Lead is all about.”
Speaking about her jump into theatre ownership 20 years ago, when she was 52, she says, “It is never too late or too early to do what you feel you should do.”
The production stars Lahti, whose credits include major Broadway plays as well as Oscar-nominated films and Emmy-nominated TV series, plus an upcoming book, True Stories From An Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming Of Age.“
Her likeness to Steinem is uncanny and Lahti in her performance elicits the emotions that frequently throughout the first act move the audience to tears. The performance takes the audience through the stages of Steinem’s life, carrying for her mentally ill mother, Ruth, whom she addresses in the script, saying, “ I’m living the unlived life of my mother.”
The first act uncovers her life growing up in Toledo, Ohio, when Steinem was hoping to be a Rockette, her years at Smith College and her early activism, that she addresses saying, “When one stands up, another stands up and another.”
Lahti as Steinem says, “We’re all in this together. Being able to tell your story is the surefire path out. You are not crazy, the system is crazy.”
Narrating highlights and lowlights of her journalism career, and the personal trials, pains and losses as well as triumphs, she says, “When someone calls you a bitch, say thank you.”
In the performance, Lahti as Steinem narrates her friendships with Bella Abzug, Wilma Mankiller and many other feminist leaders and icons for the last several decades. “Democracy starts at our own skin,” she says. “Revolution is like a tree, it grows from the bottom up.”
As the show has been running since October 2018, Roth says, “People react to it in a way that is extraordinary. Where we are in this world shows it needs our work, our dedication and we are here to share our story with young women.”
The play is “educating boys and girls about this story and it brings a new chapter for the future of this country,” Roth says.
To that end, Take The Lead donors sponsored more than 50 girls and young women as guests to participate in the production. An entire local Girl Scouts troop participated as well as Sylvia Acevedo, Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Other nonprofit groups for girls and young women whose tickets were donated by generous donors included GrassRoots, Groove With Me, Mount Sinai Adolescent Health program and PowerPlay NYC.
“We wanted everyone to be in a circle so we all part of a conversation because as Gloria says, ‘We are linked, we are not ranked,’” Roth says.
Gloria Feldt addressed the reception including host committee members Cheryl Najafi, Loretta McCarthy, Valerie Varco, Susie Greenwood and Taylor Hanex, saying this event with Steinem, 84, aligns with Take The Lead because, “Take The Lead is supporting the mission of leadership gender parity by 2025, because both of us can count on being alive then.”
Calling Gloria Feldt, the best of “sister acts,” Steinem saluted Take The Lead and its mission in the second act of the play, when audience members asked questions and talked informally with Steinem and Feldt.
Feldt responded, saying Ms. Magazine, co-founded by Steinem in 1972, “gave me a way to be myself.”
Feldt adds, “I co-founded Take The Lead as I realized we will keep fighting the same old battles if we don’t have women take power in every sector of society. We have a responsibility to change the power paradigm. If we begin to shift the ‘power over’ to the ‘power to’ make life better, we can turn the anger into something incredibly positive to create, innovate. We can do anything.”
Steinem agrees that anger can become something else. “Anger is good, anger is energy, To feel otherwise is disempowering.”
As a key Leadership Power Tool designed by Feldt is to tell your story, Steinem agrees and told the audience in the informal conversation, “To speak your truth is the first step. No matter what happen it’s better than not saying it. “
Steinem’s advice to the audience of women and men of all generations at this special performance, is: “Get rid of the should’s and just do absolutely everything we can. We are more together now than we’ve ever been. That is fanf*** ingtastic.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldonwww.micheleweldon.com