by Stephanie Riedel

While you probably recognize, “that’s what she said!” as a joke, here in Madison it’s also a show that’s changing lives. Thought up in 2011 by Molly Vanderlin of The Bricks Theatre along with friends Miranda Hawk and Karen Saari-Pausch, they imagined a show where women could come together to find strength and share stories of their lives on stage with an audience.

Every show starts with a theme such as resolution, mother-load, lie or perfection and a group of six to ten women. Rehearsals start with a meet and greet where the women discuss the theme for that show and read what they have started writing. For the next month the cast breaks up into smaller groups that meet once a week to workshop what they’ve written with Molly leading them.

The whole process is emotional, powerful and sometimes extremely difficult. Even the most benign stories can lead to some pretty powerful places as the women explore them, which is exactly what makes this show so special. Past stories have included buying your first house as a single woman only to find you’ve got a roommate: a mouse; starting new Christmas traditions after your old ones were torn apart by divorce; that time you were in college and ended up working as a cocktail waitress in a strip club; having your first orgasm at fifty while coming to terms with a marriage that brings you both joy and absolutely no sex; coping with migraines that seek to destroy all the relationships around you; and being an adoptive mother trying to maintain her place in her child’s life as they meet their biological mother for the first time in India. Stories are unique to women, but reach out and transcend gender, race and age.

The women who perform are always from the community. Some of them have experience in performance, but not writing, others are writers, but not performers, still others have never done anything like this in their lives. The one thing they have in common is they are all terrified and they are all brave.

This August is their ninth show, themed Crave and marks the third year in the That’s What She Said run and this show may be the most important one yet with stories of addiction. Rehearsals start July 13th and the show runs August 20th-21st with eight women performing at The Brink Lounge (701 E. Washington Ave). Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door, or at brownpapertickets.com.

***For more information check out the group’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TWSSBricks, or call (608)358-9609.