This season, Synergy Resources Group, is sponsoring the CoHo Theater production This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing, put on by theater producer Beth Thompson. It’s part of an annual mission of President & Founder Debra Dunn to provide for a cause that supports women in their careers and/or their passion pursuits.
Dunn met Thompson through a fellow board member of Adelante Mujeres, a nonprofit organization that supports Latina women in and around Portland. A lifelong lover of theater, Dunn attended a few of her productions and was impressed that the plays that Thompson produced were thought-provoking and dealt with difficult stories about life and women.
Thompson submitted an application to CoHo Productions, a community group that focuses on artist-led productions which broaden perspectives and cultivate empathy through theater. Her application on the subject of feminism won, and for CoHo’s 22nd season they’ll produce This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing, a play by Finegan Kruckemeyer. The play centers around 10-year-old triplet sisters who are abandoned in the woods by their heartbroken father on a snowy night, and the three girls respond in various ways to this event throughout their entire lives -- eventually being reunited and sharing how their experiences have shaped the way they relate to their community. Thompson shared her vision for the production, and Dunn immediately decided that Synergy Resources Group would sponsor the production.
“There’s not a woman on the planet who, when faced with a challenge, hasn’t responded in these three ways -- by laughing, crying or doing nothing,” said Dunn, whose consulting firm Synergy Resources Group is the official sponsor of the production.
Dunn fell in love with the whole “backside” of the production process while hanging out with actor friends after their plays had finished for the night, and having conversations about what happens behind the scenes. “I’ve always been a spectator,” she says, but something clicked when Beth told her about her idea for the play. “I wanted to take an opportunity to contribute to a conversation about feminism and intersectionality that spans generations.”
CoHo Theater’s co-production model is a huge opportunity for established artists to pursue bigger budget producing and artistic dream projects. Once artists submit an application, they need to defend their production -- answering questions like Why this play? Why now? and most of all, Why this cost? CoHo selects three plays to produce for the next season, and Beth Thompson was lucky enough to have This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing chosen.
CoHo provides a scholarship to cover some of the production costs, as well as operational help from their experienced theater, box office and marketing staff. Producers themselves are expected to cover the remaining costs of the production, which is typically done through individual contributions. It’s unique in that this production is being sponsored by a business. It’s more unique that Dunn was so involved in the behind-the-scenes process.
“The production had a number of challenges, such as how to represent a scene underwater,” says Dunn. “I thought, well, women have book clubs where they get together and exchange ideas -- why not a theater club?” Dunn convened a group of women, spanning ages and demographics, to discuss the play and its nuances with Thompson. It morphed into a conversation about feminism and why this play is so important in today’s climate, with everyone reportedly leaving energized and inspired.
Most of all, Dunn is sponsoring this play to help get the conversation going about women and feminism.
“I’m most excited about this play not only because it deals with women, but because it deals with how women relate to their community as they age,” says Dunn. “I’m very fortunate to be close friends with several generations of women, and have experienced first-hand how powerful that can be. I never want to hear women my age complain that younger women are taking feminism for granted, because I can assure you they’re definitely not.”