Men have typically dominated the field of comedy, but a Tucson group called Female Story Tellers is trying to shake things up.
The performance group invites women to share stories based on a prompt, or theme. Four to five women tell stories at FST! shows that are based on their actual experiences. Performances range from about nine to 19 minutes long. The idea is to give women a chance to let their voices be heard, and to be funny as well as smart.
Previous prompts have included rites of passage, sex, first impressions and travel. "We usually try to be funny because everyone likes to laugh," said Noel Hennessey, an FST! performer and a member of its executive board. "People have come up to me and told me how relatable yet hilarious a lot of (the stories) were."
This month's prompt is "shaming," which is intended to get audience members thinking about the ways in which they may have shamed women.
Hennessey has performed in several FST! shows. When her friend Laura Wiggins founded FST! in September 2012, it needed more performers, so Hennessey put a story together and began performing. "I fell in love with the experience," she said.
FST! performers range from teenage college students to women in their 50s. The performers often took an interest in the group after attending previous shows. A member of FST!'s executive board coaches the performers and gives them feedback on their stories.
"It is all different levels of performers," Hennessey said. "We believe everybody has a unique and interesting story to share."
FST! has a significant male following, which Hennessey attributes to the way in which women tell their stories. "The female experience doesn't have to be something so militant," she said. "I think some of our performers—and I can definitely put myself in this category—tend to tell stories that everyone can relate to but from a female perspective."
FST! also take pride in the money it has raised locally for women and children in Tucson. All donations from this month's show, FST! Shameless, will go to the Body Love Conference.
"It's a conference that is supposed to help women feel proud about their figures ... and not feel shamed into conforming to a body type that is not natural to them. We felt like it would be a really positive message that worked with the Shameless theme," Hennessey said.
Anyone who is interested in performing for FST! or helping with productions can email firstname.lastname@example.org.