The “being-together of strangers”

Chapter 4
Feminist Space and a System of Anarchy: The Storefront

Chapter 4 starts out with WOW looking for a permanent home. They talk about their festivals and the impact it had on women. These women had formed their own “city” in the lower east side. The city life was described as the “being-together of strangers”. These women came from all walks of life, but join together to experience each other as other, different, different from groups, histories, professions, and cultures, as they are externally related. WOW opened its doors too everyone. One woman, Heidi Griffiths, was quite impressed, “I came from this feminist place where everything was very button-down, and here was a place where you could be whatever you wanted. You could be a butch or a femme or a straight woman who was married”.

A great part of WOW is their membership. Showing up is the basis on which its membership was and still is built. Before every performance, a WOW member would ask if there was anyone who would like to join. Participants come and go, but there are approximately thirty active women in the collective at a time. WOW exists to given women a chance to take charge of the creative and operational process of the theater. It is essentially a “band of women bound together by limited opportunities and committed to cooperative labor as the means of creating them”.

Though WOW created a safe haven for these women, it was not always so easy for them. Their bars were shut down, discriminating against lesbians and still keeping gay bars open. Even so, they were empowered to push past the stereotypes and move forward as a whole. One of WOWs core commitments was to be a place where women could work out the dynamics of agency through whatever means. They were each encouraged to become their own leader and develop their own voice.

Not everyone’s experience was the same at WOW. One woman, Madeleine Olnek, had her play withdrawn from the lineup because she had engaged a man to produce it. There was also Shulman, who had much worse to say about WOW. Calling it a psychological cult, she did not agree with WOWs ways. Over the years many women have had their difficulties with WOW, but ultimately they found the collective worthwhile enough to continue working there.

In my opinion, WOW is a wonderful way in which women from all backgrounds, color, race, and sexual orientation can come together. Some of them don’t have anywhere else to turn, and WOW makes it easy for them to be accepted and loved. WOW was and still is its own community. It is a safe haven for all women, and allows them to express themselves through the art of theater. “Performing both its costs and possibilities, WOW had worked and played its heart out in ways that have been both painful and hopeful over its three decades”.

Camilla Vaernes