By combining Theatre with Speech Pathology, Beth Osnes (Associate Professor of Theatre) and Jen Walentas Lewon (CU Clinical Assistant Professor of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences), are charting a transdiscipliary endeavor for women's Vocal Empowerment. We define this as reaching a state of comfort and ability with vocal expression that allows your intended content to be expressed. Along with their partner at New York University, Chelsea Hackett (CU Alumni), they combine and adjust exercises and activities developed by theatre performers and by speech pathologists for voice strengthening and expansion of expressive range. This approach guides women to rehearse using their empowered voice in various social contexts. In this way women can gain confidence, identify likely obstacles, and together act out multiple solutions. Peer feedback and critical reflection are key to this process. Our goal is to implement our 12-week introductory curriculum for vocal empowerment in Guatemala, Boulder, and Tanzania. We anticipate the results from this research will serve as verifiable data that this curriculum (and this approach to vocal empowerment) can produce replicable and reliable results for young women to increase their own vocal empowerment. In Osnes' last book, Theatre for Women's Participation in Sustainable Development, she provides evidence that theatre is an effective and appropriate tool for women's participation in their own sustainable development, especially for women from under-resourced communities (Routledge 2014). This line of research is continued by joining forces with speech-language pathology to explore new and creative directions that combine both the science and the art of the voice to unleash the contributions of women.
There will be three hosting partners (all of whom work towards empowerment of young women) who have each invited us to train their mentors/teachers our approach for vocal empowerment and who all have agreed to participate in the offering of the 12-session introduction to vocal empowerment as part of this research. We hope to learn from our partners through how they integrate this approach into each of their unique classes/programming/and core mission. Each host recognizes the need for some direct attention to voice to support young women in being able to effectively communicate both their needs and their contributions beyond themselves into the world. We have been working with Starfish in Guatemala already for three years with economically disadvantaged indigenous Maya women developing this approach and they are true collaborators in this work and are invested in its continued development and dissemination beyond their organization. It was a connection through Starfish that Maji Safi in Tanziania invited us to partner with their female hygiene program (that works towards empowerment for economically disadvantaged Tanzanian young females). A smaller group of young women in Boulder from Casey Middle School and Boulder High School recently completed the 12-session curriculum, did their public sharing, and attended the 2nd Congressional District Youth Summit to put their empowered voices to work for their community.
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