by Jayleigh Lewis
April 2014 was another month of travel and adventure for the Red Tent movie: Things We Don’t Talk About, and for Dr.Isadora, the filmmaker. The film premiered in France on April 1st (although it is not yet subtitled in French) and, as a result, the Red Tent (Tente Rouge) movement is expanding in that country. Meanwhile, Dr. Isadora attended several screenings in Florida and one in Massachusetts, as well as visiting the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI (her alma mater), for two days of Red Tent-related activities, including the RI premiere of the film.
The movie was screened in Gainesville, Florida, on April 12th, for the first time in that city. Caron Cadle, a friend of Dr. Isadora’s and a major donor to the film, who has followed it from the beginning, assisted in the organization of this event. It was sponsored by Wild Iris Books, one of the only feminist bookstores left in the US. The screening itself was held next door at the Civic Media Center, an alternative library and reading room. It was packed; attendees even included a few people who have been following the movie and who just happened to be in Gainesville on spring break! Afterward, the group moved outside to the Red Tent, which had been set up in the courtyard. Luckily for this rare arrangement, the weather was beautiful, and fresh air moved through the space as women blessed each other during the veil dancing ritual.
The next screening took place the next day in Boca Raton, FL. It was sponsored by a local organization, Integrative Counseling and Hypnosis Associates (led by Dr. Melody Smith),that was also one of the film’s endorsers. The venue was Michael’s Body Scenes, a gym—certainly one of the most unique screening venues! Bodybuilders helped Dr. Isadora put up the Red Tent inside a ballet/aerobics studio. The large space was surrounded by mirrors on all sides, so that reflections of the Red Tent appeared to extend as far as the eye could see. This screening was not very well attended due to a large monsoon-like rainstorm that occurred just before and during (although Dr. Isadora’s mother and second cousin did attend—the first time the filmmaker and her mother were both present at a screening), so Dr. Isadora and Dr. Melody made plans for another Red Tent event to be held in this city in October 2014.
Dr. Isadora then traveled to Sarasota for a screening on April 16th (which her mother also attended—she commented that she appreciated the family support). This screening was held inside a wellness center called Transendance, which offers holistically-oriented classes and coaching. The third Wednesday of every month is their inspirational movie night, and Things We Don’t Talk About was their movie choice for April. The Red Tent was packed; the Q + A session after the movie turned into a group conversation about what in society lifts women up and what tears them down. Women representing multiple different age groups (from 30s to 80s) weighed in on this topic. Continuing the theme of visitors from out of state (wherever you go, there the Red Tent is!), a Red Tent organizer from Ohio who was visiting family in Florida was one of the attendees at this screening.
On April 19th, the Women’s Collective of Williams College and the Red Tent of Bennington, Vermont co-sponsored a screening at the College in Williamstown, MA. The founder of the Bennington Red Tent, Wendy Lyons, appears in the film. Onscreen, she speaks about how the Red Tent dramatically increased her self-esteem, helping her to transform from someone who didn’t know who she was to someone who truly believes in herself. In one of the short clips that run alongside the film’s credits, she says that she wants to start a Red Tent in Bennington. Five years later, Wendy is a community leader, and her Red Tent is going strong, with about ten regular attendees: a testament to the depth and staying power of the changes she spoke about in the film.
On April 21st, Dr. Isadora returned to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, the institution from which she graduated in 2004. She was invited to host five different events over the course of two days, during which current students would have the opportunity to hear her speak about her work as well as see Things We Don’t Talk About. These events included a “lunch with the filmmaker,” a talk on leadership that was part of the RISD Leads program (an initiative of the Center for Student Involvement, which, along with Student Development and Counseling Services, co-sponsored Dr. Isadora’s visit), a film screening (and Q + A), a Red Tent, and a seminar the next day that was part of a Psychology of Women and Gender class. Needless to say, it was a busy couple of days! I (Jayleigh) was able to attend three of these events, since I live nearby in Rhode Island; it was the first time since the film’s premiere in September 2012 that I had seen Dr. Isadora in person.
The Red Tent was set up in the Tap Room in RISD’s Memorial Hall, which is one of the school’s community spaces. Fabric (including a red parachute that formed the ceiling) was clipped to light fixtures and pipes, forming an enclosed tent space within the larger room. It needed to be expanded several times to accommodate the large numbers of students that were expected.
As Dr. Isadora answered students’ questions about her work, and about how she got from being a sculpture major ten years ago to being the maker of an award-winning film about women’s community spaces, I realized how relevant what she was saying was to my own life. She emphasized the importance of creativity in leadership, not taking no for an answer, and collaboration via talent exchange. My goals and passions do not easily fit into pre-defined societal boxes, and it’s been all too easy to give up on myself—Dr. Isadora’s talk inspired me to keep looking for unique solutions to what seem like intractable problems.
Towards the end of the talk, which was attended by students, staff, and faculty, community members began trickling in for the movie screening. There was a short break while the room was rearranged, and then the film began. It was the first time I had seen it since 2012, and it was particularly special to watch it while sitting in the same room as three friends, each from a different part of my life (Dr. Isadora, a friend from graduate school, and a friend I know from women’s groups).
Only a few women stayed for the Red Tent; we all seemed to be tired and we only made it through two rounds of the veil dancing ritual. Nevertheless, the beauty and power of the ritual came through. I felt as I danced that I had for a time become again an ancient priestess, able to direct life energy through the swirling veils as they became extensions of my hands, blessing the women who lay on the ground beneath me.
Yes, women’s community is alive and well.