Category Archives: recent screenings

Magical Moments and Safe Spaces during Spring 2015 Red Tents and Movie Screenings

by Jayleigh Lewis

Dr. Isadora’s recent travels took her to Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, where she attended Red Tent events both large and small. From an assembly of highly educated women at a psychology graduate school to a gathering of priestesses at an annual spiritual conference, the Red Tent brought magic and inspiration to all.

The filmmaker of Things We Don’t Talk About (otherwise known as the Red Tent movie) visited the Michigan School of Professional Psychology in Farmington Hills, Michigan (a northwestern suburb of Detroit), on April 26, 2015. She was there at the invitation of Ciera Bies, a doctoral student of Dr. Betz King, who is the coordinator of MiSPP’s master’s program. Dr. King and Dr. Isadora met in 2010 at a conference of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, of which the two are members. Dr. Isadora was giving a presentation of the research that would eventually become the Red Tent movie; Dr. King was offering a workshop on menstruation ritual. Dr. Isadora was intrigued by the workshop and, when offered the opportunity, attended and had a great time.

MiSPP is a small, independent graduate school that was founded in 1980 as the Center for Humanistic Studies. The campus is four acres but all classes are held in the same building. Students, as part of their degrees, are required to organize events that bring presenters to campus; since Ciera’s doctoral work is aligned with Dr. Isadora’s Red Tent work (which itself was a doctoral dissertation, the first non-written dissertation allowed by the University of Wisconsin!), Dr. Isadora was a natural choice of presenter.

The event sold out with between 75 and 100 women in attendance. It was a highly organized, professional affair. A silent auction consisting of 100 donated items raised $500, which was used to help pay the cost of the gathering. Additionally, 25-30 community organizations and businesses were sponsors, with advertising featured in the programs that were handed out to attendees. During the first half hour, women were free to socialize, participate in the auction, and enjoy catered food before sitting down to watch the movie.

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The large atrium space was also host to a post-screening Red Tent, during which it was revealed that the majority of the women present held master’s degrees, while half held PhDs. It was a very educated audience! Strangely enough, the school’s regulations stipulated that the male janitorial staff had to hang the Red Tent; this was done on the Friday prior to the screening. The Red Tent stood ready all weekend, just waiting for the women.

Dr. Isadora at the permanent Red Tent in Lousiville, KY

Dr. Isadora at the permanent Red Tent in Louisville, KY

On May 8, Dr. Isadora attended a much smaller screening at a yoga studio in Clarksville, Tennessee, called Yoga Mat. On the way to Clarksville, Dr. Isadora took a detour to the famous, permanent Red Tent in Louisville, KY, where she spent the night in the Red Tent. It was a fantastic space created by Amy and Rebecca, where they host bi-weekly Red Tent events for women and girls. For more info visit:  http://www.redtentlouisville.com/

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Clarksville, TN is home to a large military base, and the town’s culture mostly revolves around it. The yoga studio might be one of the only local places able to attract a crowd that would be interested in the Red Tent movie! The screening was sponsored by the studio’s owners: Trish, Erika, Amanda, and Erin. Approximately 20 women attended, filling the space. An unofficial Red Tent followed, during which the women participated in a discussion initially prompted by questions about the movie but largely self-directed. The women explored aspects of the experience of being a stay-at-home mom, with some women speaking from the perspective of moms who wanted to stay at home with their kids but couldn’t, and some speaking from the perspective of moms who do stay at home but want to work.

Recently, Dr. Isadora has been making Red Tent movie rentals available online for $1 on specific dates which are announced in advance. May 9 was one of those dates. For 24 hours renters could watch the movie as many times as they wanted. For upcoming dates when you can take advantage of this opportunity (and to buy your rental ticket), go to the upcoming screenings page. The next two dates are June 13 and July 11.

For the second time in two years, Dr. Isadora was invited to the Priestess Gathering of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess, International (RCGI), held in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. This year’s gathering took place during the weekend of May 15-17. The RCGI, co-founded in 1983 by Lynnie Levy and Jade River, is a legally recognized religion dedicated to positive spiritual growth for all people and especially for women. It is an endorser of the film. Last year’s Gathering included a film screening as well as a Red Tent that was raised for the duration; this year there was no screening but a beautiful Red Tent and Dr. Isadora hosted a Red Tent workshop.

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Built by Dr. Isadora and 2 incredible helpers, this year’s Red Tent was grander and bigger than last year’s. It included several nooks and crannies, including an “inner sanctum” encircled by a larger outside space. Many women commented that they enjoyed this layout; even though the Red Tent as a whole could hold about 10 people at a time, those inside felt such coziness and privacy that they could almost imagine that they had the whole Tent to themselves! Dr. Isadora already has a vision for next year’s Red Tent: a two-story stairwell, including a loft area, will be incorporated into it. The stairwell will become a “birth canal”-like tunnel of red fabric, and the loft’s balcony will allow women to look down on the lower portion of the Tent. Additionally, Barb, who every year creates wonderful, elaborate altars for the Gathering, has agreed to build a Red Tent altar of all natural materials. Those who heard about this plan are very excited and can’t wait for next year!

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Dr. Isadora noted one very special moment that took place during the Gathering, a moment so touching that, for her, it was “the one thing I was supposed to do that weekend” and by itself was enough to make her glad she had showed up. She had offered the veil dancing ritual (where a few women lie on the floor while the rest of the group dances around them with veils, eventually laying the veils down on the women and resting them there for a short time until slowly and gently lifting them back off) in the Red Tent, and about 13 women had participated. One woman had very much wanted to attend but hadn’t been able to. Following her intuition, Dr. Isadora offered to do the ritual again that night just for her.

Later, after the main event of the evening, Dr. Isadora was sitting at a picnic table with a group of women eating fruit, including the woman who wanted the veil ritual. She got up to go do the ritual, and all of the women at the table joined her! A spontaneous, magical moment that no one could have planned followed as the women danced with and honored their sister. Being a woman who does not fit many traditional feminine norms, she was deeply touched to feel this kind of support from other women. After the ritual, the group played the song “How Could Anyone” (“How could anyone ever tell you you were anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you you were less than whole?”) and sang the words directly to her. In that moment, nothing could have been more perfect.

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Women’s History and the Red Tent Movement: Provocative Questions at Georgia Screenings

by Jayleigh Lewis

From Latin American countries to college campuses, March 2015 was a lively month for screenings of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About. On March 5th, the film came to Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, while on the 12th a screening was hosted by the Feminist Collective of Northeastern Illinois University. A hemisphere away, the Parque de la Herradura Barrio Miraflores in Cali, Colombia, was the site of another screening on March 15; on March 28th the movie came to Talca, Chile, and the Casa de la Luna.

It is fitting that for Women’s History Month (celebrated every March in the U.S.) the movie traveled so widely and was embraced by those seeking to preserve and understand the story of the role of women in the world. The Red Tent movement continues to grow, to define its place in women’s history. It both complements and enhances other women’s movements of the present and past. The movie, as a readily accessible icon of the movement, inspires questions that help to clarify the unique contributions of the Red Tent.

March 27 in Canton, GA, hosted by the Youniquely Woman Red Tent community

March 27 in Canton, GA, hosted by the Youniquely Woman Red Tent community

Dr. Isadora, the filmmaker, attended two screenings in Georgia this past March, at which these questions took center stage. The first was on March 27 in Canton, GA, hosted by the Youniquely Woman Red Tent community. This dedicated group of women has been meeting monthly for about a year in a permanent Red Tent located in the home of Crystal Starshine. Since Canton is a rural community located in the hill country north of Atlanta, some women have a commute of over an hour! This screening, which included a potluck meal and a Red Tent talking circle, was attended by about 10 women; overall, it was relaxed and low-key. The talking circle was an opportunity for honest, open conversation and healing. Dr. Isadora particularly enjoyed the informal feel of the post-screening Q + A—instead of standing in front of the group as a presenter, she sat in a circle with the women and engaged in an intimate, collaborative conversation about the movie and the Red Tent. (An interesting anecdote: Dr. Isadora dreamed about attending this screening a few days before her arrival. When she shared this with Crystal, who, among other things, is a professional psychic, the two speculated that perhaps they had been unconsciously in communication prior to the event. A possible reason for the comfort and ease Dr. Isadora felt?)

March 28, in Atlanta. The First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta

March 28, in Atlanta. The First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta

The second Georgia screening took place the next day, March 28, in Atlanta. The First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta, an independent philosophical and spiritual community, co-hosted and provided the space. Also co-hosting were Charis Books (one of the first feminist bookstores in the U.S.) and Charis Circle, the educational and nonprofit arm of the bookstore. This screening was well-attended, with about 50 people present. Two of the attendees, Mary Ann and Drea, are good friends of Dr. Isadora and longtime supporters of the Red Tent movie; they were instrumental in arranging this screening. (They also partnered with Dr. Isadora a couple years ago to host the largest screening to date of Things We Don’t Talk About: it was sold out with approximately 250 women present!) Mary Ann is actually featured in the movie, speaking about her choice not to have children.

This screening’s audience was composed largely of politically active women, many of whom had been involved in consciousness raising groups in the 60s and 70s. They were keenly interested in issues of feminism and how feminist values are represented in the movie. Some tough, thought-provoking questions were asked during the Q + A. Dr. Isadora was kept on her toes as the questions brought out the scholar in her and invited everyone present to truly think about issues such as diversity within the Red Tent movement. Is the movement truly welcoming to all women everywhere, or does it only (perhaps unconsciously) reach a subset of women? Are the women portrayed in the movie truly representative of the larger Red Tent movement? Whose stories aren’t being told? Does the Red Tent movement acknowledge its debt to other women’s movements, particularly those of the past and the work of older feminists?

These questions can be answered in many ways, and the larger discussion is ongoing. On this particular occasion, the women and Dr. Isadora, through honest discussion, concluded that the Red Tent movement is indeed growing in diversity and that it crosses many racial, social, and religious boundaries. The movie was filmed in 2009 and 2010 and provides a snapshot of the movement during those years. Between then and now, the movement has spread and now embraces, for example, women who primarily speak Spanish or French (the movie is subtitled in those languages) and whose native cultures are very different from the English-speaking Caucasian women who are well represented in the movie.

While the film does not overtly address connections between the Red Tent movement and the larger women’s movement, since its focus is on the Red Tent, these connections very much exist, and Dr. Isadora believes that Red Tents represent what women want now. Each wave of feminism brought with it much-needed changes in women’s lives, sometimes in an attempt to rebalance the effects of previous changes. We are now in the third wave of feminism, when women are realizing that the stress of “having it all” (family, work, etc.) is causing them to become alienated from themselves and each other. The Red Tent, Dr. Isadora believes, brings women back to themselves and brings back women’s community.

What do you think about these crucial questions? If you have seen the Red Tent movie, do you think it accurately represents women and women’s communities? How would you add your voice to the discussion?

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January and February Red Tents and Movie Screenings: Warmth and Community in the Midst of Winter

by Jayleigh Lewis

Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, resumed Red Tent hosting and film screening attendance in January and February 2015, after a brief hiatus. As she reconnected with the women of her local Chicago community and traveled to Milwaukee for a screening co-organized by a Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference attendee, screenings were also taking place in other parts of the country and world.

Of particular note were the screenings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 25, and in Coyhaique, Chile, on February 7. The former took place at the Sophia Center for Goddess Study, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating men and women about contemporary Goddess traditions. It was well-attended; Dr. Isadora would have been there if not for her prior commitment on that date to the Chicago Red Tent. The latter screening took place at a Chilean women’s festival, Encuentro Ser Mujeres en Patagonia, held at the Centro Cultural Coyhaique. Approximately 300 women attended the festival, reflecting the explosion of interest in Red Tents among women in Latin American countries over the past six months to a year. Since Things We Don’t Talk About is subtitled in Spanish, the film is well-suited to be an introduction to the Red Tent movement in these parts of the world!

On January 25, Dr. Isadora hosted a Red Tent in her Chicago home. She transformed her dining room into a red fabric-draped space which was filled to maximum capacity by the approximately 15 women who attended. Many of the women brought their children; Dr. Isadora makes it a point to welcome moms who can’t always manage to get a babysitter but still need time and space away from their ordinary lives. (One advantage of this is that everyone gets a chance to hold the babies!)

Red Tent Chicago

The event was “loose and flowing,” a time for women to talk and be together in whatever ways they wished. Embodying her commitment to giving back to her community and to honoring the women who show up, Dr. Isadora offered foot rubs to all. She also bonded with the eight-year-old daughter of a friend while painting the little girl’s nails with sparkly polish. It was a gentle and nourishing midwinter gathering.

The February 7 Milwaukee, WI, film screening, which took place at the 5757 Spa Salon, had a similar light and flowing feel. Liz and Cathy were the organizers. Cathy, who works at the salon, had attended the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference last June and had seen the Red Tent movie there. She happened to have been sitting between a woman in her 80s and a young mother with a baby, and had an inspired moment when she realized that the Red Tent was needed by all generations. After that, she was determined to bring it to the women in her local community.

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The salon, a former doctor’s office, does not have many large spaces (although, in each of its many small rooms, unique inspirational sayings are featured, reminding clients to look for beauty within). In order to clear a space large enough for the screening, the merchandise storage area (which had originally been the waiting room) needed to be emptied, a process which took hours of work. But it was worth it when the women showed up. The event was sold out with approximately 20 women in attendance (including one woman who had driven two hours from Chicago and was glad to find out from Dr. Isadora that there is a Chicago Red Tent community!).

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The post-screening Red Tent, initially slated to last an hour and a half, stretched on for almost three hours; the women did not want to leave! Three activity options were available—henna body painting, chakra aromatherapy, and angel card readings—and in between “appointments” women relaxed, talked, and ate chocolate-covered strawberries in the Red Tent.

Dr. Isadora engaged several women in thought-provoking conversation during this time, bringing to life the spirit of Things We Don’t Talk About by talking about the things women don’t usually talk about! One woman, a nurse at a midwifery clinic, discussed what she knows about infertility and overcoming the fear of having children. Another woman, a salon owner and hairstylist for 30 years, who had been brought to tears by the film, told Dr. Isadora what had so moved her: the depiction onscreen of nonsexual intimate touch. She knows through experience how powerful this kind of touch can be, how it can generate instant trust. When women come to her to get their hair styled, they are often initially uncomfortable with the risk involved in changing their appearance. She has learned to subtly reassure them by unobtrusively massaging their shoulders as they discuss what they want—and thus what was a tension-filled experience becomes a healing experience.

Another conversation touched on a little-discussed aspect of menstruation. Some cultures have menstrual rituals that help to direct the intense energy of this time. Native American women who are menstruating enter moon lodges, because they are seen as too powerful to be part of mundane life; they need to be able to concentrate on ceremony and dreaming. The mikvah is a ritual bath taken by Jewish women that serves as a type of spiritual cleansing and reorientation to the ordinary world after they have finished menstruating. For some women, the Red Tent is a menstrual ritual that can help support and anchor them while they are bleeding. One woman offered the opinion that when women become bloated, “bitchy,” and depressed around the time of their menstruation, it is because they are carrying unresolved grief around the loss of the egg that is passing out of them, grief over the unexpressed potential for life the egg represents. If a woman feels this way, and wants a safe space to get in touch with this inner truth that might otherwise go unacknowledged, the Red Tent as menstrual ritual could be the perfect container for its expression.

Truth and trust were shared, bonds were strengthened, and sacred time was enjoyed during these recent Red Tent gatherings. And more are coming next month! To see a listing of upcoming screenings (including those Dr. Isadora will be attending), go here. If you don’t see one for your area, perhaps you are being called to host one?

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How I made my Red Tent

by Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, PhD

I had a dream that I wanted every screening of “Things We Don’t Talk About” to be in a giant Red Tent that would travel around with me in a 2 suitcases and be big enough for up to 300 people. But how was this going to work logistically?

Red Tent at a screening

The filmmaker’s Red Tent at a screening of “Things We Don’t Talk About”

I have been a participant in the Red Tent movement since it began and I have helped set up many Red Tents and Red Tent Temples. But the set up always took a LONG time, with hours and hours of labor by numerous women. So how was I going to make it easy to create a huge Red Tent for a screening if it took so much time to create a small one for only 20 women? As I thought about it, one problem that always came up with building the Red Tent was the different size fabrics. The fabrics were often donated curtains, sheets, or yardage. Most yardage is 44 inches or 56 inches wide. While some of the pieces were very long, they were also very narrow and could not cover an entire wall.

How to create it?

I created large panels of fabric that were all the same size and could cover a wall very quickly and without much thought to the design (when it was being hung). So from March 2012 to May 2012, I had an opportunity to have a studio space at the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, a fabric museum, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while I was finishing my PhD and the film. It wasn’t really a studio space, it was more of an empty room with a large bulletin board so I could pin up the different fabrics and create the design for the panels. Almost all of the fabric that I used to create my panels where donated, found at the thrift store, or purchased cheaply on Ebay. The decorative materials that I purchased on Ebay were Indian Sari and Uzbek Suzani. Which were both large and inexpensive ways of adding beautiful fabrics to the plain yardage.

Having spent many summers with my grandmother, who was a talented quilter, I have some sewing and design skills. If this is not a talent you have, my suggestion is to reach out to your friends and family members. There must be someone in your community that can sew and that could help you. Basically the gist of it is to take all of the small pieces of fabric and sew them together in a pattern that you like so that it saves time when you put up your Red Tent. I have found that it takes about 5 minutes to put up one of my panels. For your space, wouldn’t it be nice if you had a beautiful Red Tent that could go up in about 20 minutes or less?

My panels are 15 feet wide by 13 feet tall. I chose 13 feet tall for myself because most ceilings at either 8 feet or 12 feet and I wanted to make sure that my panels would drape on the floor a little bit if I was in a 12 foot space. As for why I created my panels 15 feet wide, that was the size of my bulletin board, but you can chose any width. I would suggest maybe at least 10 feet wide.

Here are examples of some of my Red Tent panels.

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To see more example of what the panels look like in different screening venues click here.

How to Hang it?

The second problem that I found with setting up numerous Red Tents was how to hang the fabric. Most groups use thumbtacks or staples to hang the fabric on the wall. But this was a not a good solution for me because I want to do 400 screenings of “Things We Don’t Talk About.” If I put a thumbtack into my fabric that many times it would shred the fabric after just a few events. I also wanted to be gentle on the space and not put a million holes in the wall. So I put grommets along the top edge of all of my panels at intervals of 1 foot. So there are 15 grommets in each panel.

Grommets

Grommets

I hang my Red Tent using 1 of 2 methods:

  • My favorite is using a 3” binder ring, which I purchased from Office Depot. I put the binder ring through the grommet and then I clip or hang the ring onto things in the space like the grid for a drop ceiling, poles, wall sconces, crown molding, nails already in the space, window frames, etc.
  • My other solution is to put a thumbtack into the wall and then hang the grommet on the thumbtack. I don’t often use this method because I don’t like to leave holes in the wall, but when this is my only option I have found that a thumbtack every 3 feet is sufficient.

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October’s Red Tent Movie Screenings Facilitate Connections Across Distance, Gender, and Circumstance

by Jayleigh Lewis

Between September 28, 2014, and October 26, 2014, Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About, attended eight screenings in five states spanning four different time zones. It was certainly a packed month (which, coinciding with Mercury retrograde as it did, contained its share of travel difficulties and communication problems—Dr. Isadora ended up arriving late at three of the screenings, an extremely rare occurrence!). It also contained some beautiful moments of support and co-creation (many provided by men), as well as inspiration for new Red Tent activities.

The first screening, held in Hudson, Massachusetts, on September 28th, took place in the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson and was hosted by the Hudson Red Tent community. It was an intimate gathering of women co-facilitated by Dr. Isadora, Nancy (leader of the Red Tent community), and Reverend Alice (minister of the church).

Nancy had recently had a hysterectomy; beforehand, she had been acutely aware of the finality of her last menstrual cycle. In order to celebrate the holiness of her last blood and to preserve its power, her friend Mary Cote-Diaz (of Drumblebee), a drum maker and Red Tent leader from Grafton, MA, had worked with her to create a custom drum made from goat skin. The drum had been decorated with Nancy’s last menstrual blood, which was then covered over with paint. This deeply meaningful gift was presented to Nancy for the first time in the Red Tent that day, in the presence of her community.

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This Red Tent gathering featured activities that allowed the women present to interact and get to know each other in creative ways. As each woman arrived, she wrote a question she wanted an answer to on a piece of paper (the questions could be about anything, from a personal situation to an existential pondering). The anonymous questions were mixed and read aloud at the end, so that anyone present in the room could answer them. Questions included “What is humility?” and “How can you be resilient in times of suffering?” Collective wisdom provided much fuller answers than any one person could have provided alone.

A second activity was led by Reverend Alice and was based on a Unitarian Universalist tradition. She had written down a list of experiences that might be encountered during a lifetime as a woman (for example: being a daughter, being a mother, having lost a child, feeling not good enough, being proud to be a woman), which she read out loud, one by one. As each experience was named, those in the room who had had that experience stepped into the middle of the circle to be seen by their sisters. Dr. Isadora was so impressed by the silent yet palpable solidarity and bonding created by this activity that she decided to bring it to all subsequent Red Tents she facilitated at screenings this month!

October arrived, and Dr. Isadora traveled to Pennsylvania for two back-to-back screenings. The first was in Reading on October 3rd, in a former warehouse turned community arts space called the T.E.A. Factory. It was organized by the Reading Spiral Sisters LLC, a women’s group led by a young woman named Kelsey. Many of the members of this group are also regular attendees of the yearly women’s festival Where Womyn Gather, where the Red Tent has been a presence for many years.

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora's Garden

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora’s Garden

These women were inspired to create a Red Tent for their own community; they applied for and received a grant, planned and built an elaborate semi-permanent Red Tent at the T.E.A. Factory, which would be open to the public on designated days during October and November 2014, and set dates for screenings of the Red Tent movie to kick the whole thing off. What they did not know was that Dr. Isadora was already planning to be in the area at the time of the screenings! When they found out, they quickly worked together to partner and co-host the screening together. Dr. Isadora enjoyed meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends from Where Womyn Gather while relaxing in the Red Tent, which had been installed in the former bank safe of the old warehouse, a soundproof room which she described as the “womb of the building.”

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora's Garden

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora’s Garden

The next day, she was off to York, PA, for a screening hosted by a new Red Tent community led by a woman named Susan. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York (UUCY) provided the space. Susan’s partner, a contractor, helped put up the Red Tent; he was the first of many men who would provide such support over the next few weeks. The community, although only months old, is strong, and the screening was well-attended. During the Red Tent, women participated in the veil dance (the ritual Dr. Isadora first learned in California in February and has been bringing to Red Tents ever since) and in the “stepping into the circle” activity from September’s Hudson, MA, Red Tent.

Traversing time zones, Dr. Isadora landed next in Elgin, Illinois (about an hour away from Chicago), on October 10th. The screening she attended was held in the Elgin Artspace Gallery and Lofts; it was the centerpiece of a week-long women’s event called Rise and Shine: Awakening Heart to Heart. Kathy, the organizer, had planned something special for every night, including a women’s art show in the gallery space.

This Red Tent (somewhat unusually, though not, apparently, for this month!) was put up and taken down completely by men; one was a construction worker who had previously helped to build LAX and O’Hare airports. They were happy to help create sacred space for the 70-80 women who arrived for the gathering—so many women, in fact, that the Red Tent portion of the evening could not actually be held in the Red Tent, since there wasn’t enough room. Instead, the main gallery space was used.

Dr. Isadora led the group in the “stepping into the circle” activity and in an activity she calls the “proud circle,” which she learned at a women’s festival in California in June 2013. In the latter activity, women form small groups of four to five, and each woman in turn takes one minute to speak to her group all of the things about herself and her life that she is proud of. Afterward, as the gathering was coming to a close, the men who were taking down the Red Tent brought in the parachute that had formed its roof—and, just like at the screenings in Vermont and Massachusetts this summer, the women began playing with it. Perhaps this too will become a Red Tent ritual!

Serendipity played a big role in the next screening Dr. Isadora traveled to attend. Initially, she had four screenings booked in Oregon for mid-October, but, one by one, all except a screening planned for Portland were cancelled or rescheduled. Since she had already bought her ticket, she decided to head that way anyway and take some time to visit her godmother, Tamara, and goddaughter, Esme, who live in southern OR. She also put a call out on Facebook to see if anyone in the area might want to organize a last-minute screening.

One woman, Claire, who had participated in September’s Red Tent TV online launch party, responded to the call—and she happened to live in Grants Pass, OR, very close to where Dr. Isadora was already staying! She needed a venue, however. This was serendipitously provided when Tamara, who works as an OB/GYN, offered the conference room in her office. Thus, on October 17th, The Women’s Center, a building dedicated to women’s health, hosted a screening of the Red Tent movie. It was a very fitting extension of the Center’s mission to support the well-being of women.

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The screening in Portland, OR, on October 18th was also a success. Susan, the organizer, is in the process of establishing a business called Moondays, which she hopes will eventually be the host of a permanent Red Tent space. She is currently running a crowdfunding campaign; the screening was her launch party. The event, which took place at TaborSpace (a neighborhood gathering place which describes itself as being like a “community living room”), also included a Red Tent. Women participated in the same “proud circle” and “stepping into the circle” activities that their sisters in other states had earlier in the month.

October’s final set of screenings also involved a fair bit of serendipity. Dr. Isadora had already planned to be in Colorado for 10 days to help a friend decorate her home, but when two local women with whom she had previously corresponded (they were seeking advice about how to start a Red Tent) found out she was in the area, screenings were quickly arranged!

Jessica, the leader of the Nectar of Life Red Tent Temple (begun this past summer in Colorado Springs, CO), had already planned to hold a screening on October 25th. She had held one previously, in late August, but had had to limit it to 15 people due to the size of her space, and now wanted to have a bigger event. This screening, to which Dr. Isadora was invited, was held in the Movement Arts Community Studio. It, like the previous screening, was very well-attended. It was also supported by Jessica’s husband, a lieutenant colonel in the US Army who was on leave for a few days—and who spent part of that time putting up the Red Tent! Yet another man giving practical support to women’s community.

Red Tent Movie screening at Colorado Springs, CO

Red Tent Movie screening in Colorado Springs, CO

The second local woman, Ananda, who lives in Denver, CO fell in love with the Red Tent Movie and wanted to bring it to her home community and to the women of The Temple of the Crimson Lotus, the Red Tent she started recently. When she found out Dr. Isadora would be nearby, she organized a screening for October 26th and invited the filmmaker.

The event took place in a private home that frequently hosts women’s activities. It was a small gathering, but a sweet one. Two of the women in attendance brought their very young babies, only weeks old. The women joined Dr. Isadora in the same activities previous Red Tents this month had engaged in, as well as in a “fire releasing” ritual, during which they wrote on pieces of paper things they were ready to release and then burned the paper.

Despite (or because of?) many unusual circumstances, this month’s Red Tent movie screenings facilitated a variety of powerful connections: between sisters separated by distance but united in common Red Tent activities, between men and women engaged together in creating Red Tent space, and between women longing to create Red Tents and those with the resources to help them. The movie continues to fulfill its purpose.

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Red Tent Communities of Chicago: Tending to Home

by Jayleigh Lewis

Sometimes, you don’t have to travel far to find your tribe. Sometimes, a wealth of community, sisterhood, and inspiring conversation finds you right where you are. Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, had this experience last month (July 2014) when she attended two Red Tent events in her current home city of Chicago.

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The first event was a combination film screening and Red Tent, co-facilitated by Dr. Isadora and local life coach and energy worker Andrea Friedmann. Andrea, a vibrant Colombian-American woman who strongly supports women’s community and owns a coaching business called Vibrations Coaching, met Dr. Isadora initially through Linda Conroy of the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference. It was at their first meeting that the idea to host an event together in the Chicago area was born. The vision became manifest on July 20, when an intimate, multi-generational group of women gathered at Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston, surrounded by the red fabric of Dr. Isadora’s traveling Red Tent.

After watching the film, the women participated in activities led by Andrea, including a talking circle and a “soul journey,” which Dr. Isadora described as an adventurous guided meditation, the purpose of which was to connect women with their souls and encourage them to make discoveries about the deepest parts of themselves. Dr. Isadora witnessed a rich diversity of personal stories emerging from the group as women spoke about their feelings and experiences.

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One woman, in response to a question posed in the talking circle—what story from the film did you relate to?—shared the resonance she felt with the woman who spoke onscreen about the complicated emotions that arise from knowing she won’t have children. She could relate, as she is coming to terms with knowing she won’t have grandchildren.

Many women in the room spoke about wanting local community and not having it. Dr. Isadora and her mother, who was in attendance at the gathering, echoed this theme. Dr. Isadora spoke about wanting to have more friends in the area who are “real”—people who can be honest and vulnerable about the experiences and challenges they are moving through and who won’t just tell her they’re “fine” when she asks how they are. Her mother, who is making plans to move her art studio to the Chicago area, said that she wants to spend more time around women like those who were in the room. All seemed to share a longing for community whose roots run deep, and when one woman proposed hosting a local Red Tent, everyone said they would come.

In another Chicago suburb (Berwyn), Dr. Isadora attended another local Red Tent gathering on July 27. Led by Celena Chavez, co-host of the Red Tent at the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, this community is relatively new, having been started by Celena after she recently moved to the area. Dr. Isadora described the gathering as relaxing and peaceful; she really appreciated being able to attend a Red Tent that she didn’t have to create!

Many women present had young children with them. One woman who was seven months pregnant spoke with Dr. Isadora about how the latter overcame her fear of pregnancy but is still feeling into what it means to enter this life stage, in anticipation of eventually having her own children. Celena, a mother of young children herself, shared about her practice as a midwife who works with placentas. Some of the children present received astrology readings from Dr. Isadora, containing information about the unique challenges and life lessons each was born with—invaluable for their mothers’ understanding of how to support them.

In keeping with this Red Tent’s theme for July, “Moon in Leo,” women spoke about how they, like the archetypal lion, symbol of the sun, are shining in their lives, and how they want to shine even more brightly. Intuitive ways of knowing were honored as women shared card readings with each other, using angel cards and mother wisdom cards. The archangel card Dr. Isadora drew reminded her of the importance of bringing more humor into her life.

In the midst of her near-constant travel to attend Red Tent movie screenings and Red Tent-related events across the country, these two gatherings allowed Dr. Isadora to stay close to home and connect deeply with local women. She plans to continue this practice!

What stories, experiences, and gifts are you exchanging or do you want to exchange with the women in your geographical community? How are you growing relationships with deep roots?

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Synchronicity and Support: The Red Tent Comes to the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference

by Jayleigh Lewis

On June 6, 2014, the third annual Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, a three-day gathering centered on plant medicine in the Wise Woman Tradition, began. The event was permeated with Red Tent energy, in part thanks to Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, who hosted two screenings of the movie, built two Red Tents in two different spaces, and co-facilitated a pre-conference workshop for staff. From setup to takedown, the entire experience was woven with small miracles and synchronicities.

The Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, founded in 2012 by Linda Conroy, provided a receptive home for the movie last year, thanks to attendee Celena Chavez, orchestrator of the conference’s Red Tents. As a result of Celena’s vision, the Red Tent has been building presence and momentum among the women who gather each year to celebrate their connection with earth-centered, plant-based wisdom.

This year, the conference was held at The Beber Camp in Mukwongago, Wisconsin. The camp is Hasidic Jewish and keeps kosher; conference attendees observed these regulations, which meant that food could not be taken outside the dining hall. There was a beautiful give and take between the women and the camp staff. Each supported and honored the work of the other. And, too, the interchange recalled the roots of the Red Tent movement in the Jewish tradition: Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent, the book that started it all, is Jewish, and her book is set in ancient Israel. Dr. Isadora reported that two male camp staff who helped her set up the Red Tents remarked on this connection. They planned to make an enthusiastic recommendation to the camp’s director that a permanent Red Tent be set up onsite.

This kind of support and connection was to be the norm all weekend. Dr. Isadora described a feeling of being in an atmosphere of “ask and you shall receive.” It seemed she had only to think of what she needed before it would appear—including a ladder-carrying man at the exact moment she needed a ladder to reach the top of the yurt where she was building a Red Tent!

Synchronicity also abounded during the pre-conference workshop she co-led with Isla Burgess, an herbalist from New Zealand. The staff participants relished this time before diving into the hard work of the weekend; they participated in a veil dancing ritual and in a visioning exercise. During the latter, each woman created a symbol that represented her vision for the gathering. She drew this symbol on a small piece of paper and then shared it with the group. When all of the symbols were laid out together, their similarities were clearly evident. Some women had even drawn the same symbol. The symbols were then organized according to their common elements; together they formed a representation of a natural life/death/life cycle, mirroring the journey of a plant from seed to fully-formed organism and back to seed. After the exercise, these drawings were hung on the walls of the yurt, behind the fabric panels that formed the Red Tent, their presence lending an earthy energy and intention to the space.

Film screenings, workshops, and informal gatherings in the Red Tent brought women’s sacred space to life. The first screening took place in Crown Hall, the main event area, which had been hung with red fabric. The second took place in the more intimate-feeling yurt, and was packed to capacity. Two workshops were held in the Red Tent: one (led by Celena) focused on how to start a Red Tent, while the other (led by a woman named Trilby Sedlacek) was titled “Sex: An Active Part of a Wise Woman’s Life.” Women were inspired by both; those who attended the latter told Dr. Isadora afterwards that the Red Tent had provided for them a safe environment in which to share stories about their sex lives that they had never before been able to share. They said the space had greatly contributed to an enhanced openness among those of all ages who had participated. In addition to these formal gatherings, women came to the Red Tent to relax and chat at other times—particularly the teen program participants, who wanted to be there for the entire conference!

Fun and relaxation was in the air for Dr. Isadora, too: her best friend and mentor, Doreen Bryant, a wise elder woman, also attended the conference, and the two enjoyed spending time together. She didn’t even have to do anything during the takedown of the Red Tents—others did the work before she could get there! A true miracle.

The second visit of the Red Tent to the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference was powerful, needed, and inspiring—may there be many more.

For more information about the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference or to attend next year’s gathering visit: http://midwestwomensherbal.com/

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