This Secret Society turns tragedy into power with words
Trish Nelson tells us about founding a modern-day coven of female empowerment called the Secret Society of the Sisterhood and the power of storytelling.
Being part of a coven has been every teenage girl’s dream since The Craft, and you’re in luck — the Secret Society of the Sisterhood is looking for new members. Dressed in red velvet robes and performing their rituals by candlelight under the full moon, the “witches” invite you to gather with them once a month under the light of the full moon.
However, there will be no potions brewed or sacrifices made — the evening simply begins with a shared oath, “I am here tonight to pledge my support to my fellow sisters.” Then the real magic begins: transmuting pain into power by telling stories.
“This show is a direct result of turning something tragic into something artistic and socially relevant,” says Trish Nelson, who founded the Sisterhood in Los Angeles this past January and is bringing it to New York for its first gathering on May 29 at Green-Wood Cemetery. “From humorous to heartfelt, the evening truly becomes a celebration of life experience and the female voice.”
Described as “gleefully theatrical” in the LA Times, the Sisterhood is the product of the theatrical heart beating inside Nelson, who produces tours and shows for the likes of Broad City, Amy Schumer and others. But the Secret Society of the Sisterhood is personal for her — Nelson’s first career was in the restaurant business, and last year she was among the women who came forward to the New York Times about sexual harassment at Ken Freidman’s Spotted Pig.
“I wanted to provide a space where women could come together without fear to share their stories with one another,” she says. “As I’ve discovered from breaking my own silence, it’s an incredibly freeing and healing action to speak your personal truth.”
The evening’s theme is “So.... THAT Happened!” all about “life shift” stories — those moments when nothing is the same again, whether it involves great triumph or deep embarrassment. Speaking in the city’s oldest graveyard will be “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” star Amber Tamblyn, writer and activist Lorri Davis, “50 Central” comedian Ayanna Dookie, Cake Literary co-founder Dhonielle Clayton, plus music by Kaki King.
Whatever emotions come up, the evening ends with a dance party to the tunes of DJ Tikka Masala. “It does feel like somewhat of a baptism,” she says, “as we gather together to bask in the light of the full moon.”
The event nods to the past with all the stories lived and secrets untold by the residents of Green-Wood, as well as the future by donating its proceeds to Girls Write Now, a mentorship and career development organization for disadvantaged high school girls across the five boroughs.
Just as witchcraft was never about actual magic, Nelson’s coven is about finding power in our shared humanity: “I hope that this show inspires conversations, and connection, and that people walk away with the understanding that we truly are walking through this life together.”
The Secret Society of the Sisterhood meets on May 29 at Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th St., Brooklyn. Doors open at 7 p.m.; tickets are $30 at the door; thesssshow.com