“The theater was created to tell the truth about life.” These words belong to the famed acting teacher Stella Adler. Local director, actor, choreographer and founder of innovative theater group, the Neo-Political Cowgirls, Kate Mueth, is very much in agreement—with one addendum. Mueth feels theater was created to find
the truth in life.
Mueth is in the midst of winding up a workshop at Guild Hall, guiding girls age 8–15 through an eight-week journey that will culminate in a performance on Monday, November 24. For the past 5 years, Mueth has been leading her Neo-Political Young Cowgirls, helping them find their own authentic voice using theater, dance and music. “We start with body awareness and go on to journaling,” Mueth explains the first steps in the process, which also includes theater games, exercises and improvisation. “The participants write their own theater pieces, and they’ll also direct each others’ pieces. What is so exciting is the idea of permission—that the girls can be free to connect with their voice. It is powerful and liberating.”
Of the November 24 final performances, Mueth says, “We’re calling this ‘I Am.’ Our focus has been their fears, how do they see themselves, how do others see them, what are their strengths and weaknesses, and how can they use those strengths and weaknesses to their advantage.”
Among her influences, Mueth cites the work of psychologist Carol Gilligan, who authored In a Different Voice and Making Connections: The Relational Worlds of Adolescent Girls at Emma Willard School. The latter is a collection of interviews Gilligan conducted over a period of years with girls in a private school, allowing them to speak openly about the issues on their minds.
“We start as children and say what we think,” Mueth remarked. “Our voice is attached to what we feel.” She went on to describe how that free-flowing expression changes when girls begin their journey into adolescence around age 11 or 12. “Their voice becomes separate from their instinct. They push their voice down. They don’t say what they are thinking or feeling.” When those feelings do come out, it can often be in less than desirable ways—such as cyber-bullying. “How does a Facebook rant help the situation?” Mueth wonders, looking at one of the ways girls and women relate to each other when they feel unable to express themselves directly in their relationships.
Mueth is enjoying the Neo-Political Young Cowgirls that she is currently ushering through the Guild Hall workshop. They are a quiet, thoughtful group, and their autobiographical theater pieces focus on bullying, judgment, peer pressure and their views on their own creativity. As Mueth says, “Expressing themselves …that’s what I find brave.”
In May, Mueth will be at Guild Hall again, offering a workshop for women. Although she structures the workshop similarly to the one for Young Cowgirls, it’s a very different atmosphere. “They are overflowing with the need to share,” Mueth laughs. “We just have to give ourselves permission, and we actually have this permission with us every day.”
In the last few years, Mueth has created a number of exuberant performance pieces that have been produced at various locations through the East End, and these will be returning through the winter and beyond. Her piece Eve, Mueth’s interpretation of the creation of women, will be moving to a New York location next fall, with a Berlin production currently in the planning stages. HarborFrost, Sag Harbor’s winter festival, will showcase another Neo-Political Cowgirls outing, Zima, which is at once a love story, a scavenger hunt and an interactive mixture of theater, music and art. Previously, Mueth had mounted Zima, the Polish word for winter, at the Quogue Wildlife Center as part of their fundraising efforts.
She is also excited about a February event. “We are partnering with the Retreat on February 14, bringing awareness to the issue of domestic violence.” Mueth is speaking of what has become a global event—a flash mob bringing together men, women, anyone who wants to participate. Mueth says, “We’ve been lucky. Bay Street Theater has offered their space for the past two years. It’s theatrical and exciting, and everyone can participate.”
Who knows? This may be your year to join the dance and unleash your inner Cowgirl.
Neo-Political Cowgirls will perform I Am! Monday, November 24, at Guild Hall in East Hampton. Admission is free. Learn more about Kate Mueth and the Neo-Political Cowgirls at npcowgirls.org.