HOPE RISES New Play by Speranza Theatre & Women Rising explores Domestic Violence


ho-riOriginal Play features Stories of Survival and Hope at Art House Productions in JC

 By Sally Deering

 Power and control – two red flags of bad behavior when it comes to relationships, but sometimes a person doesn’t know what they’re getting into until it’s too late. Situations like this are the basis of a new collaborative play by Jersey City’s Speranza Theatre Company and Women Rising, a refuge, resource and referral for survivors of domestic violence.

WOMEN RISING, Stories of Hope, directed by Diana Basmajian, will run Thurs, Oct. 20-Sun, Oct. 23 at Art House Productions in Jersey City.  A compilation by playwrights Megan Lohne, DeLora Whitney, Caren Skibell, Merri Biechler, Lia Romeo, and Dania Ramos, under the guidance of lead writer Jennie Contuzzi, the play is a series of monologues and scenes that focus on the survivors of domestic abuse. It features original music by Drama Desk Award nominee composer Estelle Bajou.

“It’s a play about survivors of domestic violence, the staff members of Women Rising, and the police officers and friends who have helped them survive,” Heather Wahl, Producing & Artistic Director of Speranza Theatre Company says. “We started this process a year ago by interviewing people who have personal connections to domestic violence. The interviews are anonymous but the words and feelings they evoke show throughout the play.”

Alicia and Vanessa

WOMEN RISING: Stories of Hope features

Alicia Rivas, Vanessa Rappa and Samille Ganges

The cast includes Laura Gourdine, Alicia Rivas, Larissa Adamczyk, Vanessa Rappa, Jason Faust and Samille Ganges.

“We hope this play will start a conversation about domestic violence,” Wahl says. “It’s learned behavior, it’s generational, but it doesn’t discriminate. That’s something we’re trying to show in this play; it can happen to anybody. You hear a lot of different voices from different cultures. You hear from a young Latina, and an Indian woman in an arranged marriage whose mother-in-law abused her. The monologues are all inspired from true stories.”

Speranza Theater Speranza Theatre Co’s Heather Wahl and actor Laura Gourdine

It was about a year ago that Wahl and her staff reached out to Women Rising’s Joaneileen Coughlan, Director of Domestic Violence Services at Women Rising, to see if the non-profit would be open to collaborating on a play about domestic violence. The two groups have worked joined forces on other projects, too.

“A lot of fundraisers Speranza Theatre Company does, including our annual production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ have been partnered with Women Rising,” Wahl says. “With WOMEN RISING: Stories of Hope, everyone was excited to have another venue to discuss domestic violence with the community.”

Domestic violence is a tough topic to tackle, but Wahl knows people who have experienced domestic violence and it’s important to get the issue out in the open, she says.

“Even though I’m not a survivor, I know survivors, I can empathize with them,” Wahl says. “I know we can make a difference with this play. One of the big things about domestic violence is that it does not discriminate. There’s no one socio-economic group or race or culture or religion —it doesn’t pigeon-hole any of these categories. Rich, poor, a lot of the survivors were Caucasian, well off, well-educated. These were smart women. How did it happen? It happens over time. The batterer slowly starts to isolate you, control you and take away your power. For these women, they didn’t realize until they were too far in.  Then they asked, how did this happen to me? I’m a smart girl, how did this happen to me?”
WOMEN RISING: Stories of Hope will be going on tour at colleges, women’s organizations, and churches through the Tri-State area and the show is available for bookings, Wahl says. After the production at Art House, Speranza will be presenting the play for students and faculty at Hudson County Community College on Oct. 27th.

“For the shows in Jersey City, we’re doing a dress rehearsal in front of an audience on Wednesday, October 19th,” Wahl says. “It’s open to the public and ‘pay what you can’ night. Any amount of cash. All the proceeds go straight to Women Rising. Whether it is one dollar or a hundred, it all goes to Women Rising.”

Joaneileen Coughlan is the Director of Domestic Violence Services at Women Rising and sees the play as a new way to get their message across.

“I’m really excited to be doing something different to raise awareness of domestic violence,” Coughlan says. “I believe this play will definitely have an impact.”


If you go

Thurs, Oct. 20-Sun, Oct 23

WOMEN RISING, Stories of Hope

Speranza Theatre Company at

Art House Productions

136 Magnolia Ave, JC



Thurs, Oct 27, 6 pm

Hudson County Community College


For tix www.brownpapertickets.com

Tix can also be purchased at the door: $20 (cash only, please)


Women Rising

24/7 hotline: 201-333-5700





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