A Celebration of Wisconsin’s Rural Women

Jessica Lanius traveled to Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin where she held a Theatre Lila residency with a multi-generational cast of community women at the River Arts Center. Lanius was invited to write and create THESMOPHORIA an original play celebrating the stories of triumph, joy, hardship, and determination of Wisconsin and Sauk Prairie’s own rural women. This River Arts residency was a true community project where a cast of 14 actors and dancers developed original roles in a 5-week, intense rehearsal process which included collaborating, improvising, and experimenting with the physical theatrical techniques originated by the Lila Company.

Lila’s mission with this residency was to develop a theatrical collaboration with the smaller communities in Wisconsin (Lanius’ home state) - igniting a passion for ‘The Art of Fusion’ and focusing on authenticity and connection with the community participants.

This work was commissioned by River Arts Inc. as part of their Rural Women: Voice & Spirit exhibit presented by artists Kelly Parks Snider and Jane Bartell. Thesmophoria was made possible by a grant from Sauk County Arts, Humanities and Historical Preservation Committee

Sauk Prairie River Arts Center
Nov. 17th & 18th 2006

Feedback from the Community Residents:

Thesmophoria was touching, honest, funny, thought-provoking, inspiring,
and balanced in its portrayal of rural women past and present.I'd love
to see it reach even more people.

Cathy Statz
Education Director
Wisconsin Farmers Union

Thesmophoria epitomized what we at River Arts Inc. had in mind at the
beginning, when it was only a hope and prayer. Bless you!

Valerie McAuliffe
Former RAI Theatre director

The script and its delivery were immensely powerful. I have had people
walk up to me since and start to cry when they speak of how touched
they were to have "their" story told. Rural women are often isolated
and they wonder how the author knew.

Kitty Murphy
Thesmophoria cast member

Thesmophoria is still the talk of the town. Almost everywhere I go, at
least one person sends compliments to the cast and yourself. Just like
tonight, Bernie Schroeder went on for 20 minutes about how much he
enjoyed the show. He told me that within the first two minutes he came
to tears and could not stop crying throughout the whole performance,
because it was so incredibly inspirational and moving.

Ally Frosh
Thesmophoria cast member

I wanted to thank you for Thesmophoria. As I sat there with my friend,
I was so impressed & touched by the insight with which you put the play
together. I can't help thinking that many women who have had these
experiences now feel "heard," understood, and like they are part of a
larger community of incredible women....what a gift....thank you for
bringing that to us and for allowing us to be a part of its creation.

Michelle Hazard
Contributing Wisconsin Poet

Jessica brought such a strong passion with her to our town, and it wasn't long before that passion itself was coursing through everyone's veins. The opportunity to be in something so full of impact, so powerful, you couldn't wish for any greater moment than that.
Kory Flores
Thesmophoria cast member

She (Lanius) took a group of amateur actresses and through her suggestions and kind prodding, led us all to be more than we thought we could be. By first building up a feeling of ensemble, she allowed and encouraged us to truly work together as a team to tell the incredible stories of wonderful rural women. My students who saw the show were entranced and impressed. They laughed, cried, and deeply felt the power of the message we were communicating. It was a wondrous experience.
Diane Sullivan
Thesmophoria cast member
S.P. High School Drama Teacher

Jessica accepted me as an eager 65-year old neophyte performer. With gentle coaching and positive praises she transformed me into a believable 80 year-old survivor. The final plaudits for Thesmorphia were heartwarming, justifying our commonality of life.
Cathy Prescott
Thesmophoria cast member

I feel as the mother of the youngest cast member - 11 years old, she gained experience from Jessica and her artistic expression and teaching that she could never have gotten at a local level. As a mother this residency provided my Jessie with an air of self-confidence that will server her well for the rest of her life.
Christa Byrnes
Sauk Prairie Community member and mother of cast member

Cast of Characters:
Ellen Cathy Prescot
Miriam Ilona Pinzke
Norma Diane Sullivan
Mae Kitty Murphy
Kate Cindy Quam
Julie Sarah Colby
Emily Kym Nolden
Lillian Jamie Quam
Rosie Annie Barzan
Demeter Kory Flores

Kris Pickar
Teyanna Marx
Ally Frosch
Jessie Brynes
Emily Eubanks

Lighting Design: Brad Toberman
Art work: Kelly Parks Snyder & Mary Dickey
Media Design: Alexander Bruehl
Stage Manager: Julia Melzer

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