It's popular, now, to say that women should have a voice, but rarely is that put into practice as much as at We Are The Weirdos, a live storytelling event created by and for women. The series, which is celebrating its one year anniversary with a Jan. 10 event at the Funhouse at Mr. Smalls, is modeled similarly to The Moth storytelling series, with participants signing up to have their name pulled out of a hat to share a five-minute story.
Jamie Fadden-Cannon, a local lighting designer, created the event in the heat of the #MeToo movement, after realizing that she also had plenty of stories to share from working in a male-dominated industry. "I was like, you know what? Screw this. I love live storytelling and I have a lot of stories surrounding this and I'm sure a lot of other people do too," says Fadden-Cannon.
Since the first event at Black Forge Coffee House, the series has grown in popularity, first moving to Club Café, and then to Mr. Smalls.
The events don't have a theme for the storytelling, but the fact that all of the performers are women steers the topics toward womanhood.
"[A performer] came out about her abortion story. I can't even begin to think about how difficult it would be to share that, and she did it so beautifully," says Fadden-Cannon. "On the other end of the spectrum, there was a woman who told a story about how she accidentally ate laxatives, mistaking them for chocolate."
Kate LaMark, now a freshman in college, participated in all three of the previous We Are The Weirdos events. She didn't have a plan the first time LaMark got on stage. The second time, she talked about going through a breakup. The third time, she opened the show with a story about her abortion.
Though she was nervous, the support in the room was palpable as she finished telling her story. "I had women thank me, I had women buy me drinks, I had people come up to talk to me privately and open up about their experiences," says LaMark. "[It] really provides a platform for women to talk about issues that are affecting them that they may not feel they can talk about with anyone else."
The name for the event comes from a line from the teen witch movie The Craft, wherein four girls/witches getting off a bus are told by the driver to look out for the “weirdos.” One of them replies coolly, “We are the weirdos, mister.”
“Oftentimes when women express their creativity or pursue their passions without asking for permission or validation, we are labeled as weirdos, or as feminists with an agenda,” says Fadden-Cannon. “Woman-identifying humans who look, act, think, and live any and all ways can come to an event where full and total acceptance is the only theme.
Brittany Spinelli, another performer from one of the past events, also felt the atmosphere was supportive enough to make even inexperienced public speakers feel welcome. "It's a very intimate space," says Spinelli. "Everyone told me 'thanks for talking.' It was just really nice to have support from total strangers."
For Fadden-Cannon, live storytelling comes with a unique energy that connects the room to the storyteller. “Seeing this person, and the emotion, and how scary it is to get up there and share something so personal, you can feel it,” she says. “There's just like this electricity in the room.”
Along with providing a platform for women to share their stories, We Are The Weirdos also raises money for a different non-profit organization at each show. For the Jan. 10 event, a portion of the proceeds will go towards The Garment Project, a locally-based organization that provides new clothing to women in recovery from eating disorders, removing sizing tags from the pieces to further help the healing process. Past shows have donated to The Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and Girls Rock! Pittsburgh.
For now, We Are The Weirdos exists only as a live show and only in Pittsburgh, but Fadden-Cannon hopes to expand the project to have themed shows, a podcast, and even travel to other cities.