by Kate Dudding (Member, Producers & Organizers SIG) and Carolyn Martino
Since 1985, “Girls Night Out” has been a tradition each March in Providence, Rhode Island.
It was started, and continues to be organized, by the women in the Spellbinders Storytelling Collective to celebrate Women’s History Month with stories and songs by, for and about women. Marilyn Meardon, Carolyn Martino and Val Tutson are the current producers. A Rhode Island feminist chorus called WomanSpiritRising always joins the storytellers; sometimes there is also a duo of fiddle players.
“Girls Night Out” has been held at churches and coffee houses. For several years, it was held at Stone Soup Coffeehouse, one of the oldest and largest folk music venues in New England. Now “Girls Night Out” is held at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Auditorium. In exchange for admitting RISD students and faculty for free, RISD does not charge for use of their facility.
Over the years, attendance has grown tremendously via word of mouth. Now over 200 adults attend each year, mostly women but also a small group of men. The producers say, “This is best audience in the state. They have grown to love “Girls Night Out” and they come back and back and bring their friends.”
The cost of tickets is $10, and there is no other funding beyond the ticket sales. The artists are paid by splitting the proceeds after the expenses are paid.
Publicity about “Girls Night Out” is a multi-pronged affair. Direct mail is sent to an extensive mailing list which has been built up over the years, including an on-line mailing list. This year, a notice was also sent to the listserv of the League of Advancement of New England Storytelling. Notices are put in all the papers. The Providence Journal usually does a feature piece with a photo. Often there is a piece and photo in the alternative weekly The Phoenix. However, it’s primarily word of mouth that has grown the audience for “Girls Night Out.”