Two women, connected by JWI, partner to produce a powerful play on sexual violence.
by Allie Lerner, 2019 JWI intern
Last year, Mimi Brodsky Kress, 2017 Sondra D. Bender Community Leadership Woman to Watch honoree, and a co-owner and COO of Sandy Spring Builders, happened to be at the same event as Amanda Moskowitz, a member of JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network. Moskowitz recognized Kress from Women to Watch and introduced herself. She mentioned she was working on a one-act play centered on her own experiences with sexual abuse and assault. Kress was captivated, and the women made plans to discuss the play in-depth over coffee the following week.
A mentorship flourished, and Moskowitz's play, I Am Her, came to life. While Moskowitz wields creative power, Kress brings business acumen and well-established connections – such as to fellow Women to Watch honoree Pam Sherman, an actress, writer, and lawyer who read the I Am Her script and offered advice.
“After hearing a little about her personal story and then reading the early version of the play, I decided that I wanted to help her make this a reality,” explained Kress.
While playwrights typically send their work to directors to develop a play, I Am Her is uniquely self-produced, with the two women raising all the money to bring it from page to stage.
Moskowitz is grateful not only for Mimi’s partnership and counsel, but to JWI for making that and other meaningful connections.
“The value of JWI for me has really been the opportunity to network and build relationships with exceptional, like-minded women. Everyone I have met through JWI is passionate about improving their world, community, family, and themselves,” Moskowitz says. “The support and connections I've found through JWI helped me identify what it is I was meant to do and changed the trajectory of my life.”
I Am Her shines light on four separate instances of sexual abuse, including date rape, sexual harassment, dating violence, and childhood sexual abuse. Ultimately, the audience learns that it was one woman who experienced all four. When asked what she hopes the audience will take away, Moskowitz says she wants everyone to know that they have a voice – and, more importantly, the power of that voice.
She adds that while this play is female-centered, men and LGBTQ+ individuals also experience sexual abuse and assault.
Moskowitz recalls a moment after an early read-through. A close friend, who was in the audience, was inspired to disclose her own sexual abuse – and her fear that the same would happen to her child. The audience erupted in support, and Moskowitz and Kress realized the play's intense, potentially triggering effect. Counselors will be on hand at performances to support audience members who have experienced abuse or trauma.
As follow-up, Kress and Moskowitz are using I Am Her as a platform to create a non-profit organization, also named “I Am Her,” which will create a curriculum on sexual abuse and assault. A portion of the play's profits will be donated to the organization.
“I truly believe that the day someone tells their story, whether it be through writing, acting, painting, or singing, is the day their story changes. That is why my goal is to turn I Am Her into a packaged curriculum that takes the play off stage and into classrooms, campus organizations, and community groups,” Moskowitz says. “I want to create an environment where young adults are guided through the complexities of sexual trauma, given access to local resources, and – most importantly – opened up to the healing power of artistic expression.”
“This really became a labor of love for me,” Kress explains. “I am beyond excited that Amanda's words, which are so important and relevant, will come to life on the stage. We have already touched the lives of several people who have been traumatized by sexual abuse, and if that's all we do then we can feel incredibly proud of this project.”