I am really excited about today’s TSP Profile. TSP happens to be longtime pals with a couple of gals; thespians, actresses, game changers in the theater community, right here in Chicago. Honestly, I would rather call them what they are, badass bitches with a flare for all things Cool Ass Shit. Their names are Michelle Power and Jillian Erickson and they are co-producers of a Performance Review like you have never seen. If you dwell in the Windy City or are making a visit in the next couple of months, you are going to want to add this to your “to do” list. Their show is called Beast Women and it is a pinch of awesome! I have watched their passion project start from seed and blossom into an incredible flower over the course of several years. I am in awe of their drive and commitment to women in the arts and also for their providing a platform for female performers of all kinds. These two women tirelessly and passionately curate, direct and perform something that is so unique, beautiful and completely entertaining. BW gives you a little taste of everything on one stage, in one night. You will leave feeling inspired, moved, giddy, thinking perhaps…am I a Beast Woman?
This is our TSP Profile. Meet Michelle Power and Jillian Erickson of Beast Women.
What does it mean to be a “Beast Woman” and how did you decide to go with that name for your production?
M: A Beast Woman is a female artist with performance material that we feel represents primal strength, freedom, sexuality, and or life oddities found in all women. Someone who knows how to unleash their passion for performing…that’s a Beast Woman. The name was derived from a theater company Jill and I used to perform with.
J: Beast Women was originally a one night performance that I helped run as a yearly show. There was a lot of poetry and monologues and it consisted of women the director knew. The company later disbanded and I was given the rights to do the show. But I only agreed to do it if I could choose my own team and do it my way. We started working on bringing in other genres…and the rest is history.
How long have you two (Jill and Michelle) known each other?
J: Forever. Since my junior year of college, so “cough”…23 years ago.
What can one expect at a Beast Woman show?
M: We showcase a rotating lineup of Chicago’s Best Female Performing Artists. We feature various genres including dance, burlesque, comedy, poetry, music, spoken word, circus sideshow, etc. etc. Expect to be entertained and inspired.
J: It’s one hell of a rocking time.
What do you love most about Beast Women Productions?
J: The women and the art that we have experienced along the way. Because we have done this for so long, (since the summer of 2007), I honestly believe that we have had the opportunity to not only help shape our own artistic path, but many other ladies’ paths and artistic legacies. I have grown into a stronger artist because of the other ladies I have performed with over the years. Their inspiration has really pushed me to up my own creativity.
M: I love that our company provides opportunities for women to perform, especially to perform original material that they might not otherwise have an outlet for.
What inspires you most about the incredibly talented women of Beast Women?
M: Their courage.
J: Their willingness to jump into areas that make most of us shrink away in fear. It is very empowering to see these ladies open up about things that most of us hold secret. Topics such as mental illness, rape, and abuse have been addressed in some performances. Once you open up a dialogue, the resolve is easier to find because we help strip away the stigma and get people aware and moved enough to do something about it. The women we cast help generate such an amazing environment where you can be part of something so strong.
What exact role do you play in BWP?
J: Co-Producer, Co-Director, Writer, Performer, Marketer, Website Designer, Host
M: Co-Producer, Co-Director, Stage Manager, Emcee
You clearly had a dream to do this, what obstacles/fears did you face while making this dream come true and how did you overcome them?
M: Jill asked me to join forces with her to make this show into something powerful, something unique. The biggest obstacle I think was the challenge of just trying to put together a different kind of show, especially in Chicago, that truly was a celebration of women in the arts. We wanted to make it as professional as possible, yet had little money to do it with. How can we afford a venue, lighting, supplies, etc.? We were starving artists ourselves, but we knew we wanted to put on a killer show. We had to start small, and gradually the venues have grown along with our audiences, but it was definitely not easy starting out. I remember doing the very first season, and freaking out wondering, would anyone come to see the show? Would people get what we were trying to do? Ultimately, we overcame these fears because we believed that what we were doing was important. Important for us and important for other women in the industry. No matter how many times you get down, you just have to get back up, stand tall, be proud, and move forward. Believe in what you’re doing, or else don’t bother doing it. And now here we are, on the verge of opening our 207th show.
What about this season is different that past seasons of Beast Women?
J: Each series just gets stronger as the performers and acts get more and more diverse.
M: Variety is our strength. We continue to cast different kinds of acts. But you can always expect the same caliber of performances with each show we do.
TSP loves the idea of women gathering on stage and sharing their talent and love for who they are with the public. What message or mission do you hope your audience walks away from the show with?
M: Our ultimate goal is to entertain as well as inspire our audience. We want to show how women have talent and ability beyond what you can imagine. I want people to say, Damn! That was one hell of a good show! We never do the same show twice, so there is always something new to see, again and again. Gotta keep them coming back for more.
Michelle, You are a new mom to twins! First and foremost, congrats! Second, how has becoming a mother added more joy or struggle to Beast Women Productions?
M: Thank you! Being a mother of twin boys certainly has its challenges, but I think it has definitely empowered me more as a woman. I can now relate at a new level with all of the women we have cast in the show who are mothers. It has fueled my love for what we do. I’ve had to learn how to juggle things a bit more and deal with the whole lack of sleep thing. But, I love the journey. If anything, it has really helped me to appreciate the beauty and power of women even more.
Do women have to try out for a part in Beast Women?
M: Yes. That is one of the things that sets us apart. You have to audition for our show. We hold auditions 3 times a year. We have seen well over 2,000 women at this point. There is a small group of gals that were part of our show in the early days who don’t have to audition any longer. But other than that, auditions are required for everyone, even seasoned performers.
Do you have a daily mantra? What is it?
J: Wake up and move.
M: Take it one day at a time.
How do you prepare for stage? Do you have any tips for aspiring thespians or TSPeeps who have a little stage fright?
M: We go over everything we have to do before the show together to make sure we don’t forget anything. Then I usually find some alone time to do a few mental and physical warm-ups. Get in the zone as it were. We have been performing for many years, and that nervous feeling never quite goes away. I usually concentrate on my breathing for a few minutes right before showtime. It helps you to relax and stay focused.
Who is your favorite actress/woman in history/inspiration and why?
J: Laurie Anderson
M: Katherine Hepburn. I love that she sought after diversity in her acting roles. She had fire in her soul. A free spirit. She wore pants when women didn’t wear pants. Love her. I’m also a huge fan of Jessica Lange. She continues to sink her teeth into her roles like nobody else. Cate Blanchett also does it for me. These are strong, independent women who have acting chops I aspire to.
When does your inner Beastie really come out?
M: When the house lights go down and the stage lights come up…and when I drink tequila.
Beer, wine or whiskey? And what is your sign?
M: Totally depends on the moment. And right now that moment is whiskey. Vampires…always.
Where is Beast Women Playing? When does the Spring Series Start? How do I buy my ticket?
The show is held at the Prop Thtr and tickets are on sale now. The Spring Series is every Saturday night starting April 30th running through May 28th. You can buy your tickets online.
It’s springtime. Theater season is upon us. Grab a date and see this show. It’s a blast!
Wait! Wait! One more thing. Are you a Beast Woman?
Love it. Live it. Share it.