“I like to play a little game with everyone called ‘name five female film directors of the top of your head’. I can always think of one--Sofia Coppola” laughs Eve Rydberg, one half of the founding duo of The Good Night Ladies, an up and coming Chicago multi-media arts collective that encourages women to produce their own works. Realizations like the aforementioned are why she and fellow co-founder Jessica Marks, started up the creative company, which conceptualized from the girls’ college days at DePaul University.
“We just naturally gravitated towards each other creatively” says Marks when speaking of their long rehearsal days spent at The Little Theater.
Their collaborative bond never broke, even post-graduation and after Marks moved back to her home of Atlanta for a few years. That ever apparent bond however, is what inspired the ladies to reboot the creative psyche of their relationship and start their underground arts movement. During collaboration with The Den Theater titled “The Menagerie”, Rydberg and Marks debuted a narrative burlesque piece that quickly guided them in the right direction for their collaboration.
“It was so creatively driven and we wanted the audience to have the expectations of a burlesque show and then meanwhile subverting that expectation and the expectation of what was sexy and what it was overall going to be--but it’s hard to get past the point of girls taking their clothes off so we knew that wasn’t the road we wanted to continue down on” Rydberg shrugs.
The night at the Den did however grant the girls their group’s name and inspired them to dive deeper into their endeavors. “The song the [burlesque] piece was set to was Lou Reed’s Good Night Ladies and we were built up and advertised as the Good Night Ladies as well, so we decided ‘let’s turn this into something’. Let’s turn this into a platform for us to make work and encourage other women to be making work as well”.
And so they did.
Shortly after the ladies started the planning for their trademark event--titled VAGINA—a night where Chicago’s greatest female forces in the arts come together to present and perform their best work—a concept that Marks states “crystallized” their artistic vision. Femininity driven acts such as “The Ye-Ye’s”—an all-girl sixties inspired French pop/rock band who have been blowing up the Chicago indie scene, were one of the stand out groups featured—and were only thrilled to work with Rydeberg and Marks when the invitation came along.
“[Eve and Jessica] were so professional, organized and supportive” Ye-Ye’s lead singer Heather Perry compliments of her colleagues.”[They are] very talented women, and a dream to work with. Focusing on female artists is clearly something we have in common, so we were very excited to join forces.”
The Good Night Ladies have even ensured that anyone who identifies with being a female can participate in their events as well, by reaching out to the transgendered community.
“They’re locked out of the feminist debate on top of already having a hard enough time being accepted,” Marks notes “and it’d be completely against what we’re trying to do [as an organization] if we excluded them.”
The ladies latest endeavors follow a historical route of women breaking the patriarch mold of the artistic world—starting with The Moscow Pussy Riot to the Guerilla Girls in the eighties followed by Madonna and her anti-Catholicism acts most recently in the new millennium.
“Art has always been the place for social dissent”, Columbia College Chicago Women’s and Gender Studies Minor Head Stephanie Frank states. “Because art is so marginal in U.S. society it has become a new place for advocacy. Art isn’t funded by big corporations, it isn’t funded by political parties or conflicting interests—therefore it’s a safe haven for those who want to promote change.”
A safe haven for artistic women is just what The Good Night Ladies have created. In addition to VAGINA and their self-executed short film festival, titled CUT, Rydberg and Marks have been spending the majority of 2013 laying out the foundation for their upcoming event “The Ladies Empowerment Project”, an all-female scripted ensemble play, composed of the real life experiences of each of its cast members. The callbacks for the Ladies Empowerment Project was one of the stand out moments in their short history that they believed propelled their hopes for future prospects for the organization as well as disproved the age old assumption that women don’t work well together.
“We called back twelve women and we were casting six of them, so for the final audition we were really asking these women to go out on a limb, artistically. They were collaborating with each other, confiding in each other, and sharing their experiences in a physical, improvisational way and though they were all competing for a spot, at the end of it all they all were hugging each other, kissing each other; they were getting each other’s numbers. I started to cry just watching it all” Marks reminisces, “especially when I think of the fact that I used to be scared of other girls, and now I’ve had this metamorphosis and shift on my view of women and working with them and being with them.”
“It was such a stark opposite to all these reality shows and media outlets portraying women as constantly fighting with each other. From what we’ve experienced this far, that’s not how it really works,” adds Rydberg, “and we’ve seen the idea disproved over and over again.”
The ladies agree that the best part since the founding of their arts collective has been the relationships they have made with the artists they’ve collaborated with. “[These women] have become sisters in the sense that I’ve never had before,” says Marks, “and it’s so healthy and just a beautiful, beautiful experience.”
Their runner up for best moment?
“After the first VAGINA, [Eve and I] were sitting in the back of the venue in the bathroom, counting our money", Marks recounts, "and were thinking, "Holy shit we did it!'".
With VAGINA III will be taking place this upcoming August, it seems safe to say they’ll continue to do it...over and over again.
Find out more of the ladies upcoming events at their website.
-article by BIANCA BETANCOURT