Ebell member and composer Mikki Brisk was intrigued when she learned about the Ebell archives from past president Loyce Braun. Realizing the archives go back to the beginnings of the club 125 years ago, and were entirely written by the members, Brisk thought the papers could provide a wonderful way to learn about those early members and their lives.
“I got it in my head that there must be poetry and prose in those documents, and I thought it would be fun to set some of it to music,” said Brisk.
So Brisk was given access to the archives by another Ebell past president, Kay Lachter, who had taken the time to pull out some items she thought might interest Brisk. Brisk soon realized how much writing from past members was available and asked another Ebell member, Evangeline Kelly, a multi-instrumentalist who plays the harp and performs as Evangeline, for her help composing music for some of the poetry.
“I started thinking about how a show would look and realized it would be a lot of fun to intersperse readings among the songs,” explained Brisk. “That’s when I reached out to actors, knowing they were uniquely qualified to deliver the historic prose in the most entertaining way.”
The result was a new show called “Ebell Voices,” which will take place at the Ebell of Los Angeles this Sunday…and while playwright, author, and Buzz contributor Laura Foti Cohen contributed lyrics to a contemporary song, almost all the other material, collected by Brisk, dates from the late 1890s and late 1920s through 1931.
Participating actors/readers will include Nicole J. Butler (“She-Shed” fame), Carolyn Hennesy (“General Hospital” and “Master Class”), Catherine Hicks – Ebell member (“7th Heaven” and “Marilyn: The Untold Story”), Christopher Monger (Writer “Temple Grandin” and Writer/Director “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain”) and Betsy Zajko (“Rant and Rave” and “For the Love of A Glove”).
“The working musicians are all female and they’re fabulous! They are all current or former volunteer instructors at the Los Angeles Rock and Roll Camp for Girls & they are top-notch. We are quite fortunate to have them along for the ride,” Brisk told the Buzz.
“This program is designed to be entertaining,” explained Brisk. “But it is also written to show that women’s voices, though not always encouraged, have always been present. And even when women haven’t had opportunities to express themselves publicly, they have found places – such as the Ebell – where they may use their voices. That’s really what the show is about.”
Brisk, who has written more than 400 songs during her career, said she has never worked this way before, but she was so inspired by the materials in the archive that she plunged into the project, spending the better part of the last year developing it.
When asked how she selected the writings, she replied, “I just sparked to it or I didn’t. I had an abundance of options; we barely scratched the surface. We could this show every year and never run out of material. There is such a range of essays and prose, some quite serious and some completely irreverent.”
“It was so much fun to go through the materials and try to imagine the mindset of the authors,” said Brisk, who tried to learn more about the authors. But some of the work was only signed with initials, leaving her to guess the writer’s identity.
“I like to imagine they would feel a bit of joy and maybe even pride that their work was still around and it’s valid,” said Brisk. She said she hopes the show illustrates how these women were given voice to their creativity at the Ebell at a time when there were few places for women.
“I love that about the Ebell, and I hope that comes across that all these women had a safe place here,” said Brisk. “I’m so grateful I get to be a part of it!”
The production is Sunday, November 17 at 4 p.m. in the Lounge at the Ebell. Doors open at 4 p.m., the performance starts at 5 p.m. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased on the Ebell website.