Jennifer takes centre stage

During National Volunteer Week (9-15 May) McAuley Community Services for Women pays tribute to Jennifer Monk for her contributions to our organisation.

Jennifer Monk has used performance to change the lives of women supported at McAuley Community Services for Women. Firstly, by performing in shows to raise money for the organisation and then running theatre/performance workshops for the women at McAuley House. No matter what she’s doing, she gives it everything, committed to supporting women affected by homelessness and family violence.

Jennifer first became involved with McAuley Community Services for Women when she performed in the Vagina Monologues in 2014 at the Malthouse Theatre, with some of the proceeds coming to our organisation. Later that year she joined forces with other talented actresses, as part of the acting troupe, Girls Act Good, to put on, A Christmas Tale, at The Butterfly Club with 100% of proceeds going to McAuley.

Fast forward a year and Jennifer found herself at McAuley House volunteering to work with the women on writing and devising a performance. Together, they performed a pre-Christmas show called, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth’.

“It was a great time to work with the women on producing a show that they performed in-house to a very appreciative audience during one of the Wednesday community nights,” Jennifer said. “It can be so freeing for the women to come up with ideas, put them into stories and then perform in front of others. Often a woman will join us for a class and just sit and watch for a while, but before too long they too feel the energy and enthusiasm from the other women and join in because it is such a safe space to be creative and have a voice.”

Jennifer is back at McAuley House every Thursday working with the women on improvisation, characterisation, scriptwriting, performance and vocal techniques. The focus of the weekly classes is fun and confidence building.

“It’s a fantastic session each week where we do all sort of things that really help build the women’s confidence to speak up and use their decision making skills. We are using the Wizard of Oz story and script at the moment, which everyone knows and loves,” she said. “The women all support one another to try out different parts and there is no pressure to be anything. It’s a really safe environment.”

Jennifer is delighted the women want to move into writing their own material in the months ahead, which they may perform later in the year. Whatever comes out of the weekly classes is okay by Jennifer who is constantly surprised by the resilience of her ‘students’.

“I am often surprised when I hear them talking about things that are going on in their lives, that they still keep going.”

Jennifer is currently rehearsing for a show, The Violet Sisters, which opens at the Owl and Cat Theatre in Richmond on May 17-27. To book tickets go to https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=192731