Natalie Weinberg, right, performs with a live model painting of Dana Herndon, center, and Serena Drazkowski during the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Natalie Weinberg, right, performs with a live model painting of Dana Herndon, center, and Serena Drazkowski during the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

At new open mic night downtown, GRLZ run the stage

GRLZ is a fem-only open stage night meant to elevate less-heard voices

There’s no telling what will happen on the GRLZ stage, but it will involve someone who identifies as female, and it will be supported.

The new Wednesday night fem-only open stage series at Rendezvous is envisioned as a creative safe space by and for female performers. It has brought comedy, live painting, poetry, storytelling, singing and burlesque to the stage.

“All of that has happened here and that’s OK,” said Serena Drazkowski, who is part of the group that made GRLZ happen, in an interview at the most recent open stage night. “Tha’t what GRLZ is. There’s so much love and support. It’s just open for whatever. “

Taylour “TMO” Miller-Fisher, who also helped start GRLZ, said in a phone interview she hoped GRLZ would fill the lack of a dedicated venue for non-musical performance arts.

“It was hard to find a space to present,” said Miller-Fisher, who is a spoken word and visual artist. “There wasn’t really a space for women to come story tell or paint.”

Erika Bergren hosts the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erika Bergren hosts the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Asher Rohan, co-manager for Rendezvous, said in an interview the bar takes a hands-off approach with GRLZ. They provide the space, but Juneau woman handle the planning and performing.

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“It really is as simple as an open stage for female expression,” Rohan said.

Since Miller-Fisher has left Juneau for work in Oakland — she plans to be back for GRLZ events in December and next summer — the shows are being hosted by a rotating group of women.

“I am honestly surprised by how many people were willing to dedicate their time to the organization side of things,” Miller-Fisher said.

Erika Bergren, who hosted and performed poetry last Wednesday’s GRLZ, said in an interview the openness and energy of the room are what hooked her when she attended the third GRLZ event and why she’s gone to every one since.

“They (open mics) can be so male-dominated — especially bar open mics,” Bergren said. “It’s just a very accepting space.”

Erika Bergren reads poetry during the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erika Bergren reads poetry during the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

She said that manifests in encouragement after performances as well as the harder-to-pin-down atmosphere of the crowd.

“I think people are more willing to come up and say something resonated with them,” Bergren said.

Emily Mesch, who performed last week, said the atmosphere of the room is what brought her to the stage to perform a foursome of silly songs in languages she barely speaks.

Emily Mesch performs during the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Emily Mesch performs during the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“It feels like a more welcome atmosphere than other places,” Mesch said in an interview. “Every venue is unique in its own way and sometimes one just calls to you and you don’t know why.”

Miller-Fisher said the safe space allows for less-safe art. A supportive atmosphere lets artists take bigger risks.

“100 percent, and I think that’s exactly what we wanted, too,” she said.

That open-endedness of GRLZ is also something Wednesday night’s performers said they find appealing. Songs and poetry were performed, but live painting and a spoken word reframing of Cleopatra’s life also had their time on stage.

Dana Herndon, who is also part of the organizing group for GRLZ, delivered the latter.

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“Take away Egypt, take away the two most powerful men that she slept with at the time and take away the snake that killed her, and you end up with a tough, independent, very capable woman who knew exactly what she needed to do at the time,” Herndon said on stage.

While GRLZ is organized by women behind the scenes and that’s who appears on stage, Drazkowski said it’s not meant to be a male bashing event and men aren’t barred from performing with women on stage.

“This is not about men, this is about having a safe space,” Drazkowski said. “We’re accepting of any woman who wants someone to perform with them.”

An audience watches a painting performance during the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

An audience watches a painting performance during the GRLZ open mic night at the The Rendezvous Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Plus, Miller-Fisher said if someone doesn’t understand why the organizers want to elevate female voices, the event probably isn’t for them.

“It’s not exclusion if you’re elevating a disenfranchised group,” she said. “We’re just propelling voices that have traditionally not been heard.”

Know & Go

What: GRLZ, an all-fem open stage night.

When: 9 p.m., Wednesdays.

Where: Rendezvous, 184 S. Franklin St.

Admission: Free.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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