The Rose Theater's annual "Broken Mirror" stage show puts teen girls in the driver's seat creatively.
The girls use poetry, improvisation, comedy, music and more to address obstacles they face and overcome each day.
Roberta Wilhelm got the idea for the series back when the children's theater was still called the Emmy Gifford, though the first Broken Mirror was staged at the Rose in 2001.
Wilhelm left as the Rose's executive director in 2003 to become executive director of Girls Inc. But it wasn't until this year, as she stages the 12th version of "Broken Mirror" Saturday and Sunday, that she decided to step aside as its director.
"My daughter, Tess Larson, who was a member of the cast for many years, is 25 now," Wilhelm said. "She's been co-directing with me the past several years."
Tess is graduating, starting a new career in social work and public administration. She can't commit to teaming with her mom next year. It seemed like a good time to break.
Wilhelm said "Broken Mirror" is as important for girls now as when it began.
"It gives them a voice, which I think is important for all girls," she said. "It gives them the opportunity to see they're not alone. Whatever their joys, fears, successes, dreams, some other girl has them as well."
Yes, I was homeless, too. I stress about homework too. I'm compared to my sibling, too. Whatever the issues are.
Some years are more intense, others more mellow in what comes up. What hasn't changed is how much they feel, and the way adults can sometimes dismiss young girls' feelings, Wilhelm said.
"Every year, I'm astonished at how supportive the girls are of each other," she said.
In creating the show, the girls participate in lots of difficult and productive discussions about topics like race — topics grownups tend to avoid.
Wilhelm said "Broken Mirror" also helps girls deconstruct and reject messages society sends that tend to sexualize and objectify them at a very young age.
"I don't always agree with their politics, their religion, their social views," she said. "But I let the girls talk. And I let them work it out themselves."
Contact the writer: