Although Fran Powers studied theater in college, she decided to leave the industry after graduating. She believed theater could not make the drastic changes she wanted to see in the world. Despite those misgivings, Powers still loved the art form.
That affection eventually brought her back to the stage. Today Powers is the founder of Powerstories Theatre, whose philosophy is that everyone, especially women and girls, has a Powerstory to discover and share with others.
Epiphany While Cycling
Powers believes discovering autobiographical stories and empowering people to tell them causes investment in others’ lives and leads to more vital connections. The idea for Powerstories came to her while cycling across the United States.
“When you have that much time just pedaling and looking at nature, you can deeply reflect,” she shared. “It became very clear to me that part of my purpose for being here was to do theater. At that time in my life, I was meeting a lot of women who said, ‘Oh, I don’t have a story to tell,’ and it would drive me crazy. We all have so much to offer.”
Powers had an epiphany that her favorite part about theater was creating and working with people to make ideas come to life. In 2000, she launched Powerstories, located in Tampa, Florida. The nonprofit now offers workshops, classes, and motivational events to encourage women and young artists to engage in their community. Programs also focus on students questioning the world around them and building confidence.
Inspiring Middle School Girls
Growing up, Powers had an interest in performing and writing. However, it was not until her sixth-grade teacher encouraged this passion that she had the confidence to pursue it. The teacher purposely set up a talent show, which gave Powers her first opportunity to be on a stage, an experience she loved.
Today, she recaptures that magic by inspiring middle school girls. Powerstories programs use many methods to expose young girls to theater and arts, including learning about impactful artists to practicing the Stanislavski technique. While acknowledging that middle school years can be difficult ones, Powers says theater can provide much-needed confidence for young girls in the age group.
“This [program] gives us a chance to impart knowledge and wisdom on such young minds,” she said. “We intentionally selected this age. We could have done something for elementary or even high school. But there’s not much for this group. We do a full program for practically nothing. Then I find sponsors to pay for their services.”
In recognition of her work, Powers received a 2010 award at the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, which the Obama administration presented to her in Washington, D.C.
Voices of Women Theater Festival
Like all theater communities, Powerstories Theatre faced unprecedented challenges in 2020. To cope, Powers launched the Voices of Women Theater festival in light of stay-at-home orders.
A virtual experience, the festival had Powerstories showcase new and established playwrights, directors, and local, national, and international casts to a global audience. Creators submitted works, many highlighting uniquely feminine stories, which audiences then paid to stream to their homes.
Voices of Women Theater is now an annual event, both online and in person. This year it showcased nine novices to accomplished female playwrights, selected from hundreds of submissions throughout the United States and Canada.
Powers’s journey shows career paths are not always clear nor straightforward. She has completely embraced her role as a creator of communities that strives to inspire others and knows there is a place for everyone in the theater.
“Theater has all the art forms,” she said. “It has performance art, music, dance, painting, everything. I love working with so many personalities and being the person who brings people together.”
Written by Addison Vaughn
Images provided by Powers