We envision a world where people can learn from their stories and move beyond them, turning their pasts into testimonials of survival, dispelling old shame and inspiring others.
TMI Project is a non-profit organization offering transformative memoir workshops and performances that invite storytellers and audience members to explore new perspectives. By bravely and candidly sharing their personal stories, storytellers become agents of change, fostering compassion, understanding and public awareness.
â€œNever be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.â€? â€”William Faulkner
LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
There’s a saying I strongly believe in: “We are only as sick as our secrets.” We all have experiences and aspects of ourselves that we keep shrouded in secrecy because we’ve been too ashamed to reveal them, or because they’re too painful. Sometimes they’re things we’re even afraid to acknowledge within ourselves. We’re afraid to face them head-on, so we work hard to bury them, running from them all our lives. This can be a recipe for all kinds of problems — addiction, eating disorders, relationship difficulties, feelings of shame and self-hatred. I believe the antidote is sharing those sources of shame and anguish, so they are secrets no more. I’ve witnessed it again and again. When people are given a safe, nurturing space — where they can tell the truth and be listened to powerfully; when they gain the courage to step onstage in front of hundreds of strangers, and share the very thing they didn’t want even one person to know — then they can truly shift from a life of hiding to one in which they own their world. What’s more, sharing their experience can greatly benefit those listening. Those who’ve had similar experiences learn they’re not alone; those who come from completely different worlds gain compassion. What was once a source of great pain is transformed into a piece of art that inspires others to address their own sources of hurt and shame, and heal their lives. Individuals shed their identities as victims, and begin to identify as incredible, powerful survivors. The effect is so freeing, so exhilarating, so life-affirming, that it inevitably becomes contagious. As one person changes, so do the others in their family, their community and, in the end, their world. I have found this to be true regardless of who we are working with. Whether incarcerated teen boys, teen mothers, people living with mental illness, survivors of domestic violence or sexual abuse, members of the LGBTQ community, addicts and alcoholics, women’s human rights activists from around the world or the general public, this methodology works on human beings. It can work for anyone. We truly are changing the world one story at a time. I hope you will join us.
Eva Tenuto Founder and Executive Director, TMI Project
CHARTING OUR GROWTH:
FROM A LIVING ROOM TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN 5 YEARS
2012 • The Community Outreach Initiative is launched to offer workshops to underserved populations. Programs are brought to LBGTQ teens, adults with mental illness, and incarcerated teen boys
2011 • Tenuto enlists writer Sari Botton and actor Julie Novak for the first official TMI Project workshop
• TMI Project wins a free run of Too Much Information! at the Brooklyn Lyceum Theatre.
• The T.M.I.dol Story Slam Series is launched
• Eva Tenuto starts TMI Project in her living room as a way for women to write and perform their own stories, leaving in the parts they usually leave out—the TMI parts
• The first out-of-state production is staged in Northampton, MA.
• Program is opened to include men • More than $20,000 is raised through a well-supported Kickstarter campaign. The first Women’s Writing Retreat Weekend is introduced
• The first productions of Too Much Information! are big hits
• A women’s retreat is taught in Provincetown, MA. • TMI Project is the subject of a full length documentary. • TMI Project receives $150,000 over 2 years from the Tides Foundation.
• Several audience members report feeling inspired by the show to share their stories
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2015 • Continued board development
• Created a Strategic Plan
• Received our 501c3
• Formed the Founding Board of Directors
• In addition to maintaining its established programming, TMI Project’s Community Outreach Initiative adds a year-long program in the public school system, for teen moms as well as teens with autism, Asperger’s, psychiatric disorders and behavioral issues • TMI Project’s first themed production, What to Expect When You’re NOT Expecting: True Stories of Slips, Surprises and Happy Accidents (WTEWYNE) debuts. It begins touring colleges and serves as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood
• Trained 11 new teachers
• Opened our first office, classroom and performance space in Kingston, NY
• Executive Direcctor Eva was granted a 2-year leadership scholarship from Omega Institute
• Hired a grant writer, interim development director and executive assistant
• Launched Voices in Action to highlight the stories from our Community Outreach Initiative and as a result received a matching donation from Macquarie Securities for $21,613 for this work
• Received an Arts Mid Hudson Grant for our work at PTech High School
• Taught a workshop for Living Well, a program for survivors of domestic violence • Awarded Organization of the Year by the YWCA for our work with girls and women • A solo show developed through TMI Project was accepted into the NYC Fringe Festival and won Best Comedic Script of 2014 at the United Solo Festival
• TMI Project receives grants from Zoe’s Story and Eileen Fisher • More than $15,000 is raised through an Indiegogo campaign
• We taught a workshop for gender activists from around the world in partnership with Gender at Work • TMI Project receives another grant from Tides Foundation for $150,000 over 2 years
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• Started teaching workshops and producing shows at Colleges and Universities
• Another solo show developed through TMI Project performed at Dixon Place in NYC and was accepted into the NYC Fringe Festival and the United Solo Festival • Worked in partnership with the LGBTQ Center in Kingston, NY for No Name Calling Week • Launched Voices for Visibility to highlight LGBTQ stories • Created a program to develop stories about racial identity • Sari was accepted into and attended THREAD@Yale, a storytelling program at Yale University. • TMI Project chosen to offer a memoir and storytelling workshop at Omega Institute during their Women & Power Conference
• Taught workshops with International Gender Activist and performed three shows at The United Nations for The Commission on the Status of Women
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“TMI Project has the rare combination of bold creative vision and an ability to carry it out in an effective program design aimed at lifting the powerful and transformative stories of others. The Omega Women’s Leadership Center was so inspired by their capacity to help bring healing through the narrative form that we chose them as one of our four Collaborative Partners to whom we offer a range of support so they can deepen their ability to be bold, courageous, and phenomenal change agents!” —Carla Goldstein, Omega Institute’s chief external affairs officer and cofounder of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center
AREAS OF FOCUS: WRITING AND PERFORMANCE WRITING WORKSHOPS TMI Project runs writing workshops of varying lengths that culminate in either monologue performances, or printed work for publication in TMI Project books and periodicals, or other publications. Our instructors help participants produce compelling, highly personal monologues and essays through exercises and feedback in a safe space, followed by handson editing. These workshops can run anywhere from one day to many weeks, and can be tailored to the subject matter and specific needs of each group. We also offer retreats, which allow participants to immerse themselves for a weekend or a week in a beautiful setting while relaxing and focusing on their creativity. Here’s what you can expect from a TMI Writing Workshop: • A “safe” environment with supportive instructors and participants. • Writing exercises designed to jog your mind and help you see your story from alternate angles. • Gentle nudging to get you to tell the parts of your stories you usually leave out. • Opportunities to share your writing and ideas. • Guidance toward a completed piece of writing. • Editing and shaping of your piece for the stage— transforming it into a monologue you’ll perform, or editing your piece for the page. • Rehearsal in preparation for your performance. • Lots of laughing, crying and bonding with other courageous storytellers. PERFORMANCES Our workshops culminate in staged performances called Too Much Information! during which participants perform the true monologues they’ve worked on. The work is incredibly moving, and the performances are transformative for both the storytellers and the audience. Those who’ve told their stories feel unburdened, heard, and validated by the positive feedback they receive from audience members. The audience gets to hear people bravely tell truths that may be similar to those that they themselves have long kept secret, and they get to feel as if they now have permission to speak out truthfully. The majority of the audience tends to stay afterward for a lively Q&A, eagerly asking the storytellers about their stories and experiences in the workshop. They often also ask when they can take part in the TMI experience, too. We’ve heard that on car rides home, audience members often open up and bare their souls to one another. They’ve caught the very contagious — and healing — TMI bug.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” —Maya Angelou
“I'm struck by the lasting impact of the TMI Project on the survivors of domestic violence. They told their once-hidden secrets and felt emancipated by the safety, compassion and validation from the audience. This power continued to live in the months that followed as they pursued jobs and more opportunities to create the lives they imagined for themselves. They reflected on their TMI Project experience with pride and their hope became infectious.” —Renée Fillette, Former Executive Director, Grace Smith House
AREAS OF FOCUS: COMMUNITY OUTREACH
“One focus of MHA’s mission is to eradicate the stigma of mental illness and I believe TMI Project has been an excellent partner with us in this endeavor. TMI Projects’ group leaders allowed each participant to tell their story with such power and positive energy. There were standing ovations for everyone!”
—Ellen Pendegar, RN, CEO, Mental Health Association of Ulster County
In 2012, TMI Project launched its Community Outreach Initiative, bringing distinct versions of its empowering workshops to various rarely-heard-from populations, with writing prompts and other exercises specially tailored to address each group’s particular issues. Among the groups served so far: • Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault • Teenage mothers • At-risk teens with autism, Asperger’s, psychiatric disorders and behavioral issues • Adults working on their mental health issues • The LGBTQ community • Incarcerated teenage boys • Military veterans The workshop has been a success in every one of those arenas. Workshop leaders create a “safe” space in which participants feel comfortable sharing about experiences that have been traumatic, painful, or left them feeling shameful. Over the course of the program, participants bond and become supportive of one another. More often than not, even with a room full of the most at-risk teens, shame is dispelled, identification occurs, and compassion is fostered. In the future, we plan to work with: • People struggling with eating disorders • Cancer survivors • Girls and women who have been the victims of sex trafficking And many others
When Jacob started with us, he literally did not want to be seen or heard.
But as we worked together, he began to build his self-esteem and come out of his shell.
“TMI Project has done a wonderful job meeting the diverse needs of the students, capturing and recording their voices in a safe manner, and providing skills for public speaking and performance.” —Jonah M. Schenker, Principal, Ulster BOCES Alternative High School
AREAS OF FOCUS: EDUCATION
He bravely shared his story with his peers and was met with enthusiastic support. We have had great success implementing the TMI Project methodology in school settings, getting kids to feel comfortable writing about their experiences with bullying, domestic violence, sexuality, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and drugs and alcohol. Our program is a great, nonthreatening alternative to things like dedicated “anti-bullying workshops” and “drug and alcohol awareness meetings,” which can be intimidating and elicit resistance in kids. In the context of a “writing workshop,” students tend to
By the end of the session he was beaming with newfound confidence. be more cooperative and open to addressing their feelings on those challenging topics. Give them paper, a pencil, and some strategically chosen writing prompts designed to gently nudge them toward sharing painful secrets, and they are inspired. When they share their writing aloud with the group, they learn that they are not alone in their experiences. In this way, the TMI methodology breeds compassion — a natural antidote to bullying.
“TMI Project‘s production is a brilliant achievement. The women and men who so courageously tell their stories bring meaning and life to the political debates that continue to rage on about reproductive health and rights. The heartfelt stories shed a very nuanced and powerful light on the diversity of ways that individuals — both men and women — infuse the choices that they make with humility and humanity.” —Joanne Sandler, Former Deputy Executive Director of Programmes of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
AREAS OF FOCUS: ACTIVISM In 2013, the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, TMI Project launched its first themed show, What to Expect When You’re NOT Expecting: True Stories of Slips, Surprises and Happy Accidents. It is an entertaining, eye-opening exploration into reproductive “choice,” and an educational tool for high school and college students. The true stories about how participants responded to unplanned pregnancies are varied, and run the gamut from the continuation of a pregnancy to adoption to termination. Adoptees also share their experiences. There’s even a transgendered prospective sperm donor in the mix, left to decide if he should transition to womanhood or hold out to donate to a lesbian couple who surprise him with the request — a dilemma he certainly was not expecting. The script will eventually be made available for productions far and wide, with the stipulation that proceeds from every show must benefit Planned Parenthood and TMI Project’s Community Outreach Initiative. With important issues and causes, reports and statistics only convey a small piece of the story, and they are easy to overlook or ignore. In great contrast, when we hear someone share their truth about the experiences they’ve lived through, it becomes almost impossible to turn a blind eye. We’re moved in a much greater way than we’d ever be with just charts and numbers. Personal narrative is one of the most compelling tools for change. In the future, we plan to partner with many other organizations, too, raising funds and awareness for important issues and causes making positive change in the world, one story at a time.
“The TMI Project writing and storytelling methodology is useful for organizations that work on painful issues people normally keep silent about. The stories developed contain compelling, qualitative evidence of the long and winding journey of social change required for gender justice. This kind of evidence is often passed by in the development donor community but it is crucial that we do not ignore the value of these stories.”
—Ireen Dubel, Senior Women’s Rights Advisor, Hivos
AREAS OF FOCUS: ACTIVISM Researched reports and statistics have their place, but true storytelling is a more powerful, nuanced and dynamic way of reflecting what’s happening in the world. In the context of gender and development, storytelling is subversive. It takes us back to why the personal is political. It’s a process of remembering what inspired us to want to change the world. The TMI methodology creates a qualitatively different (positive) collective space for people with varying experiences to authentically work together. This can be effective and empowering for activists, aid workers, educators and others who work in what can be a divisive field.
In partnership with Gender at Work, TMI Project worked with activists for women’s human rights, getting participants to share the personal experiences that motivated and inspired them to want to change the status quo. They shared their stories at The United Nations Commission for the Status of Women. Audience members repeatedly remarked on how powerful each and every story was; how moved and honored they were to bear witness to the disclosing of such intimate narratives. Most commented on what an effective way this is of conveying the challenges women face, and the arenas where change needs to take place.
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” —Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
PO BOX 325 ROSENDALE, NY 12472 INFO@TMIPROJECT.ORG