In 2011, Ithaca College theatre professor Kathleen Mulligan and her husband David Studwell traveled to Kerala, India, on a Fulbright Scholarship to develop her project “Finding Women’s Voices.” Mulligan was invited to teach a workshop on the power of voice at the Sakhi Shelter, a refuge for women and children who have escaped domestic abuse. At the end of the evening, Studwell asked the shelter’s director what they needed more than anything. The most crucial thing they could use, they said, was a mode of transportation to rescue victims from violent situations. The seed for a life-changing project was planted.
When Mulligan and Studwell returned to the United States, they hosted the first Wheels for Women Cabaret at the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre in Michigan, where several Ithaca College Theatre Arts students were working at the time. Their goal was to raise enough money so the shelter could purchase an auto-rickshaw. They exceeded that goal, and the students who participated urged Mulligan to make the cabaret an annual event at Ithaca College. Now, 10 years later, the event has become a full evening of performances and a treasured tradition. The Ithaca College Department of Theatre Arts held the 10th Annual Wheels for Women Cabaret on Jan. 29 and proved that theatre is alive and well in our campus community, and so is the potential for real social change.