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‘That’s What She Said’ returns to C-U for its 10th anniversary


The speakers of the 2023 C-U “That's What She Said” event joined hands in a final bow as audience members applauded on Feb. 25. The event celebrated the 10th anniversary of “That's What She Said” and featured nine speakers who shared their experiences. Photo by Piper Pascarella

The storytelling series “That's What She Said” returned to Champaign-Urbana for its 10th anniversary on Feb. 25. The event was held at the Virginia Theatre and celebrated nine women’s stories in a live, one-night only event. 

The She Said project was founded in 2013 and serves as a platform for everyday women to share their stories, according to the She Said project website

Kerry Rossow, one of the founders of the project, said she created it to share glimpses into the stories of local women and create a community of women supporting women.

“We always say that the show should be like the old analogy of a window and a mirror,” she said. “You should see someone on the stage who is a mirror...and you should also see a window where you see something in a whole new way. 

“All of it is about connection. That's what it all comes back to.” 

The set, designed by Michael Ujcich with Carpet Weavers Flooring to appear as a living room, created an atmosphere that felt like an open conversation where friends came together to share their triumphs and trials, Rossow said. 

Jenette Jurczyk, the project’s local producer and national director, said the project creates human connection and allows people of all walks of life to come together and find a community. 

“My favorite part of the process is getting to spend one-on-one time with each of these women and helping them uncover the stories that they didn’t even know were important,” she said. 

For the event, the project partnered with The Well Experience, a community organization dedicated to supporting the growth of minority families, according to their website. A portion of the earnings from the event will be donated to the charity. 

The event featured the personal stories of each of the speakers. The women’s stories focused on numerous topics, including mental health, loss, abuse, illness, sexual assault and self-discovery. 

Heidi Esther, one of the event speakers, said TWSS gave her a community of women with whom she felt empowered and seen. 

“Being a member of ‘That’s What She Said’ has brought me into a deeper connection of friendship with some dear souls,” Esther said. “It has shown me the power and strength that happens when you come together to share true, painful, sometimes hilarious moments.” 

From Tessa Turner Stadnik's opening “Hide and Seek” story to Nicole Frydman’s closing “I Broke Up to Stand Up,” each speaker shared an experience that brought tears, laughter and applause from audience members. 

The event closed with the women singing “Brave” by Sara Bareilles together after being honored by Jurczyk for their bravery to share their stories. 

The event ended at 10 p.m. and was followed by an after party at Neil St. Blues restaurant in Champaign. The after party was sponsored by the Junior League of Champaign, Illinois.

Shayla Maatuka attended this year's event to support her friend, Shandra Summerson, and law partner Roaa Al-Heeti, who both spoke at the event. 

“I just love the girl-power you get after going to one of these events,” she said. “I always leave with pride and joy after every time I come.” 

Since TWSS was founded in 2013, the program has expanded to a blog, a podcast and a press release. In the fall of 2018, “That’s What Teens Say,” a three-day intensive program designed to empower teenage girls, was created. 

TWSS has expanded throughout Illinois and nationwide, with upcoming shows in St. Louis, Columbia and Indianapolis. 

The next show will be hosted in Peoria, Illinois, on March 4. The event will feature a new set of women who will share their story. 

Tickets for the Peoria show can be purchased online at the Artists Reinvigorating Tomorrow website

Each performance is recorded and posted on YouTube, as well as reshared on the She Said podcast by Jurczyk and Rossow and published through the She Said press.