Feminism is not dead, according to the responses of the audience members of Theatre Fairfield’s production of Rachel Crothers’ “A Man’s World” and the residents of the Gender and Sexuality Build-A-House, who hosted a talkback on the play Saturday evening.
The main ideas of the play are still just as relevant to women who face different yet important struggles today as well as when the play was first performed in 1909.
“We at Theatre Fairfield choose plays that we feel are very important for us to produce right now to this audience on this campus,” said Dr. Martha LoMonaco, professor of visual and performing arts and director of the show. “We feel that the feminist issues in this play, even though it was written over a century ago, are equally relevant to us in our time and place.”
Senior Victoria Schuchmann who plays Leone Brune, a singer who lives in the bohemian house of artists that the play is centered around, spoke on the importance of theater in social issues as well.
“I think theatre, as an art form, can be used as a powerful means of communication, and as a propeller for change. Theatres create safe spaces in which the ‘norm’ can be questioned, and individuals can feel empowered to be their best selves.”
Schuchmann, who has been involved with Theatre Fairfield since her freshman year, went on to discuss the experience of being in a production like this one.
“Being a part of this production has been a truly wonderful experience,” she stated. “Leone Brune is such a larger-than-life, bold, lively character, and I am honored that I have the opportunity to portray her in all her pot-stirring glory.”
LoMonaco added, “This is not just putting on a play; this is a major pedagogical, research, artistic creative project that brings to life important issues of the past that are equally important to our contemporary audience.”
The play is about a young woman in the early 20th century who struggles to balance a career in writing and a social life while raising a child she adopted, along with having to face sexist remarks and double standards of the “man’s world” she lives in. The main character, Frank Ware, struggles with people in her life who do not believe that she, as a woman, can be equal to a man and she fights against the unfairness of it all.
Associate Professor of English and Director of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program Dr. Emily Orlando wrote an essay on the feminist issues of the play that appeared in the play’s program, specifically surrounding Ware. She wrote, “When read in the context of turn-of-the-century literary works … Crothers’ play is to be credited for imagining a better possibility for Frank Ware. Crothers’ heroine, having willfully rejected a sexual double standard that would measure her worth according to her purity and not her cultural work, is alive and full of purpose as the curtain closes.”
Along with Ware, there are many other bright characters, such as the aforementioned singer Brune, playwright Wells Trevor, French painter Emile Grimeaux, German musician Fritz Brahn, miniature painter Clara Oakes, the insufferably sexist Malcolm Gaskell and of course, the unforgettable Kiddie, Frank’s adopted child who is played by a puppet controlled by three puppeteers. This cast of characters adds diversity not only in terms of ethnicity, but of varying representations of masculinity and femininity.
The compelling and important storyline and performances of the characters were brought to life by the well-designed set and the costumes, in particular. The costumes, all in period, varied based on the different personalities of the women in the play. For example, Ware’s attire was well put-together and professional, while Oakes’ dress was simplistic and borderline grungy, reflecting her class status and profession.
After the 2 p.m. production of “A Man’s World” on Saturday, Oct. 31, there was an hour-long discussion in the Gender and Sexuality Build-A-House hosted by juniors Melanie Dumitrescu, Elizabeth Slieehau, Meaghan Hamilton, Angelina Colletti, Caroline Kiezulas and Taryn Druge in Townhouse 131 on the feminist issues explored in the play and their relevance today. It was clear that the audience members who attended the talkback believe that these issues are in fact just as relevant today as they were when the play debuted. The talkback was attended by about 10 audience members, along with three cast members from the show.
“A Man’s World” was a part of series of performances curated by LoMonaco called “It’s a Woman’s World.” This series includes a night comprised of performing excerpts from “INCARNATIONS: Sketches for a Longer Work,” and a screening from “Three Views of the Higgs and Dance” from Emily Coates (dance) and Sarah Demers (physics). Following “INCARNATIONS” at 7 p.m. is “Four Women,” a musical performance that celebrates of women in the hip-hop industry, an industry known for being dominated by men. These two events will be coming to the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Nov. 15.