By Julia Clifton
Elm Staff Writer
Although two distinct plays were performed this weekend in Tawes theatre, “Fefu and Her Friends” and “Men on Boats,” they shared two things in common: the same all-female cast and a stage set with just a line of chairs.
“Fefu and Her Friends” was performed as a staged reading, where the actresses remained mostly stationary and read from their scripts. “Men on Boats” was a rehearsed reading, performed with limited movement and a few props.
These types of pared down performances, where the actors have scripts in hand and the props and sets are minimal, can be beneficial for the cast, directors, and the audience, according to junior Kelly Young
“Removing all of these other elements shifts the focus fully to the performance of the text itself. As an actor, you get to deeply understand the world and the characters of the play in a really unique way,” Young said, who played Julia in “Fefu” and Goodman in “Men on Boats.”
“Fefu and Her Friends,” written by María Irene Fornés, is the story of a group of women in the 1930’s as they grapple with then revolutionary ideas of sexuality and independence.
The women gather for a series of meetings and discuss their personal feelings and their roles in society. To capture the intimate feel of these meetings, the audience was split into four groups and traveled to different locations throughout Gibson Center for the Arts; “the bedroom,” “the lawn,” “the study,” and “the kitchen.”
“’Fefu’ is all about women taking down the patriarchy one meeting at a time. That is a constant underlying theme throughout the piece,” said junior Jackie Dulaff, who played Paula Cori in “Fefu” and Andrew Hall in “Men on Boats.”
While “Fefu” was a cast of women playing women, “Men on Boats” was the same cast of women portraying John Wesley Powell’s nine-man expedition to map the Colorado River. This play, written with explicit instructions that the cast should be made of women and non-cisgender persons, discusses themes of masculinity, among others.
“I love aspects of history and this is based on real men who mapped the Colorado River. It’s an exploration of their trip in a kind of serial comic way, but all played by women,” said Brendon Fox, assistant professor of theater and director of both plays.
Although these shows have very different settings, they convey similar messages about community and gender.
The crew of “Men on Boats,” despite their competing opinions, must work as a team to traverse the rocky rivers and the dangers of the Grand Canyon. In a more metaphorical sense, the women in “Fefu” must stand together against the patriarchy and advocate for their intelligence.
“To me, the absolute most important thing for the audience to take from this is a sense of community and curiosity. The characters in both shows are a group of tight-knit individuals who experience a common struggle,” sophomore Callie Jaycox, stage manager for both shows, said.
Young spoke to the challenges of managing not only two roles, but two shows at once.
“We’ve been alternating rehearsing the two shows so that every other day is devoted to one or the other. This schedule has really allowed us to focus on developing each character individually within the world of each play,” she said.
According to freshman Katherine Derosiers, who played Cindy in “Fefu” and Bradley in “Men on Boats,” the complex interrelations of the characters, the style of the performances and the all-women casts made these shows a one-of-a-kind experience for both the audience and the actors.
“Being in these shows with all women is definitely special. All of our characters are able to connect on certain issues that define womanhood, and we as a cast can do the same thing,” Derosiers said.