First-Years Put on Showcase “Headlines” Focusing on Women and Injustice

Photo by Carolyn Brown '16 | Pictured: Cast and crew of the Headliners first-year showcase.  

Olivia Goodman '14 News Editor

On the evenings of Friday, Nov. 8, and Saturday, Nov. 9, members of the first-year class put on the event “‘Headlines’: First-Year Showcase.” Described as a collaborative effort by playwrights, actors and directors from the class of 2017, “Headlines” was a collection of short scenes and monologues discussing women and their roles in the world as mothers, daughters, workers and activists, among others.

“The ideas from this showcase came from our first meeting and discussion. The producers asked members of the freshman class what we feel strongly about, and after a long discussion, we found that everyone really wanted to talk about women, and the final theme [we] chose was to focus on social injustice for women,” said Diana Chen ’17, one of the directors of the show.

The name “Headlines” came from the directors’ desire to give the audience a taste of different themes and subjects dealt with in their production, “like reading the headlines off a newspaper,” said Chen. “They are short, but clear and important.”

The format of the showcase included a performance of Calm Down Mother, a one-act play by Megan Terry; an original piece written by the showcase’s two writers Olivia Sayah ’17 and Elizabeth Haas ’17; and an ensemble. The ensemble consisted of monologues chosen or written by the actors themselves.

Calm Down Mother is a type of play often referred to as a transformation play, which shows various aspects of relationships between women and how women themselves, in addition to society, place restraints on themselves and their opportunities for growth. Traditionally, only three women and minimal props are used for Calm Down Mother.

“We wanted the monologues to resonate with the actors and contain themes they really wanted to express to the audience. We then split five actors so that three would work on the scene from Calm Down Mother, and the other two would work on the piece written by Sayah and Haas. I wanted the show to include a depiction of two women of different social class, age, and life experience both going through the same problem – the lack of evolution of women’s rights. Each character has their own problems that seem unresolvable, and things they are each unwilling to sacrifice in their process of evolution,” said Chen.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done a first-year production,” said Jessamine Griewah-Nokita ’17, one of the actors in the showcase. “It was a way for first-years to get involved with the theater department and have access to it from the beginning of their time at Smith. All the acting, writing, directing and stage managing was done by first-years. I chose what ended up being my monologue in the ensemble piece. It’s from a play called Snow White Gets Her Say, which is a feminist take on classic fairy tales.

“Being involved in this show has helped me further involve myself in theater at Smith. I now feel like I can say I’m a thespian at Smith, and the show has really helped us first-years bond. There were only 10 of us putting on this show and we really did it all from scratch, which really bonded us as a cast.”

Diandrea Beckman ’17 also credited the showcase for helping her get involved in theater at Smith. “I am part of the Smith Student Theater Committee and have been hungry for theater,” said Beckman. “I did a lot of theater in high school and was looking for a way to get into the theater scene in college. I performed an original poem about the victimization of women and a short piece about prostitution. I hope the audience came way questioning some of the societal structures that confine women and ideas about womanhood.”