Theatre expects empowering season

Performance of Lonely Planet during the fall 2021 semester. Courtesy Photo | Vincent Ford

The SVSU theatre Department has several plays it is planning to showcase during the winter

“Silent Sky” by Lauren Gunderson and “Top Girls” by Caryl Churchill were the two productions selected by faculty.

Theatre department chair David Rzeszutek said he and his colleagues try to make diverse choices.

“We try to balance our theatrical seasons to offer a variety of styles and genres,” Rzeszutek said.

Theatre professor Tommy Wedge elaborated on this sentiment.

“The idea is that from one’s first to last year, each student should have the opportunity to participate in a range of genres and styles; from comedies to dramas, musicals to farces, theatre for young audience to Shakespeare, classic to contemporary,” Wedge said. “That way when one graduates from our program, their resume highlights their range of experience and expertise.”

“Silent Sky” will be the first play to be performed. It follows the brilliant Henrietta Leavitt during the early 1900s as she attempts to break into the male-dominated field of astronomy at the Harvard Observatory.

Theatre professor Peggy Mead-Finizio is directing “Silent Sky,” and said she fell in love with
the play after attending a staged reading of it.

“It is based on true events, real people and the discoveries made [by] the characters are still used in astronomy today,” Mead-Finizio said. “I am excited to share the story of a woman from the early part of the 20th Century that had a passion for something way beyond her reach and the impact she and the other women in the story made on the world.”

The theme of trailblazing women continues in “Top Girls,” which follows lead Marlene as she celebrates a recent promotion at her job, with the help of some other prevalent women in history.

Wedge is slated to direct, saying it is “a challenging script, both in style and substance” based on the overlapping dialogue used by Churchill and the English dialect spoken by the characters.

“’Top Girls’ is a hallmark of post-modernism and Feminism, and its themes are brilliantly brought to life by Churchill,” Wedge said. “I have the very best raw material to stage, which as a director is intimidating yet absolutely thrilling. ”

Professor Mead-Finizio said the choice to have two female-centric plays was made in part due to the demographic of the department currently being the majority women, but also by assessing other factors.

“It is important to share stories that feel right for this moment in time,” Mead-Finizio said. “Putting strong women in ‘the spotlight’ is what feels right for the current social and political situation. We have to ask, what stories do people want to see? What is relevant right now?”

While “Silent Sky” is already casted, “Top Girls” still has upcoming auditions. Wedge said he welcomes students from all disciplines to try out. “Whether you have experience in theatre or not, or want to contribute onstage or offstage, we’d love to have your help,” Wedge said. “Over the past few years, connection has been so hard, and this is a great way to get to know people while giving yourself a productive creative outlet.”

Auditions for “Top Girls” will be held Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 in Curtiss 181 with times to come.

“Silent Sky” will run from Feb. 23 through Feb. 27 while “Top Girls” is scheduled for April 6 through April 10, both presented in the Malcolm Field Theater.

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