A one-gender show.
SHE at Oberon will take the stage April 14th and 15th to debut a full cast of women celebrating modern womanhood. Inspired by true stories, SHE was developed by Liz Kantor ‘18 and Rachel Talamo ‘18 over the course of the year in collaboration with a cast and crew of over twenty Harvard women. After doing a musical revue of songs that passed the Bechdel test (a set of criteria to determine if a production includes multiple women who discuss things other than men), Kantor was inspired to create an original project. After the Hasty Pudding Theatricals continued to deny women access to joining the cast last year, many women interested in theater rose up to support such a project. While SHE was already an idea for the developers, the failure of the Hasty Pudding to evolve and allow women cast members was a push to create a project that was all encompassing of women’s experiences.
The information for SHE proclaims: “This is my space, thank you, and I will take it up.” Harvard’s campus has come under criticism in the past years for its lack of inclusivity. This year many groups and individuals have worked to break down the outdated traditions that exclude women. The Hasty Pudding decided not to include in the show the talent of female performers who auditioned for the theatricals. Their hopes of persuading the group to expand the cast to include women squashed, many women became more determined to alter the gender roles in Harvard theater. As Kantor explains, the Hasty Pudding incident proved that “this is definitely something I should do.”
Kantor further explained, “We wanted to acknowledge and celebrate the incredible women we have here, and knew that the best way to do this would be to build something from the ground up that was wholly shaped around them.” This was especially important to Kantor and the rest of the SHE team as they find themselves in an atmosphere in which popular musical theater depicts women as only fulfilling stereotypical roles such as, “your innocent soprano ingénue, her perky best friend, and maybe some character roles here and there.”
SHE explores the stories that women can relate to, covering topics such as pregnancy scares, peeing your pants in public, and female friendships. With a cast and crew of over twenty Harvard women, the production hopes to discuss the many different dimensions of womanhood and the various experiences that Harvard women face. The writers of the show actually asked for input from women across campus in order to portray accurately the current range of experience and sentiment. While gathering the input, writers made sure to convey that the goal was to have a compilation of as many different female voices as they could find. Kantor began gathering responses in September and, “over the next few months, more than 70 women responded to the survey, and the document of compiled responses became almost 60,000 words over 105 pages.” The team then worked on the style of the show: “We went through many iterations of this show, from cabaret to full fledged musical to vignette style.” The final compilation is set apart and characterized by its humor that accompanies the music, movement, and media. Even so, Kantor affirms that, “Up until the night before we open, the show has been breathing and changing, which is a really cool position because we get to continually tailor it to the women involved and the space we’re in.”
Theater at Harvard College may not have always been a place in which all voices were heard equally. But today, historically marginalized voices are joining in unison to sing their stories. Kantor states, “SHE is part of a larger, community wide push for inclusive spaces, artistic and otherwise.” As the Indy has seen, “this HRDC season has been incredible in that respect, featuring a show that explores mental health and an original show about the experience of black students at Harvard on the Mainstage, a Shakespeare show framed by the unfortunate sexual climate on campus.” Such productions elevate the real work of Harvard’s diverse student body and continue to open the minds of viewers. When talented students collaborate, they can create a very powerful message.
Student tickets are available at the door with valid ID for $15. There is also financial aid available to students through the Office for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org with name and HUID. Kantor encourages all the view the show and hopes that much good will come of it! “I want there to be a consistent place for women to be able to express their musical theatre talents.”
Hunter Richards ’18 (email@example.com) agrees women’s voices need to be heard, no matter the medium.