Actresses portray female power in comedy

Uncommon Women

Senior actresses reminisce and discuss feminism in the comedy “Uncommon Women,” presented by the School of Theatre and Dance Feb. 21 to 23 at the Wortham Theatre.  |  Courtesy of Forest Photography

Feminism has been a controversial subject since the 19th century, debating equality against gender superiority and men’s perception of women.

No need to fear — the actresses in the play “Uncommon Women and Others” let down their fiery torches to give a glimpse into how women really think and speak, filled with hard choices, new experiences, cringing moments and lots of laughs on Friday evening at the Wortham Theatre.

Presented by the School of Theater and Dance, the comedy follows eight alumni reuniting six years after graduating college for lunch to catch up on life. In a series of flashbacks, we see them as former students, seven seniors and a freshman as they embark on a journey of new choices and self-discovery surrounding the second-wave feminism that gathered speed in the 1970s.

“I think the show is less rebellious and more about female discovery,” said theater senior Megan Ziegelbein, who played the compliant Samantha. “It really zones in it that time when females stopped wanting to just be housewives and become working women, and I think it’s sort of a beautiful story about women aspiring to be whatever they wanted to be not because anyone else told them.”

As it turns out, all the characters in the play have a history of their own.

“The seven seniors in the play are actually seniors in real life,” said theater senior Christine Arnold, who played the rebellious Rita. “We had all our classes together since freshman year, and we’re all about to graduate, and the one freshman in the play is played by a freshman, so it is a unique experience to get to work with people you are so close with — we are all best friends.”

This was a great achievement for the actresses, who produced the entire play in around three months with some jam-packed shows during the weekend, making one of their final projects in UH that much more memorable.

“This was wholly produced by the senior girls and faculty that assisted us, friends and our director who helped and gave a lot of support,” Ziegelbein said. “That’s a big pole factor, knowing we did this on our own, and the show itself is very different. It’s more contemporary comedy, all females are different and interesting, so there’s many pulling factors that attracts our audience.”

The actresses decided to produce the play, chose the script and picked director Steve Wallace for assistance.

“Steven was the perfect director for this. He really took this as a passion project, and having a man direct all of these, especially when they have intense girl talk — he really dealt into it, questioning, ‘Why are these girls saying what they are saying? Why their opinions are what they are?'” Arnold said.

“It really took off the lens of a man, and I think it actually worked out really well, having that perspective, because it gave us more of a rounded idea.”

Audience members, especially the men, had sort of a similar reaction according to the actresses, from eye-opening to nervous side glances, possibly from fear.

“It’s interesting to watch the guys during the play, because it’s such a close space in the theater, and you can see their reactions, sometimes cringing, sometimes having the face of, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe they said that; do girls really talk like that?'” Arnold said.

Ranging from older to younger generations, the audience, including more than a few men, seemed to enjoy the comedic rants and vulgar expressions.

“I really loved it,” said electrical engineering sophomore Maria Lalata. “The characters are a representative of all different types of women, and they are so relatable. They have many flaws, but that’s what makes you root for them forward.”

The three showings of the play invited a memorable chain of laughter.

“It was great; there were a lot of laughs,” said theater alumnus Billy Reed. “It wasn’t awkward at all, really; I’m all for feminism. It takes place in the ‘70s, so you should see it if you want to take a road down memory lane and have a good slice of memories.”

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  • “It really zones in it that time when females stopped wanting to just be housewives and become working women”

    working women? Housewives(homemakers) are also working women. This is very demeaning to homemakers. True equality regarding this issue would be when women have a choice to devote most of their time as a housewife/homemaker or go out into the general workforce(either self-employed or employed by a company). These type of comments by feminists have a hidden implication that women who are “housewives” are less intelligent, forced to stay at home, contribute less to society, or less independent. Women who go out of their home to work as an employee are still dependent on their employer(or if self-employed dependent on clients) in order to earn a paycheck. Many of them cannot spend time with their children when they are sick or need special attention. Many of them miss out on priceless moments in their children’s lives. There are many housewives without children who benefit society through their work in animal shelters, food pantries, and other social aspects that would be unable to help in the same capacity if they were restricted by the rigid schedules of typical 9-5 workdays that many women are confined to. We need to respect all women and their needs. We should not demean housewives just because many feminists disprove of such a lifestyle.

    • Thank you for the comment. My sister is coerced to “go out and work” by her husband. She would prefer to be a housewife and focus on the development of their child. Her husband would rather put him in a daycare full of kids. While the child caregivers are probably nice people, they will never love her child the same way she does. They cannot devote as much time either, since there are many kids there. Her husband rather have more disposable income for customizing his car and going to sport events than having my sister as a housewife. I’m thankful that my husband has not coerced me to “go out and work”. I am able to study without having to get a part-time job or use a student loan to pay my living expenses. After I have a child, I would like to use the education that I have gained at UH to educate my child as a housewife, and later obtain employment with a company once my child has grown. Not every woman has the opportunities that I do. Women deserve to have the same, or even more opportunities than what I have. Women need choices, not coercion to “go out and work”.

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