This past weekend, Stagefemmes put together a series of performances in celebration of the 50-year anniversary of co-education at Kenyon. The festival took on the simple, yet explanatory title of “Scenes from plays written by Kenyon women and performed by Kenyon women.” Founded in 2013, Stagefemmes is a small, on-campus theater troupe dedicated to showcasing the underrepresented talents of women in theater.
A group of seven student directors came together to select short excerpts from plays written by female Kenyon alumni and cast Kenyon actors to bring the scenes to life. For three nights only — Sept. 12, 13 and 14 — Stagefemmes took advantage of the Harlene Marley Black Box Theater to showcase plays written by Kenyon alumnae.
The simple set preserved the power and authenticity of each piece. They were performed in the style of a stage reading: with limited props, no costumes and with scripts in hand. The directors kept the writing as the focal point, but still brought the works to life with the help of the actors. Each ten-minute scene covered a different time period with a different set of characters, presenting a multitude of genres. There was a mixture of comedy, tragedy and intrigue within the scenes as the viewer slowly learned how the characters’ different experiences interconnected throughout the course of the excerpts.
The performances in each of the seven pieces were gripping and honest. The scenes may have had different plots and perspectives, but they all contained universal themes of family and friendship. The subjects varied from a terrified new mother to the rocky relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter. No matter the plot, the deeply personal nature of the interactions never changed.
Kenyon alumna and featured playwright Caroline Nesbitt ’73 spoke about her piece, Contra Dance, which explores the relationship between a combative grandfather and his equally aggressive granddaughter. “The inspiration for the play was the people I live among,” Nesbitt said. The power from this piece, like many others in the show, is rooted in this authentic narrative. She describes “the crusty … natives, the back-to-the-land hippies-grown older, the new elements of a more diverse and complicated world impinging on a small rural town.”
“I’m really honored to have had a piece of my play performed at the 50th anniversary of women at Kenyon,” Nesbitt wrote. She continued to reiterate her appreciation for this celebration, “What a lovely way to recognise the work of people whose work is often solitary and largely invisible. I hope it becomes a tradition.”
The production also featured works by Kenyon alumnae Belinda Bremner ’71, Katharine Long ’77, Ann Marie Healy ’97, Kate Dakota Kremer ’10, Gracie Gardner ’13 and Natalie Margolin ’14.