Women with Words Speak Out at Drew

by Caitlin Shannon, Student Life & Arts Editor

An overcrowded Black Box full of Drew students patiently awaited for the start of the EOS Salon “Women with Words” showcase on Thursday, March 16 in celebration of Women’s HERstory month. This popular event, Educational Opportunity Scholars, teamed up with the Drew Freedom School Project and the Drew Theatre department teamed up on this showcase and following discussion. The goal of this project was to provide a space for women of color to use their voices to speak out against their own mistreatment and share their struggles. The three plays put up on Thursday night shared the struggles of Chinese immigrants, Latinx immigrants, and abusive relationships.  

After a brief introduction by EOS Salon Coordinator Everton Johnson (’17) and Stage Manager Alcides Costa (’19), the showcase began in blackout. The entire audience immediately put into the correct mood by a striking introduction featuring all of the of the actors and directors in the showcase. Each woman walked in stating something that they had been told to do– to like boys, to be skinny, to be quiet, etc. What started as singular exclamations turned into a deafening, powerful roar.  A single clap silenced them and then the women said in union, “they told me to be a woman”.  

The first of the three plays was Paper Angels written by Genny Lim and directed by Annabelle Lau (’19).  This play, staring Joie Affleck (’20), Alexa Young (’17) and Emily Rosales (’18), documents the life of Chinese immigrants in a detention center on Angel Island in the San Francisco Harbour. Centered around the struggle between following tradition and looking towards the future, the story follows three Chinese wives at different stages of life.  A historical play with modern relevance, Lau and her actors bring to life the realities of Asian women which are often overlooked in the mainstream media.

The second play was Sprout written and directed Cristina Martinez (’19), a one-act play about immigration and deportation within the Latinx community. Martinez’s play tells the stories of sisters Kasandra and Isabella, played by Alize Martinez (’18) and Rebecca Filetti (’19), respectively.  After their mother is deported, the sisters figure out what their next step is as Kassandra also faces deportation. This touching story is sure to open the eyes of those who are out of touch with the realities of being an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.  

Closing out the show was Lynn Nottage’s Poof! directed by Ashley Backe (’19).  Poof! Tells the story of Loureen, played by Tiffany Thompson (’20), and Florence, played by Angelle Whavers (’18) after Loureen’s abusive husband Samuel has disappeared into thin air.  In a writer’s note Lynn Notage shares her inspiration for the play saying, “nearly half the women on death row in the United States were convicted of killing abusive husbands. Spontaneous combustion is not recognized as a capital crime.” This inventive discussion of domestic violence sheds light on subjects that are often overshadowed and silenced in otherwise feminist spaces and discussions.    

Following the performance, a talkback was led by Cordelza Haynes, director of the EOS program, with the directors and actors. This open forum was no doubt helpful in addressing questions posed by the plays and furthering the discussion. “Woman With Words” was an important event that not only celebrated Women’s HERstory month but ensured that there will be continued spaces for women of color to share their stories and make the feminist conversation intersectional.

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