Basement Arts 'Dear' brings violence in womanhood to surface
Set in a communal bathroom of a college dorm, the play "Dear" follows four women's encounter with violence and how it affects their lives and their womanhood.
“It’s really interesting to see how verbal and physical violence affects these three women,” said Elle Smith, an SMTD junior and director of the show. “We simultaneously hear these stories of the atrocities committed by other women who have been sentenced to jail for their crimes.”
The play considers how the acts of violence by female killers connect to the day-to-day circumstances college students face. Smith reflected on the parallel between what this play is exploring and how audiences can relate to its themes.
Four women — April, Francie, Greta and Hazel — are the driving forces of the show.
“April is the character who we see through her monologues,” Smith said. “She is very pretty and very girly and she is undervalued because of that.”
April, played by SMTD freshman Christie Moyle, is a progressive character; during a two-week period and as time passes, the audience is able to witness how her character evolves.
“She ends her section very differently than she begins it,” Smith said. Additionally, Francie, played by SMTD senior Zoey Bond, poses a contrast in personality, which allows the play to move through a series of different character dynamics and interactions.
“Francie is sort of the ‘Regina George’ type character and as we get to see more about her, we realize that she is actually quite vulnerable,” Smith added. The other two characters are Hazel and Greta, the best friends of April and Francie.
“Hazel and Greta are the two sidekick type characters. Greta (played by SMTD junior Savanna Crosby) is Francie’s best friend and she is constantly looking for validation with her friendships with other women,” Smith said. “She [Greta] loves to write and is more sensitive, but when she is aligned with Francie—she can bite."
Meanwhile, Greta's counterpart Hazel, played by SMTD sophomore Megumi Nakamura, is April’s best friend and "we see her as she is reacting to the loss of her friend, but she’s not as victimized as she appears to be.”
Smith admits that the casting process was difficult because there were so many women who brought different elements to these roles.
“We had nearly fifteen girls audition and it was incredible to see so many young women interested in this play,” Smith said. “They all brought something very unique to the table and it was definitely the most difficult thing I have ever had to cast.”
The play explores violent acts as the central idea, while thinking about other ideas of womanhood, of men and the power of unity.
“We are looking at how else violence is expressed, if not physically. Thinking about these three women, what does it mean when we are fighting with each other? And not standing together?” Smith asked.
“Dear” also abandons male roles when considering acts of violence. The appearance of men or discussion about them is a rare occurrence in this play.
“There are few men mentioned in the play, and when they are, it a strategic mention of who they are and the role these men play in these women’s lives,” Smith discussed.
Lily Houghton, the show's writer, gives a lot of flexibility to the cast as they learn what works and what doesn’t in transitioning the piece from script to stage.
“That’s part of the fun of working with a new work—something that may read really well doesn’t translate to the stage, but it was really fine in a read-through,” Smith said.
This play aims to unite and encourage women, while illuminating important themes in all of our lives, and, Smith said, "It is important (that) women come to see this show to realize that we are stronger together, rather than fighting apart.”