The first fall play, titled Are Women People?, was written by junior Lily Bay, junior Ragan Price, sophomore Rachel Stewart, and junior Shaundraya Jackson in honor of the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage. The play was based on Are Women People?: A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times by Alice Duer Miller.
Director Andy Vaught chose the four playwrights and approached them about Are Women People? in the 2018-2019 spring semester. He said, “It was a collection of people who I had worked with who were in my playwriting class, and also some people who have done a lot of work in the department before… It was really important to get voices of women in this process.”
The playwrights were given the document over the summer, but really started working on the script when they came back a week early to Hendrix. Each playwright wrote three individual pieces in the play and collaborated on three additional pieces. The majority of the play was actually written in each other’s presence when they returned to campus.
Price said, “What we did is we had a shared document, and we would just sit together and write on it and work on it together as we were there in real time, and just give each other ideas and stuff… We really did all help each other with everything.”
Many of the playwrights expressed how pleased they were with the collaboration between them and their co-writers. Bay said, “The easiest part of the project was getting along with everyone. I knew them all from different areas of campus life, and I think all of us gelled together really well.”
Stewart said, “The hardest part of the writing process for me seemed to be the balance between being subtle about messages I was trying to portray and overt. I didn’t want to come off as lecturing or blaming the audience for issues brought up in the play, but I did want to draw their attention to issues that still need to be addressed. There is a fine line between an audience feeling accused and an audience feeling inspired to change, and I personally struggled to find that balance.”
Despite any hardship, the script and performance contained an impressive balance of humor and seriousness so as to address heavy and real issues without lowering the audience into a deep well of guilt. The transitions between these moments of opposite tones and moods were nearly seamless.
Jackson said, “I thought the actors and everyone else (involved) did an amazing job at bringing our script to life, and I loved it!”
Price said, “I think the most important message is that it’s important for women to stand together and not see each other as enemies or, like, competing for spots… We all have this struggle that we’re going through in a world that can hate us sometimes, and it’s really important for us to be together and acknowledge that and speak out on it.”
Are Women People? proved to be an extraordinary contemporary take on a set of poems and ideas from 100 years ago. The inclusion of parallels between the past and present issues that women face in society allowed the play to be relatable for audience members of many ages and backgrounds.
Stewart said, “Overall, the message of the play seems to be that, while 100 years ago women got the right to vote, we still have a lot of work to do so that men and women can be viewed equally in society. In the words of the last scene of the show, we must ‘above all, keep up the good fight.’”
The play was overall successful in conveying a strong feministic message with a proper combination of entertaining and thought provoking pieces. Are Women People? will definitely go down in the Hendrix Players’ books.