The kickoff to George C. Marshall High School’s 2022-23 theater season is not just designed to be a treat for audiences, but a moment of empowerment for those in the cast, as well.
“It’s thrilling to see my young ladies ripping into these nuanced, multi-dimensional roles,” said Bernie DeLeo, the theater director at Marshall. “I am so proud of them. This is one of the best scripts I’ve read in forever, with all sorts of powerful messages that resonate with women still struggling for equality today.”
The production is “Blue Stockings,” which will run Nov. 10-12 at the high school.
Written by Jessica Swale, the show was first produced in 2012 in London and is based on historical events. (“Bluestockings” was a derogatory term for female intellectuals in the Victorian era.)
The story takes place in 1896 at Girton College, one of the first women’s colleges at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, where female students were allowed to study – but not to graduate or earn actual degrees like their male counterparts. In the play, four young women and their impassioned teachers go up against academia’s entrenched patriarchy and strict society gender roles to earn those rights.
It is an electric script, full of drama, suspense, comedy and romance, following the lives of four budding women scientists and their struggle for equality and empowerment, producers say.
Most high-school theater departments are heavily populated with girls outnumbering boys, often by two-to-one or more, even as the most challenging roles often are designed for males.
“What’s exciting about this script is that it’s a large-cast play (22 in all) but with sixwell-written and diverse women leads and more women’s supporting roles,” DeLeo said. “There are key roles for my young men, but they are the secondary focus – and that’s rare in most large cast plays.”
“I hope we can reach a large audience of young women – it’s the perfect play for them to see,” he said.
Performances run Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 10-12, at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 12.
Later this school year, Statesmen Theatre presents its second annual One-Act Festival of Student Produced Works in February – all written, directed, acted and produced by students.
“I read an article by Lin-Manuel Miranda in which he said that the most exciting time in his high-school years was when the students took over and ran a show,” DeLeo said. “I decided it would be a fabulous opportunity to give students complete ownership, to write, direct and produce an entire festival of new works – and the inaugural show last year was a smash success.”
The plays are yet to be announced, but they will be five world premieres all from current Marshall students with an expected production run of Feb. 16-18.
The spring production will mark a return of sorts to “Xanadu,” a pop musical based on the 1980 motion picture starring Olivia Newton-John and featuring music by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra.
The show had been scheduled to run in the spring of 2020, but like so much of daily life fell victim to the first wave of the COVID crisis.
“This was a bucket-list show for me,” DeLeo said. “It’s hilariously silly and joyous, and I wanted to come back to it with the freshmen who were in the show when it was canceled and finish it with them as seniors.”
The show is about a Greek muse who comes down from Mount Olympus to help a struggling California street artist achieve his greatest artistic dream: opening a roller disco. (“Yes, it’s that silly,” producers said.) It is slated to run May 4-6.
For information on the 2022-23 season, see the Website at www.statesmentheatre.org.