by Charly Evon Simpson
Directed by Alice Reagan
Thursday, February 18, 8 PM
Friday, February 19, 8 PM
Saturday, February 20, 3PM and 8 PM
A New Plays at Barnard Commission
In On Loop, Jo, a young Black woman, seeks her past and future in the spiraling rings of tall trees and waving grasses. As she explores, she questions whether the woods are a place of solitude and safety or menace and danger...and who she may have to leave behind to find out.
It’s been almost a year since this all began. A year of disruption, disappointment, and profound loss. On Loop, a play that is also a ritual, offers a balm, a way for us to connect with each other and make something new in the face of continuing loss and change.
This new play, written for the Barnard and Columbia communities, is centered on Jo, a Black woman coming into herself while contending with the loss of her beloved grandmother. Jo is also reckoning with the legacy of women in her family, the challenge of making and nurturing friendships outside the bounds of family, and the collective history of those who found both solace and terror in the woods. It’s an open question: what will the woods mean for Jo?
I love this play because Charly touches something dear to all of us—our struggle to see ourselves as separate from the people who brought us up, while also honoring them and taking the good parts with us.
As a white woman directing a play by a Black writer with a Black protagonist, I acknowledge the gaps in my experience and knowledge, and the imperative to center voices in the rehearsal room that do speak to the very particular stories in the play. One thing I try to do as a teacher and director at Barnard is choose a play to lift up to students, to say, THIS ONE, this is what we need to do NOW. I hope to create and hold an environment of exploration, vulnerability, and rigor. Charly’s gift to us is a play that invites healing and joy into the room; I hope we can take a deep breath and meet it.
Over the past decade, Barnard Theatre has commissioned and produced provocative new work by LM Feldman, Dipika Guha, and Gab Reisman. We’re thrilled to continue this essential work on new plays with On Loop.
Senior Thesis Festival
Thursday, April 8, 7 PM
Friday, April 9, 7 PM
Saturday, April 10, 7 PM
A note from the thesis directors:
These plays touch on issues of womanhood, gendered discrimination, and/or gendered violence. All actors who feel comfortable playing women and/or female-assigned people are welcome to audition.
As student directors, we are actively working towards anti-racist theatre spaces, and we are dedicated to telling these stories in a way that does not situate whiteness as the default human experience.
We’re so excited to work with you! Please reach out to us if you have any questions.
–– Alex, Perry, & Emily
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, directed by Alexandra Haddad
The Penelopiad is a decolonization of the epic poem The Odyssey. The play is set in Ithaca, where Odysseus’ wife Penelope has twelve young handmaids that tend to her and help her survive during her husband’s absence, while a group of increasingly rabid suitors force her to choose a new husband. Penelope continues to wait, and the suitors turn - often violently - to her handmaids. In The Penelopiad, the handmaids are given a voice. This is the story they tell with it.
While the play exists in the world of Ancient Greek myth, it is contemporary and in modern language. The chorus structure highlights how the maids are dehumanized, their individual identities stolen. My vision is for the actors playing the maids to alternate as Penelope and the other noble characters. The maids’ performance is a reclamation of the myth that has silenced them for millennia. Through their performance, they become the storytellers.
This play features gendered and sexual violence. I bring a background in intimacy choreography that centers a consent-based rehearsal environment. As a director, I prioritize ensemble building and finding joy, even in tragedy. If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com.
What Every Girl Should Know by Monica Byrne, directed by Perry Parsons
What Every Girl Should Know centers around four adolescent girls in a Catholic reformatory in 1914 Manhattan. Joan, the new girl, introduces the others to the teachings and ideology of women’s rights activist Margaret Sanger. They jokingly create a religion around “St. Margaret” but a bizarre conversion experience convinces them of its truth. Their fantasies intensify until the new religion subsumes all aspects of their normal lives. When a terrible secret is revealed, their delusions finally come to a breaking point.
This production will explore toxic systems of power and their antidotes. How do they change us and how do we change them?
Even when the girls are introduced to the idea of liberation, their ability really to be free is limited by the walls of the reformatory. St. Margaret gives them hope, but in many ways, their new religion is just the old one in a different costume. Only once the girls are forced to see through the guise of the corrupt Catholic Church, are they able to conceive of true escape… but not everyone will make it out.
Content Warning: This play references sexual violence.
CloudMelt by Heidi Kraay, directed by Emily Liberatore
Agnes: Widow. Mother. Runaway. 72. White. Planning her last night.
Wren: Adopted daughter. Runaway. Old soul. 16. Black. Searching for the truth.
In CloudMelt by Heidi Kraay, Wren stumbles upon Agnes as she prepares to chug Drano in the cabin where she and her late husband Charles once honeymooned. She’s eager for Wren to leave so she can reunite with Charles in the afterlife–– “We. Said. When we die. We’d meet on the moon.” But somehow, paranormally, Wren’s body and mind slowly become occupied by Charles. Through conversation, reincarnation reunites the living and the dead through unlikely bodies and minds. But CloudMelt is not actually a story of the occult. It is the story of an empathetic teen who finds a senile mother and pretends to channel her husband in order to save her from a clouded suicide.
Rehearsals for CloudMelt will involve meditative bonding exercises and devised work to differentiate Agnes’ relationships with Wren and Charles. Our ensemble will collaborate to investigate the many socially significant themes of this play, including dementia, interracial disconnect, adoption, suicide, queerness, age–inappropriate intimacy, and daughterhood.
Content warning: Suicidal ideation/preparation, delusions, age–inappropriate intimacy, and mourning.