Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Independent Women—Action/Adventure Theatre—SE Portland

A Band Of…Sisters

This play is produced by Social Sciences Productions at their performing space at 1050 SE Clinton St.  It is directed by Ashley Hollingshead and written and adapted by the cast.  It will play through March 22nd.  For further information, go to their site at

“Ladies, it ain’t easy bein’ independent…” (destiny’s child) is a quote they use on the program and, I’m sure, they’re right.  Freedom isn’t free, it has a price, a responsibility, and consequences, too.  You would think people would be accepted on their own merits and not on superficial restrictions of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender.  But as a race, we seemed to only have grown no further than the childhood stage of maturity and, being for generations, even in the Bible, a mostly Patriarchal society, it still is not an even playing field.

History has had its share of women heroes, such as Judith and Mary (from the Bible), Cleopatra, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, (the collective) Rosie the Riveter, possibly the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, and many others.  The contributions of women should never have been questioned but it seems that guys are simply not that bright or forthcoming.  To put it simply, there would be no population without our mothers/women bearing children and, I think, that alone would be befitting admiration, if not a downright high status in civilization!

This play performed, written and adapted by the cast and director, Kira Atwood-Youngstrom, Elizabeth Gibbs, Sarah McGregor, Rachel Rosenfeld, Zoe Rudman, Cari Spinnler and Hollingshead (also Founder of the group) is quite a work of art.  It combines music, songs, monologues, poetic prose, dialogue, mime and interpretive movement and dance.  It reflects on women’s stories from the early 1900’s to present day.  It especially concentrates on women, sitting at home, waiting for their men to return from the war and evolving into them taking over jobs in shipbuilding yards, airplane factories, piloting, and serving in the armed forces themselves, among other things.

But once the war was over, the 50’s television series (Ozzie & Harriet, Father know Best, Leave It To Beaver, et. al.) and ads, would reflect women again back in the home, cooking, cleaning and taking care of kids.  And wearing puffy dresses, pearls, and looking pretty for the ever-lovin’ man of theirs to come home after a hard day’s work at some nameless job.  The 50’s may have tried to stifle women back into their “proper” place, but the 60’s was a revolution in everything considered “holy” up to that time.

The play also touches on how women view themselves.  The “I hate my body” syndrome was chanted by these fearless females.  Among the “hates” were ribs, the tummy, skin blemishes, small tits, sweating (not perspiring), noses, ethnic features, make-up, clothes and appearance.  Also, attitude is to be considered, as being too bossy, taking jobs from men, dual roles of mother and career-women, attractiveness, being flirtatious, etc.  All in all, it ain’t easy being free, as said, nor being a woman.

There’s a lot of positive things to be said for this production and the lady performers, and a lot to glean from it.  But, I don’t won’t to go into too much detail, as much of its success is due to its very inventive style of presentation.  Hollingshead has done an outstanding job of compacting such an enormous subject in less than 90 minutes, and doing it on a bare stage.  And everyone of her cast should be commended for doing an exceptional job of presenting it.  I wonder what they could do with the play, Lysistrata.  Just a thought…

This is a new group and their first production and I hope to see more from them.  I’m sure they could use your contribution, so contact them with any aid you can give.  They deserve to survive.  I recommend this show but this is the last weekend coming up and it has minimal seating, so best get your tickets early.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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