note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark
Set Design by Carl Weiting, David Fichter, Steve Lewontin, Grace Peters
Costume Design by Lisa Cody, Linda Ross
Man: "What do you women DO when you're not with men?"
Woman: "We pull down our girdles and we scratch."
That quote from a rabidly stereotypical t-v panel show in 1951 called "Battle of The Sexes" popped into my mind because I noticed that the men and the women watching "Washed-Up Middle- Aged Women" reacted differently to the same lines. The show was shaped by asking women of that age to talk about turning forty and the experiences, fears, problems, solutions, and insights that were unique to that time of life. It's mostly direct quotes, reshaped and edited a bit, tested before five years of audiences touring the country. The people interviewed largely had a bit of wit, intelligence, and self-awareness that have been exploited in performance, and a rap-song and a Supremes-sendup spice the ragout. But the brief scenes are largely women talking, either to each other or directly to the audience, about their lives.
Men mostly responded to the comic rhythm, while women went through a transition from giggles of recognition to a quieter, more insightful silence. Apparently one of the glories of theater is in showing large bodies of human beings that they are not alone. The empathy-quotient in the room was so thick you could feel it.
The entire BOSTON WOMEN ON TOP festival that CentaStage and The Underground Railway Theatre have made an annual event at the BCA may boil down to women performers and women spectators all feeling free to take down that girdle and scratch some. The forms vary widely, but the content of shared experience artistically expressed remains the same.