by Claire Moodey · August 18, 2014
The Playground Theatre Project's production of Lady Parts at the New York International Fringe Festival offers a look into the experience of women coming of age today. Written by Becky Ellis and the Women of PTP, most of who are in high school and college, the play's target audience is young people of a similar age. The play is framed by a high school sleepover-an initiation party where one of the shy and unpopular girls tries to gain access to prime cafeteria real estate and takes narrative breaks to tell stories of individual young women's experiences of sexuality, gender identity, career, etc. These threads of individual experience are connected by lists of what it is to be a woman and mingled with statistics about teen pregnancy, human trafficking, and abuse. The narrative constructions broke down as the play evolved, but it was through the visible seams-both in their trials and successes-that I recognized young voices beginning to learn how to speak out together.
Director Megan Sambataro Donovan made inventive choices with simple blocks to transform the performance space and challenge our pre-conceived standards of femininity, which the group of young performers took to. As a queer woman slightly older than the intended audience, I was happy to find the energy in the theater lively and excited. The performance wasn't quite for me, but I am happy I was there: there were many younger women in the audience who seemed very connected to the material and excited to hear stories that resonated with their experiences performed for a wider audience. As in life, the dialogue surrounding histories of oppression and repression, both as external forces and internalized expectations, has a long way to go. But it gives me hope to see this work starting with critical thinking in our youth.
The Playground Theatre Project, based in New Jersey, was born from a desire to use our artistic abilities to help them [our students today] by creatively and safely exploring bullying, suicide, drugs, and many other issues and is focused on providing peer-to-peer messaging. Lady Parts is performed with a rotating cast and the company has two other shows currently touring.