WAM Theatre production uses labels to enlighten, inspire

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Photo Gallery | PHOTOS: WAM Theatre Girls Ensemble performs 'Miss Labeled'

CHESHIRE >> During the WAM Theatre Girls Ensemble's new and original production, "Miss Labeled," the actors wear sashes representing how the girls they are portraying feels characterized by society.

But over the course of various scenes and monologues, they show how the labels can change: "bossy" becomes "brave," "inferior" becomes "strong," "emotional" becomes "passionate," and "geek" becomes "unique."

The roles were played by four area actresses: Claudia Maurino, a ninth-grader at Monument Mountain Regional High School; Siena Gamberoni, an eighth-grader at Richmond Consolidated School; Iris Courchaine, a Lee High School sophomore; and Brittany Dorwin, 20, a recent graduate of McCann Technical School.

The production was well-received and brought up lots of good discussion on Friday morning, as the ensemble wrapped up its school tour of the show at Hoosac Valley Middle and High School.

Hoosac Valley teacher Stephanie Somerville brought the members of her women's studies class — a course she's taught for a decade — to Friday's production.

"I like to think I can turn out a new generation of male and female feminists," she said, "and I like the local grassroots thought process happening to address these subjects."

"We all use labels and are labeled by each other," teaching artist Amy Brentano told the audience. She co-directed the production with WAM's teaching artist and education coordinator, Barby Cardillo.

During a question-and-answer period after the show, members of the ensemble said they worked together to discuss and develop scenes regarding these labels and to show the dynamics of how they're attached to people, particularly from the perspectives of girls.

Later, as the WAM teaching artists encouraged girls in the audience to audition for the ensemble next fall, some of the Hoosac male students asked about if WAM would create a boys or co-ed ensemble.

Formed in the fall of 2015, the WAM Girls Ensemble has included the talent and contributions of nine Berkshire area girls, ages 13-20.

Maurino said she joined because "It sounded like a cool and unique experience to create a show about things that matter to you."

The mission of the group was to use a "devised" theater process to create an original theatrical work. Through the process, the teaching artists guide participants through the use of different theater techniques to create work within a chosen theme. The writing and scenes are woven into an original show that shares the perspectives and stories of each of the participants.

"Miss Labeled," debuted to the public back in December at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. It's since been performed at various area schools and community centers at no cost, through support from the Feigenbaum Foundation and Brabson Library & Educational Foundation. Another public performance is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 11, at the Spectrum Playhouse in Lee.

The production touches on themes like domestic violence, bullying and bias. In one scene, the ensemble acts out the rules and restrictions for women's wear — from length of skirt to width of tank top straps to styles of shoes — as dictated by actual school dress codes in the Unites States. While for boys, the cast found, it seemed they're more or less told to be sure to wear a shirt and keep their pants on.

In another scene, Gamberoni characterized the feelings of a high schooler who was the only girl in her auto mechanic shop classes. She writes a social media post about how she's endured sexist remarks by both her male and female peers. The guys didn't give her credit for being the first to successfully fix an alternator in shop, while the girls taunted her as being "butch" for wearing flannel shirts and having grease on her hands.

The girl accepts who she is, saying, "Who wears a gown and earrings while changing the oil," and later befriends a classmate after helping her fix a flat tire. That classmate in return, offers to go with her to talk to an administrator about the harassment.

The show ends with an inspirational quote from the anti-bullying poem, "To This Day," by Shane Koyczan: "If you can't see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror, look a little closer, because there's something inside you that made you keep trying despite everyone who told you to quit."

Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.

More information ...

To learn more about WAM Theatre ensembles for students, visit wamtheatre.com/wam-education or call 413-274-8122.


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