Mirror, Mirror

MIRROR MIRROR, with a cast of students from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York 2010 tour:

The MIRROR, MIRROR cast had 4 performances from March 31 to April 2, 2010 –

At SUNY, Albany we performed for Shalmont High School, La Salle School, and Glens Falls High, for a total of about 60 students.

At Ichabod Crane High School, we performed for about 200 students during the day (these are approximate counts), and the performance went very well. Afterwards we stayed and visited with the G.E.M. club – Girls Emotions Matter. Once again, the cast was wonderful about mixing and mingling with the group, and responding enthusiastically whenever someone asked about Sage. In the evening at Ichabod, we performed for a community audience of 80. After the bows, when the house lights came up, the entire audience remained in their seats waiting for the cast to come back out. We had an impromptu Q & A, and audience members who remained even after that.

At Miss Halls school (private girls boarding school, international student body) in Pittsfield, MA we performed for about 200. VERY enthusiastic response from all, and a great talkback. They want to have us back for the Feminist show. Russell Sage alumni who works there came and introduced herself.

We have two places that want to bring in the feminist piece, and a high school interested in MIRROR, MIRROR for next year.

Some of the more interesting responses we’re received include:

“I’ve had bariatric surgery, and I want to thank you doing that piece, it’s so much like my story.” (There is a new piece in the show about bariatric surgery performed beautifully by Kaitlin Stewart.)

“I came with my daughter because I thought it would give us something to talk about. I didn’t realize it would be so meaningful to me as an older woman.”

“This should go to the White House!”

Next week MIRROR, MIRROR is performing as part of the WAM Theatre inaugural event in Pittsfield, MA at Barrington Stage, Stage 2. For more information, including blogs, our Twitter and Facebook links, please go to WAMTheatre.com, tickets and other information is available on Barrington Stage’s website. The whole weekend includes 4 performances from Friday through Sunday matinee, and a portion of the proceeds will go to Women for Women International.

THE PIECE

Originated and directed by Leigh Strimbeck, and produced by David Baecker, MIRROR MIRROR is an ensemble-created piece by a cast of Russell Sage College students along with two high school students, which looks with compassion and humor at the tyranny of the media towards women’s bodies, the struggles young women have with this issue and their attempts to see themselves and others in a different, more empowered way.

The piece runs about one hour and has a cast of 8. It is flexible enough to be performed in different venues, with or without lights, but sound is required.

MIRROR MIRROR is available for booking now through the first week of April 2010. Because the cast is primarily Russell Sage College students, we are not charging a fee but are requesting an honorarium towards travel and expenses.

For more information contact Leigh Strimbeck at: leigh@leighstrimbeck.com

Director’s note for MIRROR MIRROR

MIRROR MIRROR is a performance that looks into the topic of young women and body image. The issue of body image and eating disorders in our society is pervasive and shows no signs of waning. This is a work where the research was to look at our own lives. The cast was also required to read PERFECT GIRLS, STARVING DAUGHTERS by Courtney Martin. The third source was a survey on attitudes toward food and body image; each cast member was asked to interview at least three people. By the time we went into rehearsals for the full-length show, we had conducted about 125 surveys of (mostly) females ranging in age from 5 to 83.

As with any interesting issue, it is not black or white. We may yearn to be free from the tyranny of thinness, but obesity is a major concern in this country. If we stop thinking about everything we eat and every calorie we burn, might we be giving a green flag to obesity? Where does “Big (Corporate) Food” come into this? Where does the diet industry come in? $132.3 million dollars worth of weight-control products were sold in 2000; 42.1 million was Slim Fast sales, and yet today our country is heavier than ever. Why is the information that most diets fail not getting out? (See RETHINKING THIN; THE NEW SCIENCE OF WEIGHT LOSS – AND THE MYTHS AND REALITIES OF DIETING by Gina Kolata). When do we get off the treadmill and figure out who we are, what our genetics are, what a sane and healthy weight setpoint is – when do we start to practice radical self-acceptance?

In a relatively short time in history women have gone from the tyranny of the washboard to the tyranny of washboard abs. In the book THE CULT OF THINNESS Sharlene Nagy Hess-Biber argues that the pursuit of extreme thinness has women as bound in their daily lives as did the Chinese tradition of footbinding, or the Western tradition of corseting for a 14 inch waist.

Our young generation, as Courtney Martin so wisely points out in her book, have an enormous pressure to have, do, and be it all. The young women today are given the message that they should have rising careers, families, successful love lives, and children all while looking like they’ve just rolled out of the nearest spa and are on their way to a beauty competition. They should be sexy babes and be powerful and smart. They should be thin as whippets, stacked as playboy bunnies (the number one plastic surgery in America is breast implants) and have enough energy for 18 hour days. It’s too much. Why are we buying in?

The original cast that worked together to create MIRROR MIRROR dug deep, told stories, took risks and leaped with abandon into new and uncomfortable territory. The discussions in our rehearsals ranged from family, to commercials on the Super Bowl, to stories of overt looks-based discrimination on job hunts and back to our day to day lives. As Rayshea put it one night, “I’m becoming obsessed with not being obsessed!”

We hope that you enjoy our work, that it stimulates discussion, and that there will come a day when a performance like MIRROR MIRROR won’t feel as pertinent and urgent as it feels right now.

Leigh Strimbeck, Program Notes for MIRROR MIRROR, James L. Meader Little Theater, Russell Sage College for Women in Troy, N.Y., Feb. – March 2008

IN THE WORDS OF THE AUDIENCE….

High School Students:

“Sitting next to (my best friend) at this play, laughing with her, and then hearing her say as we left, ‘I wish my mom saw this, she would learn a lot.’ made me really happy. That in itself should prove to you that your production was incredible.”

“I am a sophmore in high school and everyday I go through almost everything your cast and yourself depicted in MIRROR MIRROR. Not having much confidence, and having issues with an eating disorder I was touched by the show. It allowed me to see what I was doing to myself. I was able to see how women as a whole treat themselves and everything in between. It made me realize, we women need to fight…”

Left to right: Anna Shields, Raysheea Turner, Brittany Beyus (as Bitch Woman AKA B Woman in the High School shows) Kyrie Ellison, Sara Anderson. Photo Courtesy of Joe Schuyler

“Of course we all loved Bitch Woman…women hear those things all the time and a lot of people don’t even realize it. I heard that one boy in a health class asked if girls were actually treated that way and that every girl in the class stared at him and basically said, “Well, ya!”

Left to right: Kyrie Ellison, Marion Pingree, Raysheea Turner, Heather Guarni, Kaitlin Stewart, Sara Anderson, Brittany Beyus, Anna Shields. Photo Courtesy of Joe Schuyler

“I sat with a bunch of guy friends at the show and they said it was the first time they saw something like that where they weren’t made to feel bad for being guys.”

Left to right: Heather Guarni, Marion Pingree, Sara Anderson, Raysheea Turner, Anna Shields, Brittany Beyus, Kaitlin Stewart, Kyrie Ellison. Photo Courtesy of Joe Schuyler

Adults:

“The quality of the acting was well-beyond my expectations for a college acting class performance. But more importantly, the range of emotions and depth of subject matter addressed by the actors-writers-collaborators astounded me. I was deeply moved by the compassion and truthfulness that each actor displayed.”

“I’m soooo excited that it’s going to keep going! I told so many people that they would have loved it, and now they have the chance to go! I felt strongly that everyone should be able to see this play–especially every girl and woman, but really, just everyone!”

Sara Anderson & Brittany Beyus as the Mirror Goblin. Photo Courtesy of Joe Schuyler

School Psychologist:

I had the opportunity to watch the growth of one of the high school cast members of Mirror Mirror, from casting to staging, and cannot say enough about what this show did for her self-esteem. She blossomed from “No – you cannot read my monologue” to asking to host the show at her local high school and perform in front of those she knew.

Talk about empowerment!

Then, having the opportunity to see the show in such an intimate setting was amazing. What a moving experience for all. In fact, when an audience member commented, ” I felt like you were speaking about me and my life,” there was not one person there who could not relate.

I am thrilled to see the show go on and will bring ALL of those close to me to see it!

Celebrity Body Shop Photo Courtesy Joe Schuyler

Thanks so much for sharing your show with us Thursday — an absolutely wonderful evening. …. The production of “Mirror, Mirror” was very moving: I should have stood up and said, “I stand here as a formerly fat young girl, who morphed into a moderately fat teen, and who has been dieting since I was nine years old. Intermittent periods of ‘normal’ weight have given way to becoming a fat elder — and you all have the issues down. Each of us brings our own special twist to the tale, but the struggle to balance the cultural standards of beauty with what feels good and reasonable has obviously lasted long past the last feminist assertions. Thanks for sharing, and best wishes on your own journeys. I’m not over the struggle yet — but I’m only 69…”

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