Visit from playwright helps actors grapple with heavy themes

Photo+by+Julia+H.+Cain

Photo by Julia H. Cain

Burke’s theater department premiered  “The Wolves” by Sarah DeLappe and “we, the invisibles” by Susan Soon He Stanton in the first two weeks of November. 

Both plays grappled with heavy and groundbreaking themes for high school productions. In fact, Burke’s production of “we, the invisibles” was its first highschool production thus far. The cast was lucky enough to have Stanton visit them and speak about how to best portray the story and its characters.

Iman Smith ‘20, who played Stanton in the show, said that meeting the actual person that she was portraying was super beneficial. 

 Stanton began writing the play in 2011, after the rape of New York hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo by Dominque Strauss-Kahn, then the director of the International Monetary Fund. Stanton herself was working in a hotel at the time and decided to interview her fellow employees. All of the play is based off of Stanton’s real experiences and real people who were once part of her everyday life. 

Stanton said she hoped to change the audience’s mind on “victimhood, immigrants, and the hospitality industry” through the play. She mentioned the common phenomenon of branding a victims’ lives as over, when in fact they often move on with “grace, humor, and dignity.”

At the end of the final performance, the cast and crew had an open conversation in front of the audience, moderated by Director of Equity and Inclusion Steven Lee, about how acting in “we, the invisibles” changed their perspectives on sexual assault and rape. In the discussion, Ellie Salyers ‘20 said, “Generally when we hear about sexual assault cases in the news, the victim is very two-dimensional. This added life to those people and humanized them.” 

Ming Hill ‘22, who played Diallo, said, “Stanton gave me [her] notes about being more elegant and regal and it made [her] realize that [Diallo] is more than a victim — she’s a person, she’s a mother. Playing this role really changed my view on sexual assault.” 

The play was on theme with the Burke art program’s emphasis this year on women’s contributions to art. Not only was the playwright a woman, but the show touched on many female issues that aren’t often expressed in the arts. 

This was also apparent in “The Wolves,” which followed an all-girls soccer team before each game. It also portrayed other prevalent issues and parts of womanhood such as sexual assault and abortion. Both plays brought up similar issues, but in very different styles, and each promoted conversation about these issues.