Feminism and comedic sparring in the spring production of ‘You on the Moors Now’
By Brynn Svenningsen
In the spring theater production, “You on the Moors Now” by Jaclyn Backhaus, feminism and literature take center stage.
“A fast and funny and sometimes crude new feminist play that reimagines characters from classic novels” director Jess Smith said on the production.
The play uses four female characters from well-known literature and builds on their stories in a comedic way. The characters are Jo March from “Little Women,” Catherine Earnshaw from “Wuthering Heights,” Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice” and Jane Eyre, each of whom rejects a marriage proposal.
“During the time period in which these books were set, the number one expectation for women was to marry. Backhaus challenges this female archetype by allowing the women to exercise their own agency within their lives — and once they get a taste of independence, they can’t get enough of it!” senior theater major Hannah Monsour said.
After each of the four women reject their marriage proposals, many of the male characters decide to wage a war against them. The war between the male and female characters acts as a comedic way to address the struggle between gender roles.
First-year theater major Julian Aikens-Helford plays the character Joseph, who participates in this war.
“He is extremely over-the-top, bitter and not all the way there,” Aikens-Helford said of his character.
The discussion of gender roles in this play takes a feminist standpoint in which the war symbolically represents the power of these female characters in standing up against them.
“The women in this play free themselves from the restraints of the patriarchal system and it is the men who are revealed to be fragile, overly-sensitive and whiny. The play deals with these subjects in a comedic way but the points made are effective. At the end of the play, the men and women make amends and both sides learn something from each other,” Aikens-Helford said.
Aikens-Helford’s reference to the men being “fragile” is seen very clearly. Director Smith spoke on the interesting ways the production incorporates this fragility theme.
“None of the male characters respond well to being rejected and they throw something called a male grief party. It’s been really fun to find the perfect emo boy-band music for the scene and to choreograph a ridiculous, over-the-top ‘men being sad’ moment,” Smith said.
The stories used have a sense of timelessness. The strong feminism in the literature has remained as powerful since its publishing. Despite changes that have occured over time the rejection of a proposal can still be seen as negative as it was seen by other characters in the books. The feminist message of the literature in the play will still resonate with the audience of this play due to its timeless impact.
The opportunity of a faculty-led production also allows for students and faculty to collaborate and create a well-worked production. It also allows students to share their hard work and talent. The cast of this play auditioned back in November and have been rehearsing since the start of second semester.
The play also relies heavily on its ensemble and collaboration has been essential in the pre-show process. The work by the students involved and the director has been nothing less than dedicated.
“[Smith] brings a lot of progressive and challenging ideas to the table and our cast is more than up to the task. … I think this play is extremely important in our current political climate. I think we all recognize that this play is part of something bigger that we all want to be a part of,” Aikens-Helford said.
“You On the Moors Now” will be showing on campus from Feb. 23 to Feb. 24 and then from March 1 to March 2 at 7:30 p.m. There is one matinee performance on March 3 at 2 p.m. and a final show on March 3 at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $11 while Puget Sound students, faculty, staff, senior citizens, and military will pay $7 admission.