‘Uncommon Women and Others’ allows cast to explore feminist ideas at Colorado Mountain College | PostIndependent.com

‘Uncommon Women and Others’ allows cast to explore feminist ideas at Colorado Mountain College

Carla Jean Whitley
cj@postindependent.com

Suzie Brady is a feminist.

The 20-year-old theater student isn't afraid to use that word now, but in high school, it wasn't such a comfortable fit. Her then-boyfriend challenged the notion of feminism. But Brady believes in the equality of the sexes, and with time, she's embraced the sometimes divisive term.

She has an opportunity to tease out some of the ideas related to feminism and its history in "Uncommon Women and Others," a play that opens at Colorado Mountain College's Sopris Theatre tonight. Like many of the show's all-female characters, Brady is realizing that feminism doesn't restrict people to a prescribed path.

"I don't want to work a 9 to 5, either. That's why I'm going into theater," she said.

“It’s really beautiful to see how women’s friendships support us, inform us. However many men we have in our lives, women are really the touchstones that bring us back to ourselves.”

— Heather Exby,CMC Spring Valley Campus dean and actress

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"Uncommon Women and Others," by Wendy Wasserstein, depicts the friendships of eight women at Mount Holyoke College. Several of the women gather for lunch in 1978 and reflect on their final days at the school, six years earlier. They're caught between traditional expectations of women and second-wave feminism.

The all-female cast is mostly college-age women. But Spring Valley Campus Dean Heather Exby adds another dimension. She portrays Mrs. Plumm, the girls' house mother. Exby was in high school during the days in which the show is set, so she has been able to offer cast mates a different perspective.

Some of the younger women have been surprised that freedoms they take for granted were not the norm in the '70s, for example. Mrs. Plumm repeatedly admonishes one character, Holly, to change into a skirt before the house's tea. Women's colleges are a bastion of old ideas, Exby said, when women must be educated separately from men. Traditions such as afternoon tea taught rituals that aren't so common now. But these colleges were also an opportunity for women to be elevated.

"People's eyes are opening to those implicit things we're not even aware of so many times," Exby said.

Paige Ulmer's character, Kate Quin, is on a more traditionally male path. She's headed to Harvard Law, following expectations from point A to point B to point C. In one scene, Kate wonders aloud if any of her friends have experienced penis envy. Holly responds, "I guess I envy men. I envy their confidence. I envy their choices."

Ulmer said, "I came to the conclusion that it's not having one, but having the power it provides."

Another character, Samantha, embraces traditional expectations. She plans to marry quickly after graduation, and dreams of her future children.

Actress JoAnna Caldwell, who portrays Samantha, can relate.

"I love the idea of home and husband and babies. But I also want my doctorate in psychology," she said. Observing the show's characters and the decisions they face has helped her find comfort in the idea of pursuing both.

Although it's wrapped up in questions of feminine identity, "Uncommon Women and Others" isn't didactic. It explores tension between friends, choice and the differences men and women face without dictating the audience's reaction to these ideas.

"What I appreciate the most about the show is it focuses on the lives of the women," said Christina Cappelli, who plays Leilah. "There's no intended social commentary for the sake of social commentary. It's like the curtain is lifted and here's what happens in the lives of these women. Those questions are still being asked, and who's to say if that's a result of society or their individual internal struggles?"

If you go

Uncommon Women and Others

Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. The show features Meredith Dusenbery, Paige Ulmer, JoAnna Caldwell, Lylah Purpus, Makena Seaver, Suzie Brady, Heather Exby, Ciara Morrison, Hadley Heibert and Christina Cappelli. It’s directed by Brad Moore, whose perspective the cast said is valuable; Brady described him as “the perfect audience of one.” Moore said he’s about equality for all. The show continues Dec. 7-9 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.

New Space Theatre, Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley, 3000 County Road 114, Glenwood Springs | $18, $13 students, seniors and CMC staff | 947-8177 | coloradomtn.edu/theater