OAKHURST – A foursome of talented Yosemite High School students is directing and performing in two one-act plays for the public, with the shows launching as their Senior Projects, and proceeds going to benefit a valley women’s shelter.
On stage at the YHS theater for two nights only, Thursday and Friday, Mar. 12-13, the group is collaborating to produce a double-bill of The Yellow Wallpaper followed by Chamber Music, with an intermission in between. The evening begins at 7 p.m. and the cost is $5 per person to attend. Money raised will be donated to the Majaree Mason Center in Fresno, a nonprofit to aid victims of domestic abuse and homelessness.
The Yellow Wallpaper is the culminating act in school for Breeze Leal, and Maya Mendonca. Chamber Music is the work of Sophie O’Meara, and Olivia Pearson, all Class of 2015.
“They are both feminist works,” says Maya Mendonca, 17, on behalf of the group. “The Yellow Wallpaper is a science fiction drama about the liberation of a hysteric women through her writing. We are directing as well as performing, which is difficult as a rule, but we love the people in our theater class and everyone has worked really well for us.”
The Yellow Wallpaper is by Jennifer Blackmer, adapted from a 19th-century novella by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. “It’ about a woman’s battle with herself as well as with men,” Mendonca continues.
“In The Yellow Wallpaper, the women are supposed to be larger than life,” comments Breeze Leal, 18, explaining the play’s title, “so their bold costumes and demeanor are going to contrast with the bleak wallpaper.”
Chamber Music, the actor/directors say, is “an absurdist comedy about one meeting of a wacky council of famous women in history, including Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony,” and more.
Chamber Music is by Arthur Lee Kopit.
“All women in Chamber Music were historical figures, but some were stronger temperamentally than the others, so there was still a dynamic of oppression,” says Sophie O’Meara, 17. “By the end, they all come together. It’s about womens’ battles with women rather than women’s battles with men.”
The process of managing all aspects of production has caused the girls to stretch and grow.
“Directing has been a new and challenging experience,” according to Olivia Pearson, 18, who developed a Russian accent for the play. “I’m glad I got to do this in my high school career.”‘
It’s always been the students’ intention to present their senior projects on stage. The common theme they’ve ultimately selected of female struggle and empowerment, along with a healthy dose of mania, fits well with the young women’s collective desire to go forth and do well in the world by doing good.
“We have all been involved in theater all four years and have always wanted our senior projects to be some sort of a play. Plus we are all feminists and we really liked the feminist vibes of the plays,” say the theater group, pointing out that only three male characters are cast in both shows combined. In an era when the entertainment business still struggles to represent and employ its share of women and minorities, the directors’ choice of scripts is a big step forward on the small stage at YHS.
“We are all going off into the world with the intent of bettering it,” say the four young women, speaking with one voice. “We are individually looking for careers in screenwriting, global health, philanthropy, and civil engineering. We are strong and smart and stubborn. Taking on a senior project that means taking the reigns, directing, and leading a group of our peers makes us feel as though we can do anything.”
The four are quick to recognize the role teamwork, including that of women and men, has played in allowing them to fulfill the dreams they envisioned when their high school drama classes first began. Among those individuals they are grateful for: theater department head Lars Thorson.
“We would like to thank our cast for listening to us and being so open to ideas. We also want to thank Lars Thorson for being such a wonderful teacher and mentor to us for the past four years. We will be sad to leave him at the end of this year.”