Idlewild a non-hierarchical, all-female theatrical troupe

Idlewild, an all-female non-hierarchical theaterical troupe, premises itself upon collaboration. Its upcoming show, an unpublished work called The Dastardly Ficus, will play at the Shiva Theater from March 28-29. By: Jiajing Sun
Idlewild, an all-female non-hierarchical theaterical troupe, premises itself upon collaboration. Its upcoming show, an unpublished work called The Dastardly Ficus, will play at the Shiva Theater from March 28-29. By: Jiajing Sun
Idlewild, an all-female non-hierarchical theaterical troupe, premises itself upon collaboration. Its upcoming
show, an unpublished work called The Dastardly Ficus, will play at the Shiva Theater from March 28-29. By: Jiajing Sun

In a month, Idlewild will bring their new spring full-length show to meet the audience. The show will be put on in Shiva Theater on the weekend after spring break, which is March 28 and 29.

“Idlewild is a non-hieratical collaborative all-female theater ensemble, so we are all equal members,”president of Idlewild Sam Garcia ’13,  explained. “I have the title of president, but it’s only for VSA purposes. It’s not for anything else. So I’m just the contact name on the sheet.”

During the process of the production, Idlewild also keeps their rule of non-hierarchy. “First we read all the plays together. We talked about, as an ensemble, what kind of a play we want to do,” Garcia explained. “Once we chose the text, we read through, and each person readsfor the roles. We collaboratively cast, and we collaboratively decide all the technical positions as well.”

The play that Idlewild chose to put on for the spring semester is called The Dastardly Ficus.  “It’s a play about two sisters who live in this big, old house, and they’re very strange people. They hold cat funerals and keep heads in boxes and do all sorts of weird stuff,” set designer Pilar Jefferson ‘15, said about the play.

“It’s an incredible comedy, a very physical comedy. We are really interested in that. We are also really interested in how open the textis to design,” Garcia said. “It’s a little kind of crazy and fun. Itís like these two women who are kind of playing. Itís like playing as though they were little girls. They have all these fun games they play with each other.” Jefferson also described it as a dark story, and that the scene design would be a surprise. “Because it’s not strictly the world we live in, there’s a lot of more room to make it playful,” she said.

Garcia, as the stage manager, also thought that the design would be important. “These two women have these games, these stories.They are kind of playing in their own play worlds. Our hope isto take the audience into that play world. It’s great that, through the design, we can use our design elements to aid us in that discovery for the audience, to become part of the characters own world,” Garcia said.

As an all-female theater group, Idlewild has been working on promoting women’s theater. They also consider this for the spring show. The playwright of The Dastardly Ficus, Emily Schwartz, is a young female playwright who hasn’t signed with any play companies. This show is also unpublished.

“It’s been performed twice before. It’s been performed in Chicago and Los Angeles. So weíre like the third group of people to do it,” Jefferson said. She also noted that there has been little exposure of the play before. “And we actually got the contact with the director and talked about her work, which is exciting,” Jefferson said.

Idlewild also had the opportunity to skype with Schwartz, they were informed that in her college experience, she was upset with a lack of interesting female roles. She also gave advice to the group. “She gave us some insight into what its like to be a playwright in the real world, and talked about how she’s been writing shows for the theater company she helped found for 10 years now,” she said.

Garcia thinks that supporting female theater is a tenant of Idlewild. “Part of our mission is to work with women writers, actors, directors on campus, because we felt like there wasn’t a place for women to be doing theatre, so it’s part of our mission statement to work with women outside,” she said.

Jefferson also thought it was very meaningful to put on this unpublished show. “We are kind of giving her exposure and also giving support to another woman who is working in the theatre world,” she said.

Idlewild members not only have to support other women outside Vassar, they also need to rely on each other to work, since this small ensemble currently has only seven members on campus to work on the show.

Jefferson said that the play they are working on is ideal because it only has three roles. “It’s nice to have only three actors in that way. People don’t have to double roles as both, like actor and designer at the same time.

Other people of the ensemble can be either designers or helping in some other ways,” she said. Jefferson was quite happy about the organization of the process so far. “I am the set designer for the show, and Sam [Garcia] is stage managing. So none of us are acting, but we are also doing something very important and crucial to the theatre making process,” Jefferson said.

And Jefferson is eagerly anticipating her new theatrical opportunity. Just coming up off a job as stage manager for drama department show The Cripple of Inishman, she gets to dedicate herself to learning a specific new craft.

“Set design for this show is fun because this world can we whatever we want it to be. The sky’s the limit,” she said. “Or the budget really, but you get my point. Its also awesome to be a designer in a collaborative group because you always have someone to bounce ideas off of who is willing to help you improve and give you new perspective.”

Garcia thought it would be a great challenge but worth the effort. “I think part of the collaborating process is being open and willing to listen to other people, try new things that might be outside your comfort zone and working as a whole unit to put on the show,” she said.

“So since we only have seven people right now to work with, all seven of us will have to be there doing everything to make the show go up,” she said.

Despite their small size, Garcia and other members in the ensemble have great confidence that they can make the show perfect. “We are going to the Shiva Theatre. So for us, it’s a great challenge to try to do something that is usually done by a lot more people. A lot of the shows on campus have a bigger crew,” Garcia said.

“We are seven women, we are going to make this production, we are going to do extensive design, we are going to put on a great show. It’s a lot of hard work, but we lean on each other to make that process move forward,” she concluded.

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