Student theater shows resilience in wake of election

“Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” and “Blood Play,” as well as a myriad of other student plays this past weekend, provided outlets for healing and self-expression during political tumult. Photo courtesy of Miranda Cornell
“Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” and “Blood Play,” as well as a myriad of other student plays this past weekend, provided outlets for healing and self-expression during political tumult. Photo courtesy of Miranda Cornell
“Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” and “Blood Play,” as well as a myriad of other student plays this past weekend, provided outlets for healing and self-expression during political tumult. Photo courtesy of Miranda Cornell

“The show must go on” took on multiple meanings this week as Vassar artists did their best to take care of themselves and entertain audiences in the wake of the recent presidential election. The performers interviewed for this article stated their respective identities for this article when the fate of so many identities is un­certain.

Student performers have used their involve­ment in the theater community to engage with their varied emotions in this tumultuous climate. Director of “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” Mi­randa Cornell ’19 recalled the events of election night in the context of their dress rehearsal: “The only person who was allowed to be checking the election was our stage manager Liv [Rhodes ’18]… and she would call out results. As things got dark­er…we actually cut off all election news because it was too distracting, it was too scary—we had a show to do and it had to get done because we’ve all put too much work into it to let it not happen because of this.” In spite of the emotional drain of the week, Cornell remarked, “This show has be­come…a space that is easier to process and heal in because of these people…”

Cornell recalled an inspirational lyric from “Burns,” “Nothing protects us, nothing holds us, nothing leads us on, but we stumble ahead any­way, we bleed, we scrape, we bite, we are going to fight.”

She continued, “The people in Act 1, they use stories to lift them out of some of the darkest times imaginable…and I think that message has really stuck with us and helped us the past couple of days.”

Cornell: “I am a cisgender heterosexual wom­an of Japanese and Jewish descent. I struggle with mental disabilities and disorders.”

“Burns” actor Nic Penn ’19 recalled the struggle of performing this week. “It was really hard—it was hard to get out of bed, it was hard to get in the space, but once I was there and once everyone was there and warming up, it was escape and it was just beautiful,” Penn said. “People talk about theater being escapism for the artists, but it’s es­capism for the performers involved as well.”

Penn: “I am cis, Mexican American.”

“Burns” Stage Manager Liv Rhodes ’18 spoke to the strength of the people involved in the produc­tion. “I have actors who are really sick and haven’t left their beds for two days, but they get out there and they do it,” she noted. “It’s just a really nice escape to have people that you love to work with, and you know are incredibly talented vibe cre­atively off one another, and to hear an audience laugh when you want them to laugh is just a really beautiful, exceptional thing we have—especially given this week. I’m very happy to have had it and I think for me personally it would have been a lot harder if I didn’t have these people to lean on and to have this space to come to.”

Rhodes: “I identify as a white, cisgender, straight woman.”

The ensemble group Woodshed performed “Blood Play” this week, and the results of the election hit them during a naturally stressful tech week as well. Ensemble member Lukas Sarnow ’17 recalled, “We didn’t think this election would turn out like it did. We were midway through tech when this happened and it was definitely rough.”

He continued, “There are a lot more things one could do, one could go to a protest, have a lot of conversations, and I think escapism is im­portant too, and creation is important in terms of self-worth and reflection and how that can trans­pose onto another person. We created this, in this midst of this you can create something too—have your own solace in this way. And yeah, you can talk about the message of the show and all that bullshit but we didn’t know what was going to happen—the message of the show changed be­cause of the election so I think, in relation to this, it’s more about the act of creating.”

Sarnow: “White, cis, gay male.”

Imani Russell ’18 commented on the heal­ing nature of participating in this show, saying, “Woodshed is the best thing that I have been a part of on this campus—to me we’re like a family, so creating with them is what pushes me in creat­ing art in general.” They continued, “We worked so hard on this and there are a lot of dark mo­ments in the show, but it’s very funny and these people in the show are very human and I think it was great that we could show this to an audience that would potentially also like to escape the af­termath of this week.”

Speaking to the production itself, Russell com­mented on the importance of the performance de­spite its poor timing. “I think it was important to show a play like this on campus,” they remarked, “and it sucks that it was this week, but I think that just pushed us more to show people something that connected us as a group and connected to a lot of audience members.”

Russell: “I’m a Black, Puerto Rican, queer, non-binary individual.”

Mariah Ghant ’17 found strength in her ability to perform with Woodshed. She recounted, “This week has been certainly a whirlwind. I found it really hard to stop and process because every time I do stop and process where we are it inevi­tably gets me into a place where I can’t function. It’s been really hard, but I will say that being able to come to a space where I’m with people who I know care about me, who I care about, has been really beneficial and just being able to create through all of it is really good, being able to use my mind for something good, feels great.”

Ghant: “I am a cisgender female who’s a little queer.”

As a reporter and an artist, I consider myself lucky to have been able to feel even a little bit healed by seeing these honest productions this week.

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