The theatre department this past week performed SVSU’s first play to exclusively feature female performers.
Set in Sweetwater, Texas, during World War II, “Decision Height” is a production highlighting the women who left their homes and families to take part in beating the Axis powers in the war while defying the gender roles of their time.
In addition to being the first all-female cast to perform on the stage of the Malcolm Field Theatre, it is one of few productions to represent factual events and real women in history.
The main women represented in this show, the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots), are women who were not given proper recognition for their contributions to the war, and by bringing the story to life on the Malcolm Field Theatre stage, more are able to know of their story.
Third-year theatre and political science major Brianne Dolney, who played Virginia Hascal in the show, stressed the cultural and societal impact of such a performance.
“It is immensely important that people see this play, because these women deserve the recognition that they never got,” Dolney said. “The courage of these women must be acknowledged. They were discouraged and put down, and yet they put their lives on hold to be a part of the war effort in any way they could. They are heroes.”
Aside from having less time than usual to rehearse the play, demanding technical elements and other factors, the cast and director, theatre professor Ric Roberts, were still able to pull off a seemingly flawless show.
“There is nothing easy about the process, but the fun is watching the actresses mature into their characters over a five-week period,” Roberts said. “They have continued to exceed my expectations on stage; we have some seriously fine actresses on the campus at SVSU.”
For some, the roles of the characters hit closer to home than expected, allowing the actresses to grow in a way that they did not realize they would.
This was the case for theatre, communications and elementary education major Aubree Harrell, who played Edie Harknell.
“Edie and I have a lot of similarities,” Harrell said. “My character grew up very close with her brother and idolizes him throughout the show. I grew up very close to my two brothers, (one of which is in the military) … This makes scenes where I talk about him being in the military that much easier to tap into my emotions.”
The actresses were able to identify their own thoughts and beliefs within their characters as well.
“(Virginia) believes that her being a woman doesn’t hinder her ability to make an impact, and I love that about her,” Dolney said. “I’m a passionate feminist, and Amelia Earhart has been a hero of mine for many years, so being able to represent one of these brave women pilots has been a dream come true.”
“Decision Height” is a production filled with empowerment, visibility and truth. While the overall content represents events that happened, the element of comedy keeps a lighter mood while displaying a factual, more serious event.
The women represented in this play are important figures in history that are getting the exposure and recognition that they deserve.