“I decided the world needed more female serial killers,” murderer Josephine De’Ath (Mykaela Barnes) shrugs. Detective Francis (Jazmin Monzón) unwittingly swoons; Detective Watson (Isabella DeBruin) remains stoic, evidently less amused than her investigative partner.
Luckily, it’s unlikely that any real serial killers were in attendance, though Barnes did star as one in “Murder is Fun,” one of seven presentations that made up the “Golden Women Spring 2018 Showcase: Break the Glass Ceiling” on Saturday. But to ease any concerns about a desire to improve gender representation among murderers, the group’s program does state that the showcase’s “pieces do not necessarily represent the views of Golden Women.”
Golden Women does work to make strides in a male-dominated discipline, however, though it’s one more relevant to the daily lives of its members — theatre. Founded last year by UC Berkeley students Lillian Avedian, Laure Barthélemy and Salwa Meghjee, Golden Women works to provide all people who have, do or will identify as women or are gender nonconforming with a space of community, diversity, self-expression and critical discussion.
The showcase spoke clearly to these goals of female empowerment and inclusivity through pieces written, directed and acted by members of Golden Women. The creative team behind the scenes, ranging from costume designers Jennifer Lira and Kaitlin Weinstein to sound designer Daisy Knobloch, was also composed of Golden Women members. Performances ranged in nature from original songs such as “Warrior” by Eleanor Hammond, to monologues such as “Bound Feet” by Gen Slosberg, to scenes involving multiple actors.
For instance, “Stuck,” written and directed by Eleanor Hammond, follows two strangers, Alice (Veda Baldota) and Tom (Daisy Knobloch), through an emotional conversation after they find themselves stuck in an elevator. Though the characters occasionally bare secrets in a fashion that feels unrealistically hasty, on the whole, Hammond’s scene demonstrated the young writer’s aptitude for crafting unique and three-dimensional characters. Baldota, too, provided an especially outstanding performance in the role of the emotionally reserved and anxious Alice.
Lizz Boville and Salwa Meghjee’s “Equivalence” also proved to be a highlight. The short piece looks in on a series of snapshot interactions between on-and-off couple Ari (Hanieh Iravanian) and Violet (Madison Mendez), with the former moving in and out of the latter’s residence.
Boville and Meghjee tactfully approached the confusion and gray space between a friendship and a romantic relationship, considering the ways in which our relationships with the most important people in our lives don’t always fit cleanly into labels.
The evening concluded with the highlight of the showcase: “Murder is Fun,” by Laure Barthélemy and Isabella DeBruin. In the piece, the aforementioned Josephine De’Ath — whose murderous schemes make her a perfect candidate for an aunt in “Arsenic and Old Lace” later in life — describes her motivations behind killing.
The production provoked the most audience laughs of the event, a testament to the creative, humorous prowess of the piece’s writers. In a re-enactment of one of De’Ath’s murders, for instance, the audience is privy to a conversation between the naïve future victim, Quinn (Baldota), and a friend (Barthélemy): “Girl, do not listen to them,” the friend reassures Quinn, distraught over being called “stupid.” “You watch Dr. Oz. You’re cultured AF, honey!”
Detective Francis’ response to De’Ath proves particularly apt — “She is so confident, so sure of herself, and I admire that,” the Detective swoons. Indeed, female self-assuredness, as well as teamwork, carried the showcase. Though bumpy and unpolished at times, the showcase did embody the vision for Golden Women originally advanced by Avedian, Barthélemy and Meghjee a year ago.
The evening provided a reaffirming assertion of the power of community through art, especially in amplifying the voices of people with gender identities underrepresented in theater. Ultimately, the spring showcase spoke to the great potential of the Golden Women community, though the organization may be new. As the troupe develops, the UC Berkeley community can hopefully look forward to many original productions to come.
Contact Ryan Tuozzolo at firstname.lastname@example.org.