Dangerous Distortions: A reflection on society and ourselves

As part of the whole night, posters created by Ariana Hansen were displayed in the Clayton Center lobby. All the posters consisted of a photograph of an MC student or staff member and a statistic relating to the themes expressed in the show. Image courtesy of Ariana Hansen.
As part of the whole night, posters created by Ariana Hansen were displayed in the Clayton Center lobby. All the posters consisted of a photograph of an MC student or staff member and a statistic relating to the themes expressed in the show. Image courtesy of Ariana Hansen.

    As families of students enjoyed the many activities offered at Maryville College during Family Weekend, students, staff and friends of the college poured into the Flex Theatre Oct. 1-3 at 8:00 p.m. and again on Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. for Dangerous Distortions, a night of short plays.

    Included in this production were The Stonewater Rapture by Doug Wright and The Most Massive Woman Wins by Madeleine George. The audience went through a vast range of emotions as themes of sexual assault, bullying, sexuality and self-image were crafted in thought-provoking and artful ways.

    Both plays took place on a black and white set. The modern style of black and white striped flooring and the abstract pictures and forms hanging in the back gave the plays an almost dream-like atmosphere.

    The Stonewater Rapture by Doug Wright was the first performance of the night. Claire Palmer and Lenny Lively starred as Carlyle and Whitney respectively. In the play, Carlyle and Whitney struggle to hold on to their deep- rooted religious beliefs as their perceptions of their lives crumble from underneath them.

 Carlyle, desperately clinging to her strict Christian upbringing, tries to cope as a host of issues arise in her life. Her sexually needy boyfriend, Whitney, begs her to cave into his sexual desires. However, this dire need from Whitney stems from his own bullying as he struggle with his sexuality and the firm press of his own father’s guiding hand toward a career in ministry.

    Carlyle faces an even greater, more catastrophic event. Due to her sheltered upbringing and child-like naivety, she is sexually assaulted at a party that Whitney’s bullies on the football team threw. As a result of this event, Carlyle finds herself pregnant at only 18, lost and out of her element.

The Stonewater Rapture left the audiences gasping for air as they pushed back tears. People left to dry their eyes but returned to the theatre once again for the next performance of the night.

    The Most Massive Women Wins by Madeleine George certainly brought a different message and style of theatre to the audience. Whereas The Stonewater Rapture was a realistic slice-of-life play, The Most Massive Women Wins was a much more artistic and non-linear approach to theatre.

    The play, set in the office of a liposuction clinic, follows the stories of four women, Rennie, Cel, Sabine, and Carly, played by Claire Palmer, Blaine Coyle, Loudine Louis, and Marie Harp respectively. Each of the women in the clinic has a driving force that made them decide to go undergo a body-altering and supposedly life-altering operation.

    For Claire’s character Rennie, this was the pressure of her mother, forcing her to conform to the image she had for her daughter. Cel, played by Blaine Coyle, dealt with the compulsion of self-harm.   Louidne Louis’ character Sabine dealt with the societal repercussions of not conforming to the typical and “expected” image of the modern woman. Marie Harp’s character Carly struggled with the expectations of men, including her husband.

    Men’s, as well as society’s, influence over all four character’s self-image was an important theme throughout the play.

    As each woman shared her own story, the audience saw a shift in their demeanor. There was a ferocity and confidence that bloomed in them, and as they took off their hospital gowns, they glowed. Each woman stood confident in who she was and how her body looked, an extremely powerful message for any member of the audience.

    Alongside this production, Alpha Psi Omega, the honors society, collected funds and raised awareness for The Butterfly Project. This movement ties closely to the themes discussed in both plays.

    The Butterfly Project, an initiative started on the popular social media blogging site Tumblr, aims to reduce self-harm by drawing butterflies on a person’s arms. The idea is that by not self-harming, the butterfly will continue to live.

    Members of APO set up in the lobby of Pearsons Hall in the days leading up to opening night as well as the lobby of the Clayton Center following each performance. They continued this movement by stamping butterflies on people’s arms to show support. They also collected funds to help support the initiative.

    Dangerous Distortions was a production that touched every member of the audience, cast, and crew. The implications of The Stonewater Rapture and The Most Massive Woman Wins are far- reaching and will continue to provoke thought far beyond their short run here at MC.

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