‘9 to 5’ takes feminism to the stage
SU’s Act V Theatre Co. empowered females on the stage of Memorial Auditorium with the musical “9 to 5” that ran four shows April 26–28.
Originally a movie, “9 to 5” follows three young ladies and their struggle for equality in their workplace under an oppressive and “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” of a boss. What all three have in common is that they have been mistreated or abused by men more powerful than them.
The three women, Violet, Doralee and Judy, drove the plot in their journey to becoming strong and independent women in the workplace. The musical also focused on themes such as the gender wage gap, workplace discrimination and teaching women to stand up for themselves in the face of injustice.
Director Tori Campbell discussed her thought process in selecting the musical.
“I knew that I really had strong altos, and that’s where it started. I looked at shows with strong female leads,” she said.
“We had so much talent, I wanted to showcase as much as possible.”
The focus on female leads narrowed her options down to just a handful, Campbell said.
“When I saw this one with the message it brought, and the humor it brought, it was something different that ACT V hasn’t done,” she said.
Trent Bauer, an SU senior who has made a name for himself after advocating for LGBT acceptance on-campus and for being invited onto “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” was among many in the audience.
“I think that this was a great musical to pick for the political climate,” Bauer said. “I really hope that we can carry it through and start seeing some powerful women rise to the top.”
Bauer also congratulated his classmates whom he worked with previously when he performed in Act V’s “Heathers” last year.
“You can really see the hard work that these students put in outside of class,” Bauer said.
Hannah Famulare played Doralee Rhodes, which was one of the female leads of the show that helped Dolly Parton’s career skyrocket. Rhodes’ coworkers suspected she was sleeping with her sleazy boss Hart, when she had refuted all of the man’s very aggressive advances.
During the show, Famulare delivered a very strong and firm monologue correcting Hart’s sexual harassment when she found out he was the source of the vicious rumors. At the very end she belted to thunderous applause, “I’m gonna get that gun of mine and turn you from a rooster to a hen in one shot!”
“In rehearsal, we’re all so used to hearing it,” Famulare explained.
“You don’t really realize until you’re in front of a crowd and you hear the yelling and screaming. They felt it too, they understand, and they agree,” Famulare said.
Maggie Haynes, who played the emotionally vulnerable Judy Bernly, had another interpretation of the message.
“Everybody can do everything, and no one should ever be able to stop you,” Haynes said.
Even though Haynes’ life events were not directly comparable to Judy’s, she still had to relate them to herself to put the emotional expression.
“It was really fun to play someone that was emotionally unstable,” she said.
During the main plot of the play, there were several subplots that highlighted different issues of discrimination in the workplace. Emma Rikas played Maria, a character that was investigating the differences in wages between men and women workers in the same position.
“She’s trying to prove that the men are getting paid more than the women,” Rikas said. “She’s trying to shorten the wage gap. And then she gets fired.”
Rikas’ character eventually came back when the protagonists took over the office and rehired Maria.
The antagonist of the show, Franklin Hart, was played by Nick McKim. Hart was the embodiment of the worst traits a male could have in the workplace. McKim struggled with entering the role.
“I had to keep in mind that I was being a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot, so I had to focus on changing my whole mindset,” McKim said.
Despite the difficulty and the stigma attached to the character, McKim enjoyed being the villain.
“What I take from it is that girls — no, women — need to be looked at as a higher power,” McKim said. “They need to be treated equally and with respect.”