Wednesday, August 21

“˜Schoolgirl’ tackles weighty subject matter


It’s ironic that the actors in Evan Lorenzetti’s
production of “Schoolgirl Figure” practice their
dialogue exchanges by tossing a ball back and forth in a circle
like a bunch of playful kindergartners. For a dark comedy about
high school girls obsessed with their weight, they’re sure
getting a lot of hearty exercise.

It’s also the last time the girls are hunky dory with each
other, as madcap backstabbing soon ensues.

“I get to slap Patty,” said Carrie Wiita, a
fourth-year English student who plays Renee in the production.
“It’s a full-on slap. No faking slapping in this
play.”

Written by Wendy MacLeod, “Schoolgirl Figure” is an
irreverent portrayal of a crew of anorexic and bulimic
high-schoolers going to extreme lengths to ruin one another’s
reputations, figures and chances at winning over The Bradley, the
resident trophy jock.

“A lot of times, comedy can be crippled by not going too
far, but this play doesn’t really worry about going too
far,” said Wiita. “We’ll offend basically
everybody in the audience at least once.”

With offensive humor assured, the challenge becomes how to mesh
comedic silliness with a serious, even deadly, topic.

“Even though this play is not an after-school special
““ it doesn’t lecture people; it’s meant to be
entertaining ““ it’s about a very serious subject that,
on a college campus, automatically people are going to relate to
it,” said Lorenzetti.

“If Dave Chappelle were female and she had a show, it
would be what you’re watching,” said Chris Jackson, a
fourth-year theater student who plays The Bradley. “It does
it in a clever way that you don’t walk out trying to stop it.
You walk out with a better understanding of what (the characters)
go through.”

The comedy pokes fun at stereotypes of eating disorders while
shedding light on the misconceptions people might have about this
growing problem in society, especially among college students. A
panel discussion will be held after each performance to give
students the opportunity to speak on the issue.

“One of the misconceptions that I found out doing the
research for this play is that a lot of people think that this is
the rich white girl disease. “¦ Eating disorders are becoming
more prevalent in other races, both sexes are now having it, and
it’s coming up younger. We have girls who’re 8 and 9
years old with eating disorders,” said Lorenzetti.

As a professional director, Lorenzetti provides seriousness and
stability to a play that could have easily spiraled into a farcical
mess struggling to convey a weighty message to the audience. As
some members of the cast have pointed out, student directors
inevitably are more laid back.

“Because (student directors) are the same age as you,
it’s kind of hard for them to direct ““ people tend not
to take them as seriously. There’s a lack of
authority,” said Eliana Horeczko, a third-year psychology
student who plays Patty. “They also don’t want to be
perceived as bossy, so they kind of try to be your friend. “¦
But it depends, it really depends on the director.”

On the flip side, Lorenzetti has had to adjust to working with a
less experienced cast. He points out that much of acting is about
listening, which is something that gives professional actors an
edge over college-level actors because a director does not need to
prompt professional actors as much.

“You tend to give (professional actors) less direction
because once you tell them something, they can run off with it in a
million directions,” said Lorenzetti. “You may have to
work more with a less experienced college performer to get the same
result. It’s not because they’re bad quality, they just
haven’t done as much. You have to talk about intentions more,
talk about underlying motives, and point them in the right
direction, whereas the professional actor can do most of that on
his own. You just kind of nudge them here and there.”

For Horeczko, the motives and intentions of her character mirror
her own voracious appetite ““ though not to the point of
binging and purging. But unlike the bulimic Patty, Renee suffers
from anorexia, a condition Wiita is familiar with.

“A lot of girls in my theater class ended up in the
hospital, and it became kind of like a status thing,” said
Wiita. “The cool girls ended up in the hospital. “¦ One
girl was hospitalized and didn’t come to school for the last
two months of her senior year. They wheeled her across the stage at
graduation in a wheelchair, and everyone gave her a standing
ovation. It was really bizarre.”

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