Although we’re slightly past prime wedding season, there are still plenty of women exerting control over the attire of a handful of their closest friends (or required invitees) in an attempt to have a perfect wedding this summer. Twin City Squared seeks to honor this timeless tradition and explore its somewhat darker side with this female-centric (down to the director) production. While it may be one woman’s “perfect day”, what she never knows won’t hurt her, as one-by-one, her bridesmaids sneak into an unused room during the reception to gripe, adjust, gossip, and get lit.
Monica Samii says that directing this show has been “a dream realized” for her. Having her interest piqued by a college experimental theatre class, and directing a few one-act plays at SIUE, she’s been gradually increasing her involvement in C-U’s theatre scene since returning home. Choreographing here and there, acting in this and that eventually culminated in a choreographing/co-directing gig for Sweet Charity, following in the footsteps of her idol Bob Fosse. Since then, she’s been very active with Champaign Park District, using both her dancer’s and director’s hats in several Kids productions. Although this broad and bawdy comedy is a far cry from those short & sweet youth productions, she talked to me about how it is actually a perfect fit.
SP: What appealed to you about this show?
Samii: This little play has so much depth, many complicated relationship situations and is, at times, pee your pants funny.
SP: How was casting this particular show different than others you’ve been involved with? Was it easier or more challenging? Were the actors able to indicate a preferred role?
Samii: The last show I directed was of course for the Park District, this is setup so that a child signs up for the six week camp, then the first night of rehearsals is reserved for auditions. Usually, I see about sixty kids in three hours. With Five Women, I had auditions over two nights, saw about ten people those two nights, and made some house calls. After casting the show, I had two actors dropout, and finally had a full cast of six by the second rehearsal. Summer theatre is intense in this town!
SP: Getting everyone in the same headspace with a large cast can be very challenging, but is vital with a small one. What methods, if any, did you use to help the 5 women bond?
Samii: You know, truly, I let them take the lead on that. Since Twin City Squared follows a different theatre module, I wanted to treat my cast as professionals, since technically, this is a profession acting gig. Also, it helps that they are literally wearing the same dress.
SP: Alan Ball has proven fairly adept at writing roles for women, but for me there have been observable differences any time a man writes female characters. What’s your opinion of his treatment of this play where every character is a woman?
Samii: Although the title of play includes all five women, there is actually a man! You’ll see him in the second act. Now, as far as Alan Ball is concerned, I agree that he is great at writing for women, being a total fan of Trueblood and watching American Beauty too many times than I’d like to admit, I’d have to say that while the dialogue for this play is fabulous, sometimes he falls back on a man’s idea of what women do when they’re together.
SP: What else would you like our readers to know about this show?
Samii: Other than being a dream come true for me, you have to see these women! I think the hardest part of this process, as a director, is having to watch the show eight times. I know that may sound harsh, but it is usually a struggle for me. However, every time I think about the amazing work I’ve seen during the rehearsal process, and the countless hours memorizing lines, and the relationship nuisances that are so beautiful to see, I can’t wait to see what they do next. It’s been an honor to see this production come to life right before my eyes. Also, if you want an awesome girl’s night out with your friends, grab a drink, grab some dinner, come see this show, and then laugh, cry, and fall in love with it, just like I did.
Five Women Wearing the Same Dress will be staged at The Harold and Jean Miner Theatre at Parkland College, although it is brought to C-U by Twin City Squared. It will run from Friday, July 22nd–Sunday, July 24th and Thursday, July 28th–Sunday, July 31st. Showtimes are at 7 p.m., except for Sundays which feature a 2 p.m. matinee, and tickets are $15 with available discounts for students and seniors. See complete pricing and schedule details, and order tickets at TCSquared’s website.
Images are by JoAnna Strauss (headshot) and Thomas Frye (poster)