Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies - Project Peg on Stage
Project Peg on Stage, by Professor Marti LoMonaco, Director, Theatre Program, Department of Visual & Performing Arts
Project Peg, although not exclusively a theatre collective, has largely created its public profile through performance. Theatre Fairfield, Fairfield's resident theatre production company, has had the honor of producing most of Project Peg's shows under its umbrella. Every season since Fall 2005, Peg's work has graced our stages, bringing art and politics together in a vibrant, performative fashion to express concerns, perspectives, pet peeves, and the sorrows and joys of women in American society and, most especially, on Fairfield's campus.
It all started when two theatre majors, Darci Fulcher, '07, and Jodie Pfau, '07, came to my office to discuss the possibility of developing a show about images of beauty in American culture. That conversation evolved into Peg's first theatre piece, "Girl in the Mirror," which was presented in A Class Act, a bi-annual production devoted to new student work, in Fall 2005. "Girl" featured only women actors but incorporated the artistry of male friends in shaping the final production. All future productions involved both women and men, on and off stage. "Do You Realize?", presented as part of New Works Festival in Spring 2007, continued the exploration of body image first presented in "Girl" through a deep investigation of common perceptions and misperceptions of who we are based on how we look, that was created by and about both women and men. Audiences clearly identified with these performances and "Peg" was officially launched as a theatrical presence on campus.
In Fall 2007, Peg was ready for a new challenge and decided to tackle a huge issue for college-age women - feminism. They soon discovered that feminism was a dirty word, a label to be assiduously avoided by any self-respecting female student who wanted to be accepted by her peers and found attractive by the opposite sex. This launched a semester-long investigation of the term carried out through personal interviews, roving diaries, and online chats that created a wellspring of source material for theatrical interpretation. The resulting production, "Resurrecting the F Word," which heralded a true resurrection of the word feminist as a positive force on campus as well as a proud new breed of self-declared feminists, both female and male, was presented as part of A Class Act in December. This production brought Peg squarely into the realm of activist theatre.
For the 2008-09 theatre season, Peg chose to focus on scripted plays that would help them investigate other issues vital to feminists. Peg was approached by the Soroptimist Club of New Haven, part of Soroptimist International which is an organization of business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world, to produce Body & Sold, a play by Deborah Lake Fortson, which explores human sex trafficking in the United States. Peg opened the play at The Little Theatre in New Haven (this was its first off-campus production) and repeated it in the Wien Black Box Theatre at the Quick Center. Peg also co-produced Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues as the annual Theatre Fairfield Independent Project at the PepsiCo Theatre on campus. This production was generously underwritten by a grant from the Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation and due to its provocative title and subject matter, caused a profound stir on campus. Hooray Peg!
In 2009-10, Peg will join with Theatre Fairfield to produce the 1928 feminist expressionist drama, Machinal, by Sophie Treadwell. This play, loosely based on the 1927 murder trial of Ruth Snyder, the first woman to be executed in the electric chair in U.S. history, will allow Peg to explore the historical role of women in American society and how women are frequently trapped by unreasonable expectations set by families, corporations, religious institutions, and governments. They will also work with senior Jennifer Martin, '10, in producing her as-yet-to-be written play, tentatively entitled "The South Africa Project," which will be based on Jen's interviews with women in summer 2009 while she interns in South Africa.
Project Peg is an important, provocative, and beautiful addition to campus artistic and intellectual life. Theatre Fairfield will continue to work with and support this collective towards continuing its now well-established tradition of activist theatre on campus.