When We Were Young and Unafraid by Sarah TreemDespite its set-up, When We Were Young... is less about domestic violence, and more about womens capacity for love and grief.
Through four characters, all from different decades, we are shown how womens options have and havent changed, the choices made in the face of those limitations and possibilities, and how terrifying change can be, even if the risk pales in comparison to the potential benefit.
The context of this story is imperative. The year is 1972, pre-Roe v Wade, pre Title IX, pre-sexual harassment laws, etc. And the characters: their ages represent womens experiences specific to those decades. Agnes, in her early 50s, serves as a sage to the mid-20s Mary Ann, who has sought harbor at Agnes B&B, while also appearing wary and world-weary to the more idealistic 30-something Hannah. Her insistence that teenage Penny focus on her grades/studies/accomplishments rather than social status and/or (gasp) boys is grounded in her own history, least of which is that she was a young adult during World War II, and witnessed women achieve some measure of occupational and financial independence only to have it ripped away and be forced back into the constrictive role of wife and mother.
I mention all of this not just because its crucial to the story, but also as a warning to future productions not to screw this up, as one white male director recently did by lowering Agnes age considerably. He also aged Paul, the songwriter who falls for Mary Ann, turning their romance into something potentially predatory and icky.
So, if you can manage to stay true to the playwrights vision, When We were Young and Unafraid is a fantastic script for black box and community theaters due to its small cast, and simple, single setting. Consider pairing with a domestic violence shelter or other social service organization for maximum community impact.
The Moth & The Flame - Young & Unafraid
When We Were Young and Unafraid
The ban on women practicing law had been recently lifted, but Roe v. Wade was still a year off. Hannah the overly committed Cherise Boothe is the young-black-radical-lesbian warrior who belongs to a sisterhood chapter called the Gorgons who says lesbians have no sense of humor? Opened June 17, Reviewed June Creative : Directed by Pam MacKinnon.
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The year is , and a new age of feminism is dawning as women grope to find voices to match their evolving identities. Well, some of them are groping. Such meticulously laid-out clarity may be a boon to those who like the assistance of road signs in finding their way to a theme. But it subverts the potential narrative power of this earnest, thoughtful drama, which opened on Tuesday night in a Manhattan Theater Club production starring the formidable Cherry Jones and directed by Pam MacKinnon. And she has come up with a smart and exciting premise to bring characters of different backgrounds — and different notions of what it means to be a woman at a pivotal historical moment — into proximity and conflict. The setting is conveniently isolated, a bed-and-breakfast on a sylvan island in Washington State run by the middle-aged, motherly Agnes Ms. Jones , where visitors from a noisier, scarier world come to seek sanctuary.
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Sex, Violence and Power, With a Feminist Slant
When energy is low, a thermodynamic system can maintain its order — but when heat is added, chaos ensues. In Treem's thought-provoking play, this heated chaos comes in the form of exhilarating passion, all-consuming rage, and everything that exists within the surprisingly gray area that lies between the two. As laws of physics and nature continue to get the best of her characters, Treem takes advantage of the surrounding rubble, meticulously examining the nuts and bolts that fuse people together in what seem to be nothing but ticking time bombs. Tony Award-winning director Pam MacKinnon contributes an exacting eye to the play's very specific world, set in at what seemed like the height of cultural entropy for women. Homemakers were being replaced by bra burners, secretaries by career women, and patriarchal universities by coed institutions of higher learning. Yet, within this particular social and political context, MacKinnon subtly draws out the enormous breadth of Treem's layered work that makes When We Were Young and Unafraid much meatier than just another drama about the enduring female struggle. Just outside the bubbling core of this social upheaval, we meet a middle-aged woman named Agnes the incomparable Cherry Jones.
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