A play at Hobart and William Smith recounts a 1956 meeting of a society for single women

GENEVA — An interactive performance recreating the 1950s world of crinolines, communists and custard pies will be featured in the Hobart and William Smith Colleges production of “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche.”

Directed y Chris Woodworth, associate professor of theatre, the play recounts the 1956 meeting of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein, famous for its annual quiche breakfast and competition.

With the Cold War escalating outside, women at the meeting are preoccupied with judging their annual quiche contest. The society’s five officers — played by seniors Casey Cady, Jacqueline Fisher, Kathleen Fowkes, Grace Ruble and junior Isabel Ingram — preside over the competition as nuclear war threatens to ruin their idyllic breakfast.

Woodworth, who said she “cackled out loud at some of the humor” the first time she read the play’s script, believes “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” gives the cast the opportunity to improvise and interact with the audience, and additionally “play within a specific period and style.”

“Plus, I adore the fact that this is ultimately an affirming story of love, female desire and friendship,” she said.

The cast and crew made connections between the empowering content of the play and the history of the women’s rights movement by visiting the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls and the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester to learn about the namesake of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein.

Rehearsals for the play have included researching various aspects of 1950s gender norms and etiquette, then translating them into their characters’ scenes.

Fisher, a political science major, said watching TV shows such as “I Love Lucy” and viewing civil defense videos and anti-communist propaganda assisted her in developing her character.

“This helped me really understand the existential dread that all the characters would have been experiencing,” she said.

Claire Abelson ’20, hair and makeup designer, is working to make the cast look like they belong in a typical 1950s advertisement.

The rest of the crew is also working to bring the 1950s to the stage: Luis Figueroa ’18 serves as stage manager; Wren Andrews ’21, Anika Hanson ’18 and Veronica Rogers ’20 are hosts and assistant stage managers; and Amelia Bayless-Marr ’21 and Alexander Kerai ’19 are board operators and assistant stage managers.

Guest artist AErin Lanphear has returned to work with the HWS Theatre Department as costume designer.

Playwrights Evan Linger and Andrew Hobgood will be on campus from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16 to talk about “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche: The Title that Wouldn’t Die.” The program is free and open to the public. They will also lead a playwriting workshop on Saturday, Feb. 17. Students must apply to participate. Contact woodworth@hws.edu for more information.

After each performance, Chelsea Snyder ’12, program coordinator at LGBTQ Center of the Finger Lakes, will have a table outside McDonald Theatre to provide information about the organization’s activism and resources in the Finger Lakes region.

The production contains adult content and language and is not recommended for young audiences. The play is presented by a special arrangement with Samuel French Inc.

 

If you go

WHAT: Hobart and William Smith production of “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” 

WHEN: Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15-17, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Feb. 17

WHERE: McDonald Theatre of the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts on the HWS campus in Geneva 

TICKETS: $5, available 3 to 5 p.m. at the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts Box Office. A limited number of free tickets will be available to HWS students with ID one hour before each performance