They say all the world’s a stage, but something is wrong with the numbers in this analogy. Earth boasts roughly a 49.5-49.5 female-to-male ratio, with about 1% of the population being a little bit of both (or neither).
Not so the stage. In this supposed microcosm of the planet, something like 62% of actors are male and female characters are even less prominent (take HAMLET, where approximately 8.5% of the lines are women’s). (You can read more data, if you’re interested, here.)
Now, one more thing: Don’t stop to think… just name aloud the first 3 famous people that come to your head.
Were at least 2 of those male?
Ok. So no wonder history is called HIStory, right? It appears to be HIS STORY and not HERS. Looks like the ladies are sorely represented.
Not so in HERstory: A Musical Guide for the Modern Woman by Cape Breton’s own Lindsay Thompson. In a cast of 15 (or so), 14 (I think) women play 17 (or so) women, and 1 man plays 2 men.
Is your head spinning with numbers by now?
Let’s switch to the story. As the proverbial curtain rises, Allie (Jenna Lahey) is being dumped by her boyfriend of five years, Kirk (Rory Andrews). As the delightful chorus reminds her, no lying about her age (“I’m in my 20s, my early 20s…” she insists, while the chorus more honestly points out she’s 29) will save her dying ovaries, find her a job, land her a new boyfriend, or get her out of her parents’ basement.
She’s going to have to do that on her own.
Or, perhaps she’ll need a little help from her new friends, including, Cleopatra, Eve, Marie Antoinette, and Queen Elizabeth II, among other iconic women from the ancient past to the present day. What Allie learns from these women isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. After all, Eve suffers from perpetual narcissistic guilt for having driven the world into everlasting sin, and Marie Antoinette was more than a little harsh with the peasants…
But HIStory has perhaps painted them all with a single brush, where HERstory prefers to view them through a kaleidoscope, in which their faults are all jumbled up with their strengths and, warts and all, they have something to offer a modern girl looking for a fresh start in life.
Now, on account of what this musical tells us, do we all need to start hating men, burning our bras, practising lesbianism, and – as Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell would have it – probably orchestrating 9/11? Of course not. HERSTORY is a comedy after all. It’s got as many lipstick bi-curious cake-eating queens in it as it does women wearing beards (1 of each), and a whole lot of humour that all sexes will enjoy. The lesson (if there is one) is that we – all humans – need to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, be ourselves, stop apologizing for everything, and demand the dignity we deserve.
Herstory – A Modern Guide for the Modern Woman manages to explore the minefield of sex, gender, sexism, and feminism with wit and grace. It’s always smart, often funny, and relentlessly energetic. Despite powerful performances by all of the cast – and Hilary Scott’s Marilyn Monroe was particularly excellent – the chorus was the most memorable part. It was nostalgic and lively and sweet and funny and my goodness those young women can sing. Hats off to each of them.
Drop everything you’re doing and rush to the Highland Arts Theatre. The music is lively, the dialogue is engaging, and the costumes are glorious. Whether you’re young or old, male or female (or something outside of this thoughtless binary), you’ll be glad you did.
Herstory – A Musical Guide for the Modern Woman runs through May 29.