Strong women give strong start to Women’s History Month


By Catherine Maurakis

Lucinda McDermott says she finds new things in the writing every time she plays Georgia O'Keeffe. But this time, when she performed her one-woman play O'Keeffe! at Radford University, she wasn't the only one who learned something new about how strong and powerful a woman can be.

Alongside Rachael Lang, president of the Women's Studies Club, McDermott set out to shine a new light on Women's History Month, and O'Keeffe! was the lantern they used. The Women's Studies Club and the theatre department co-sponsored the event.

Paying respect to the life and struggle of Georgia O'Keeffe, the play reveals that while its namesake's life and work produced an array of well-known paintings and photographs, she also marked the existence of a strong, dedicated woman. McDermott and Lang used the same dedication through presentation and planning when they brought this one-woman show to the New River Valley for the first time.

"As a woman who did things her way but really had to fight to do it … that alone is a great thing," McDermott said. "Not just for women, but for everyone, but certainly for women."

The performance, which took place in RU's Studio Theatre, marked a significant venue for McDermott and also served as a vital step for the Women's Studies Club and RU's Women's History Month.

"I think that this is definitely by far the biggest event that the Women's Studies Club has ever co-sponsored," Lang said. "The whole month of March is lined up with a ton of events, and this is a really great way to kick off all the [...] events that are going to follow."

McDermott, who wrote and produced the play, was excited to revisit the roll of O'Keeffe, a part she hasn't played in five years. And even though she wrote the script, she says she still discovers things she didn't know were there.

"There is a magic [in theatre], and this is how I feel when that happens. It's unexplainable. I like it a lot," McDermott said. "There's a lot of people in this field who are very theory-oriented … but I'm not a theory person. I love that it's unexplainable."

Lang approached McDermott about the play in August. Then the two faced months of funding, planning and advertising before the curtain rose March 2. With the help of the Women's Studies Club and the theatre department, "O'Keeffe!" developed from an idea, into a sell-out performance.

"I don't think I would have approached anyone other than Lucinda and asked them if they would put on their show," said Lang, "if I didn't know that they would be able to provide me with the amount of help that I would need and be able to teach me the ropes. It's been great working with her."

"The theatre department was extremely helpful, super accommodating and saw the benefits for students being involved," McDermott said. "They are a great example for the entire university."

Even though it is over, O'Keeffe!'s ideas will continue.

"Georgia was a pioneer when she was doing art in the '20s, and women today still need to pioneer their own terms. And she did it on her own terms," McDermott said. "She did struggle with 'Was it me or Stieglitz?' Understanding that there's your work and there's your personal life and there's your relationship and that's a trinity, how do you balance those three things? I don't think many people consider that early on, but it's an important perspiration."

Only time will tell if O'Keeffe! influenced Women's History Month as much as Lang and McDermott hoped it would, but as far as immediate success goes, the play was a perfect example. Tickets to the two performances sold out in just one week.

"I felt like overall it was a great experience for the audience and community, faculty, students and general public alike," Lang said. "I heard people say that it was cool to really see Georgia O'Keeffe right in front of them, as a real person with real thoughts and feelings."

"Sometimes when a historical icon is placed up so high in everyone's minds, it is easy to forget they were people with thoughts and feelings just like everyone else," Lang said.

"There is a magic [in theatre], and this is how I feel when that happens. It's unexplainable, I like it a lot," McDermott said. "There's a lot of people in this field who are very theory-oriented … but I'm not a theory person, I love that it's unexplainable."

Date Posted:   03/07/2007   |   Time Posted:   10:45:50 | Views: 112331


Comments from our visitors:

Add comment: