UT Theatre and Dance perform politically challenging dystopian play 'Wellesley Girl'

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Photo Credit: Elizabeth Garabedian | Daily Texan Staff

It’s an awful moment when you have to choose between two equally horrible solutions to resolve an even more horrible problem. In “Wellesley Girl,” this responsibility unhappily falls on the shoulders of everyday American citizens, who must decide the fate of an entire community.

The play, put on by the Department of Theatre and Dance, opens May 2 with performances continuing through May 5 in the F. Loren Winship Drama Building (WIN 2.180). The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic Boston in the year 2465, where only 345 adults live inside Boston’s walled citadel and they are all members of a makeshift Congress. Scraping up whatever was left after an environmental catastrophe, U.S. citizens assume control of a government they don’t fully understand.

Director Quetta Carpenter, an acting lecturer, said “Wellesley Girl” challenges its audience to determine our current role as citizens of the U.S. through its bleak setting. 

“Right now, if you had to run Congress, what would you do?” Carpenter said. “You probably wouldn’t get it right, because you don’t really know how it operates and none of us really do. That’s kind of what the play is getting at. We know the ritual of it, but we don’t necessarily know exactly how things get done.”

“Wellesley Girl” premiered two years ago in the wake of the 2016 election. Carpenter said she doesn’t want people to think of the play as an anti-Trump play but as a rejection of the election cycle that got Trump elected.

“(Being a citizen) is a job we all have to do, and I think we’ve become lazy with that over the years,” Carpenter said. “I think we’ve become a nation made up of armchair pundits, and we talk about it … and talk about how we do like this and we don’t like that, and we rarely do anything. Most people in the country don’t vote, and the play is really getting at that not voting thing and what it means to not vote.”

Carpenter said the play primarily strikes a chord with younger audiences because it explores where politics could take us in the future.

Acting freshman Saige Larmer, a cast member of the play, echoed Carpenter’s statement and said she hopes the audience will take some valuable things from seeing the performance. 

“One of the central themes in ‘Wellesley Girl’ is the fact that you do have an influence on politics and the people around you, so I would love for people to think about their role in society,” said Larmer. “(Another theme is) listening to people and making sure you get all points of view, because one isn’t necessarily right, (even) if it’s the loudest.”

In the face of political commentary, Larmer said what interests her the most are the raw and compelling storylines of the characters in the play.

Similarly, acting junior Camryn Basile said what drew her into auditioning for “Wellesley Girl” is its political commentary on our nation’s current state of polarization, in addition to its strong storytelling narrative through the lives of relatable and believable characters.

“The show isn’t about flair, its focused on the acting aspect,” said Basile. “I was intrigued in this story because the language is very casual and modern. It isn’t heightened language, and it relates to what we are talking about now, with the political side of the play. It’s a very important piece to be introduced now, because now is when it’s most relevant.”