Willow Heatherly

Near the box office was a table on which audience members could leave comments and critiques on Post-It notes. One audience member wrote the message: “We are all Eliza!!! FIGHT THE PATRIARCHY.”

In the final weekend of October, CF Theatre showcased ‘What We’re Up Against’ by Theresa Rebeck in the Charles R. Dassance Fine Arts Center. The play was directed by Dr. Kathleen Downs, who has been working at CF for two months now. Downs teaches theatre, musical theatre, acting, and dance play production at CF.

‘What We’re Up Against’ is centered on a woman, Eliza, who has “worked” at an architecture firm for five months, but has not been allowed to work on any projects. Her coworker, Ronald, however, has worked at the same firm for a shorter amount of time and is put to work on a big project: the design of a shopping mall.

The story began after it became evident that Eliza had secretly found a way to put herself to work since her boss, Stu, refused to give her any projects. Hannah Parsons, a theatre major at CF, played the role of Eliza.

Hannah Parsons (left), playing Eliza, pauses during a confrontation with her boss to pour herself some of coworker Weber’s expensive alcohol. Middle: Joseph “Trey” Campfield as Stu. Right: Jonah Peckham as Ronald Weber.

“[Eliza] is very strong-willed and hardheaded, so she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to go after it. Yet sometimes you can take it too far, and I think Eliza does,” Parsons said. “But she also shows that [Stu and Ronald] kind of deserved it, because Stu would not let her work, so she had to play dirty like they were to get what she wanted and deserved.”

The dark comedy, though written in 1992, addresses issues of sexism and gender inequality in the workforce that still find their way to the surface in today’s environment. The scenario posed in the play is a situation that millions of women have experienced for decades.

At first, one may find themselves confused about when this story might take place because gender inequality in our society is no longer a common topic like it was at the beginning of the feminist movement. Thus, some of the cast members thought upon initially reading the play that it was set in the 1950’s.

Joey Coombs, another theatre student at CF, played the character Ben. According to Coombs, the time period of the play was discussed at one of the first rehearsals for the show.

Ben, played by Joey Coombs (middle) has an outburst of fury over an unsolved problem in the design of a shopping mall. Left: Jonah Peckham, playing Ronald Weber. Right: Megan Brown, playing Janice.

“For a few of us, it was a little too easy to think it was 1950’s,” said Coombs. “But we realized that the point of the show is to tell people, ‘this might have been a problem in the past, but it’s still very much prevalent today and it’s something that needs to be addressed.’”

Downs said that a surge of recent events cropping up in the news regarding issues of gender inequality made her realize that the 1992 play was in fact quite topical.

The play shed light on the pitfalls of being a woman in a male-dominated career. Eliza’s character reflected the anger that women experience when treated as inferiors, and the grit that it takes to speak up about the problem and demand a solution.

Admission to the play was free for CF students who brought their ID. CF’s new theatre director has many more shows scheduled for the future.

“We have another play we’re going to be doing in the spring,” Downs said. “Then we’re doing ‘Endgame’ by Samuel Beckett for the Gala Celebration 60th Anniversary of [Arts at] CF, and that’s going to be in December. There’s also Sondheim On Sondheim that’s coming up as well.”

Story and Photo by: Willow Heatherly