- By Tishya Robertson, Staff Writer -
The curtain opened at the Studio Theatre last night for Meredith Ensemble Theatre’s production of Decision Height, a play by Meredith Danya Levy about World War II’s female pilots in the WASP training program. Performances of Decision Height are Sept. 26-30 at 7:30 p.m. and October 1 at 3:00 p.m. in the Studio Theatre in Jones Hall.
These civilian women in the WASP program were not technically in the military, but participated to help the men who were fighting overseas in WWII. The women left their families and past lives to learn to fly military planes. Decision Height follows the successes and failures of six female trainees in Sweetwater, Texas at Avenger Fields.
Senior Theatre Education major Victoria Mitchell plays Norma Jean Harris, the motherly figure of the group who left behind her teaching position to become the squadron commander of the group while her husband was fighting in the war in Japan. “She is confident, a know-it-all at times, and needs to be taken down a peg or two sometimes” Mitchell says. She sees a lot of herself in her character since she plans on becoming a theatre teacher, and Norma Jean is the “confident teacher” in the play.
Victoria Mitchell has previously played many awkward roles where her characters provided comedic relief, so she enjoys the new challenge that is an “emotional rollercoaster to say the least.” Norma Jean experiences a large character arc throughout the play, and Mitchell appreciates the dramatic shift her character experiences.
Because this is Mitchell’s next-to-last role in Meredith Ensemble Theatre, she has been researching extensively for her major while reflecting on her time at Meredith, saying “I am very sad, but I am glad that this is the show that I am doing my senior role with because it is all about sisterhood and the relationships that form. The end of the play is their graduation from the program, so it is relevant to my senior year at Meredith College.”
Some of her favorite things about the play include the character relationships between Norma Jean and Eddie, as well as the costumes. Norma Jean and Eddie’s interactions as opposite people evolve throughout the play. The costumes in the play reflect what the female pilots in the WASP training program wore; Mitchell describes some of them as “Rosie the Riveter-esque.” She also dons lingerie for a scene in their living quarters.
Mitchell believes that this play should be seen by others because “these women paved the way for other women in the military and women’s accomplishments in general and their story is sometimes forgotten. They didn’t get military status until 1977, and they were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010, so I think it’s really important that we’re showcasing their lives and showing how important these women really are.”
Director Steven Roten finds the play relevant to others, stating, “Largely, the play is about the relationships that those women forge in going through this experience in serving something greater than themselves. [The women] have given up their own lives, put them on hold to make them a better place, and at the end, though they are changed forever, return to their lives fundamentally changed.”
Performances are currently in full swing, and the playwright will be giving a talk with the audience after Friday’s performance. Meredith students, faculty, and staff are admitted free of charge. General admission is $10 and $5 for non-Meredith students and seniors.
Photo by Michael Feder