Brava to the cast and crew of this year’s upper school fall play, Top Girls! Written by Caryl Churchill, this contemporary drama is set in 1980s London amidst the changing social and political landscape that followed the election of London’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Top Girls opens with Marlene, the head of a London employment agency, celebrating her recent promotion over dinner with several historic female figures. Each dinner guest shares their own experiences of sacrifice and ambition, and commonalities emerge across the different centuries in which each character lived. Over the course of Top Girls, audiences learn about Marlene’s sacrifices, what it took for her to rise in her career, and her strained relationship with her family.
As part of their rehearsal process for the show, Hewitt actors engaged in character exploration and historical research to explore the play’s themes of patriarchy, motherhood, sacrifice, class, and what it takes to be a successful woman in a world that seems fit only for men. Meanwhile, upper school students prepared to watch Top Girls by studying the play in their English classes, examining the text from both a historical and societal perspective. Through lessons created by English Teacher Miriam Walden, students made connections between the play and the societal expectations they themselves experience today.
Director Colleen Britt shared that the idea to mount Top Girls came from Hewitt students themselves. In May of 2022, two members of the Class of 2022 followed a proposal process — including researching the historical significance of the work, connecting the play to Hewitt’s mission and community, and presenting the proposal to a panel of teachers and administrators — to suggest Top Girls for the upper school fall play. Their proposal states, “As a part of our research and decision making process, we surveyed upper school students to see what they have related to in the past as well as what they hope to see in the future. Some themes students wanted to see more of were gender, socioeconomic status, and friendships/relationships, all of which are covered in Top Girls.” The students ultimately felt that the show would give Hewitt’s actors and students a compelling opportunity to explore the very themes they had expressed interest in learning more about.
The tenth grade actor who played the role of Marlene shared her experience portraying this complex character and what she hopes the audience took away from the performance as a whole.
“Ms. Britt helped us dive into our characters - we did a lot of research and really got to learn about their lives. Although Marlene is a fictional character, I thought she had so many layers that I wanted to share with the audience. As a cast, we wanted to show how the themes in Top Girls — motherhood, class struggles, trying to succeed in a man’s world — have been relevant ever since the play was written. The show is timeless.”
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