Four women of different ages and body types walk into a liposuction clinic. How did they get there? What life events have influenced them? Why are they considering surgery? What do they see when they look in the mirror?
These are all questions OUT LOUD Theatre will attempt to answer with their production of Madeline George’s “The Most Massive Woman Wins.” But this show, which focuses on issues regarding body image, is so much more than a play; it is part of a mission OUT LOUD has taken on to change the way people feel about their bodies through their Tour For Social Change.
This weekend, OUT LOUD’s Tour For Social Change, featuring their production of “The Most Massive Woman Wins,” will be part of the This Is Free Providence theatre festival, which features four different theatre groups putting on social issue-driven performances at the black box in the Mathewson Street Theater. OUT LOUD will perform their show on Sunday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m.
In addition to the performance, the tour includes a photography exhibit featuring photographs of cast members and a Talk Back discussion after each performance. In fact, Kira Hawkridge, OUT LOUD co-founder and artistic director, said a discussion team and online blog have been created to expand the discussion on body image generated by the performance.
“They are helping to generate active dialogues for active change,” said Hawkridge.
OUT LOUD’s involvement with This Is Free Providence and their mission for social change began when OUT LOUD had a performance at Mathewson Street Theater in December and was approached about participating in the May festival.
The festival was an opportunity to get OUT LOUD’s name out into the community as a new touring company.
“It’s just a great way to reach out to other communities that we haven’t been able to do,” said Hawkridge.
OUT LOUD, a group originally formed on the campus of URI and brought off-campus after Hawkridge’s graduation in 2012 with help from co-founder Marc Tiberiis II, decided to participate and chose body image as their topic.
“Through that, it grew into this tour,” said Hawkridge, who is also the director of “Massive Woman.”
So far, the tour has visited Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket, Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island. Hawkridge said the group is looking to visit other high schools and colleges, even hoping to expand the tour into Massachusetts.
“Each location has been different. Each group has a totally different thing to bring to the table,” said Hawkridge.
“The Most Massive Woman Wins” features a cast of four women as they explore how their lives led them to the waiting room of a liposuction clinic.
“It’ really about their stories,” said Hawkridge.
Each performer - Siobhan LaPorte-Cauley (Carly), Christine Cauchon (Sabine), Sarah Leach (Rennie) and Amelia Giles (Cel) - delivers their own monologue featuring flashbacks to key moments in their lives. The set is simply four chairs set up in a circle with the audience seated in a circle around the performers. “They feel, hopefully, that they are engaged in what they are watching,” said Hawkridge.
Hawkridge said one of the best parts of the tour has been speaking with audience members after the performances in the Talk Back. By getting feedback during discussions based on relating to one’s body, how the body relates to identity and influences that affect how one sees their body, the group gets to see what’s effective with the audience.
“We want to encourage people to find empowerment. The discussion provides a platform for people to speak about their experience that might relate to other people,” said Hawkridge.
So why choose body image as the social issue on which to focus? That answer is easy - body image concerns are universal.
“That’s something that affects everyone, negative or positive,” said Hawkridge. “This is something everyone can relate to because everybody has a body.”
Hawkridge said when thinking about social issues to present, she wanted to select a topic and a play with which she could connect. She hopes the production and tour broadens the awareness people have of how they respond to their own body, as well as others.
“This is something that can get swept under the rug for some people, but it’s something that a lot of people deal with on a daily basis,” said Hawkridge.
The idea of using theatre to present social issues makes perfect sense to Hawkridge, who sees the art as a way to create an experience.
“There’s a power in theatre,” she said. “They [the audience] are experiencing it along with you, and it’s something personal. It’s a way for people to reach out to each other.”
Hawkridge thinks it is wonderful that this weekend’s festival is bringing together four different companies to tackle four different topics. She hopes people who attend one performance and discussion will be interested in attending more throughout the weekend.
This Is Free Providence will occur throughout the weekend at the Mathewson Street Theater, culminating in OUT LOUD’s performance of “The Most Massive Woman Wins.” The festival kicks off on Friday, May 2, with the Wilbury Theatre Groups’ production of “The Iliad,” followed by a double feature on Saturday, May 3 of the Tenderloin Opera Co.’s “Paradise of Sighs” and the Providence Performance Authority’s “Rats! A Rock Opera.”
All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Theater at 134 Mathewson St. in Providence, followed by refreshments and a talk back session. All performances are free, but seats are limited. Reserve seats at www.headsupri.org.
This Is Free Providence is sponsored by HeadsUp, Inc. and Mathewson Street Church, funded by a grant from The RI Foundation.
OUT LOUD will also hold performances of “The Most Massive Woman Wins,” along with the Talk Back discussion on May 9 and 10, at the Contemporary Theater Company at 327 Main St. in South Kingston, with shows starting at 7 p.m. both nights.