This spring, an all-female cast of two juniors, three sophomores, and one freshman will take the stage for a rendition of Crimes of the Heart, written by Beth Henley.
First performed in 1979, the tragicomedy details the lives of three grown sisters in mid-20th century Mississippi. One of the sisters, Babe—played by Caroline Scheer ’18—lands in jail, charged with shooting her husband. The other sisters return to assist her, and together the three confront previous personal relationships and their family’s shared history of hardship and scandal.
Crimes of the Heart was not four-time Spring Play Director Janna Kerpelman’s original choice for the spring play, but she ruled out others when the only interested male actors dropped out because of conflicting athletic commitments.
“I originally chose a play entitled Splitting Issues, which is a compilation of several short plays about relationships and break-ups,” Ms. Kerpelman said, explaining that she had expected to work with her typical cast size of a dozen boy and girls. “I thought I was being smart, as this type of play allowed me the flexibility of working with anywhere from six to 28 actors, but I did need at least a few males to make the show work.”
Crimes of the Heart became Ms. Kerpelman’s eventual choice as an in-depth look at the complicated relationship dynamics possible among three sisters. She said that once she chose it, she had to adjust the script to feature mostly female characters.
Alyse Bierly ’19, who stars as Chick Boyle, the sisters’ catty cousin, said she appreciated the all-female cast.
“I think it is perfect that we have an all-girl cast because it shows all the different types of roles girls can play,” she said, referring to the fact that the school’s actresses will take on male, female, leading, and supporting characters. “And it works well with this show that centers around the lives of three sisters.”
The one actress playing a male character is Tina Kulow ’20, who will appear as Doc Porter, a boyfriend of one of the sisters. Tina said portraying a man is difficult but entertaining.
“It’s not that awkward for me, though, even when I have to flirt with a female character,” she added. “I find it hard to try to keep my voice slightly lower than normal, and other little things like that make the role challenging, but it’s a good sort of challenge.”
Another challenge Ms. Kerpelman identified about this year’s spring play has been switching the set. In the original production, the play takes place in a kitchen, but because the school stage has neither running water nor a working refrigerator, Ms. Kerpelman moved the setting to a dining room with a kitchenette.
Despite the challenges, Ms. Kerpelman said she believes the girls have learned to be flexible, work together, and adapt to potentially changing situations.
“It has been so fun for me to direct this small group of girls, working to help them fully inhabit the mind, mannerisms, and reality of each of their characters,” she said.
The play will show Thursday, May 18, at 3:40 p.m. and Friday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m.