“Emilia” Portrays a New Meaning of Modern Femininity

Story posted April 21, 2023 in CommRadio, News by Natalie Simone

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Centre Stage presented the play, “Emilia,” directed by Jenny Lamb in the Pavilion Theatre on Wednesday with a talk back discussion with various cast members and behind the scenes crew.

“Emilia” was performed from April 11-22, but the production on April 19 was sponsored by Penn State’s student government, UPUA, and was labeled a “Burn Bright: Women and Non-Binary Night”, although all audience members were welcomed.

“The script talks a lot about the relationship between women and how they protect each other so in a way there is a lot of movement and ‘I got your back,’” Lorena Sandoval, a second-year M.F.A. candidate in scenic design, modeled the arena’s design to how women support each other.

The performance showed the life of Emilia Lanier, (1569-1645) who was an English poet, and highlighted how she was taken advantage of. But, this version that was written in 2018 includes satire, comedic relief, and references modern ideas and terminology. The actors were interactive with the crowd and even had musical numbers with singing and dancing.

During the post show talk back, the cast members shared their own experiences and how this show impacted them.

“This entire process was created and put together by women and nonbinary people, and people of non cis male identities. I know I speak for myself when I say this was easily the safest and most exciting process I've ever been a part of,” fourth-year student Nina Gold said, who played Lady Catherine and Desdemona.

The talkback focused on non male individual topics and how nonmale individuals are affected by “Emilia'' and the play.

“You have a woman who is outright rebellious doing what she feels is right, and then you have women who are just trying to get by, and then you have women who are absolutely buying everything they are given, and then you also add in the layer of race, and ethnicity, and class,” Gold said, discussing perspectives performed.

Trinity Lyn Jackson, a second-year in the B.F.A. acting program, played one of the lead roles, Emilia 3. She shared her role in hosting a non male night: “I was able to get a bill passed through to subsidize tickets to have them discounted so that everyone could come to one night who felt a connection to the show [non-male individuals],” Jackson said.

Jackson also went on to explain the importance of Emilia’s story and how “this is every woman’s story.”

Each cast member shared their own anecdotes of the production’s process. Cassidy Brown, a first-year acting student, who played numerous roles including Mary Sidney said that after the first full run through the entire cast cried together after rehearsal. She said it was the most memorable rehearsal.

Brown shared her personal takeaways from being a part of “Emilia,” “This show has completely changed how I see myself and I started to see myself in such a more positive light… just be yourself, be loud and proud.” 

Ending the talkback many cast members and crew members discussed the motive of the show and how the audience should perceive the show.

“The enemy is the [patriarchy] who has decided what every person has to look like and be like to be a productive member of society,” Emily Presley said, a first-year B.F.A. acting major, who played William Shakespeare and Man 2.

Modeling what was discussed the director, Jenny Lamb, wrote in the play bill, multiple times: “An ignored voice becomes a raging fire.”

“Emilia'' emphasized the voices and experiences of nonmale individuals throughout history and was brought to Penn State because of the ongoing inequalities between non male individuals and cis-male individuals.

The Theatre was modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London and had a 360-degree view.

Natalie Simone is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email nvs5790@psu.edu.