Annie Weisman’s tragicomedy “Be Aggressive” will be presented by the Kenyon College Dance and Dramatic Club (KCDC) on Thursday, Feb. 1, through Saturday, Feb. 3, at 8 p.m. in the Bolton Theater. With a Greek chorus of cheerleaders, iridescent pom-poms, and the best of early-2000s pop music, the mainstage production challenges traditional theater by exploring the complexities of identity through the eyes of a teenager from Southern California.
The show follows 17-year-old Laura as she recovers from her mother’s sudden death and travels on a cross-country road trip to a prestigious cheer camp in South Carolina. Through cheer, Laura “puts the pieces of her life back together and finds her purpose,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Drama Elizabeth Carlson, who directs the play.
With its focus on cheerleading, the production required actors to push their physical abilities as much as their theatrical skills. In preparation for the spectacle of cheer choreography required by the show, the cast and crew participated in a weeklong “Cheer Boot Camp.” Carlson hopes this performance will push audiences to reconsider stereotypes about cheerleading. “When we think about cheerleading, we stereotype and demonize it. The play starts with this kind of stereotype and subverts your expectations. It respects the form,” explained Carlson.
“Be Aggressive” also gives KCDC the opportunity to tell a story that the world of theater often ignores, Carlson said. “Our production is very female, and this is a great opportunity for us to explore these ideas of female personhood. There are so few plays that are representative of young women. Work like this encourages us to amplify women’s voices and intentionally make space for them.”
Emma Daily ’18, from Los Angeles, plays Laura and is grateful for the chance to portray a type of character that frequently is trivialized by traditional media, she said. “This play tells a story about experiences of young women … interesting, complicated and funny stories that are so important to tell,” she explained.
“It’s a truly delightful and unconventional approach to telling a young woman’s story,” said Samantha Culbert ’19 of Lynnfield, Massachusetts, the production stage manager. “[Do not expect] your typical coming-of-age story with a ‘boy gets girl’ narrative arc.”
In fact, Carlson proposes that audiences abandon all expectations entirely. “It’s a collision of styles, a collision of forms. There’s cheering, dancing, tragedy and satire. So it’s very strange, and our hope is that the audience will come and experience the world with us ― feeling their way through it instead of thinking their way through it.”
Tickets for general admission are $7.50, and for groups of 10 or more, $5. Tickets for seniors, non-Kenyon students, and children under 12 are $4. Admission for Kenyon students is $2. To reserve tickets, call the box office at 740-427-5546. The box office is open 1-5 p.m. weekdays and one hour before each performance.
— Anna Libertin ’18