Fall theater production addresses sexual and gender roles

Publication Date

The Department of Theater and Dance will present its fall production, “The Sex Habits of American Women,” Nov. 4-7 in Yulman Theater. Tickets are on sale now.

The show, based on a 2008 book by Julie Marie Myatt, addresses mid-20th century sexual morality and gender roles with a mix of satire, humor and poignancy.

Fall Theater Production

It delves into the life of a psychologist who sets out to the write the definitive book on women's sex habits in the 1950s. Meanwhile, his wife is having an affair with his former student, his daughter can’t find love and all his academic theories refuse to go unchallenged.

Complicating the action is a present-day videographer making a documentary on the same subject.

In the midst of chaotic and uncertain times, it is a great story to escape into,” says guest director Kim Stauffer, head of acting and resident director of music and theater at the University of Albany.

“The play walks an interesting line between satire and drama, inviting us to examine our own role in perpetuating patriarchy, sexism and gender stereotypes. It does so with humor and surprise. It holds up a mirror, allowing us to both laugh at ourselves, and be horrified – sometimes in the same breath.”

Union Theater and Dance Department Chair Randy Wyatt notes that students, faculty members and the entire production team have been working hard to offer live theater on campus again. “Everyone is up to the challenge and ready to welcome audiences. Our students, in particular, have been responding with true joy,” he said. “With so many people being sick across campus this term, the team has really risen to the challenge."

Helen Smith ’22, a mathematics and theater major from Hinsdale, Ill., who is playing the lead role of Agnes, has enjoyed learning about mid-century life. “This play is a really interesting story with some twists and turns, but it’s still about a family living in 1950 New York. I really like playing a character from that period.”

“You will be surprised to see how similar the problems are between the ones we have today and the ones in this play world,” said Haoyu (John) Jiang ’22 of Xinjiang, China, a theater major who plays Dr. Tittels. He added that the play presents serious issues that nonetheless will make audiences laugh while also sparking discussions afterward.

The cast also includes theater and classics double major Brendan Cullen '25 of Milton, Mass., as Edgar; physics and theater major Mia Villaneuve '22 of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., as Joy; Genesis Gonzalez Villatoro, a chemistry and theater ID major from Houston, Texas, as Ruby; and Sarah Wright ’23, a biomedical engineering major from Frankfort, N.Y., as Daisy.

Understudies are environmental policy major Kristen Campbell ’25 of Norwood, Mass.; physics major Hestia Doud ’25 of Cockeysville, Md.; computer science and theater major Margaret Kelly ’24 of Wenham, Mass.; and theater major Matthew Parr ’25 of South Hamilton, Mass.

Stage manager is Chloe Savitch ’22, a theater and psychology major from Putnam County, N.Y.

“This show is extremely technical with a lot of different parts,” said Savitch. “There is a film aspect that carries through the entire show, and it is also very props heavy. I have learned how much really goes into a show backstage.”

Assistant stage manager is Rochelle Nuqui ’22, an ID theater and studio arts major from Fontana, Calif.

Theater Department faculty include Costume Designer Brittney Belz, Lighting Designer Andrew Bodd, Scene Shop Foreman Robin MacDuffie and Set Designer Andrew Mannion.

Other theater professionals involved include dialect Coach J. Paul Nicholas, sound designer Eric Hand, filmmaker Jill Malouf, production designer Kris Stengrevics and movement choreographer Jacqueline Springfield.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4-6 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 7. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 with a Union ID, alumni and senior citizens. They are available for purchase through Eventbrite.

The show will last roughly two hours, with one intermission. Children under 12 will not be admitted. Seats will be at least six feet away from performers. In addition, all attendees will be required to wear masks as a safety precaution. Performers will be masked until they enter the stage, and each performer will take a rapid Covid test before each performance.