Meetup #12: What Every Girl Should Know


Our bonus meetup of the month was to go watch Monica Byrne’s critically-acclaimed What Every Girl Should Know at Impact Theatre, which was in a way, a double bonus – the WWSF meetup group also got to spend time with the playwright after the show. The conversation was as revelatory as her play was riveting. (now an archive-only site) has some rich praise for Byrne (as seen on Impact’s season page): ““Monica Byrne…has masterfully drawn a smart, funny, air-tight play and, from the first lines, we feel we are in the safe hands of an exceptionally talented writer.”

Robert Hurwitt of SFGate brackets the play as “Teen Rebellion” and exults in Tracy Ward’s able direction and Erika Chong Shuch’s choreography: “Director Tracy Ward stages it with a cagey, forceful momentum that draws us in and seamlessly incorporates Erika Chong Shuch’s sensuously explosive choreography for the girls’ mystical ecstasies.”

The all-female ensemble has much reason to celebrate. TheaterDogs’ Chad Jones hails the work of the fabulous work of the four female leads:

“Bega, Edber, Pollack and especially Stebbins give powerful performances that only grow in intensity throughout the play’s 100 minutes. They don’t necessarily seem like people from the early 20th century, but their emotional reality is more important, and they really deliver, especially when it comes to conveying the growing—sometimes unsettling — bond between them.

What Every Girl Should Know is scaled perfectly for the intimate stage space of La Val’s Subterranean (set designer Anne Kendall creates a plain but absolutely believable dorm room) and the result is one of Impact’s most dramatically satisfying productions yet.”

You will remember our interview with Monica Byrne from our TACTICs series (curated by Amy Clare Tasker), where she notes her conscious decisions to sway casting in favor of all-female ensembles: “Achieving gender parity is simply a matter of will on behalf of those who have the power to enact it.”

WWSF would love to hear what you have to say about the production, if you were a part of the meetup. Share your sentiments in the comments in support of all the women involved:

Playwright: Monica Byrne

Directed by: Tracy Ward

Choreography: Erika Chong Shuch

Set Designer: Anne Kendall

Cast: Arisa Bega, Elissa Beth Stebbins, Abigail Edber, Carlyle Pollack

Also read: Indyweek’s interview/profile of Monica Byrne by Byron Woods

Image courtesy: Impact Theatre

9 responses to “Meetup #12: What Every Girl Should Know

  1. I was moved tremendously by the strong performances of all 4 actors. The clearly drawn differences between all 4 characters are evidence of their strong collaboration with director Tracy Ward and with Monica Byrne’s script. Erica Shuch’s choreography was an added bonus to this already fantastic show, and the choreographed sequences left me open-mouthed.

  2. The story was reminiscent of “The Magdalene Laundries”, in relating how traditional patriarchal Catholic societies dealt with women & sexuality. Despite the heavy subject matter, the characters in this play had plenty of sparkle and humor, and found love & strength in their relationships. I particularly enjoyed the role that historical figure Margaret Sanger, early pioneer of women’s rights, played in the story of these girls’ lives & liberation. The play was funny, beautiful, energetic, and thoughtful. Well-done, ladies!

  3. A wonderful evening. This is a deep and funny, and sexy and wise and complicated and sad and most of all a beautiful, beautiful play. It is superbly acted by four skilled actors, clearly and thoughtfully directed and a reminder in why we go to the theatre. This is authentic work and should not be missed. I can’t wait to see it again

  4. I wasn’t able to catch the show with the group due to scheduling conflicts, but caught it the following evening. I sat next to a male playwright and regular theater-goer. After the show, he turned to me and said, “I’m a man, a gay man, sure, but I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. This play helped me understand.” He was so moved by the play he sought out Monica to tell her the same thing.

    His comment on the play, and the ‘getting it’ aspect, besides being a compliment to the playwright, created a moment of gratitude in me. I nearly cried. One can talk and talk and talk about what it’s like to not have control of one’s body and be met with complete lack of understanding, like screaming at a wall, and can make one feel defeated and unheard, but when a moment happens, a moment when an understanding occurs, it’s a relief, a brief respite, a place to take a breath.

    I was at once thrilled with Ms. Byrne’s play and saddened by it. Like a gut punch when Joan asks the others what women in the future will be like and…we aren’t there. Still.

    Also, it was quite funny. There was no heavy-handedness to the script, as my colleague noted, “I didn’t feel lectured to,” (though I’m pro-lecture. Some folks need to be lectured); the script was a beautiful depiction of four, young women dealing with life, while making sense of their sexuality, their bodies, and their friendship.

    And the acting was top-notch.

    Go see it.

  5. Yes, I agree, folks. I loved the play and all the performances, and the choreography was really breathtaking, I thought. I sometimes get a little bored by un-nuanced treatments of religion, especially if they don’t move the conversation anywhere, but I thought this was treated with intelligence and a lot of heart. Loved it!

  6. Forgot and then remembered the line from the script that stopped me in my tracks: When Joan (Elissa’s character) said ‘Men are like weapons. Women are like wounds.’ That moment, that imagery, the question from that point in the story – what will women of the future think of us? ooh!

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