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‘Massive Woman’ takes on weighty issues

Stina Sieg
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Julie Ann Wright plays Carly in the play "The Most Massive Woman Wins," presented Friday and Saturday at Colorado Mountain College's Spring Valley campus. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Four women, all seeking liposuction, are sitting in a waiting room. They’re of different ages and sizes, and though they don’t know each other, they slowly start to share their pain. There are tears and laughs, and in less than an hour, they’re no longer strangers.

If this were reality, such scene probably wouldn’t take place. But it’s not. It’s the premise of “The Most Massive Woman Wins,” the latest theater offering by Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus, outside Glenwood Springs. Written by Madeleine George, directed by Wendy Moore and starring four local women, the piece delves right into the kind of hurt most people won’t put words to.

“How can I be so smart and so stupid?” asked Sabine, Jennifer Schiller’s heartbreaking version of a 40ish academic.

It was Tuesday night’s rehearsal, and like the other actors, Schiller was tired and ready to go home. The energy she was putting into her character was still show-stopping, though. Part learned professional and part lonely mess, Sabine is torn between the desiring to be strong and just wanting someone to love. Like the other characters in the play, she feels trapped inside herself, wondering how she’ll ever change.

That’s the real question. It’s asked by Carly, the brassy Southern gal, whose daughter has just turned up pregnant and by Rennie, the bulimic teenager who is shunned by her mother. And then there’s Cel, the cutter, dangerously off-kilter. Her husband thinks her life would all be different if she simply shed a couple of pounds.

While these stories might sound far afield to many, they don’t to Moore. After spending 33 years in the field of education, she’s seen it all ” and just wants to help.

“I don’t know if there is a solution to all this, but there is definitely a need to open a dialogue,” she said. “And that’s what I hope comes out of all this.”

While she might not have known it, it already had. Though slap-happy with exhaustion, the actresses were more than willing to open up during breaks.

“If your self-esteem is healthy, your whole world is healthy,” said Julie Ann Wright, who plays Carly.

Contrasting her character’s blindness, Wright, in her 40s, seemed confident, put together. Even so, she was able to recall a time when her college boyfriend pointed out another woman in a bathing suit ” and asked Wright why she didn’t look like her. As she described the moment, she realized she had been coming up against the same pain faced by the women in the play.

“They all don’t think they’re good enough,” she said, her character’s big hair billowing behind her face. “But in actuality, they’re great.”

If women believed that, however, there would be no need for this production.

Summer Cole, also in her 40s, said she was originally scared to take on her role. Like Wright and Schiller, she used to be a professional actor, but has only recently returned to the stage after a 20-year absence. She just didn’t know if she could play Cel, if she could find any commonality with a woman who hurts herself.

But the more she looked into her childhood, her past embarrassments and vulnerabilities, she realized the pain was all there, if not quite as severe as Cel’s.

“Once you start talking to each other, you realize everybody feels the same,” she said, “at least to some degree.”

“Those are the commonalties that all women share,” added Katelyn Woolcott, 18.

As Rennie, the Glenwood Springs High School senior said she felt stretched, playing a woman so powerless. Having grown up around strong females, Woolcott didn’t think she’d find so much common ground with Rennie. But as she got more into the play, she started to understand. This female insecurity is part of the culture, affecting her whether she knows it or not.

As the rehearsal played through, the layers of the piece become more and more evident. In some scenes, there was a child-like innocence, played with a hint of creepiness. Others were filled with the warmth of female togetherness, giving hope to the whole production. In still more, the characters’ pain was loud and uncomfortable, the kind of stuff that makes an audience wince with recognition.

In all these scenes, Moore seemed to be guiding her actors toward their most raw, most honest portrayals. During a break, she stepped outside the theater and reiterated how important she finds this piece, heartache and all.

Every night, she said, she hopes to use its discomfort for good. She will bring in moderators to lead discussions after the production, which includes two 10-minute plays of complimenting themes. To her, if there’s anything that can convey the enormity of these issues, it’s not television or movies. It’s live theater, with its immediacy.

“When it connects, there’s just nothing like it,” she said.

ssieg@postindependent.com


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