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Sending a message: Mirror, Mirror.

True Reflections

 

They will call themselves bitches, whores, and sluts; a body will have a monologue; and the “Black Girl Butt” will be downsized. But it’s all in the name of love—for everyone’s sake and size—that Mirror, Mirror will be performed at Russell Sage College’s James L. Meader theater today (Thursday) through Sunday.

“I’m very radical about wasted time, and due to the American standard of beauty, that’s all women are doing is wasting energy trying to get that standard,” said Leigh Strimbeck, director and creator of the original performance.

The idea was developed when David Baecker, assistant professor of theater at Russell Sage College, asked Strimbeck to direct a play for the campus. She formed a workshop with students last year and developed six pieces that reflected the effects and shortcomings of the negative beauty standard. The aim was to overpower the media’s not-so-subliminal message that skinny, big-boobed and flawless is the signature look for American women.

Now 19 skits long, the play is no stage rendition of a “battling anorexia” pamphlet or a public-service announcement. Although the material includes stories from middle-school girls talking about being called ‘sluts,’ and a portrait of a woman currently battling a body-breakdown illness, the performance is not intended to be sensational, but rather to expose the “gray matter” of negative self-image. “Just looking in the mirror and saying ‘I’m so fat’ is a daily breakdown of you,” said Strimbeck, adding, “We need to cut that bullshit.”

Rebekah Barton, a sophomore at Sage and one of the 10 actresses in the show, said the research for the comedy-drama was eye-opening; each actress had to survey three people with questions such as, “What’s the first thing you remember your parents telling you about food/your body?”

“It was therapeutic, really talking to people goes a lot deeper than just basing the research off negative comments you hear,” Barton said. She asserted that the goal of the project is to prove that “your body is a part of you, it’s not who you are.”

In addition to conducting survey interviews, all the actresses read Courtney Martin’s book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, and watched the astonishing Dove Evolution ad on YouTube (Google it for an in-depth Photoshopping session). Everyone contributed to the skits, from Strimbeck to the actresses to the interviewees, including an 85-year-old grandmother.

Phyillicia Bishop, a Sage communications student, ac tress, and the show’s choreographer, praised the research: “I found myself telling my friends, ‘No! You’re not fat!’ and ‘Eat that! Live your life, be happy!’” Discounting the idea that a collection of personal skits would be hard to follow, she said that “this won’t be confusing; we’re acting, but we’re being ourselves—this was scripted from our daily lives.”

Strimbeck said she was empowered by the entire project, and hopes to get it performed elsewhere. She said everyone can catch on to the message: “It’s finding who you are, and staying there.

—Heather Lumb

Mirror, Mirror will be performed at the James L. Meader Theater (Russell Sage College, Troy) tonight (Thursday, Feb. 28) through March 2. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 PM, and Saturday-Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $10, $8 for students. A special mother-daughter experience, Body Reflections, will take place on the Russell Sage campus on March 1, from 10 AM-4 PM. For more info, visit www.sage.edu/bodyimage.

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