Student-directed production features an all-female cast


Courtesy / Allison Gilde

Mary Racette

The Performance Studio Series at Grand Valley State University provides an outlet for selected students to direct a production of their choice. Senior GVSU student Allison Gilde was one of the students selected and she chose to direct “Vanities.”

Each year, many students apply but only two students are chosen to direct one of the plays in The Performance Studio Series. After going through a competitive application process, this year, Allison Gilde and Marcus Chapman were selected by faculty from the Department of Theater, Music and Dance. 

Three GVSU theater students took the role of three Texas cheerleaders on February 20-23.  “Vanities” is a story that spans multiple decades and eras of the characters’ lives. The story follows the friendship between characters Cathy, Mary and Joanne from the time they are cheerleaders in high school, to their college sorority days, to their careers in New York City. 

Throughout their long friendship, the three women experience some of the same concerns and issues that young women still go through in 2020. 

“Even though it is a period piece, it has a lot of relevant themes that people can still relate to today,” Gilde said. 

As a former cheerleader and a graduating senior, Gilde sees many parallels between her life and the themes in the play. Gilde said part of the reason she chose “Vanities” was because of how closely she felt she related to the characters and major themes.

The actresses also found themselves able to connect with their characters on a personal level due to their natural similarities. 

GVL / Katherine Vasile

Sophomore Katherine Skidmore plays the role of Joanne, who she describes as “extremely ditzy” and innocent but opinionated at the same time. She admits she relates to these qualities in Joanne, especially since she fell on the ground six times within the three days of tech week. Skidmore said she also relates to “Vanities” and its themes of lost friendships.

“What drew me to this show is that there was a theme of dissolving friendship and I completely relate to that because I am in this position where I have friends back home and I don’t get to see them. There are friendships in my life that were lost,” Skidmore said. 

Playing the role of Kathy, Sophomore Gwen Trautman also said she made connections between her and her character. Kathy is a very driven character who grows to look at life with more of a world-centric view. These are traits that Gwen said she values and sees in herself. Similar to Skidmore, Trautman said she related to the theme of dying friendships.

This show teaches us that friendships are not permanent and that people can drift away from us,” Trautman said.

Not only did this play include relatable themes, but it provided an outlet for the student actresses to go outside of their comfort zones and play new kinds of roles.  Trautman said this is the first “girly” role she has had the opportunity to play. Skidmore also said this role is different than other roles she has played. 

“These cheerleaders in high school (Mary, Kathy and Joanne) are also the cool girls and the popular people and in the show, they make fun of who I was in high school, ‘girls with glasses and pimples.’ I have always wanted to play the cool girl,” Skidmore said. 

When choosing a production to submit to the Performance Studio Series, Gilde said she wanted the production to have an all-female cast. With the exception of one male lighting designer, the entire cast and crew are female. Gilde described the dynamic as a sort of “sisterhood.”

Even though Gilde said “Vanities” could be put under the “chick flick” genre, she said the play could be enjoyed by men and women alike. She hoped the GVSU community came out to see the play because of the relevant themes it addresses.