Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Tall Girls. It was by Meg Miroshnik and it was directed by Louis Contey. It was about a bunch of girls during the Depression who played basketball and started a team at their midwestern high school even though their circumstances were not ideal. It is about community, making the best of a troubling situation, and expectations that people have of girls. I thought this was a fascinating show. It was really cool to see how young women's lives were in the 1930s and how much they have changed; it was very truthful about the cruelty of the Depression. It made me appreciate basketball because basketball was a place where they didn't have to think about any of the stupid stuff that was going on in their lives.
There is a very small spectrum of opportunity for all women in such a small town in the 30s. Basically, you could be a caretaker, a wife, a child, a sexual object, or an outcast. Jean (Angie Shriner) has come to take care of Almeda (Tracey Green), her younger cousin. Almeda was an outcast; she is a loner and she wants things that weren't acceptable for that time, which is very sad. When a woman decides to be an outcast, she can put herself in danger. Inez (Tina Muñoz Pandya) was also a caretaker; she takes care of her siblings, but it still doesn't seem to be enough to save their family from debt. Puppy (Abbey Smith) was very much a mother's girl. I think her name was very appropriate because she didn't "want to disappoint." Lurlene (Christina Gorman) wants to be a sexual object because she thinks that might be the only way to have a good life. She is pretty boy-crazy too; she even hits on a ten-year-old, so you can see that she is kind of desperate. I found Lurlene very funny though, even though she wasn't a great role model. You also kind of feel sorry for her. Men seem to control women's lives. Even someone like Haunt Johnny (Joseph Wiens), who seems like a good egg, controls them on the court because he is the coach. So even the best of the men we hear about in the play control women in some fashion.
I thought it was really cool how they didn't have rigged or fake basketball on stage. Even though there wasn't a real opposing team, it still was very exciting. Like, whenever anyone scored the audience would erupt just like at a real basketball game. But in this basketball game, everybody got to know the players a half-hour in advance. When Puppy scored her first basket, she was so excited and it was so adorable because everyone was insanely happy. That it why it made it even more devastating to see her lash out at her teammates later. Also the mini-games were used to show how talented Jean was at basketball and how her relationship with Almeda changes. I loved the shootout that happened between them. It was Almeda vs. the Jean team. They were making the point that working as a team is better than trying to be the star. I liked the basketball because these often powerless women had lots of power on the court.
People who would like this show are people who like basketball power, well-written outbursts, and funny bad role models. I thought that this was a good show; it made me think a lot about what it must have been like to be a woman in the 30s and the trials and tribulations of it. I hope that women now and in the future will have a much more empowered existence.
Photos: Michael Brosilow