The Masque and Gown mainstage welcomed several new members last night as it debuted Dipika Guha’s 2015 play, "Blown Youth." The cast of the production is all women, the majority of whom are women of color and the rest of whom are OutPeers. It is entirely composed of people who have never been in a Masque and Gown show. 

Bringing more kinds of people into Bowdoin’s theater community is a focus for director Mackenzie Schafer ’19. This was reflected in her selection of "Blown Youth" when applying to direct the Masque and Gown spring production, as well as the decisions she made casting the production. 

“There hasn’t been a single person of color in a Masque and Gown show since I’ve been on campus,” said Schafer. “I could feel the frustration of different friends who feel like they weren’t getting cast because there were no roles for them because the shows that kept getting selected were, like, white family dramas that were very heteronormative.”

While the process of finding the perfect show was neither easy nor quick, Schafer is looking forward to showing "Blown Youth" at Bowdoin. 

“It took me so long to find the show, but I was really excited to find it because it offered a lot of roles for different types of people,” she said. “I feel like so many people are so underrepresented in theater, especially people of color and queer people. I also thought that we had a really strong community of actresses on campus and I really wanted to showcase that.”

"Blown Youth" tells the story of seven women living in and around an all-female intentional community. The play is divided into three parts: one with the characters five years out of college, another with them in their 30s and a third section that is a flashback to their time in college. According to Guha’s website, the play asks “what happens to the universe if a woman is at its center.” 

At its core, "Blown Youth" is about the experiences of women navigating the world as real, complicated, multidimensional people. 

Sophie Sadovnikoff ’19 plays Celia, an aspiring actress who, despite her passion for it, cannot act. She goes to auditions, but never makes it into the casting room, always running out before her name is called. 

“The three phrases I use to describe [Celia’s] story are ambition, mental illness and loss,” said Sadovnikoff. “That is a lot of the work I’m doing in the show. It’s telling the story of a person who is overcome by mental illness and wasn’t able to achieve the things she wanted to.”

The show deals with many heavy and timely themes, which the cast has spent a lot of time discussing, but the rehearsal process has remained positive. 

“It’s been a tiring experience—there are some really intense moments in the show. I think our cast does a really good job of turning it on when we’re working and turning it off when we don’t need to be,” said Sadovnikoff. “We have a lot of fun together as a cast, we spend a lot of time kind of goofing off and singing and being weird, and I think that lightness and energy to the cast has really helped keep us out of a place where we’re constantly in our heads.”

The cast of "Blown Youth" contains several members who have not acted at Bowdoin—or at all. This has presented challenges but also opportunities for the cast to grow together and learn from each other. 

“It’s definitely changed things, but in such an exciting way," said Aziza Janmohamed ’19, who plays Margaret in the show. "It’s really fun to get people who have never done it before because they have these new and different perspectives that you may not have and I think one of the most helpful things for me has been the questions that they ask ... With them especially, it’s been really fun to watch them and help them and have them help me also. There’s an honest connection there.” 

Schafer and other members of Masque and Gown worked hard to recruit a diverse group of people for auditions, which ultimately gave them the flexibility to cast the show in the way they did. Having brought new people into Bowdoin’s theater community, and a play to campus unlike many of the other ones that have been produced, the question now is how to keep the momentum going.

“I think it’s really important for the theater community at Bowdoin to continue to keep these really open minds and to continue to look for different stories and unique perspectives that may or may not be told. That doesn’t mean you can’t do what’s been done in the past. There’s something really great about older playwrights and the things they have to say, because those are stories too, but then also looking for new things,” said Janmohamed. 

The cast of "Blown Youth" is excited for their run and for what the show means for campus. 

“It’s so many firsts in so many ways. It’s all women, written by a woman of color, directed by a woman, we all are sort of going through this new pathway and I hope it’s a trend that continues. Not just for Masque and Gown but for theater at Bowdoin in general,” said Janmohamed. “It’s nice to be able to bring this story to the forefront and be like, this is what’s happening, we’re here, we also live in this world and we’re here to tell our stories.” 

"Blown Youth" will be performed tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in Pickard Theater. Tickets are $1 for students and $3 for non-students and are available at the David Saul Smith Union Info Desk.