“Lavender Menace” Uses a Historical Story to Convey a Current Message

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PHOEBE KALLHER/SAGAMORE STAFF

Set in the 1970s, “Lavender Menace” breaks down what it meant to be gay during the feminist movement at that time.

From being true to yourself, to standing up for what you believe, “Lavender Menace” touches on a number of important themes that really resonate in today’s political climate.

“Lavender Menace”, written and directed by seniors Eve Jones and Phoebe Kallaher focuses on the women’s rights movement in the 1970’s. The protagonist, Vivian (junior T Schmults), is a college student living in NYC who works at the National Organization for Women. However, Vivian’s colleagues don’t know that she’s gay.

When N.O.W. starts clashing with Lavender Menace, a lesbian rights group that Vivian’s girlfriend, Jackie (junior Grace Thompson), is a part of, Vivian has to make some difficult choices. This play does a great job of showing the struggle between being true to yourself and trying to get ahead in life.

N.O.W. is run by prominent women’s rights activist Betty Friedan (senior Maya van Overbeeke-Costello). Friedan is a very powerful figure, and she creates a lot of tangible change, such as having new amendments added to the Constitution. However, Friedan’s feminism centers mainly around women like her: middle-class housewives who want something more out of life than just a husband and kids.

Although the play was performed over Zoom, the cast of “Lavender Menace” did a great job portraying differences in scenery. For instance, the opening scene of the play shows Vivian and her coworker Kimberly (sophomore Valentia Burlak) stuffing envelopes in the N.O.W. office. Both of their green screens showed offices, and they were each holding an envelope and papers.

While the play was performed over Zoom, the actors utilized the format deftly. (SOPHIE SCHULMAN-CAHN/SAGAMORE STAFF)

One part of the play that impressed me was how well the actors conveyed emotions. In a scene where Vivian and Jackie were fighting about Vivian’s job at N.O.W., Thompson did a spectacular job of using facial expressions to show how hurt she was by the notion that Vivian cared about her job more than their relationship; her performance almost brought me to tears.

Kimberly was another character who did an amazing job of conveying emotion. I was extremely impressed by the way Burlak inflected her voice and used facial expressions to show her surprise and compassion throughout the show.

I really appreciated how relevant the story and message were, even though the play took place in the 1970’s. Friedan viewing her activism as “radical” while at the same time excluding people who didn’t fit her standard for an “ideal woman” reminded me of a lot of activism that we see today.

There are a shocking number of people who consider themselves feminists but won’t include trans-women and women of color in their activism, even though they are often the ones who need their rights protected the most. To me, this is very reminiscent of how Friedan refused to include lesbians in her activism because she “didn’t support their lifestyle.”

It is very important that we continue to fight for all people whose rights are still at risk. As said in the play, “If you are going to fight for one woman, you have to fight for all women.”