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Marketa Ort '13 of New York City in the Bates College production of Alan Ball's play "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress." Photograph by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College.

Marketa Ort ’13 of New York City in the Bates College production of Alan Ball’s play “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” Photograph by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College.

Performed at Bates College as part of an independent study in bringing characters to life on stage, Alan Ball’s Five Women Wearing the Same Dress will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 16 and 17, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 18, in Gannett Theater, 305 College St.

Admission is open to the public at no cost. The script contains conversations about sex and drug use that may be inappropriate for children. For more information, please call 207-786-8294.

Five Women reveals the conversations, confessions and laughs that ensue when five reluctant bridesmaids hide from a wedding reception in an upstairs bedroom. As the night progresses, the women learn that despite their many differences, they share a bond that runs much deeper than their identical dresses.

The six actors in this production are performing the piece as part of an independent study in theatrical characterization. Their instructor is Senior Lecturer in Theater Katalin Vecsey, who is also directing the play.

Ball, creator of the TV series True Blood and Six Feet Under and the Academy Award-winning film American Beauty, wrote Five Women in 1993.

Audiences who don’t know his work but enjoyed the 2011 film Bridesmaids will appreciate his humorous depiction of women’s relationships and the stress of a wedding. Both last year’s film, written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, and Ball’s play “are very funny, include great female characters and show the vital importance of female friendships in the context of a wedding,” says Vecsey.

“Each character gets her moment to break out and break down in Five Women. As they get drunker, they fall into raw confessions about abortion, drug use, loveless marriages, illicit sexual encounters and one sad story about child abuse.

“But there’s more comedy than drama in this play, with lots of laughs.”

The edgy and complex characters in Ball’s bridal party include:

  • the bride’s sarcastic sister Meredith, played by senior Caitlyn DeFiore of Westborough, Mass.
  • the bride’s “ugly sidekick” Georgeanne, played by senior Nora Brouder of Winchester, Mass.
  • the promiscuous friend Trisha, played by senior Jen Flanagan, of Sherborn, Mass.
  • the naïve cousin Frances, played by junior Marketa Ort of New York City
  • and the groom’s lesbian sister Mindy, played by sophomore Singha Hon, also of New York City.
  • The only male character on the stage, Tripp Davenport, is an usher who falls for Trisha. Davenport is played by sophomore Danny Birkhead of Tyngsboro, Mass.

The actors have spent the semester working to create three-dimensional characters from Ball’s text. After a thorough investigation of how each character is represented in the play, Vecsey asks each actor to put imagination to work in writing an essay that rounds out the character’s life and personality. The goal is to create recognizable and believable characters and avoid archetypes and caricatures that are limiting and clichéd.

Vecsey, an expert on the use of the voice and speech in public presentations, emphasizes the importance of voice and movement in conveying the character. “The main focus is developing the physicality and the voices for each character without turning them into caricatures,” she says.

“The students are not allowed to use their own voices at all.”

Two students are involved in the play to fulfill independent studies in other theatrical disciplines: stage manager Liza Danello, a sophomore from Washington, D.C., and set designer Travis Jones of Ithaca, N.Y. They are working under the supervision of Bates lecturer and managing director Michael Reidy.