MHC Honors Wendy Wasserstein '71

On Friday and Saturday, March 10-11, students, faculty, staff, and community members packed Rooke Theatre to capacity as Mount Holyoke paid tribute to distinguished alumna and famous playwright Wendy Wasserstein '71 with a staged reading of her play Uncommon Women and Others.

After Friday's performance, President Joanne V. Creighton presented a resolution passed by the College's Board of Trustees in honor of Wasserstein as the "original and our beloved 'Uncommon Woman' " to Wasserstein's sister, Georgette Levis.

"Mount Holyoke College is proud to count among its alumnae Wendy Wasserstein--trailblazer, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and unflaggingly generous human being," said Creighton, reading from the resolution. "Wendy's thought-provoking plays gave voice to a generation of women and offered women, and men, a way to see themselves with humor, dignity, and forgiveness."

Levis, who was in attendance with her husband, Albert, thanked President Creighton and the performers, saying how she could imagine Wendy "somewhere at the back of the theatre giggling with pleasure."

The reading, directed by Paula Alekson '90, visiting instructor in theatre arts, featured current MHC students in the roles of alumnae who gather several years after graduating and are struggling to find their place in the world as educated women. The story flashes back to their days at MHC as graduation approaches. The cast also featured Edwina Cruise, Professor of Russian on the Alumnae Foundation, as housemother Mrs. Plumm.

Uncommon Women and Others, written in 1977, was Wasserstein's first major success as a playwright. The off-Broadway performance featured Glenn Close, Swoosie Kurtz, and Jill Eikenberry and was later adapted for public television, with Meryl Streep playing Close's role.

The two readings were prefaced by an introduction written by Sarah Binns '08 and read by Ariel Franklin-Hudson '07 on Friday and Emily Giglierano '06 on Saturday, which said, in part:

"Current Mount Holyoke students who read Uncommon Women and Others will find aspects of their daily lives reflected in Wasserstein's pages: a propensity for donuts hand-in-hand with weight worries, the familiar community of evening milk and cookies, and, most importantly, an unanticipated love for their surrounding women.

"Today's students will also see their own promise shining in Wasserstein's characters. As a college senior, Rita repeatedly claims that if she and the other women 'hold out' until they are 30 years old, they will be incredible. In one of the closing scenes of the play, her friend Holly responds, 'Rita, I think you're already amazing.' Holly's statement is the heartbeat of Uncommon Women. We are not only becoming incredible women, we are already incredible women sitting in the chairs of the incredible women who have preceded us in this esteemed institution. We are incredible women living and loving to capacity, just as Wasserstein would have wanted for her characters and her fellow Mount Holyoke students. We are incredible women, uncommon women, and today we celebrate Wendy Wasserstein's life."

Cast of performers:

Hannah Montgomery '08 as Muffet
Whittemore Hall '06 as Holly
Meg Sullivan '06 as Kate
Marty Seeger '06 as Samantha
Janelle Matrow 'FP as Rita
Edwina Cruise, Professor of Russian on the Alumnae Foundation, as Mrs. Plumm
Peg Duffy '07 as Susie Friend
Biz Wells '06 as Carter
Julia Isenberg '07 as Leilah
Janice Acevedo '09, stage directions reader

Related Links:

Playwright Wendy Wasserstein '71 Dies at Age 55

MHC Honors Wendy Wasserstein '71 in New York Times