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Monday, June 24, 2024

Vilas Communication Hall photographed in February 2019.

‘My life is not theoretical’: A chilling student production of ‘Boy Gets Girl’

The play explores the complexities of relationships and calls for change, community on and off the stage.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison student adaptation of the play “Boy Gets Girl” by Rebecca Gilman cuts deep into  dating experiences and expectations of women  in a three-day run in Vilas Hall room 4010. 

The play is co-produced by theater majors, Madison Gieryn and Megan McCarty, and follows journalist Theresa Bedell, who loves her work but is unsure about beginning a love life. After uncomfortable first and second dates, Bedell’s disinterest in a third date becomes the inciting incident for the antagonist, Tony Ross. 

A series of flower bouquets, phone calls and unwelcome visits turns into hateful phone calls, messages and even break-ins. Theresa's life becomes a shadow of what it once was as Tony’s obsessive behavior — and a lack of understanding and action from those around her — leads to a disheartening end.

The idea for the production came from blocking a scene from the play in a UW-Madison theatre class. After reading and feeling the impacts of the play, Gieryn and McCarty took it upon themselves to produce the show.

“It's something that needs to be heard now, especially on a college campus where a lot of scary stuff happens,” Gieryn said. “It's something that I feel like everyone can not relate to personally but know someone or know of something happening.”

As the first production for either Gieryn or McCarty, there was a long road to showtime. The duo raised funds, bought rights and casted the actors and crew. They received additional support in advertising from student organizations Media Mosaic and Intermission Theatre.

The production team and cast sat down for an interview with The Daily Cardinal to discuss how they navigated the sensitive and pervasive issues featured in the show’s plot.

More than anything, the cast and crew hoped the audience learned from the show and from the experiences of the characters that reflect real life.

A particular line which reflects the  play’s message comes from Bedell herself, saying “my life is not theoretical.” In wishing for recognition from her male co-worker — and the audience — she explains  her experience is not simply a plot line for a story. 

“One of the lines is ‘no, this is not your fault, and no, you're not alone.’ I think those two messages… are so important,” said Caitlin Kuperger, who plays Detective Madeline Beck in the play. “There is a lot of victim blaming that happens in our culture nowadays, and… this play shows that it is not the victim's fault in any way.”

Gieryn’s effort to create a safe and comfortable space was valuable to the actors as they began to build their characters and relationship throughout the scenes.

“When we're blocking the scenes, I try to break the tension a little bit. If it gets too serious, we'll let it lay for a little bit… we'll look at it another day,” Gieryn said.

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Blocking separately helped the cast ease into the intense characters. 

“It allowed us all to kind of have this level playing field and this slow build into getting comfortable with working around people with these scenes and with this very heavy topic,” said Niko Valcin, who plays Mercer Stevens, a co-worker of Theresa in the show. “Once we all came together and did our first full run-through, it was like second nature.” 

Still, dealing with such a sensitive subject matter was not easy for the actors, especially for McCarty, who plays Theresa. Gieryn taught McCarty how to de-role: the process of getting out of a character’s mindset.

“Every night when we're leaving, we will take a deep breath in and out, turn off the lights… we'll take another deep breath, and then my line is ‘the door is your portal, just leave it all in the room,’” Gieryn said. “Then once you leave the door, all of the emotions that you felt, all of the heaviness of the topic needs to stay in the room.”

Behind the scenes, the camaraderie of the cast and crew created a community in which they are able to speak freely and tackle the difficult subject matter.

“Having those moments to add little random things to the characters and the play made us able to go into the play and make sure that, although we're addressing a very serious topic, we can still take a step back from it when we need to take a deep breath, laugh a little bit and then be able to go back into it,” Kuperger said. 

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