People filed into the DeWitt Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 to experience “Sonder,” a Theatre 490 project written by Sydney Luse (’17) and Laura Schmidt (’17). It was also performed the previous two days, on Dec. 1 and 2. On the final night, there was not even enough space on the bleachers to suit everyone who wanted to experience the play.
“Sonder,” as described in the play program, means “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” This was certainly true of the play, which started with a look into the lives of twenty-something year old women and ended with a glance back at childhood as a little girl.
The first half focused on all of the current struggles and expectations women have to face nowadays. “It gives women strong roles that aren’t someone else’s love interest,” stage manager Victoria Ward (’18) said. Topics like sexual harassment, sexual orientation, depression and anxiety were covered over the course of the act. The audience, about one hundred people, sat in silence, watching the emotional scenes play out. With such heavy topics on display, many spectators were brought to tears, realizing that despite the fictional aspect, there really were other people who understood their unspeakable dark and daily struggles.
One of the most memorable moments was near the beginning, when a chalkboard was brought out and the actors began writing things they did not like about themselves. After they wrote their answers, they began passing the chalk to people in the audience who proceeded to write their insecurities down. Although unexpected, it was powerful to see classmates of all ages expressing an inner commonality: discontentment.
There was then a ten minute intermission, before jumping into something much more lighthearted. The second act was dedicated to the naïveté of childhood and the contrast in worries and fears within young girls. All of the actors started running around in uniforms and asking audience members questions, in the typical curious manner children have. They proceeded to talk and interact with each other through relatable channels, such as playing make-believe and tag. Nostalgia caught up with everyone, as smiles and nods of recognition shown upon audience members’ faces.
Despite differences in dialogue and topics, both halves started and ended the same way. Each began with videos that displayed humanity. Later they finished with all of the characters circling up in the center of the stage, lying flat on their backs, as they summed up the reality and similarities among each of their lives.
By the laughter and tears of the audience, it clearly portrayed how impactful and emotional the play was for everyone in attendance. “Sometimes just having the knowledge that you are in fact not alone in this battle is enough,” Ward said.
“Sonder” was transparent about who women are, how they interact with other women and men and the labels they have to face daily. Being a woman is not easy, but it also involves many wonderful elements to celebrate. But one thing “Sonder” displayed for certain is that all women face challenges and self-doubt; no one is alone in that.