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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, June 13, 2024

'The Hungry Woman' cast reflects on goal to captivate, challenge Tufts community

Junior Jennifer Solano (left) and senior Nathalie Andrade (right) perform in Tufts theatre group 3Ps' production of 'The Hungry Woman,' a play about Medea and social issues through a queer Chicana lens.

Tufts’ student theatre organization 3Ps presented “The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea”(1995), a play written by queer Chicana playwright Cherríe Moraga, from Nov. 16 to Nov. 18.Moraga’s play reimagines the ancient Greek myth of Medea and complicates contemporary social issues through a lens of queer Chicana narrative and Aztec lore.

Following a revolution that creates a Chicanx nation-state in the form of the mythologized ancestral Aztec homelandAztlan, "The Hungry Woman" sees anti-homosexual patriarchal leadership exile revolutionary Medeaand her son Chac-Mool to Phoenix, Ariz., upon the revelation that Medea has a woman lover, Luna.

Last week’s performances of “The Hungry Woman” drew audiences with striking set design, lighting and sound production. Lead performances by senior Nathalie Andrade as Medea and junior Chopper Carter-Schelp as Luna captured the tension and heartbreak from the original script, while chemistry between the entire cast allowed audiences to immerse themselves in complicated relationships filled with violence, sexism and homophobia, but also beauty and strength.

As a culmination of hours of rehearsal and intense personal investment, “The Hungry Woman” was a huge achievement of dramatic theater for the students involved. Andrade, who is Latina and Peruvian, explained the power that rehearsal spaces for “The Hungry Woman” provided her with.

“I think our rehearsal space was beautiful,” Andrade said. “It really built an inclusive and loving space. Reza [Mirsajadi, director of "The Hungry Woman,"] always started every rehearsal — as long as we had time for it — with a check-in just to see how everyone was feeling... Things can get hard.”

Andrade further elaborated that these spaces involved immense personal dedication and vulnerability on the part of the cast and crew, something that ultimately showed in the performances last week.

“It brought a lot of our own personal histories to the space,” Andrade said. “We talked about our own experiences with the things that the show deals with: religion, our immigrant histories, our sexualities, our gender identities. It got really real and personal and heavy from very early on. You have to be very vulnerable to share those stories, and it's necessary for a show like this... I think it helped us build really beautiful relationships on stage with each other.”

Carter-Schelp echoed Andrade’s thoughts on the affirmation she received through her experience being involved in “The Hungry Woman.”

“I loved being in 'Hungry Woman,'”Carter-Schelp said. “[It] was the best space I’ve ever been in at Tufts… Being in that cast really made me realize how exclusive and marginalizing most spaces have felt, because being in 'Hungry Woman' felt uplifting, felt empowering, felt like people like me were the standard. Walking into a room and seeing primarily queer women and primarily Latinx-identifying individuals made me realize I’d never felt like that before at Tufts. It was an incredible, empowering room. And I hope that Tufts doesn’t get to have that only once. Because I have never been in, in my time at Tufts, the true standard… Feeling how good it felt in that space makes me want to demand that more people get spaces like that.”

But while “The Hungry Woman” was a huge achievement for the students involved, Carter-Schelp spoke from her own personal experience as a queer Puerto Rican woman who identifies herself as “white-passing,” playing a queer Chicana character, explaining some of her concerns regarding the production’s effect within the Tufts community.

“I do feel like this production runs the risk of being the token, ‘Look! 3Ps did something that was POC Latinx oriented, pat on the back, we're done,’" Carter-Schelp said. "And I think that we get away with a lot of performative allyship by doing things like 'Hungry Woman.' I think that we prevent ourselves from looking in the mirror and realizing that we are not really inclusive.”

Carter-Schelp emphasized that the role a production like “The Hungry Woman” should have in the Tufts community should not be self-congratulatory, but instead should provoke critical self-analysis and above all, action.

“I think the first thing that you have to do when you're doing 'Hungry Woman' and being intentional about having 'Hungry Woman' done in a place like Tufts is not being proud of yourself,” Carter-Schelp said. “You don't get to say, ‘Tufts did 'Hungry Woman.'’ You should say, ‘Why is doing "Hungry Woman" exceptional? Why is doing 'Hungry Woman' the exception? Why is doing 'Hungry Woman' out of the ordinary?’ Not, ‘Wow it's exceptional that we did 'Hungry Woman.'

Carter-Schelp further elaborated that while this show proved to be an empowering and radical space for those involved, the difficulties the cast and crew face in producing shows like “The Hungry Woman” indicate perennial issues faced by people with marginalized identities at Tufts.

“Just because we did 'The Hungry Woman' and just because we did 'Bootycandy' [3Ps and Tufts' Black Theater Troupe's minorproduction featuring a predominantly black cast], we can't hold them up and say we've succeeded," she said. "We haven't succeeded … [in part] because barely enough Latinx people showed up to audition.”

Andrade echoed Carter-Schelp’s thoughts, elaborating that the difficulties faced in producing “The Hungry Woman” are symptomatic of aspects of both the Tufts theater community and Tufts community at large. Participating in theater during her high school years in West Palm Beach, Fla., which Andrade described as “a diverse neighborhood” with a “very rich Latinx community,” Andrade performed in shows like “In the Heights” (1999) and “West Side Story” (1957). Upon coming to campus during her senior year of high school for the Voices of Tufts Diversity program, Andrade was impressed to see a Latinx theater production, but felt disappointed when she joined the theater community as a Tufts student.

“I never thought I’d get to do a play like this," Andrade said. "[Coming] here, it became kind of a culture shock… I suddenly was the only Latina in theatre; there were maybe two or three POCs in any show ... and that's discouraging.”

Representation and inclusion of people with marginalized identities continues to be an issue within the Tufts theater community and the Tufts community at large. But despite the odds, in bringing a queer Chicana narrative to audiences and lifting up a predominantly queer, POC cast, “The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea” proved successful. Carter-Schelp simply summed up her feelings about the role a show like “The Hungry Woman” might have in the Tufts community in the present and future.

“I want to destroy everything,” she said. “I want to be like, ‘There is this beautiful group of queer, Latinx, POC people that ...  shouldn’t be the exception,’ and I want to lift that up.”