It’s been 19 years since David Zulkoskey last put on a production of The Insanity of Mary Girard.
And the drama teacher and artistic director with Carlton Comprehensive High School’s Mad Hatter Theatre Company is eager to take the stage with the one-act drama by Lanie Robertson, more so in the modern climate of women’s rights.
The play is a fictional interpretation of a real event centred around the abuse of the mentally ill and the plight of women in the eighteenth century. Committed to an asylum by her husband Stephen in 1790 after she became pregnant by a lover, the play shows Mary Girard bound to a wooden chair with a wooden box over her head. Her mind races and impersonates people from her past as her line between dream and reality is blurred while growing into her diagnosis.
“This is the time to put this play on,” Zulkoskey said. “We have so much to say within this play. Now, more then ever, this message needs to be told to people and it is wonderful to see students take ownership of this play.”
Zulkoskey said these students will be the leaders of tomorrow, and said for society to move in a proactive way and develop empathy alongside an understanding of cultures and gender, then “we need leaders who are strong … and will be good role models for the generation beyond them.”
Samantha Paradis plays Mary Girard. She said the character is a very strong woman, but over the course of the play, more so after being placed in the asylum, gets beaten down more and more. While she said it was a delightful challenge to take on the character, she echoed the comments of Zulkoskey and added the story is quite sad as there is no happy ending.
“It is just a story about how a woman is utterly mistreated by her husband and everyone around her simply for being a pregnant woman,” she said. “In the end, she goes completely insane as she can’t handle the situation she is in and nobody is there to help her. Everybody is making everything worse for her.”
Taking on the role of Polly, the housekeeper and mistress Girard's husband works to seduce, is Sierra Parker. She said Polly is quite confident and sassy, which is in complete contrast to herself. Polly, she said, routinely tugs at the nerves and mocks Mary, and is a difficult but exciting role. She said the play eerily conveys how women were viewed in the 18th-century, but also reflects the progress made.
“She can't really do anything and it shows just how things were and how it has changed over the years,” Parker said.
Brianna Paradis plays Mary’s mother, who grows less fond of her daughter as events in the play transpire. Paradis said the mother-daughter relationship is very atypical, especially by modern standards.
“I find out she is pregnant and I love her for that just to find out it is not her husband's child and I look down upon her for that,” she said. “[Mary] has to obey her husband and I have to agree with that throughout the whole thing, including the abuse.”
Each actress hopes those in attendance can admire the efforts of young adults attempting to assemble a product that is enjoyable for others to see.
“I feel like they will enjoy the play but also be like this happened,” Parker said. “They are going to feel like they do need to treat people more equally and how things are becoming more equal.”
The girls also hope people can appreciate the craft of theatre, which they said often takes a back seat in our tech-centred era.
The show will take the stage at Carlton on March 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 and the show is open to the public.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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