By Holli Harms
In 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC camps) into law as a New Deal program to employ out of work men throughout the country in conservation work. Each participant was paid $30/week and out of that, $25/week was required to be sent home to their families.
Eleanor Roosevelt, spurred by the success of this program, decided to do something for the women in this country who found themselves in similar circumstances as the men. Seeing the disparity between the plight of the unemployed man to that of the unemployed woman she was instrumental in creating Federal Emergency Relief Camps for women (She-She-She camps) to also work in conservation and to spend time away from home and worries. With many detractors, the camps ended up not running to full capacity and the funding was not the same for the men. Women were paid $5/week with nothing sent home to families.
For a time, one of those at the She-She-She camp in upstate New York, was Pauli Murray, a young African American woman from North Carolina who would eventually become a prominent lawyer and civil rights activist, achieving many firsts as an African American and as a woman. She and Eleanor would become lifelong friends because of that camp experience. The Hook & Eye Theatre production of She-She-She hints at that relationship and models it as shoulders that we women of today stand on as we seek to build our place in the world, but the real focus of the play are the three women of present; a cancer survivor, a recent widower and an academic, who go out individually on separate quests to where the camps used to be in current Bear Mountain State Park for their own personal journey of discovery. They are met in the woods by women of the past from the She She She Camps and there the lives, stories and journeys intermingle. Shakespeare took us to the woods and mixed things up in A Midsummer Nights Dream and so too here we meet in the woods and mix things up.
There is so much about the difficulties of womanhood, both past and present, that they touch on in She-She-She, and unfortunately, because they are trying to bring in so many strands of a rich and complicated story: what it means to be a woman then and now, what the camps were and how they worked and didn’t work, the individual women who participated in the program, the work that they did and the lives they brought with them and eventually took home, that we only get glimpses of these stories. At times I wanted to go deeper – feeling that I should call out “Wait! Stop! Go back! Tell me more!” but they have much to tell in only 90 minutes and lingering is not an option.
Hook & Eye do not tell their tales in a linear fashion and it can feel like a labyrinth not sure which way is up or which way is out, but trust that in the end it will all come together. They know the way and confidently weave the threads to form a full story that if you were to go back to the beginning you could clearly see how the intricate garment came together.
As an ensemble based company, their strength is in their ensemble – their dances and movement used to tell the story have an architecture to them that is there not only to move the play along, but to move us to them as they construct the story.
This is a company that will continue to push, in fun and creative ways, the limits of theatre, expanding the barriers and creating new and compelling tales, and that is something to look forward to.
With: Cynthia Babak, Carrie Heitman, Emily Kunkel, Chad Lindsey, Elizabeth London, Asia Mark, Nylda Ria Mark, Javan Nelson, and Jeremy Rafal.
Krista Intranuovo (costume design), Pornchanok Kanchanabanka (sound design), Alejandro Fajardo (lighting design), Patrick J. Burlingham (scenic design), Leah McVeigh (production manager), Katie Sammons (production stage manager), Abigail Howard (assistant stage manager), Kyle Beckley (artistic associate), and Morgan Lindsey Tachco (creative producer).
Performances of SHE-SHE-SHE: May 19–June 2 at The Mark O’Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center, 160 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. Tickets, priced at $25 ($15 students and seniors) can be purchased by visiting www.hookandeyetheater.com . Please call (347) 927-6475 for more information. Performances: May 23–25, 30, 31 at 7:30pm; June 1 at 2pm and 7:30pm; June 2 at 7:30pm. Running time 90 minutes with no intermission.