It’s hard to imagine what an unsuspecting tourist would have thought if they visited Columbia this weekend. Seas of people wandered around the city wearing neon-colored socks, crazy hats, and any other type of wild clothing that you can imagine. The True/False Film Festival creates a special atmosphere.
Film lovers make the pilgrimage to T/F from far and wide, making it all the more difficult to obtain a ticket to the movie you want to see. As I began to plan a way to see a film at this year’s festival, I was approached by a friend, Daytona Everett, who wanted to know if I wanted to go see a ‘autobiographical play’ with her. A lover of theater, I was curious and decided to tag along.
The show was called “Booby Hatch” and it was put on by the MU Theater Department. The star and sole-performer in the show was Heather Carver, the Director of the entire department. In the show’s playbill it explained that the factual nature of this show makes it documentary-style which is why they give performances on True/False weekend.
Going in I was very unsure of what to expect. The Corner Playhouse isn’t your traditional theater. Seats are stacked onto risers looming over a simple stage with intricate lighting that brings the space to life. Mrs. Carver held full control over this stage with her carefree, comedic stylings. As audience members walked in she welcomed them with a joke in passing as she continued whatever light conversation she was having with herself at that moment.
This lighthearted banter created an almost comedy club feeling in the small theater. I sat in my chair uncomfortably wondering if I was going to be the next person she called out in her monologue. As time went on the audience warmed up to her friendly style and you could feel the mood in the room lightening.
Then the show began.
She had set us up perfectly. My guard had been let down and she marched right through the open gate. It began with a short explanation of her childhood. A beautifully-told story of what seemed to be a typical American childhood came to a crashing halt when she said, “Then I was diagnosed with cancer.”
This disrupted the rapport that she had built with the room. She had my attention in her grasp.
She continued her story talking about how she felt trapped by doctors explaining to her which stage her cancer was at. She felt trapped in her monthly tests that wrapped her in a white sheet and packed her into a humming machine. Also confining were the looks and comments she received when her hair fell out.
As she explained how she felt confined you could not only hear the stress in her voice, but you could also visualize her hardship as she altered this large white coat she was wearing to entangle her more and more. This was done subtly as her story flowed on.
The only stage she felt free on was the one in the theater, but even here she wasn’t completely free. Casually sprinkled into her story of dealing with cancer were stories of systematic discrimination due to her gender.
A story that stood out was how a task as simple as receiving a special parking slip was more difficult for her as an employee doubted her status due to her gender. It was hard to hear these stories and not reflect as a male. Have I contributed to tasks like this in the past? That’s the thing about inherent bias; nobody is able to see past theirs. I think Carver’s relaxed opening built the trust that led to her story connecting so deeply with the audience.
After entering the theater with great doubts about what I was about to see, I was engulfed by the performance. Not only was I thrown into the story, but I was also forced to reflect. Mrs. Carver proved why she is leading the Theater Department at this university. Whether it’s recorded and reproduced onto a large screen or simply performed directly in front of you, a documentary-style story can be a powerful tool when produced correctly.