Twelve years ago, Ed Wierzbicki encountered a zenith of sorts. The now adjunct professor of Theatre was searching for plays about teen bullying and found “The Shape of a Girl” by Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod.
“I immediately felt connected to the play … and thought its language truthful and its story insightful and theatrically haunting,” says Wierzbicki who also directs the New Zenith Theatre for Young Audiences based in Waterbury.
Fast-forward a decade and Wierzbicki has secured the rights to this one-woman play, first partnering with the Mattatuck Museum of Arts and History Center in Waterbury and now with Central’s Theatre Department to produce “The Shape of a Girl” for New York City’s 2018 International Fringe Festival.
According to the press release, the show “examines the frightening realities of teenage relationships, aggression, and a young woman’s battle with inaction.”
Senior BFA Performance major Kendra Garnett portrays Braidie, the play’s sole character.
“‘Shape’ has become very important to me as a female and a young person,” Garnett says. “I’m someone who’s seen bullying happen and has probably partaken in it. It makes me reflect a lot on my life and what I’ve seen.”
“It’s challenging and gutsy material,” says Wierzbicki who selected Garnett for the part without an audition. “I needed a female actor who could project early teens, but is also skilled enough to bring out the emotional depth of the character without other actors to play off of … So, given her training, experience, creative instincts, and maturity at age 21 — while still convincingly able to project a 15-year old — I knew she could do this role.”
Garnett explains what it’s like to play the lead in a one-woman show. “When you’re on stage by yourself there’s not anyone to react to, dramatically. So much of acting is reacting to others,” she says.
However, the show does feature live music performed by New Zenith Company Member Douglas Sobon on guitar and Carla Stoddard ’15 on the cello.
Garnett says, “The music they play is part of my character’s mind — her creative thoughts. I can react to the music in this play.”
As for the impact “The Shape of a Girl” will have on its audiences, Wierzbicki says “Young audiences have rarely, if ever, seen a one-person play. There’s something empowering to see the lead character, who’s on the edge, tell her own story.”
Garnett adds, “It’s a show for everyone. It’ll make people think back and remember times when they witnessed bullying and didn’t do anything.”
Wierzbicki and Garnett also want the opportunity to stage “Shape of a Girl” for younger audiences and they are working with university leadership to bring in high school students for special performances.
“All the parts are there,” says Wierzbicki. “We have an existing piece, it’s driven by CCSU students, and it’s a great moment for Kendra who’s a highly active theater performance major.
Wierzbicki is doing the legwork and having conversations with Hartford area businesses that can potentially help to underwrite the cost of bringing “Shape” to area schools.
As for the Fringe Festival, “Shape” will be performed for both adult and teenage audiences.
“I’m excited to perform in New York City,” Garnett says. “There’s a magic you can’t get when you watch a movie. I’m also excited to meet people who I can possibly collaborate with.”
Fringe Festival performances of “The Shape of a Girl” will take place Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m.; Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 9:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27 at noon, and Sunday, Oct. 28, at 7:30pm. For more information, visit www.FringeNyc.org.