By Cara McCollum ’14
Sandra Fong ’13 sat helplessly in the audience as she watched her creation come to life. “I hope I remember to breathe; I’m probably going to hold my breath ’til the end,” she excitedly whispered to a friend. By the end of Saturday night, she could breathe a sigh of relief after a run of three senior-thesis workshop performances went off without a hitch.
Twelve student performers sat in a semi-circle of chairs in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio, their music stands poised between them and the audience. They wore black and white, but the topic they sang about took on a decidedly gray tone.
It Takes a Village, the thesis collaboration between Fong and composer Emi Nakamura ’13, tells the story of a character ambiguously named “M.” as he moves to the town of Standard, USA, and struggles to live a “normal” life — or, as normal of a life as one can lead being raised gender neutral. M. (played by Terrence Fraser ’16), who wears dress-like tunics and enjoys both football and ballet, is confronted by the conservative citizens of Standard and pressured to conform to the stereotypes of his gender.
The topic of gender neutrality first piqued Fong’s interest two years ago when she read a news story about a family that had chosen to raise their child gender neutral, and was both surprised and saddened by the public outcry that ensued.