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"Blue Stockings" Review

Photo Courtesy of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center

The room is dark, but the audience can hear the rustle of movement on stage. Then, the screen at the back of the stage lights up a bright, royal blue.  


In front of the screen stands four young women. The audience can’t see their faces, just their silhouettes.  


These women are blue stockings. 


Directed by Belmont professor Jane Duncan, “Blue Stockings” is set in England from September 1896 to June 1897.  


The play follows the story of the first women admitted into Girton College at the University of Cambridge.  


These women are deemed “blue stockings.”  


Though they match their male classmates in academic rigor and success, at first, they’re not even offered the opportunity to graduate. 


Eventually, the women of Girton College are granted the chance to graduate.  


Still, they are not faced with the same post-grad opportunities as men.  


It’s almost impossible for them to get jobs as women, but they’re also deemed unfit for marriage. 


The main blue stocking women in this play are Tess, Celia, Carolyn and Maeve, played by Victoria Herda, Eve Helak, Mary Margaret Hughes and Jaden Lily Branson, respectively.  


These four women beautifully depict strong-willed, intelligent women who fight to find their place at Cambridge.  


While all four women have strong presences on stage, the rest of the cast shines just as much. 


A few other especially noteworthy roles include Will, played by Evan Fenne; Lloyd, played by Hayden Jones; Edwards, played by Ben Yancy and Mr. Banks, played by Shawn Knight. 


The play is told through “chapters.”  


As each scene ends and another begins, a small screen at the top of the stage displayed the different chapter names. 


One of the biggest questions throughout the show is what would these women pick if they had to choose between knowledge and love? 


Maeve is forced into the decision of love, being sent home to act as the mother figure for her younger sisters after her mother dies. 


Tess, on the other hand, chooses for herself and directly declares that she “would never choose love.” 


The most notable scene in the play comes just before intermission, titled “An Education.” 


In this scene, Mrs. Welsh, played by Kelby Horne, is delivering her proposal to vote on whether the women should be allowed to graduate.  


While Mrs. Welsh is presenting from a podium at the front of the stage, Tess, Celia and Carolyn are standing in the back right corner. They’re waiting for Maeve, who at this point is having to leave Girton. 


The duality of Mrs. Welsh giving this meaningful, life-changing speech and the girls solemnly embracing in the background is very moving and emotional. 


The themes throughout “Blue Stockings” are not unlike the sexism and underrepresentation of women that our society still faces today. 


“Blue Stockings” reminds the audience of these issues and hopefully prompts thoughtful discussion over the differences between female education and career opportunities. 

This article was written by Abby Thomas

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