Madison College students take to the stage in ‘Sez She’


Spencer Wakefield

Students participate in a reharsal for the Madison College play “Sez She.”

Spencer Wakefield, Staff Writer

“Places, everyone!” A shuffling of clothes, scuffing of shoes, and flipping of script pages. The cast members take deep breaths, sit on the unpainted wooden boxes littering the floor of the Studio Theater, and rehearsal begins. The preparation for the first show of Madison College’s 2021-2022 school year is well under way, and showtime is in just a few weeks.  

Originally, the play was planned to be “The Wolves,” a piece focusing on a woman’s soccer team’s trials and tribulation throughout the season. However, because of the physicality of many scenes in “The Wolves” and a relatively small pool of available talent, 

Jane Martin’s “Sez She” was selected as an alternative show after much debate among the staff members on the show’s production team. A comedy composed of 18 disconnected monologues, each actor plays multiple characters. The set is very sparse, made up of a handful of boxes and a raised floor, and the strength of the monologues’ writing and actors’ deliveries are the main selling point of the show. 

As the second in a series of three monologue based plays, the goal of the author was to portray non-stereotypical roles for actresses. Director Robin Fonfara described the work as, “mostly comedic, holding a mirror to modern society, but some are more serious.” These monologues seek to give voice to the female experience of living through the challenges of contemporary life. 

The play serves to show the everyday lives of women in the 21st century and how large of an impact those everyday problems everyone faces can have on their lives. 

Originally performed by a duo of two actors, the five person cast of Madison College students Anna Batchenkova, Kyleigh Allen, and Erika Portillo as well as alumni Emay Ulaney and Emily Noon are already bringing strong performances to the various characters’ speeches after only two weeks of rehearsals.  

Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all of performing arts’ programming was done through virtual rehearsals and a streamed performance, this is the first in person show since the pandemic started.  Rehearsals are done in masks, which Fonfara described as “a challenge, but we are getting through it.” The cast seem to be mostly ambivalent to the masked rehearsals, with cast member Kyleigh Allen saying they “used to be a snowboarder, so [they are] used to exercising in a mask.” Stage manager Renae Rodefeld added, “I’d rather rehearse with them than without.” Despite concerns of the masks muffling the performer’s voices, that does not seem to have been a problem in rehearsals thus far. There is a chance the show will also be performed by a masked cast since Dane County does have an exception to the mask mandate for performing companies.”It’s an evolving situation,” said Fonfara. 

“Sez She” is a wildly varied work. One of the show’s stand out monologues breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience, giving them a good review, despite not breathing throughout the show’s duration. Another centers on a support group seemingly for alien abductees. There are also much heavier monologues, such as one about a mother with cancer dealing with leaving her children behind. 

The cast find these varied roles challenging. When asked about the hurdles they face in the show, alumnus Emay Ulaney said, “I do not know how to be funny, maybe I will have to ask my daughter to teach me.” Erika Portillo added, “The comedic monologues are hard, I’ve mostly done serious roles.” Anna Batchenkova cited “the really wild emotional whiplash from those comedic monologues into the more serious ones” as her main obstacle to overcome. Kyleigh Allen, though, has a different challenge with the play. “There aren’t a lot of monologues I have that aren’t like things that have happened in my life,” they said. “It’s hard for me not to think of how I reacted in that situation and like, over-exaggerate my expressions, you know?” 

One of stage manager Rodefeld’s main duties is to write up a rehearsal report to be sent out to all cast members at the end of a night, and Fonfara is regularly dedicating time to individually drill the cast members on their lines. The director is working hard to ensure her cast can keep up with classes, work, and their social lives on top of the play. She is doing a good job, judging by what the cast had to say and their clear dedication to the show. 

One of the cast members, Kyleigh Allen, was still pushing themselves to perform despite being in recovery from a bout of laryngitis, emblematic of the dedication the cast have to perfecting this show. In a not too dissimilar situation, Emily Noon, one of the two alumni on the cast, is juggling two jobs on top of doing the show. “I mostly do Zoom rehearsals with her,” said Fonfara. “With the pandemic, we have to be adaptive.”  

When asked why students, faculty, and their friends and family should come see the show, Allen had this to say, “It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, something you can’t describe. You just have to come and see it to experience it, really.” 

“Sez She” opens Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m., with showings on Nov. 12 and 13 at the same time, as well as a final showing on Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. An electronic reservation system will be used for ticket purchases to adhere to Dane County social distancing guidelines, with only a limited number available.