Eliza Palumbo, a women’s and gender studies minor, appeared onstage for the first time at the age of 5 and has been there ever since. Palumbo is playing the role of Georgette in the Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance’s production of School for Wives.
School for Wives, regarded as one of Molière’s crowning achievements, is a comedic look at the gendered politics of jealousy and lust. The play follows the middle-aged Arnolphe, who isolates his young ward, Agnes, to prepare her for the duties of a faithful wife. But when Agnes leaves the nunnery, she falls in love with the first man she meets, and the plot unravels in a web of mix-ups, colorful characters, and comic mishaps.
We asked Palumbo if she thought there were any feminist themes in the plays message. “Although this is not a play about sexual slavery,” Palumbo said, “it does have a message about the social expectations for women.” In addition to the themes of love, relationships and marriage, Palumbo explained the comic undertones of gender inequality.
Comparing her character, Georgette, with Agnes, Palumbo said the characters were “differently objectified and marked through clothing, behavior, and socioeconomic status.” Even as a young actress, Palumbo was aware of the sexual objectification of women’s bodies and the cis-heteronormative approach to marriage in the theater industry. “Because few works look at the world through women’s eyes, our contributions and experiences are rarely considered,” she said.
We asked Palumbo what her WGS minor contributed to her theatrical work and she told us about the connections between what she’s learned in WGS and her performance as Georgette. “I’ve learned to listen and accept that I, as an individual, cannot relate to every woman’s experience, but that I have to listen to her experience,” she said. “(Onstage) a female voice, of a lesser character, that is less visible in the play, can still be equally as strong.”
Showtimes for School for Wives are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 26, to Saturday, February 28, and Tuesday, March 3, to Friday, March 6. A matinee performance will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 1. All performances are in the Westhoff Theatre on the Illinois State campus.
Tickets are $10 for Illinois State University students, faculty, and staff and seniors, and $12 for non-Illinois State adults. Tickets can be purchased at the College of Fine Arts Box Office. For more information, contact the School of Theatre and Dance at (309) 438-8783 or theatre@IllinoisState.edu.