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Brownwood High School's One-Act boxing play goes for a knock-out with four leading ladies

Mackynlie Conklin
Special to the Bulletin
Brownwood High School's Theatre Department is performing "The Sweet Science of Bruising" as its One-Act  Play for 2021.

In the Victorian era, boxing was no sport for a lady to watch, much less take part in. But what if it were her only escape from the endless routine she is faced with every day?

Brownwood High School has chosen to perform "The Sweet Science of Bruising" by Joy Wilkinson as its 2021 One-Act Play. The play centers around four women hailing from different backgrounds who find themselves in a seemingly unladylike sport, quite literally fighting for their freedoms and gender equality.

The play is set in 1869 London. This time was a crucial, historically-political moment for women and the show elaborates on the idea of them moving into places dominated by males.

"Getting to see four incredibly strong female leads is really important because that doesn't happen often in theatre. These strong characters kind of showcase the different ways that they are feminine and their respective strengths as women and people in general. I think that's really, really powerful," said BHS Assistant Director of Theatre Brittany Martin.

With such a female-heavy cast, it was important to BHS Director of Theatre Shannon Lee to pick strong actors for these roles, despite their grade level or experience.

The cast is composed of more females than males, but Jason Tucker, a junior, who plays lead character Anna's husband, Gabriel, liked the idea of having four female leads.

"I love it! I like that there are four female leads instead of just one. There's not enough of that type of representation in the arts," said Tucker, who noted he was initially drawn to the show because of the boxing element.

"I've been boxing for three years, so this show really caught my attention. Especially that it involves women boxing in a time period when it was very taboo."

Senior Carlee Richardson, who plays one of the four lead characters, Anna Lamb, has almost 12 years of experience in theatre productions. One of her favorite parts of acting and watching performances is the feeling of momentarily traveling to a different time and place.

"You get to be transported to that show's world and forget about all your problems. Even if it’s only for a little while," said Richardson.

Each of the leading characters provide a unique contribution to the story. The character of Anna is a mother and victim of domestic abuse who lives solely for her children. Violet, a nurse, dreams of being a doctor. Matty, a prostitute, does whatever she can to support herself. Polly is a fighter who has no league to compete in. Though they all differ, each of these women combat the male-dominated society they are trapped in through boxing.

Trina Wheeless, senior stage manager, enjoys the leadership and teamwork aspect of being a part of the company.

"With theatre it's really nice to be able to work behind the scenes and backstage. The tech crew helps the show run. Without lights you wouldn’t see the show. I've been onstage, I've been offstage and everything in between. Being stage manager allows me to be a leader in every aspect that I have already experienced," said Wheeless.

Many of the students enjoy how close their friendship and castmate bonds grow throughout the preparation of the show. Emily Haynes, a senior who plays Aunt George, notes that it’s her favorite part of being involved in the show.

"For the most part, everybody has a connection with each other. I've never experienced that anywhere else. The saying goes that ‘theatre becomes your family’ and I would definitely agree with that," said Haynes.

Working together isn't as easy this year as it has been in the past. Theatre is a close-proximity activity and BHS as well as the University Interscholastic League (UIL) has made arrangements to keep students safe and equally involved.

The mask precautions are followed and sanitizing of props, costumes and the set have become a routine thing to create the safest environment for the students. Additionally, the UIL announced there would be no Area competition round, in efforts to minimize contact for all schools involved.

"I think it's really cool that we are able to work around COVID-19,” said Haynes. “This show is really physical, and I respect the way our directors found a way to stay safe and still have the show play out the way it was intended."