(Joe Samorodin photo) (Clockwise) Camille Atebe, Tony Loyer, Danielle Donovan, Maria Buganska, Kathy Yewell and Shannon Pedder, in Opening Nite Theatre’s upcoming production of Age of Arousal.

Meadowridge teacher plays passionate crusader in new play

Age of Arousal runs Apr. 26 to May 12.

A teacher at Meadowridge School will be featured in Opening Nite Theatre’s up-coming production of Age of Arousal.

Danielle Donovan, a Spanish and theatre teacher at the private school, will be starring in the role of Mary Barfoot, an ex-militant suffragette running a school for female secretaries with her protégé lover Rhoda Nunn, played by Camille Atebe.

The story, written by award-winning Canadian playwright Linda Griffiths and directed by Norma Rushton, takes place in 1885 and follows five women struggling to survive the harsh social and financial restraints of Victorian England.

Barfoot is a battle-savvy crusader whose goal is to arm women with the work skills to support themselves financially, during a time when women were fighting to vote, for rights for married women, to help the downtrodden, and for gender equality.

When Barfoot lets three impoverished spinster sisters – Alice, Virginia, and Monica Madden, played by Kathy Yewell, Shannon Pedder and Maria Buganska – into her school, life becomes complicated.

The three are resistant to the feminist philosophies and drive Barfoot’s partner crazy with their “hysterical mania,” alcoholism, and sexual addiction.

In addition, Barfoot’s 30-something cousin Everard, played by Tony Loyer, is confused by what actually constitutes a “modern woman” and whether he would be obliged to marry one.

The set is inspired by a three-tiered wedding cake, an iconic symbol of the Victorian ideal of matrimony at any cost.

The backdrop music, to underscore the play’s survival message, features songs by strong female artists, such as Pat Benatar, Sheryl Crow, Gwen Stefanie and Pink.

A device called “thoughtspeak” is also used during the play to allow the audience, but not the other characters to hear each character’s private thoughts, which often clash with what they’re expected to say in polite society.

“It is a style of playwrighting that I have not acted in before and this particular character does push me outside my comfort zone,” said Donovan.

“Mary is a caring teacher trying to push her students’ boundaries and prepare them for a world in which they must care for themselves. In that way, she is very much like me. However, she has other survival tactics that she needs to employ that I would never dream of using,” added Donovan.

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