Each year, MacEwan University’s Theatre Arts and Theatre Production programs work together to create two full-scale productions that are staged, one each term, in the Triffo Theatre in Allard Hall, and one smaller production that is performed in the Hall’s black box theatre space.
Over the years, MacEwan’s theatre program has chosen musicals from both recent times as well as ‘golden-age’ classics. This winter semester, the Theatre Arts and Production students are staging the contemporary hit 9 to 5, based on the movie starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton. The movie is a lively, comical romp that follows three women as they try to get even with their egotistical and misogynistic boss.
That very plotline is what prompts Jim Guedo, director and associate professor in the theatre department, to hail the “amazing and relevant timing” of the choice of production in today’s social climate. The play was not chosen to reflect any current social issues or appeal to any specific audience with a certain message; however, it cannot be denied that the themes of sexual harassment, women’s pay inequity, and psychologically abusive power struggles prominent in the movie are all too relevant in our world today.
In 1980, when the original movie was released, Fonda was already an outspoken activist for women’s rights and general equality. This was long before ‘sexual harassment’ was a common term, and before many of the issues that minorities face were widely discussed. Fonda and Parton are both open advocates for strong, powerful, independent women succeeding in the workplace and beyond.
Two of the three leading ladies of MacEwan’s 9 to 5 production were available for interview, and both actors are excited that they get to portray strong female roles in such a fun way.
Darian Yurkoski is playing Doralee, a secretary who bears the brunt of her boss’ sexual advances. Yurkoski praises this production’s portrayal of women of wildly differing circumstances coming together.
“These women wouldn’t normally be friends, but they put personal dislikes aside, and they work as a team to overcome adversity that they all experience,” Yurkoski says. She adds that “the women band together” without any of the oft-stereotyped cattiness or jealousy that girl groups are often shown to encounter in popular media. That is one of the reasons this script is so unique, as it tackles serious thematic issues comically and with an eye towards “girl power” and teamwork, without cringe-worthy setbacks between characters that would make a viewer question the entire moral message.
Kristen Schaeffer, who is playing Judy, a new employee who joins the company to work for the first time after her husband leaves her, also heralds the play’s messages for women.
“The women stand up for themselves and find a supportive community with each other that they didn’t have before,” says Schaeffer. “Judy’s character, especially, begins in weaker circumstances,” Schaeffer explains. She notes that the character has previously only known how to be a housewife and nothing more.
Schaeffer elaborates, “I like this character portrayal a lot because she begins with not knowing how powerful she (truly) can be,” and “she comes to be able to help herself as well as her friends and other people around her.”
Schaeffer is excited about the opportunity to use her creative expression as an actor to tackle the thematic issues at play, and to portray such a strong female character. She mentions that “the problems (addressed) are just as (prevalent) as they were in the 1970s and ‘80s” but are more ingrained in our society today.
Both Schaeffer and Yurkoski have been acting since they were very young, each coming from various community theatre programs with experience being involved in many large-scale and more intimate productions. Both actors praise MacEwan’s dedication to “bringing the arts downtown” and the accessibility and acceptance that various arts programs have within the school.
Excitement is mounting for the reveal of all the hard work that has been put into MacEwan’s production of 9 to 5, debuting Nov. 28 and running until Dec. 8.
Showtimes and tickets are available here.