‘Let my word take action’: Transformative feminist narratives at TAPS

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

This year’s Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) Graduate Repertory season consisted of three works directed by second-year Ph.D. students Yutsha Dahal, Connor Lifson and María Zurita Ontiveros. 

I attended the Feb. 9 performance at the Nitery Theater, which featured Dahal’s and Ontiveros’ plays, and was immersed in a world of feminism, activism and solidarity. Lifson’s production, “Omelas,” had been performed at the Nitery the week prior. 

The evening began with “Foundations of Feminism: The Poetics of Curiopathy As A Manifestation of the Sisterhood Zeitgeist In Feministological Nepali Archivism,” written and directed by Dahal.

With its long-winded title and witty script, “Foundations of Feminism” served as a playful satire about the esoteric and sometimes ostentatious nature of feminist academia.

The performance followed Sahana (Giovanna F Jiang ‘26) and Parijat (Margarita Jamero ‘24), two young Nepalese women, as they explored their feminist identity and its various manifestations throughout the history of Nepal. 

Jiang and Jamero shined as they transformed from friends to academics to protestors, weaving their various roles into an homage to the lost identities and stories of the women they embodied. I was impressed by the versatility that the actors displayed, as well as their ability to transition between scenes and vignettes in a fluid and engaging manner.

In an interview with third-year Ph.D. student Marina Johnson, Dahal discussed how she drew inspiration for her production from the “Feminist Memory Project” collection at the Nepal Picture Library, a digital photo archive that explores the feminist movement in Nepal. By incorporating photos from Nepalese women’s personal albums, the play weaves together a rich tapestry of history and individuality.

The play’s conclusion was marked by a poignant moment when Jiang and Jamero, out-of-character, shared how their own personal feminist identities were shaped through the stories and photographs of their inspirational mothers.

On the back of the production’s program, there was a QR code that audience members could use to submit their own photos to a Google Drive, fostering continued dialogue on solidarity and increased representation.

The actors connected advocacy in the past and present, in nearby homes and distant regions, as they mentioned the hundreds of students who had defended the pro-Palestine sit-in in White Plaza the night prior, following the University’s ban on protest encampments. 

Dahal’s piece on activism and thoughtful dialogue seamlessly transitioned into the second play of the night, “Women of Sand: Testimonies of Women in Ciudad Juárez.” The play, which was directed by Ontiveros and written by Humberto Robles, discussed equally heavy topics and encouraged audience members to take action. 

This documentary theater piece, originally written in 2000, explored the femicide crisis in Mexico through testimonials from family members, journalists and activists. The cast of five used poetry, music, prayer, vignettes and shadow-puppetry to passionately advocate for social justice and the women of Juárez.

“Women of Sand” is not for the faint of heart. Actors described the harsh realities of femicide, sexual assaults and mutilation with raw authenticity and explicit language. At the play’s climax, Chetanya Pandey ’27 delivered a gut-wrenching and nauseating monologue that depicted the torture of a woman in a linear progression, from beginning to end.

The costumes and set were equally powerful, with actors wearing purple bandanas in support of “The Purple Revolution,” a movement against Mexico’s nationwide femicide epidemic. Posters of missing women were displayed at the back of the stage, emphasizing an alarming statistic. Today, 10 women are murdered in Mexico every day. When the play was written in 2000, that number was two.

Despite varying executions and text, both “Foundations of Feminism” and “Women of Sand” served as valuable educational tools for audiences, offering a window to the past while navigating contemporary complexities. These productions encouraged dialogue about frequently glossed over topics regarding feminism in an international context, providing hope and strength to persevere in times of grief and adversity.

In light of current global circumstances, I thank Dahal and Ontiveros for staging these impactful productions and highlighting the intersections between activism on campus and the narratives presented in these plays.