Student-directed show brings light to real life problems women face


Photo provided by Isaac Hines-William 

Noah Oldham

Can a man tell a woman’s story? That is one question behind theatre and art history junior Isaac Hines-William’s production of “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a famous short story written in 1892 by American journalist and feminist intellectual Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story is from the point of view of a woman who suffers from “nervous depression.” As treatment, the woman is kept from doing any kind of activity, which is enforced by her husband. With nothing else to do, the woman spends a great deal of time in her room, fixating on the yellow wallpaper. This fixation, the lack of activity and the control of her husband wares on the woman over the course of the story.

This show is a 6,000 word short story brought to life in a monologue acted out by five actors. Hines-Williams began adapting the story in August of this year, dividing up the story into lines. He also had the actors read the sexist writings of Silas Weir Mitchell, whose “rest cure” caused Gilman to suffer a nervous breakdown, inspiring “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

This stage adaptation is an example of abstract theatre. The play breaks traditional conventions a theatre-goer may expect. The performers are not playing characters so much as they are playing actors. It is surreal, self-aware theatre. Director Hines-Williams said that the play is commentary on the artistic process.

“Anyone can tell a story,” Hines-Williams said. “It’s not up to us to make the story right, it’s up to us to tell it.”

“THIS IS NOT OUR STORY” is written with chalk in large letters along the black wall of the theatre. Hines-Williams recognizes that the story is not his. He is a man, and the story deals with the oppression faced specifically by women. However, he said he believes that him telling the story of a woman is similar to an actress who has never had children playing a mother. Theatre allows artists to present stories that are not theirs.

Kelsey Waltermire, the only woman in the show, said she believes that the issues from the play are still relevant to women today.

“Any woman has faced discrimination by her gender,” Waltermire said. “Any female will say that they’ve experienced it and I’ve had experiences like that.”

Waltermire’s performance is engaging and allows the audience to connect with the character’s building frustration.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a play that requires active learning by the audience, according to Hines-Williams. The format requires the audience member to become engaged and attentive to analyze the story, as well as the written and visual metaphors.  

You can experience The Yellow Wallpaper” for yourself at the Black Box Theatre in the Fine Arts Building on Nov. 9 at 8 p.m., Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. and 8 p..m. and Nov. 11 at 8 p.m.