Heavy metal music headlines final department play

"Local Girls" takes the stage

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Last weekend, Muhlenberg’s theatre department closed its 2022-2023 departmental season with “Local Girls,” directed by Beth Schacter, Ph.D. “Local Girls” tells the story of a teenage metal band from Georgia desperate for their big break. It’s a coming-of-age love story set to the tune of teenage angst and the ache to make it out of their small town. 

The play brings characters together in unlikely ways. Riley, a metal guitarist, is in need of both a chemistry tutor and a screamer for her band. She finds both of those things in the socially struggling Diskit and together, the two of them discover much more.

“Being in ‘Local Girls,’ I learned about different characters with different lives and goals. Two young girls, passionate about the future in such immensely different ways. It is so important to see that just because two people aren’t making their way in life through the same style, they can both still make it to their goals, and respect each other’s paths. Learning about these characters taught me so much about the innocence of love compared to the hard parts of love. Riley is a character who can be mean, stern and harsh to the people she cares about, [but] it is all through passion and love. Her background has caused her to put up a wall, she has her guard up in life, but still lets love in and accepts the people around her who fail and make mistakes with her,” reflected Christine Norton ‘25, who portrayed the character of Riley.

“My favorite moment in the show is definitely when I first audition for the band. Even though the band is such a huge part of the show, it is really the only scene in which I can really interact with them.”

-Tomomi Lewis-Noguchi ’24

“We are living in such difficult times, that an intimate tragicomedy focused on powerful female characters could really be uplifting. The story about the two young female characters falling in love is also important for our audiences—so many lesbian narratives end with tragic conclusions, this optimistic story seemed especially compelling” remarked Schacter on why she chose the play for this season. With anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and legislation being a prominent topic in current events, telling stories about young, queer, joy is especially timely and important.

“Local Girls” demanded more from its actors than just the performance skills they already possessed. Every character either plays a musical instrument or has to death metal scream, and for two performers, this meant learning entirely new instruments. Evelyn Carlin ‘24 (Shanice) learned to play the drums, and faculty member Jim VanValen (Francis) learned piano. They picked up the skills impressively well.

“I was obsessed with all of the actors, they were so incredible and really got me into the metal mood. I never considered listening to something like this before I saw the show, but the passion and enthusiasm from the performers created a performance that was legendary,” commented Olivia Reiss ‘26.

“It was definitely a fresh production given a lot of love from both the cast, crew, and department staff. I had no idea two of the performers learned instruments just for the show and their playing was amazing! Overall, it felt very close to home and the world-building was touching,” said Bell Hansen ‘26.

The “Local Girls” cast and team had a lot of moments from the show and the rehearsal process that helped them connect to the material.

“Learning about these characters taught me so much about the innocence of love compared to the hard parts of love.”

-Christine Norton ’25

“My favorite moment in the show is definitely when I first audition for the band. Even though the band is such a huge part of the show, it is really the only scene in which I can really interact with them. I feel like the humor really comes through in that scene and it was definitely one of my favorites to rehearse,” said Tomomi Lewis-Noguchi ‘24, who played the role of Diskit, who becomes the lead screamer for the metal band.

“I will just say that one of the scenes that always touched me with both humor and authentic human connection is the one in which Diskit throws up on her kind of first date with Riley. Diskit’s throwing up turns into her first metal ‘scream,’ and the awkward sweet ways in which the two characters navigate an embarrassing event really get to me,” reflected Schacter.

“Local Girls” was an uplifting, special way to close out the theatre department season while telling important stories and amplifying underrepresented voices, quite literally with the use of the heavy metal screaming. 

The show was unique for the season in many ways, but one of the most prominent ones was that it called for a faculty member to act alongside Muhlenberg students. VanValen’s inclusion in the cast brought a wonderful presence and warmth to the production and his talents brought out tears from many audience members.

VanValen reflected, “As a faculty member, working alongside my students as a fellow actor has been very meaningful. The creative space is also a vulnerable space. And in that space, the students have seen me try things that have failed, they have seen me struggle at times, and they have seen me make mistakes. They have seen me learn and stumble and, through it all, they have offered me support and insight from one actor to another. I think this is the space I need to be in to experience and understand more deeply true partnership, equity and belonging—a space of vulnerability and, at times, even uncertainty. We don’t know what’s going to work, and, yet, with courage, we try it anyway. It’s not always comfortable, but I think it’s essential—to really see and to really allow ourselves to be seen in order to experience real connection and share real compassion as we live, breathe and grow together. I like being a fellow traveler and a work-in-progress, and I am so appreciative to Beth, Jeff and all the students for being so welcoming to me throughout this entire experience.”

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