Claudia Maurino and Iris Courchaine. Photo by Jenn Smith - The Berkshire Eagle.

Claudia Maurino and Iris Courchaine. Photo by Jenn Smith – The Berkshire Eagle.

As their school tour of Miss Labeled wound down and their May 11 public performance at the Spectrum Playhouse in Lee approaches, WAM Theatre sat down with Claudia Maurino, a ninth-grader at Monument Mountain Regional High School, and Iris Courchaine, a Lee High School sophomore, both members of our inaugural Girls Ensemble Cohort to find out how the experience had been for them.

WAM Theatre: What appealed to you about the Girls Ensemble program? Why did you decide to audition?

CLAUDIA MAURINO: I decided to audition when I found out it was an opportunity to work with a group of girls my age to create a show about issues that were common to all of us.

IRIS COURCHAINE: I heard about Girls Ensemble from my mother, Freda Grim, who is the Associate Producer at WAM. I didn’t audition back in September because I couldn’t make the time commitment, but then someone had to withdraw a week before the December performance. Barby Cardillo and I have known each other a long while and worked together before, so when she call and asked me if I could step in I was happy to say yes.

When I first saw the script I thought it was really true to life and spoke to a lot of things I had felt as a young women growing up in this world. I thought it was impressive that this cohesive piece had emerged from conversation among these girls.

WAM: How was the experience like what you expected? How was it different?

CLAUDIA: I had expected to play games and do some improv work, which we did do, but other than that I had no idea what to expect. I enjoyed the process though, coming up with ideas about things we all enjoyed and cared about and then creating different scenes and monologues based off of that, usually through improv.

IRIS:  I am not really sure what I was expecting. I hadn’t read the script before my first meeting with the Ensemble, so I had no preconceived notions. I only knew one of the girls before joining the Ensemble, and I had only just met her, so it was great to get to know all the girls. They were very sweet to me when I came in at the last minute, and we all get along really well. The script is very different from anything I had done before. I’d never done devised theatre and I had to get used to the fact that it is constantly changing, that if someone has an idea they can present it to the group and it can be tried out and maybe included. Because of that, I guess I expected the final piece to be a little more informal, I didn’t expect it to end up to be as complete of a show as it ended up being. I am not a writer so I haven’t written or created any pieces especially for myself. I do a monologue another girl wrote and one that Barby and Amy wrote.

WAM: What was your greatest challenge in the program?

CLAUDIA: It was fun to get to work with a small group of people, but it was also a little challenging having some people drop out suddenly and then working with new people, but on the whole, it was fun.

IRIS: It was a challenge to join a show at such short notice and put it all together in one week. The piece is extremely personal, the girls had opened themselves up to each other and I felt like I was just coming in and taking their work.

WAM: What did you enjoy most about the experience? About the school tour?

CLAUDIA: Out of the experience in general I enjoyed bonding with girls my age and discussing relevant issues. I liked putting it all together and performing it on stage. And my favorite thing about the school tour was the talk backs we would have afterwards. It was fascinating to hear how people reacted and what they thought.

IRIS: Our audience for the December performance was made up of a wide variety of people of all ages. On tour we were performing for just high school or middle school students. At the beginning we weren’t sure whether it would read well with middle schoolers, but they are very smart and it is good to tell them about these issues that they will face when they are younger and can make changes before problems occur. By the time you are 18 and thinking about going off to college you can be set in your ways.

WAM: What do you hope audiences will get out of seeing the show?

CLAUDIA: I hope this show will encourage people to take a step back and reflect on how gender stereotypes have affected their lives and to think about what they can do to alter the labels we give to each other and ourselves every day.

IRIS: I hope it helps our audience members to understand the social standards and gender roles that are forced on both males and females and how they negatively impact all of us. We are speaking primarily about the female experience because it is ours personally, but there is a lot that males can get from the show too. After all, we are all in this together.

Click here for photos Click here for the video of the December performance