A one-size-fits-all performance: GW professor directs play about body image

Try going a day without looking in a mirror. While you’re at it, don’t turn on the television, flip through any magazines or look at any billboards. It’s a bit hard, hmm? It is next to impossible to avoid the pressures of a culture obsessed with thinness and beauty.

Leslie Jacobson, GW’s theatre and dance department chair, and co-writer and co-director Vanessa Thomas attempt to do just that with their new play, The Body Project. The women tear down the perfection society demands, a popular culture that Jacobson refers to as “toxic,” and from that, formulate an honest and edgy play that speaks to women of every shape and size.

The Body Project starts as a time warp; the seven-person, all-female cast stands on stage with knobby knees and pigtails to begin the journey of women’s body image obsession. The play follows these women through their struggles with their bodies carried out via relationships with various people in their lives. The multi-racial, multi-ethnic cast is made up of women “from size two to 22,” Leslie Jacobson estimated in an interview Monday. The show also boasts of a 45-year age gap on stage.

Watching the show, I was able to relate to many of the stories, even though-being 18-I have yet to experience middle age or menopause. But, the middle school locker room scene, as well as the sleepovers and sex talks with girlfriends, made me think of my own life.

What girl doesn’t remember the agony of changing for swim class at everyone’s favorite phase of maturation? In fact, all throughout the play, tales of body woes reflected the truths of society beautifully.

The most important part of the show is the message. As Jacobson said, “The relationship you have with your body has a profound impact with the relationships you have with other people in your life.” The directors’ goal is “to make people think about how to live in their bodies.”

I walked out of the Warehouse Theatre Friday night questioning my choice of painful high heels and wondering why, at times, I think being a size four isn’t “good enough.” But, after seeing those women on stage carry themselves with such confidence and poise-no matter what size-it made me reconsider how often my friends and I gripe about imperfections we see in our bodies.

Jacobson and Thomas have constructed a show that speaks to women across America, and despite the seemingly unmovable barrier of our “toxic” society, The Body Project takes on the challenge of combating the epidemic of women’s body obsessions. It deserves nothing less than a full house.

The Body Project runs through Nov. 13. For reservations, call (703) 578-1100 or e-mail tickets@horizonstheatre.org.

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