By Katarina Ivancik
The 21st century work of American drama, Reasons to Be Pretty by Neil LaBute, is humorous, relatable, and hits its audience almost too close to home. The CenterStage Theater company’s motto is creating theatre “from the students, by the students, and for the students”, making shows like Reasons to Be Pretty even more powerful. The show is directed with the intent of asking its audience why society values “prettiness” and whether physical appearance is a real factor when it comes to the pursuit of success and happiness.
Director Ashton Schaeffer, a junior musical theatre major, chose to use onset chalkboards to list the many “reasons to be pretty” which were written out one-by-one by the actors in between scene changes.
“The decision to use the chalk boards was sort of unique. I chose to do that very abruptly and list the reasons why some people need to be pretty,” said Schaeffer.
The messages created a personal connection to the audience that broke the fourth wall without being distracting. As would be expected, the show was conducted with an air of professionalism that may surprise students who have never seen a CenterStage production. The set, costumes, lighting, props, and sound design all served to enhance the show and draw the audience into the full experience.
“The set and sound design were extremely creative. I love how the set turned back and forth to establish the warehouse versus the outer world,” said audience member Emberlein DiSalvo. Not every show with a minimalistic set leaves its audience with such a memorable impression.
One of the actors, Christina McCann, wishes for viewers of the play to understand the importance behind what people have to say.
“I hope that everyone who saw the show realizes the impact that their words can have on people,” McCann said. “It’s so easy to say something, but it is nearly impossible to take our words back.”
In our age of technology, where messages can be sent instantly and thoughtlessly, this theme is particularly relevant. Clearly, Reasons to Be Pretty is a show that speaks to our society, and more specifically, to our generation, in a way that few other shows can.
As women become more empowered by reclaiming their voices and demanding the respect they deserve, hopefully the requirement of “pretty” will fade away and be permanently replaced by “confident” and “intelligent.” Reasons to Be Pretty pushes the envelope with edgy, contemporary language, flawed characters, and raw scenarios.
The production was fearless and unapologetic, sending strong messages to young adults, especially young women, that “pretty” is both relative and ultimately unimportant. This is something relevant to repeat until society changes its tune and realizes that happiness and success should not rely on “prettiness.”