600-year-old Play Is As Fresh As Today's News

March 18, 1992|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Confused, a student stands in a darkened room trying to reconcile what she knows to be true with what a male-dominated society is tellingher about women.

Suddenly, three feminine virtues clad in white -- Reason, Rectitude and Justice -- appear to help Christine in her distress and counsel that, despite what some male scholars say, the majority of women are intelligent and virtuous.

"The evil spoken of women in general hurts those who say it, not women themselves," Lady Reason tells Christine.

Thus begins "The City of Ladies," a one-act play adapted and directed by Carroll Community College student Susan Cote from a longer piece of the same name by Christine de Pizan.

The piece, performed as part of the college's "Women in the Arts" celebration, will be presented at 4 p.m. tomorrow at CCC. The program debuted last night at the college.

The play-- which discusses women's morals, their ability to learn mathematics and science, and rape -- easily could be categorized as a modern piece of feminist literature.

Yet, cast members and director alike marvel that the original play was written in 1404, pointing to similarconcerns such as the Tyson and Kennedy rape trials.

"I think the interesting thing about the play is that it is something written so long ago and the issues still stand," said Susan Ondercin, who plays Lady Rectitude.

Director Cote, who also plays Lady Justice, said she became interested in the piece after reading excerpts for the worldliterature class she took last year.

The 33-year-old student, whois pursuing an associate of arts degree before transferring to a four-year college, eventually wants to teach at a private high school orcollege.

"As I was reading (the excerpts) for homework, I was visualizing it as a stage production," Cote said. "I mentioned it to theteacher, Ann Weber, who said it would be wonderful if I could do it for Women in Art month."

With the help of Weber, Cote cast Ondercin, a speech teacher at the college, and fellow students Suzanne Welliver and Anne Koenig.

Welliver plays Lady Reason and Koenig portrays Christine.

"This is just a new direction for me," said Koenig, aformer student and staff member at the college who is now pursuing an undergraduate psychology degree at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

"Plus, it follows my personal philosophy as a feminist."

Welliver, who is studying at CCC and the University of Maryland Baltimore County before transferring into an accelerated program for law school, agreed.

"I'm well known as a radical feminist on campus," she said with a laugh. "When I realized I'd be memorizing pages and pages of script, I wasn't sure about (the project). But it has turned out well.

"Now that I've memorized my lines, I've started to get into the emotion of the dialogue."

Ondercin said she joined the project to get back into acting again.

"Most of my involvement with theater has been from the directing standpoint lately," she said. "But what I really love is the acting, and I hadn't had a chance to do it in a long time.

"I thought this was a challenge that I couldn't pass up."

In addition, Ondercin said this has been an opportunity toget to know her former students better.

"I love all these people," she said. "Every single one of them is a student I had who excelledand performed.

"This has been a great opportunity to interact with them in a different forum."

Cote agreed.

"It brought me in touch with some super people," she said.

"I was glad to meet people who were as excited about the project as I am."

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