The Clarence Brown Theatre will present "Wrens" beginning Thursday, a play featuring the experiences of seven young British women serving in the Women's Royal Naval Service in Scotland during WWII.
These women, known as Wrens, assumed the responsibilities and jobs men were forced to abandon when they departed for combat. The play offers a realistic glimpse into the women's daily routine and reveals the hardships and celebrations that occurred as a result of diverse individuals co-existing in cramped living quarters.
The show will run until April 13 in the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre, with performances starting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday and capped with Sunday's 2 p.m. showing.
Director Tracey Copeland Halter, a theater professor at UT and professional actress, said the condensed environment magnifies both the good and bad aspects of life in the service.
"They were the cooks, the auto mechanics and the drivers," Halter said. "The story is about their relationships and their lives and what it's like to spend months and years in an enclosed capsule with all of these women."
The all-female cast features a diverse set of skill levels, being comprised of four graduate students and three undergraduates.
One of the key aspects of each actress' character development stems from the range of dialects contained in the show, which includes Welsh, Scottish, English RP, and Cockney.
To aid the cast in learning these difficult accents, dialect coach Terry Webb has worked with the actresses since rehearsals began. Because accents are "who the character is," this is a crucial service provided to the student cast, Halter said.
Amber Wilson, freshman in communications, said the trickiest part of the show was learning her character Meg's dialect.
"The Scottish accent was scary for me at first," Wilson said, "but I have really enjoyed learning it. Now it is so natural, I find myself using it randomly in normal conversation."
Though the material is focused on the military and gender roles, Rachel Finney, a senior in English who plays the role of Chelsea, said the universal themes in the show are sure to interest a broad audience.
"Despite the fact that every character in this show is a woman, this show is definitely geared towards everyone," Finney said. "It's got compassion, suspense, humor and heartache, making it a very versatile show that will leave the audience captured by the reality that was wartime.
"Despite the military background of the play, the matters discussed in this play can be universally understood and are relatable."
The universality of the show has also impacted cast member Jess Milewicz, a third year MFA candidate in acting who plays Gwyneth. She said the show led her to a personal realization she hopes to share with the audience.
"The story made me take a real look at my beliefs, my understanding, compassion, and loyalty, and what it means to be a true hero," Milewicz said. "I think this team has created something that people should witness. A spectrum of experience is represented in the most beautiful way.
"It's a pleasure to do, so I can only hope to witness it would have the same effect."
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