Journey to the Top: Cast and Creative Team Begin Rehearsals for Top Girls

By Claire L. Wong

“Messy, messy women,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls. As the cast, creative team, and company members gathered at A.C.T. for the first rehearsal, MacKinnon addressed the company. “These are messy, human people. You’re not going to find a hero in this. It’s a messy world.”

Director Tamilla Woodard discusses Top Girls. Photo by Claire L. Wong.

This muck and mire and mess aptly describes the world of Top Girls. In 1980s England, Marlene’s rise through the corporate ranks is hard-won. As her ambition vaults her to the top, she isn’t concerned with bringing other women along with her. The opening scene in the play features historical and legendary women who gather for a dazzling dinner party to celebrate Marlene’s latest promotion. The production examines the generational inheritance of what women, and particularly women of color, experience in the workplace. Director Tamilla Woodard says, “There are a lot of women here and a lot of people of color. A part of what this conversation will be about is how we coexist or do not coexist when we’re talking about where women occupy space and where people of color occupy space.”

Scenic Designer Nina Ball describes her set designs. Photo by Claire L. Wong.

Scenic Designer Nina Ball spoke about how she envisions the bridge between different locations in the play. “We really grabbed onto the idea of this glass block as a material to put us in the ’80s, first, and to really let us play with light in exciting ways.” Ball described how the initial dinner party scene transitions to the other prominent locations, London and Suffolk. “We’re playing with how the subconscious world might change and warp to something that’s very naturalistic,” says Ball. “It’s the antithesis of Marlene’s world, which is high-powered and fast and sleek.” By comparison, Marlene’s sister Joyce “lives in the clutter of time gone by,” says Ball. “She didn’t get to do the things that Marlene has the luxury of doing, and all of what you give up in order to get to the place that Marlene went. It’s a really amazing play for these women and for these sets. I’m excited for you all to live in them.”

To hear more from Director Tamilla Woodard and learn more about Top Girls, look for Words on Plays out next month. Performances of Top Girls begin September 19, with the first InterACT event Drinks & Drama of the season on Friday, September 20. Get your tickets now!

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