Girl Globetrotters go!
A pleasant little comedy kicks off CSUC’s fall 2001 theater season
“I’d just like to play a game where nobody laughs at us,” pointedly comments one of the women basketball players in Molly Newman’s Shooting Stars.
Her frustration is understandable.
In the play, each of the characters is a gifted, professional athlete reduced to pulling pranks, performing gimmicky plays, and reciting tiresome, cornball jokes out on the court to entertain the masses. Nobody, it seems, takes the notion of dedicated athletic competition from women seriously back in 1962. So these women are basically sentenced to a kind of sports freak show, in which their genuine talents become merely another part of the “act.”
“We wanted to open the season with a comedy,” explains director and CSUC Drama Department faculty member Gail Holbrook, as to why she selected this work. “I chose this particular play out of four or five that I really liked. [The play] had some serious little incidents, and it had an empowering message for the women at the end.”
The entire story is set in the locker room of one of a zillion little podunk towns the team regularly plays one-nighters in, usually against the particular hamlet’s reigning high school boys’ team. As the first act opens, the Indiana Shooting Stars have just pulled into the locker room. It’s only a few days before Christmas, and some of the women are feeling a bit homesick. The expected mild depressions are countered with giddy teasing and put-downs.
Each of the women reveals herself as a distinct individual: Charlene is basically the assistant coach and walks an uncomfortable line between maintaining order and simply being “one of the girls"; Butch is a large woman addicted to food, cigarettes, and seemingly interminable hokey jokes; Bernie is the somewhat masculine one, ill-at-ease with the thought of hairstyles and make-up; Gay is the only one with a relationship, albeit a long-distance one—the others beg her to read aloud the sexy-for-'62 letters she receives from her boyfriend; Tammy seems to be the new girl, vulnerable yet possessed of a need to style hair and suggest make-up tips; Shelby is the attractive smart-aleck who wishes just once the team could compete without their Globetrotter antics; and Wilma is such a superb athlete she has been honored with an invitation to contribute her jersey to the basketball hall of fame.
The only one standing in their way is the same person who got them where they are today: Their flashy manager, Cassius. Local theater mainstay Bruce Dillman plays the role as part dedicated coach, part Barnumesque hustler. We feel Wilma’s frustration when Cassius basically coerces her into refusing the honor of her hall of fame induction because it would be “bad for the team.” We understand the other women’s ambivalence toward Cassius: He is the one who has made them “stars,” but is also the one keeping them from their dreams.
That communal frustration becomes a moot point when Cassius suffers a massive coronary. From there on the play becomes a soul-searching struggle for all of the women: Should they go on “for Cassius” and keep doing the goofy stunts? Should they play it straight and really give that boys’ team a good thrashing? Or should they just pack it all in?
Due to press deadlines, I was only able to attend the final dress rehearsal last Monday night. It took a bit before the actors relaxed enough to allow their characters the space to come alive. However, all of the young women do a good job; the show is entertaining. The locker room set is absolutely great, and the "soundtrack" is graced with fun, early ‘60s hits.