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Footloose: The Struggle to Find Boys

Emma Komar, Opinions Editor

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It’s pretty common to hear Pres girls complaining about our lack of boys, even though being at an all-girls school makes life a lot less complicated. But one Pres department that really feels the absence of boys is our theater program.

Pres’ production of Footloose is approaching, and auditions revealed the same issue that it always does: girls greatly outnumbered boys in an artform where there are typically twice as many males roles.

One of the biggest reasons for the globally male-dominated theater is that it used to be illegal for women to act. In the past, it was very common for teenage boys to play women, so it makes sense that theater remains very male-centric out of tradition.

Nevertheless, despite the plethora of male roles offered by Pres dramas and musicals, our theater department struggles year after year to attract high school boys to our productions. But why?

Certainly, the judgemental nature of high school may dissuade boys from doing theater because it can be seen as emasculating. For boys, theater has a social stigma attached to it that pegs it as feminine or untraditional. Ironic, considering the theater statistics of male dominance, but the high-school emphasis on traditional masculinity can define boys’ interest in theater participation.

The gender makeup of Pres is another obstacle. Obviously, finding enough boys to play parts would be difficult at any all-girls school, but being unsure of what an all-girls environment is like could be daunting to someone who has never experienced one.

But being part of a minority presents a definite advantage for boys who want to try out Pres theater. According to Bellarmine senior Noah Jackman, “Since we [boys and girls] don’t attempt to play the same parts, there’s no competition.”

Any Pres girl who has ever felt jealous of a fellow student who took a part she thought she deserved can appreciate that lack of competitive spirit between the sexes.

Bellarmine junior Ryan Galy, who plays Ren in Footloose, agrees, saying, “It was a great chance for me to stand out and have more opportunity to show what I could do. It also helped me get a great part in the show.” Not having to compete so heavily just to play a good role is undoubtedly an advantage to being outnumbered.

It’s also important to recognize time conflicts. Boys who go to Bellarmine have a great program right on their own campus–taking the time to commute to Pres is often too difficult and time consuming. And with the lengthy rehearsal time necessary, those extra minutes really do make a difference.

The timing of our school’s productions also presents a challenge. Junior Gina Saglimbeni points out that the Bellarmine drama conflicts with the Pres musical. And when the need to choose between the two shows arises, the boys are more likely to stay loyal to their own school’s productions.

According to Bellarmine Junior Ronan Shaw, “The only reason I haven’t done a Pres production is I prioritize Bell show auditions. I have tried to make sure directors know I am committed to Bell theater.”

The theater programs of other schools offer their own challenges as well. Mitty, for example, does not allow their students to participate with Pres theater. According to performing arts director Jim Houle, Mitty’s performing arts director made their actors sign a contract that prohibited their performances at other competitive high schools, which he believes detracts from potential talent.

Junior Meaghan Schapelhouman agrees that this lack of contact between the schools can reduce male participation. “There are a lot of theater boys who are in different communities…so a lot of them don’t know about Pres theater and aren’t in the social circle that makes them audition.”

There are a few disadvantages to such a tight-knit community, but it often ends up being very rewarding. In fact, a large part of finding boys for an all-girls theater includes contacting known friends and theater veterans and encouraging them to try out. These kinds of personal relationships often end up persuading boys to audition.

“My really good friends from CMT told me I should audition for Guys & Dolls my sophomore year so I decided to try it out,” said Jackman. “I fell in love with the people at Presentation and the rest is history.”

Pres theater may have a shortage of boys, but never a shortage of talent. Our theater company always manages to find incredibly talented actors and actresses that are willing to work very hard to produce amazing shows. And Footloose will be no exception.

“I’m excited for my friends and family to come watch, to work with current friends, to make new ones, and to give the show my all,” Galy says.

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