Theater and Performance Studies BA Projects

Giovanna Hooton

Academic Paper: The Power of Community: Tracing the Braid of Women, Theater, and Leadership
Artistic Project: Punk

Public Event: Live performance of Punk with Q&A
Friday, May 16th 6:30pm (CST) — Zoom link here

Biographical Statement
Giovanna Hooton (she/her/hers) is a proud New Yorker, currently residing in Chicago. She is the President and Creative Director of Unaccompanied Women, an a cappella group on campus, that is composed of 15 of the most talented, caring and thoughtful people on campus. She also works as the Marketing Assistant for the TAPS Department. After graduation, she is returning to New York to work in the business side of theater, with the hopes of one day being an executive at a production company on (or off) Broadway.

Research Statement
In response to Mary Beard’s call for redefining power as a tool for making a difference, I focused on gender disparity in leadership roles in theater. To investigate this disparity, I conducted three case studies: two personal interviews and a found interview in the Washingtonian. All three interviewees were female-identifying leaders in the business of theater: one with a focus in community and educational/recreational theater; one that brought a focus to non-profit regional theater; and one with a focus on commercial producing on Broadway. These case studies were used to examine the specific leadership styles currently existing in theater. In order to investigate how to redefine power as a tool for making a difference, I looked at a field where making a difference is paramount: theater. By experimenting with social conditions, theater acts as a framework for designing social change. These same values are reflected in Beard’s feminist reconception of “power as an attribute… to make a difference in the world.” If we believe in the power of art to change lives, and the power of women to lead, then what are the specific leadership tactics exercised by women in theater to make a difference in the world? Witnessing how these women redraw boundaries and transcend outdated societal norms with theater, I discovered that a staunch commitment to community was reflected in each of their leadership styles, albeit via greatly different paths.

Artistic Statement
At the very beginning of my first year of college, I lost my mom, a powerful leader herself, to cancer. When presented with the opportunity to make a piece of art all my own, I wanted to focus on the complicated nature of grief, asking primarily, what does it mean to put grief, specifically my grief, on stage? I compiled together any stories, feelings, or jokes, from the past 3 years (since she died) and some before then, that I felt really spoke to my experience of grief. My original intention was that I would stand in front of an audience and deliver these stories in the chaotic and nonlinear way that I came up with them, using that audience connection and interaction to guide the direction of the piece. The title of the piece is Punk, a nickname that my mom used to call me, and also a nod to the chaotic nature of the piece and rebellion that my mom expressed through shattering glass ceilings. Now that the project has become ‘zoomified,’ I looked back at all that I had written and cut down a lot of it, and restructured what I had left. I did this because, as I think we all have noticed, staying focused on zoom is extremely hard, and so shortening it and making it have a typically clearer narrative felt like the right move. I am extremely happy with what has come of the piece, though of course sad to not perform in person. At the end of the day, I wanted Punk to be a celebration, not a memorial, that expresses grief, in a society where we often don’t address death.