Gloria: A Life, written by Tony Award-nominee Emily Mann, is based on the life of women’s rights movement leader Gloria Steinem, with the unconventional play receiving mostly positive reviews since the production opened on Oct. 18 at the Daryl Roth Theatre.
The play is unconventional because the audience is encouraged to participate and have a conversation with the actors for at least 25 minutes, referred to as the “Gloria Talking Circle.” Sometimes, Steinem herself might attend the show and lead these conversations, answering questions from the audience. Those questions and comments may range from the current political climate to the future of other movements that have gained momentum recently.
Gloria: A Life retells many important achievements by not just Steinem, but other activists as well, such as many black women who made a huge difference in the women’s rights movement. Two examples are, Florynce Kennedy and Aileen Hernandez, who were union organizers, civil rights activists and women’s rights activists who fought for women’s equality, better working conditions and social and economic justice.
The play does a good job reminding the audience that many of the present issues in today’s society are not isolated, and that instead of creating secluded movements, people can all be part of a single talking circle, working together to become more powerful and get more done in Washington and local governments.
The play moves through different periods of Steinem’s life rather fast, but tries to engage the audience into the different scenes that are meant to depict the important events in the life of the main character.
For example, the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston was referred to by Steinem as the “most important event nobody knows about.” It changed the lives of the attendees and future generations. Additionally, Steinem helped launch Ms. Magazine 47 years ago, deciding not to publish articles focused on fashion, beauty or cooking, a controversial decision at the time.
At one showing, after the play had ended and the talking circle was about to finish, a young man from the audience thanked the cast and said, “when I get home I need to do some homework…” Everybody laughed, but he was right; it is necessary to revisit history and reflect.
The play was originally scheduled to end in January, but it has now been extended through March 31, 2019.