Hurricane Sandy Brings Sisters Together in ‘Violet Sisters’ Play

By MONIQUE SANTOSO

COURTESY PHOTO
Sisters Sam (Kaitlynd Collins ’19) and Pam (Toria Isquith ’19) reunite after eight years in the senior directing thesis of Stephanie Miller ’20.

Before the production began, director Stephanie Miller ’20 spoke to the audience crowded inside Hepburn Zoo. Along with the kind reminder to silence our cell phones and pointing us toward the exits, she cautioned us to recognize the play’s content of addiction, sexual and physical abuse, death and self-harm. This weekend marked the premiere of “The Violet Sisters,” a play written by Gina Femia. 

The old staircase leading to the Zoo was plastered with headlines from October 2012, giving the audience a harrowing picture of what happened during Hurricane Sandy, a Category 3 Hurricane that caused nearly $70 billion in damage and took the lives of 33. Pamela and Samantha, portrayed by Toria Isquith ’19 and Kaitlynd Collins ’19 respectively, lose their father in the hurricane.

It begins in the torn-up living room of their house, where Pamela comes in rushing to make it in time her father’s funeral service. As her older sister Sam learns that she has returned after eight years in California, the two begin to bicker.

While their fight ensues for almost three-quarters of the play, the audience is also given glimpses into how the characters behave when alone. Older sister Samantha commits acts of self-harm, using cigrarettes for more than just smoking, while Pamela worries about her marriage to an abusive partner who is upset about her sudden departure while they were on vacation. This is followed by a series of events that, despite rising tension between the two, sheds light on how they each play a part in the other’s healing. The play highlights how family, at the end of the day, is crucial in shaping who we are and who we wish to become.  

The relatable circumstances that the two sisters struggle with — relationship issues, self-esteem worries and uncertainties about careers — make us ask ourselves how far we are willing to go and what we are willing to give up to pursue our dreams, questions that individuals may struggle with throughout their lives. The play is effective in demonstrating how we often jump to conclusions about those around us, without giving them a chance to tell their entire story.  

COURTESY PHOTO
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the death of their father, estranged sisters Sam and Pam have a contentious reunion.

 Miller, who directed the show for her 500-level directing work, echoes this sentiment.  

“In terms of my artistic vision, maintaining the authenticity and truth of these women, women in the real world was the most important to me,” she said. “These are truthful women in a real world, there is nothing hugely theatrical about the characters or the world they live in.”  

The performance was not only authentic but also deeply complex. 

“I’ve only been in one Zoo performance before,” said Toria Isquith ’19, who did this show as her 700-acting work. “You become so much more aware of all the things happening outside of your performance, namely the design, the production, the management. It can be pretty overwhelming. However, working on “The Violet Sisters” and occupying this multidimensional role has been an incredibly powerful learning experience. Other projects seem so much more doable now that I have accomplished this massive, complicated project with so many moving parts.”   

“The fact that Sam and Pam did not ultimately get the closure the audience wants them to helps the audience recognize those moments in their own life and work to resolve conflict and respect one another, rather than leaving things as they are, broken and unsettled,” Miller said.  

With its sharp humor and sometimes painfully relatable storyline, “The Violet Sisters” implores the audience to look at their own relationships and their values, thinking about what truly matters in the grand scheme of things.

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Hurricane Sandy Brings Sisters Together in ‘Violet Sisters’ Play