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Sitting in The Waiting Room

USF’s School of Theatre and Dance opens its 2010-11 season with a play that spans historical periods and health issues – asking how far women will go to meet society’s beauty ideals.

“The Waiting Room” runs today through Oct. 3, and adapts Lisa Loomer’s 1994 dark comedy about females from three different centuries brought together.

Director and visiting professor Lisa Powers Tricomi said it also represents the end of her long-time goal.

“I have known and loved this play for a long time, and was waiting for the right time and place to do it, and this is it,” she said.

The play revolves around three women who meet in a physician’s waiting room: an 18th century Chinese woman with bound feet, a Victorian era woman with a corset and a modern woman from New Jersey with breast implants.

“The theatricality of the play helps deliver a deeper message without hitting anyone in the head with it,” Tricomi said. “The truth is always best explained through humor.”

Tricomi said a college campus is perhaps the perfect place to present this play.

“The lack of resources in the department is limiting students to have their theater experience in full,” Tricomi said. “With this play, they get to do that – they play with hidden realism, get to travel across time and space, they get to make costumes and wear them, too … It is important for them to know how, as actors, we create a world and live in it.”

Lydia Ferry, a junior majoring in theatre, portrays Wanda – the New Jersey woman navigating the risks of silicone breast implants.

“Not only is it my first main character at USF, but it is also an honor and a responsibility to help tell such a moving story,” Ferry said.

Tricomi, who calls herself a drama therapist, said the character of Wanda is “probably one of these people who never had anyone who said you are beautiful just the way you are, so she questions it.”

Because the play raises several women-related issues, Tricomi said she thought it would be beneficial to work in partnership with the USF’s Department of Women and Gender Studies on the project.

Practical Academic Cultural Education (PACE) Center for Girls, Inc., a community organization that helps empower young women, has also joined the project.

“Theater has an obligation, sometimes, to not just deliver a message but to also connect to the community and deliver that message in a more tangible level,” Tricomi said.

A women’s health and body issue symposium will follow the Sept. 28 performance. The conversation will feature Tricomi, PACE executive director Chantel Griffin-Stampfer and USF’s Women and Gender Studies chairwoman Marilyn Myerson.

Tricomi said that, although most topics presented in the play are related to women’s issues, it also features strong male characters and medical issues that affect both genders.

“Cancer treatment and how the health care system deals with that is one of the main topics in the play, and cancer has touched everyone,” she said.

Joshua Fishbein, a senior majoring in theatre who plays Dr. Douglas, said the subject of cancer hit close to home.

Fishbein is a leukemia survivor and said acting in a hospital environment reminded him of his personal experiences.

“From my own experiences, I can tell you that there are different types of doctors,” he said. “There are those who care and those who really don’t. Douglas is of the ones who care – he tries to find the good in humanity.”

Fishbein said portraying the main male character in a play centered around women also offered a challenge.

“It is a very complex role,” Fisbein said. “I don’t want to give too much away, but in a way, the doctor sort of becomes a patient in the end.”

Though the play raises many important issues, Tricomi said, it does not necessarily provide any answers.

“It is more of an examination,” Tricomi said. “This play is relevant now more than ever because, even though it was written more than 15 years ago, we haven’t really slowed down on this.”

Tricomi said she sees the play’s message as applicable to today’s beauty industry and how she believes it plays with women’s insecurities.

“What is wrong with the way we are in the first place?” she said. “Hopefully, people will leave the play thinking about that.”

“The Waiting Room” will be performed in USF Theatre 2 today through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m., Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. Advance tickets are $8 for students and seniors and $12 for general admission. Tickets will cost $10 for students and seniors and $15 for general admission the day of the show.