Advanced Acting Company: Highlighting Female Stars This Holiday Season


Ben Bowen

Coach Cassius (Cole Hanover) surprises his basketball team, the Shooting Stars, by dressing up as Santa Claus and gifting them with presents to add to the group’s Christmas spirit.

As a guy, I’m not allowed in girls’ locker rooms, but I found myself in one a few weeks ago. It’s not what you’re thinking––or maybe it is…My sister and I had the privilege of watching the Advanced Acting Company showcase their play “Shooting Stars” in the Wrigley Theater, which had been transformed into a girls’ basketball locker room.

My sister, seventh grader Coco Romano, said, “I liked that there were a lot of women in the play. It got me excited to one day be in the lead role when I’m in high school.”

Senior Madison Vanderbilt kicked off the show by entering the locker room with junior Makenze Humphrey. Madison’s character shared a story that made everyone laugh, and she continued to entertain the audience all night long. She was truly energetic and fun to watch, and she said, “[The] energy shared between the actors [brought] the show to life.”

The rest of the play focused on the girls’ basketball team, led by seniors Bri Nourie and Anaitzel Franco. They had to overcome their team conflicts with a sexist coach (played by senior Cole Hanover, the only male in the play), and how the public portrayed the players as entertainers, not athletes, during the Christmas season.

“As you can imagine, it’s pretty hard finding scripts with one male and seven females,” Cole said. And if you do find a play that fits that description, it is most likely that they “have the man as the lead, and the women as insignificant characters he meets along the way of his journey,” he added.

Junior Margaret Townsend did an incredible job in her role as the crabby teammate, and lucky for the audience, she was able to do so, because she plays a fall and spring sport, so winter is her only time to get involved in productions. I’m glad she had the opportunity to showcase her skills, as she demonstrated a great balance of fierceness and competitiveness as well as annoyance and jealousy of her teammates. Further, she was particularly uninterested in junior Maile Yamada-Raff’s romantic relationship with her boyfriend, which will become important later.

Before the first half of the play came to a close, Makenze embarrassingly tiptoed to her coach, since the door to the gym locked on her. She clearly did not want to admit to her coach that she missed her opportunity to run out with the team. In an unexpected twist, (SPOILER ALERT) she discovered that her coach had died on the toilet just before the play’s intermission.

Margaret was ready to deliver the news of their coach’s death to the crowd. They didn’t want to play initially, but the team eventually decided they had to play. But they didn’t have a coach. While most of the girls asked Maile to ask her boyfriend to be their new coach, Margaret appointed herself. Needless to say, the others were not pleased, because they finally wanted to play without the pressure of being solely entertainers, and that was not what Margaret wanted. They ended up excelling in the face of adversity, but not without difficulty.

Thanks to Magaret’s vulnerability and senior Megan Riordan’s Christmas spirit, the girls ended up agreeing to appoint Margaret as their player-coach. For the first time, they planned on playing the game seriously.

“After the past two years of online learning and masking during rehearsals, it was really fun to be able to do a show with no COVID-related limitations,” Margaret said.

Madison said, “It also “[highlighted] the work we still have to do to create equity in women’s sports, in addition to society as a whole.”

With that being said, I am very happy and fortunate that I was able to watch my friends shed light on the important message of gender equality through the medium of art, with no COVID restrictions!