Dance Nation, a new play by Clare Barron, depicts a dance team on the road to a national competition. Inspired in part by Lifetime’s reality TV show “Dance Moms,” the play is a comic and thoughtful examination of gender, ambition, and girlhood. As they compete for the trophy, a group of pre-teen girls–and one token boy–discover their bodies and themselves.
Beyond their years
The twist? The young characters are played by adult actors of all ages. This cast features Wilma HotHouse members Campbell O’Hare, Brett Ashley Robinson, Taysha Marie Canales, Suli Holum, and Justin Jain. They are joined by Kimberly S. Fairbanks and Kimberly Chatterjee, as well as two actors playing adults (Julianna Zinkel and Keith Conallen).
The play is a 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist, coming to the Wilma from a well-received 2018 Off-Broadway run. Dance Nation received the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which recognizes outstanding works in theater written by women. Bringing attention to women’s voices and stories is part of the Wilma’s goal in producing Dance Nation. Artistic Director Blanka Zizka states, “At a time when many politicians believe they have the right to control women’s bodies, I’m thrilled to produce Clare’s unexpectedly hilarious, tender, ferocious, and insightful play about the wonderful and terrible complexity of girlhood.”
Youth of a nation
Dance Nation has the makings of a rare and entertaining exploration of the passions and conflicts of female adolescence. Its novel use of adult actors to play pre-teens invites viewers to remember their own pubescent years and to rediscover the young selves still inside. Dance Nation promises a fresh take on seemingly familiar tropes, from the teen comedy to the dance competition movie to reality television, and it feels particularly timely in foregrounding the power and perils of girlhood.
Post-show after every performance, informal discussions with Wilma artists and staff will be held in Good Karma Café.
What, Where, When:
Dance Nation will be performed through October 22 to November 10 at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad Street. For more information, visit the Wilma online or call (215) 546-7824.