Arts and Culture

Professor Stephanie B. Daniels shines in one woman play

A diverse audience of all ages gathered in Kresge

Experimental Theater on Thurs, Feb. 7 to see Stephanie Burlington Daniels perform in the play “Birth Breath Bride Elizabeth.”

Although some were prepared for Daniels’ theatrics, many were unsuspecting of the exact format of the ensuing drama as they settled in and looked at the minimal props: a wedding veil draped over a podium, a blank whiteboard, and a film projection screen.

Daniels appeared in a belted maroon top and tall black boots, her hair tied back, and a string of pearls around her neck. Her face was shadowed in bold makeup. “It’s so nice to see so many fresh, unprepared faces out there,” she said to the crowd, her expressive air capturing everyone’s attention.

Daniels, Associate Professor of Theater and Chair of the Theater and Dance Studies Department at Wheaton College, portrayed the character Mary Shelley-Breath, an academic who appears to be mad and often breaks into wild hysterics. Denying her hysteria made it all the more entertaining: Daniels frequently insisted that she was perfectly fine, stating calmly, “If I were a hysteric, you’d all be dead right now.”

The monologue, which occasionally took more serious turns by bringing up mother-daughter relationships and marital advice given to Princess Diana, was broken up by raging screams and confusion as Daniels pretended she had forgotten her notes.

She ranted about the importance of wedding themes and the origin of the term “acid reflux,” insisting that the audience members take notes. Constantly reassuring her audience that there was a theme to this monologue, Daniels spoke about giving birth, Elvis Presley, and the Frankenstein book in almost the same breath.

“Stephanie loves to make the audience uncomfortable and she definitely accomplished her goal,” said Thomas Nagata ’15. “I was required to read the play ahead of time for playwriting, but it still surprised me.”

The play, written and directed by Kenneth Prestininzi, definitely stretched the audience’s capabilities; at one point,

Daniels pushed over the podium, scattering her notes everywhere, and pulled a chocolate cake out of it. She mashed her hands into the cake, and after eating some herself, proceeded to give bites to

audience members.

“It was definitely an interactive experience,” said Andy

Cavacco ’13.

Despite the wilder aspects of the play, it was fascinating

watching Mary Shelley-Breath explore her own identity. The audience was able to get a firsthand look into the thoughts in Shelley-Breath’s mind, with no filter. “You take the journey with her, in every direction she goes,” said Ivy Klein ’15.

The combination of feminist opinion and social commentary with shocking outbursts and topic digression made “Birth Breath Bride Elizabeth” a hit among students and faculty alike. Daniels was iconic in her role as Shelley-Breath, the electricity in her performance captivating the audience.

When asked if she would recommend the play to a friend, Jenna Giuffrida ’13 said, “Just be prepared to spend the rest of the night wondering what the connection is between birthing a cake and Elvis…It was a treat to see Stephanie Daniels so in her element and her performance was flawless. She was absolutely hilarious, a perfect example of true commitment to a role.”