Renaissance Woman Hear Me Roar

Senior tutor spreads V-Day message

The little that Maria J. Trumpler cares to share about her brief history as a thespian is spotted with such typical and mildly traumatic recollections as mawkish Girl Scout productions and the loss of roles to friends. However, the Quincy House senior tutor and lecturer in the History of Science is braving the stage once again. She will perform in the Athena Theater Company’s production of The Vagina Monologues, which opens on February 13 at the Agassiz Theater. As she tells it, the circumstances surrounding the production proved far too auspicious to ignore.

“I was hanging around in the Quincy House lobby,” Trumpler recalls, “not really doing anything, and sort of absently looking at the signs that advertised the tryouts for the show.” Auditions were to be held roughly twelve steps from where she stood, in Quincy’s Senior Common Room—furthermore, director Emily S. Leithauser ’05 is a Quincy House resident. “While I was standing there, our resident drama tutor, Brett [Gamboa], walked by and just said, ‘So, are you going to try out?’”

The casual question proved an inadvertent catalyst. Trumpler had not seen the play but had been curious about it for some time—her most recent administrative post had been at Middlebury College, where Vagina Monologues creator and alum Eve Ensler was considered the “local girl made good.” Finding herself unexpectedly inspired, Trumpler auditioned along with the usual throng, and soon found herself among the all-female ensemble. She was cast to read three scientific “vagina facts,” a role she is pleased to fill. She jokes, however, that her part isn’t exactly a flight of casting fancy—as a historian of medicine, she says, “I’m pretty much playing myself.”

Trumpler, who now has a student’s rehearsal schedule in addition to her teaching post in the History of Science department, is finding the theatrical process challenging and moving. She admits to having had a certain curiosity about undergraduate theater culture, which her role as senior tutor has allowed her to witness in its immediacy. Impressed with the intense commitment of many Quincy residents to the dramatic arts, Trumpler acknowledges, “Part of me wanted to see what the experience they go through is like.”

Her decision to take part in the undergraduate-heavy performance is unusual but, as she is quick to point out, far from unheard of. She cites the Adams House Masters Sean and Judith Palfrey, as being notably involved in house activities, as well as administrator Maureen Jones who performed in last year’s Vagina Monologues production. Furthermore, the play, which is being performed as part of the V-Day College Campaign to benefit local organizations that work to end violence against women, actively encourages this kind of larger communal participation.

Despite reservations about the time commitment—significant enough to keep her from recommending the experience to all of her friends—Trumpler talks excitedly about the bonding that she’s experienced as a member of a cast. Recalling an early rehearsal exercise, in which the group clasped hands and discussed how their vaginas were feeling that day, she laughs, “You break down some barriers pretty quickly!”

—E. Firestone

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