Stage performance explores sex and violence

Aprile Sumague

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The cast of Mess America: A Nation In Various States of Dis-Dress warms up for their performance Saturday night, Nov. 21. Photo Credit:Charlie Landon / staff photographer

The cast of Mess America: A Nation In Various States of Dis-Dress warms up for their performance Saturday night, Nov. 21. Photo Credit:Charlie Landon / staff photographer

A parody of the Miss America beauty pageant showed a dramatic representation of society’s distress through movement, sound and imagery that ran Nov. 20-22 in CSUN’s Little Theatre.

The Performance Ensemble’s original piece, “Mess America: A Nation in Various States of Dis-Dress” delved into the country’s current situation regarding sex, politics, discrimination, education and other controversial issues.

Michele Clevering, who played the pageant mother, said they considered the media when deciding on which issues and themes to highlight. She said that most of the time, in the newspaper, “a significant story disappears without resolution, but the Donald Trump story and the beauty queen story went on and on and on.”

Dr. Jeanine Minge, director of the Performance Ensemble, said the first question they ask is, “What are you concerned about?”

There were four “pageant” contestants vying for the crown: an educated beggar, a sextween, a soldier and the pageant princess. There were two business figures that did not make the henchmen’s lives any easier.

A woman in a cap and gown walked on stage as if she was walking to get her diploma, complete with graduation-themed background music and video of a previous CSUN commencement rite. She then removed her cap and gown and revealed a change of costume, which was a clown outfit. She got played and mocked by the henchmen, and the pageant princess and ended up being a beggar holding a cardboard saying “Will work for food.”

“This is what’s happening in our country right now. Students graduate with a respectable degree, and they end up being jobless for a long time,” audience member Sherianne Kovackz said.

Kovackz’s son and nephew go to CSUN, and she admits she is concerned that her son and nephew might not get a job right after graduation.

“Education is very important, but I think that education is being ignored in the society. Sometimes, it takes more than a college degree to land a good job, not even the best job out there, just a good job,” Kovackz said. “This performance showed the struggle of a college graduate and the hardships he or she has to go through in order to get a job to feed them. It is not just a show, it is happening out there.”

Another issue addressed in the ensemble piece was about sex and violence towards women. Emelie Castillo, who played the sextween, said she had the idea of “breaking the silence” because when it comes to sexual issues, women tend to stay quiet.

“It is important for girls, women, to be strong when they encounter violence or any kind of negativity from men and even other women,” said audience member Joy Cancio, a kinesiology major. “Women are very vulnerable and men, mostly, take advantage. If we seek help, or at least talk to people, it will not remove the pain but it will somewhat makes it feel better.”

When singer Rihanna spoke with “Good Morning America,” Cancio said that she was proud of her courage to tell everyone her story and that she was brave enough to admit that what happened between her and singer Chris Brown was wrong.

“She didn’t deny about what happened and she spoke because she didn’t want her fans and other people to make the same mistakes as she did. From the very beginning, she knew that her relationship with (Chris Brown) was ‘dangerous’ but she continued to be with him,” Cancio said.

A lot of women are afraid and embarrassed to say something when situations like violence arise, but “Mess America” showed that it is OK to speak up.

“If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist,” Castillo said during the performance.

Castillo also pointed out that it is important for young people to enjoy their childhood and innocence as she believes that “our generation is the last generation to have a childhood.”

Donald Baza agrees as one of his daughters is “growing too fast” and he feels that his daughter is rushing to be an adult.

“She is only eight years old but sometimes she acts like a teenager, and dresses like one. The media is a big influence. I am actually scared. I want her to enjoy being young,” Baza said. His older daughter is a music major at CSUN.

“Mess America” is one of the Performance Ensemble’s many presentations. Performance Ensemble is an extracurricular program that stages groundbreaking productions and original pieces for the campus and neighborhood community.