The Women of The Philadelphia Story


The Philadelphia Story unfolds in 1939 and follows wealthy Philadelphia heiress, Tracy Lord, over the twenty-four hours before her second wedding. Tracy has lived a mostly charmed existence, but the Lords start to feel the heat when tabloid magazine Destiny reporter, Mike Connor, and photographer, Elizabeth (Liz) Imbrie, show up to cover Tracy’s wedding in exchange for Destiny keeping quiet about an affair of Tracy’s father has been carrying on.  Not one to accept situations out of her control, Tracy decides to give these unwelcome visitors her own version of Philadelphia home life, and, of course, a great deal of chaos ensues.

The women of The Philadelphia Story give the audience a view into some of the ways women’s roles and expectations for women during the late thirties of the Great Depression and into the forties at the beginning of World War II. The stereotypical woman of this time is normally portrayed as a stay-at-home wife and mother, who is represented in Margaret, the matriarch of the Lord household. Unlike most of her counterparts who cooked and cleaned while raising their families, Margaret has enjoyed a comfortable life at home accompanied with all the delicious privileges of the upper class. She is busy preparing for Tracy’s wedding when she is faced with the news of her husband’s affair going public.

Like her mother, Tracy has never had to work a day in her life thanks to generous inheritances, but that doesn’t make Tracy soft in the slightest. She charms the audience by breaking gender boundaries through her pants-wearing, skinny-dipping, pseudo-blackmailing antics. Unlike her graceful and proper mother, Tracy is out-spoken, stubborn, and insists on making her own decisions regardless of familial and societal expectations.  During The Philadelphia Story three men are vying for Tracy’s affections and attention. Her fiancée, George, is a hard-working, built-from-the-ground-up former coal miner; her ex-husband, Dexter, who shows up it seems to specifically annoy Tracy as much as possible; and Mike, the grumpy tabloid reporter who surprises Tracy with his sensitive side. How is 1939 bachelorette to choose?!

Between World War I and the start of World War II women working outside the home declined, but the struggling economy and beginning of WWII ushered in opportunities for women to join the workforce again. Women were employed primarily in education and clerical fields, but moved into male-dominated fields of math and health when men were sent overseas. Liz represents the single, working woman of the era in The Philadelphia Story. She is a talented photographer who is passionate about painting, but without a husband to provide for her, she has to work in order to make ends meet. She is independent and snarky, and even her relationship with Mike defies traditional relationships of the time – casual and without labels – but when Mike takes a liking to Tracy it leaves Liz questioning her progressive dating practices.

What will become of these women? Will Margaret forgive her husband? Will Liz wait around for Mike? And who the heck does Tracy end up with? You can find out what happens by coming to a performance of The Philadelphia Story at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, January 13-29, 2017, Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 PM and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. Call (616)222-6650 x0 or visit www.grct.org for tickets ($16-$28). Recommended for teen and adult audiences.

 

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