Twenty is an age of stress and chaos, filled with keeping grades up, working a job, and having a social life. Instead of simply trudging through the ups and downs of being 20, junior performing arts major Misha Lambert wrote a theater piece about it, called The Body Project, hoping to open the minds of her audience to be honest with themselves and explore their own self-esteem, especially around that age.
Combining various short stories through all different styles of verbal and nonverbal expression, Lambert tells the tale of how difficult, yet wonderful, being 20 years old can be, using a variety of genres, from romance, to comedy, to drama, and including two acts of improvisation.
“The Body Project is a mosaic of different mediums including poetry, dialogue, original music, and movement pieces,” said Lambert, who also directed and performed in the show. “They all have a central, exploratory theme of body image and a relationship from the inside out.”
Under Lambert’s direction, the show took over Studio 7 of the Paramount Center from Nov. 8 to Nov. 10 for three nights of captivating performances for audiences that nearly filled the 50-seat studio each night.
The production was presented by The Mercutio Troupe, one of Emerson’s on-campus theater companies. Each semester, the 20-person troupe discusses what show to put on next.
As a member of the troupe, Lambert pitched her idea for The Body Project in March 2013 while they decided on the fall’s productions.
“The topic of body image is something I’ve always been passionate about because it’s very close to me,” Lambert said. “It’s personal because I’ve always struggled with my [body image], and I’ve always been interested in others’ experiences and how our experiences differ. I felt like it was only logical to create a project that would open up a dialogue that was so close to so many of us at such a young age.”
Lambert only had two poems and a few ideas when she presented the concept of The Body Project to the troupe, but she said she knew she wanted her show to be real and honest. Her peers were captivated by her mission to write and direct an entirely original piece and start a conversation about body image, which isn’t openly discussed very often.
“Body image is almost tabooed,” Lambert said. “I wanted to open up a public forum about something so private and something that really meant so much to me and so many people in the troupe and so many people our age.”
Once the troupe decided to take on The Body Project for their fall production, they opened up to the rest of the school for auditions, although the script was nowhere near complete.
“Half of the script was written before the rehearsal process,” Lambert said, “but I wrote some of it as we went on with specific cast members in mind.”
Senior performing arts major Taylor Bennett knew immediately that she wanted to audition because of how relatable the topic is, and how true it would be to the 17-member cast Lambert eventually selected.
The Body Project was an extremely personal experience for all cast members involved because Lambert asked them what they each wanted to communicate in their individual performance, according to Bennett.
Her part, for example, was largely made up of a poem inspired by her coming out as gay to her parents, which she passionately delivered as she marched across the room with an in-your-face attitude and boundless confidence, sending a message of self-acceptance and self-love.
“I was excited that I got to say something that I’ve always wanted to say in a show,” Bennett said. “[The Body Project] was a representation of all of our individual lives.”
But the cast members weren’t the only people affected on a personal level by The Body Project. Despite the poetic style of most of the script, the issues discussed were presented bluntly. From sexuality to heartbreak to self-esteem, audience members found themselves connecting with the show as it made them cry, laugh, and smile through the hour-and-a-half performance.
“I thought it was very honest,” said Sarah Forman, a junior at Boston University who attended Saturday’s performance. “When I learned more about how it was written, I felt that even more. It captures what I understand the life of a 20-year-old to be like.”
Forman wasn’t the only one who felt such a strong connection to the show. Lambert said that after each performance, she received overwhelming thanks and appreciation from friends, family, and even people she had never met before.
“I was stunned by the audience’s reaction and how well received it was,” Lambert said. “My mind was blown by the success we felt within the cast and the reaction we got from the community.”