KENOSHA — The 11th annual New Play Initiative held the world premiere of “The Handbook”, written by Laura Schellhardt and directed by Professor Neil Kristian Scharnick last Friday at the Wartburg Theatre.
Performances will continue next weekend, beginning 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7-9.
Since 2014, lawsuits have been brought to NFL teams as part of a series of complaints that have been made by NFL cheerleaders across the country. “The Handbook” is an incisive account of the rampant discrimination in the world of professional cheerleading and the effects it has on the cheerleaders.
It explores the true events surrounding the 2018 dismissal of New Orleans Saints cheerleader, Bailey Davis. Davis, along with former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Erica Wilkins were in attendance on Friday.
In 2018, Wilkins sued the Cowboys for unpaid wages. Following the opening night performance, the two former cheerleaders joined the cast to lead a talk-back discussion with the audience.
Kristan Ann Ware, former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, is scheduled to visit Carthage to talk to student-athletes 4 p.m. Thursday in the Campbell Student Union Theatre. Ware sued the Dolphins in 2018 for both gender and religious discrimination, claiming that her Christian faith and life were demeaned and silenced by the organization.
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Ware will attend the Nov. 7-9 performances and lead talk-back discussions with the cast following each performance.
The production gives insight into the professional world of cheerleading and its impact on athletes. The cheerleaders face discrimination and sexism, constantly having to follow rules that don’t apply to male athletes, such as being forced to participate in demoralizing physical examinations.
The play follows members of a cheerleading team revealing and exposing the discrimination and objectification in the sport. Through the constant difficulties each woman faces, they rely on their sisterhood and friendship to support each other and fight through injustice.
Laura Schellhardt has staged plays in several states across the country including New York, Washington, Florida, and Illinois. She has produced several original works such as “The Apothecary’s Daughter,” How to Remove “Blood From a Carpet” and “The K of D,” which was a Jeff Award Nominee.
Schellhardt was a recipient of the TCG National Playwriting Residency, the Jerome Fellowship, the New Play Award from ACT in Seattle and a Dramatist Guild Playwriting Fellowship. “The Handbook” is another one of Schellhardt’s productions that brings awareness to the injustices in women’s sports and beyond.
Tickets are on sale now, with a price of $14 for adults, $10 for seniors (55+) and $8 for Students. Tickets can be purchased online 24/7 at carthage.edu/tickets or noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday by calling the box office at 262-551-6661.