By Megan Leahy, writer and director for Ad Nauseam
It’s easy to find a woman that is outraged, frustrated or upset with the way she and other women are treated. As terrible as that is, there’s also great comfort and power in sharing our experiences, and it’s been inspiring to see so many brave women of all different walks of life push the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. But even though it can seem that these movements have dominated social media and news stories the past few years, we’re still very far from equality of any kind. I don’t think we can be equal until we have true empathy for our fellow humans.
One of the best traits of theatre is that it teaches us this empathy—and it’s not just those in the theatrical process that benefit. Yes, writers, directors, designers and actors must connect to and find motivations for a character’s behavior, but audiences are also exposed to the inner workings and lives of characters that can be vastly different from anyone they know, and even from the way people act in real life. The moments that stick with us on either side of the stage do so because they speak to what we have felt in real life. I believe that theatre has a real opportunity to make us see different points of view and to make us all more empathetic.
Beyond the power of theatre itself is the power of comedy. People don’t only love to laugh, sometimes people need to laugh! Plus, they laugh the hardest when it’s something that they can relate to. Comedy that comes from an honest place is always funnier. As an added benefit, laughter unites audience members to each other and to the performers on stage. It creates a bond that allows us all to lower our defenses and trust a little more. Once we have that relationship, that trust, we can start to explore interesting and difficult topics with love and humor.
I’m sure we’ve all had the thought that it would be easier to live in a place where everyone has the same beliefs and feelings as us. But what a closed off, boring world that would be! Only by listening and hearing each other, can we work together to create positive change. Atlanta has been referred to as a blue island in a sea of red, and what that means to me is that we have a tremendous opportunity to try to learn more from each other, to show that while we may look and act differently, the feelings that we experience are universal.
Ad Nauseam – which just finished its successful run at Dad’s Garage, an improv theatre in Atlanta’s Historic Old Fourth Ward – shares what it means to me to be a woman existing in a man’s world. It is set in an era known for its blatant sexism and well-defined gender roles—the 1960s. But in our world, the women are in charge, allowing us a skewed view of sexism as we watch the men try to break through the glass ceiling. Hopefully, it inspires empathy as well by shining a light on how suffocating and restrictive these gender roles are for everyone. As a woman, sometimes
I am outraged, frustrated or upset, but I have found comfort and power in bringing this story to life by using compassion and humor (and a hilarious cast). Sometimes, we all just need to laugh.
Megan Leahy is the writer and director for Ad Nauseam, an alternative view of the 1960’s advertising world where Madi-daughter Avenue is run by Mad Women instead of Mad Men. The show ran from May 10 – June 1, 2019 at Dad’s Garage, an award-winning non-profit theatre company that brings in over 30,000 people a year at their new Ezzard Street home in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward, public events across the continent, and festivals around the globe.