Breaking gender norms on stage

A Temple alumna’s theater company aims to challenge the role of women.

ReVamp member, Lisa Fischel, performs in “Shit Men Have Said to Me” at the 2015 Mz. Fest. | COURTESY Carly Bodnar
ReVamp member, Lisa Fischel, performs in “Shit Men Have Said to Me” at the 2015 Mz. Fest. | COURTESY Carly Bodnar

While assistant stage-managing a grad director’s show during her freshman year at Temple, Carly Bodnar bonded backstage with fellow female actresses working the production. The women unofficially dubbed themselves the “Theater Girl Mafia.”

Those experiences were only one of the sparks that ignited the creation of ReVamp Collective—a woman-centric theater troupe.

Founded in 2014 by Bodnar, a 2007 alumna, and Erin Carr, a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Philadelphia-based company works toward gender equality in theater. From debunking stereotypical female characters to providing opportunities to write plays, the company cultivates opportunities for women in all realms of theater.

“What drives me constantly is seeing so many intelligent, artistically-able women who have such a great understanding of theater and who want to put their art out there,” Bodnar said. “And there’s just not the opportunities to give them work.”

Though creating a space for women is an integral part of ReVamp, ultimately, the company’s mission is fueled by inclusiveness.

“We are a feminist theater in the pure sense of feminism. … We want equality for men and women,” said Bodnar. “We are not going to make really big changes in the theater world, or in the world in large, if we don’t work together.”

ReVamp Collective came to be when Bodnar met Carr at Theatre Horizon in Norristown while teaching drama to elementary and middle school students.

“We had primarily young girls in the classes we were working with,” said Carr, the company’s co-founder. “I think that inspired us to begin a conversation about women in society and how theater views women.”

Although the company is still in its infancy, it has already made significant moves in the Philly theater scene, like its showcase at the Mz. Fest last April. At this women-dominant art festival, ReVamp featured one of its first original plays called “Shit Men Have Said to Me.”

The piece explored women’s perceptions of male communication toward them, like catcalling. Carr said the production was a reminder to keep the company inclusive of both genders. By having men in the piece, this examination could be contemplated from both sides of the confrontation.

For its upcoming season, ReVamp is being “revamped,” Bodnar said.

“We want to get that women-centric mission and take it out of the theater and into the community,” Bodnar said. “If it’s the same people going to see theater, then how do we put our message out there to more people?”

Bodnar’s currently choosing which new plays, written by local artists, to feature as readings in female-owned establishments, like restaurants and hair salons.  One reading will be performed in the fall and another in the winter, before putting on a new fully-produced play in the spring.

“We are bringing [plays] to the world where we exist … where these conversations need to be happening,” said Carr. “A lot of the discussions that these amazing plays bring up are limited to those four walls in theater.”

This greater movement will exceed the theater’s four walls, creating conversations in local businesses and education programs, which Bodnar and Carr hope to create in the near future.

The company plans to teach theater classes in schools throughout the Philadelphia area not only about acting, but the troupe’s feminist principles that call for constant evolution.

“Re-examining your place in the world, and re-examining your place as a woman is an ongoing process that never ends.” Carr said. “We weren’t satisfied with waiting for opportunities for these women to arrive. We wanted to create them.”

Grace Maiorano can be reached at

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