Stetson University Theatre Arts Presents: Mrs. California

Stetson’s Second Stage Theater was transported to 1955 Los Angeles this past weekend as the theatre arts program presented the famous Broadway play, Mrs. California.

Kendall Couture, News Staff

Doris Baizley’s, “Mrs. California,” was brought to life on the Stetson stage this past weekend, Feb. 20-23. The show had a lively cast of only 12, and was directed by theater arts major, Jaycie Cohen ‘20. 


The show takes place in 1955 Los Angeles where four women are competing in a homemaker contest in hopes of winning the coveted title of Mrs. California. During the contest, the women must complete tasks like sewing an apron, setting a table, and cooking a meal to prove they are the greatest homemaker. 


The main character, Dot, played by Liza Tananbaum ’22, is the Los Angeles representative who struggles to conform to the role and expectations of the Mrs. California competition. After multiple attempts to fit the mold, Dot begins to question her place in the contest when she is told she shouldn’t tell the story of her transcribing codes in the war, because “nobody wants to hear them.” 


It is a story about breaking chains some could argue is still relevant today. Cohen, who directed this show for her senior research said, “I chose to direct this play for my senior research because I feel that its message is still relevant today. It reinforces that the perception of the ‘role of the woman’ has evolved from what’s expected of them to what they choose for themselves.”


Tananbuam described how she prepared for the role of Dot and said she had to approach the role both as an actor and a woman, “There is layer after layer to unpack within the script and the two have to work together to really bring justice to Dot as a whole.”


While trying to unpack who Dot is, Tananbuam said she came to a couple different realizations. “Personally, I don’t think Dot dislikes the role of homemaker. It’s something she is used to. What makes it difficult now is that her choice has been taken away. She was reduced to solely a homemaker.” 


When reflecting on herself as an actress and as a woman, Tananbuam said she had to use her own life experiences as well as those of women in general to bring the role to life. “I don’t have anything that’s incredibly close to her experience, but I think being a woman– as weird as that sounds– helped me prepare. While I don’t suffer to the extent that Dot, and women in the fifties in general did, there are many instances throughout the day where I deal with sexism. Most of the time they go unnoticed, but being in this show I had to find those small moments of injustice and really sit there and think about how those moments impact me, my work, my emotions, all of that.”


The show saw great success as it brought in almost a full house even during its Sunday matinee. This was Stetson Theatre Arts’ third production of the 2019-2020 season. The season will conclude with Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot,” in April.