Studio 1 serves up girl power in 'Decision Height'
By Charity Apple / Times-News
Posted Sep. 10, 2015
“Why do you fly?”
It’s a recurring question in Meredith Dayne Levy’s 2013 award-winning play “Decision Height” which follows Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II. For the characters, who are based on real-life Air Force pilots, there are various reasons. Edith “Eddie” Harknell (Ashley Phipps) is following in her mother’s and brother’s footsteps; Norma Jean Harris (Katie Muhlenkamp) is a rule follower who believes it’s the right thing to do; and Virginia Hascall (S. Elizabeth Carroll) wants to prove both to her fiancé and father that she can serve this country even though she’s a woman.
In Studio 1’s first show of the 2015-16 season, these spirited, lovable characters captivate the stage and tell the story of a time in which women took to the battlefield in hopes of defeating the Nazi regime. “We all want this wretched war to end,” S. Elizabeth Carroll said in one scene. Their desire to rid the world of tyranny is fueled not only by their dream of returning to a “normal” life, but at the WASP base in Sweetwater, Texas, these “Fifinellas” form a sisterhood that gets them through the good and bad times. “We push each other to live bigger lives than we have back home,” Carroll said. “The women who we were before aren’t who we are now.”
From the eloquent lines to the dramatic scenes filled with tragedy, “Decision Height” tells a story that needs to be heard. There were women in World War II who left their farms, homes and families to serve during a time when they weren’t treated equally and many lost their lives for a cause they believed in. These WASPs, played by Carroll, Phipps, Muhlenkamp, Heather Leonard, Katie Zimmerman, Faith Howell, Linnea Bethany, Mandy Cardwell, Kate Dahlquist, Beth Matthews, Tyler Lee and Laura Jones, will make you laugh and move you to tears — sometimes at the same time. “All of it is based on real people and places,” director John Collier said.
Scenic designer Ross Emery has transformed the intimate Studio 1 stage into Avenger airfield, complete with a hangar, barracks and “The Well” where the women would meet before and after training exercises. The amazing 1940s-style Air Force “zoot suits” and flying caps were designed by Nancy James. Music, including military marches, plays a prominent part in the show as well.
A beautifully written and expertly executed show, “Decision Height” gives new meaning to the words “girl power.”