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BOWLING FOR BEGINNERS by Trent Hill & Sarah Traynor

Posted by on Monday, March 18, 2019 in 1010 blog posts, Analysis Essay, Blog posts.


Bowling for Beginners by Diana Grisanti was an ethnographic performance by members of Vanderbilt University Theater. The production took place in Neely Auditorium on February 27. The audience consisted of mostly Vanderbilt students and a few theater professors visiting from other institutions. The reading follows the Vanderbilt University women’s bowling team in the wake of winning the 2018 National Championship. The play depicts the athletes in their daily life. Through interactions in rand and the lanes of the bowling alley, we get to understand the thoughts and feelings of the athletes and the dynamic of their team. The performance highlights social, academic, and athletic pressures. Sarah Traynor is a sophomore majoring in Human and Organizational Development and minoring in Business and Italian. Trent Hill  is also majoring in Human and Organizational Development, with a minor in Medicine, Health, & Society. The authors met in Local Java to discuss the performance.


S: Did you enjoy the performance? What about the production did you find most interesting?


T: When I arrived at the show, I didn’t really know what to expect. I guess I didn’t really know anything about our bowling team, other than that they were the 2018 National Champions. And I know the syllabus called it a “play reading,” but I didn’t realize that it was actually a reading of the play, without all the production elements, costumes, lights, and I felt like maybe I wouldn’t enjoy the show as much without all that. But then Essin said she was speaking in the role of one of the ethnographers, and that caught my interest. I was thinking to myself, in class I know she said she couldn’t act, so naturally I wanted to see her act.


S: I agree. When I first realized that it was a play reading, I was slightly turnoffed. I feared that the performance might lack excitement. Instead, I was completely engaged and consumed with reading. I ended up really enjoying the casual performance style. It was the perfect setting to discuss both serious and relevant issues, but in a light hearted manner. The style of the show allowed me to really focus on the words being said and the message of the performance without any distractions.


T: I also didn’t really know anything about the bowling team, other than that they had won the National Championship. I thought it was really cool though, that they had the team come out to watch.


S: It made me feel so guilty. I had no idea we even had a bowling team. I loved that the actual team was there. It seemed like they really enjoyed and appreciated the performance. From my seat, I could see them laughing and nodding their in heads in agreement. Their approval helped show how the performance was an incredibly accurate telling of their story. Were there any part of the performance you found disappointing or upsetting?


T: For me, I felt like the most upsetting part of the play was definitely when the bowlers talked about their futures in the sport. Like, here are these girls, at the top of their sport, National champions, too, and even though they’re good enough to make it, there’s just not enough money in women’s bowling to actually go pro and make a decent living. It just kind of stuck with me that these girls were actually in a position to turn down a professional offer in the sport they’ve worked at for so long, just because they are women and the money isn’t there.


S: Yeah, that is completely unfair. If bowling is their passion, they should be able to successfully pursue a career after graduation without second thought. It is frustrating that they put in so much time and effort for little to no gain. Despite this obstacle, the women were really supportive of each other. I really enjoyed how they pushed one another to not just accept the harsh reality. It is clear that they are a tight knit group that want nothing but the best for each other.  

T: To answer the question, “Why this play now?,” I think for one, obviously, they were they 2018 National Champions, and they play is about that win and how the team is working to defend their title, so the plot is really current, but it’s also cool because it can get more people interested in women’s athletics and sports like bowling that don’t get as much attention as sports like football and baseball.

S: Yeah, I agree. As the 2018 National Champions, they deserve more than just an email. The play serves a celebration and acknowledgment of their incredible accomplishments. This production also serves as an awesome opportunity for us to meet the team. Before this performance, I did not know anything about bowling or the team members. After watching the performance, I feel like I know the team and can relate to the members on a personal level. I have a new level of respect for their team and I feel for them and their struggle for respect and recognition. All of Vanderbilt’s campus would benefit from this in depth introduction to the bowling team.

T: Same here. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really know anything about our bowling team before this, other that they’d won the championship, but I thought they actually did a really good job of addressing that and making it relatable with a lot of the students telling the interviewers that they didn’t know we had a bowling team before the school sent out the email last year announcing that they’d won. So it’s got the potential to get more people interested in sports that you don’t hear as much as about.

T: It’s also a good current production in how they discuss Title IX and equality between men’s and women’s athletics. Title IX isn’t something I know much about, but I thought they did a good job of explaining it requires equal athletic opportunities for men and women, and how that’s how we got our bowling team. They also did a really good job of showing the emphasis that gets put on different sports, and the play made that really relatable even for people who aren’t student athletes and don’t normally think about things like that, with all the talk about the football team getting their special breakfast everyday, that none of the other athletes can eat.

S: Yeah, I agree. The play really helped to facilitate discussion regarding Title IX and gender inequality between men’s and women’s athletics. I was shocked by the disparities they described between the athletic teams, specifically football. The bowling team should be offered the same conditions, opportunities, and level of recognition as their male counterparts. The performers did an excellent job of discussing this issue using humor. Their comments about the special football breakfast were hilarious, while simultaneously communicating their frustrations.

T: So that with all that said, we were definitely a part of the intended audience. The issues of equality in athletics are for a university audience, and it works really well here because it’s about our bowling team specifically, and it highlights how talented some of Vanderbilt’s athletes are, who aren’t in the bigger sports.

S: I also think it would have been awesome to have more athletes or members of the athletic department present at the performance. The main message of gender inequality only reached a small group. As students, we need to begin the conversation on campus. However, in order for real change to occur, leaders in the Vanderbilt community need to be exposed to the harsh truth. Everyone must understand that there is no room for disparity or inequality in athletics on this campus.

T: Did you think it was effective as a live piece of theatre?

S: I found this performance to be very effective as live theater. Without eye catching set designs bright lights, or extravagant costumes, it would not translate well on screen. The simplistic stylist choices were effective and allowed the audience to really focus on the deeper message of the performance. This made the performance feel more personal. It didn’t feel over dramatized, but instead like a candid conversation. By seeing their movements and hearing the tone of their voice, there was a level of realness that made the performance engaging. I was able to really understand where the characters were coming from.

2 Comments on “BOWLING FOR BEGINNERS by Trent Hill & Sarah Traynor”

I enjoyed reading this thoughtful dialogue between Sarah and Trent on Bowling for Beginners. I was intrigued by Trent’s statement that the play reading was different than he expected. Trent discussed how he expected eye-catching set design, including elaborate costumes and lighting. Though I was personally aware that the performance was a play reading, I am interested in how Bowling for Beginners exceeded his expectations. He and Sarah enjoyed the intimate, simplistic choices. I, too, felt that a play reading of Bowling for Beginners was a great way to discuss serious issues in an informal setting. I agree with Sarah that the reading’s added dimension of humor made it more engaging. Like Trent and Sarah, I walked out of the theater feeling like I personally knew the team and understood their struggle for respect.

Jacqueline Rhoads on March 19th, 2019 at 12:33 pm

As a member of the Vanderbilt Women’s golf team, I was able to relate to many of the frustrations and struggles discussed in this play reading in a personal way. As Trent mentions, the girls on the bowling team discuss how they are good enough to turn professional, however; they do not because there is not a lot of money in women’s bowling. While I was listening to this, I related this directly to women’s professional golf. Many of the girls on my team, including myself, have spent most of our lives dedicated to golf and truly have a passion for it. However; woman on the LPGA tour do not make a lot of money so we do not want to turn professional. I completely agree with what Trent and Sarah were saying about how this is unfair, because female athletes are deterred from following their dreams and passions due to lack of popularity and large income in women’s sports. Also, while I was listening to his reading, I found the discussion about the breakfast offered to only football players at McGugin to be comical because I have personal experience with this as well. The first morning I had workouts freshman year, I passed a table with bagels and other breakfast foods on it. Naturally, I went to grab a bagel and a water bottle off the table and ended up getting told I could not have it because that food was strictly for football players only. Hearing other female athletes share the same frustrations and experiences that I have had really made this a special production for me. Even though I see these girls around campus and at the athletic facilities, I have never really gotten to know them on a personal level. However, after this reading I feel as though I know them a lot better and I realize that we have a lot more in common through our experiences than I realized.

Virginia Green on March 24th, 2019 at 1:30 pm

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