Advocating for Feminist Beliefs

It comes as absolutely no surprise that the students at Beloit College have a variety of things to bring to the community and learning culture we’re trying to harbour, and Abby Bender is no exception.

This week, I sat with her to discuss her time at Beloit and as she comes to the end; explore the learning curves she’s embarked on.

As a First Year student, she knew she wanted to study biology at Beloit, because the research opportunities were particularly interesting to her, and be a part of the theatre community if and when she could. Prior to college, Abby had predominantly been a part of her high school’s theatre community by acting in many musical theatre productions. Since then, she’s developed a keen interest in directing and found a niche between her interests in biology and theatre, attempting to bring stories about women in science to the limelight.

An example of this is her collaboration with Alum McKenzie Finan, with her directorial debut, The How and The Why. The play depicts two women biologists meeting for the first time, one near the end of her career and the other at the beginning. The older woman has earned fame for her work on the grandmother hypothesis. The younger wants to present a radical new hypothesis to explain why human females menstruate while most mammals do not. The play deals with the workings of science and its impact on the personal lives of women scientists.

Through this process, she began expanding her “STEM xTheatre” network, and came to the realization that there are so many colleagues and collaborators fascinated by theatre and the sciences. She also discovered that though there are many with similar interests, the artists attempting to investigate the relationship between science and theatre are generally unaware of each other and are left to their own devices.

One community Abby has found to explore her interests with is Matheatre, a travelling theatre company originally from Minnesota with whom Abby is currently working. Their aim appears to be parallel to Abby’s, in that their professional theatre artists perform for and work with educators, students and laypeople to enrich science communication with the power of story. Matheatre believes that scientific literacy, curiosity, and imagination are necessary components of a healthy society.

Looking back on her time at Beloit, she’s humbled by the support she’s received from her peers, and faculty alike, primarily from her sisters at Kappa Delta, stating that they’ve practiced the oath of sisterhood in their eminent support for her growth and academic career.

Her one piece of advice for new Beloit students is to take time out of their semester to sign up for at least one Performing Arts course. She agrees that Theatre is a lot of fun, but she learned a lot about herself as an individual by getting out of her comfort zone and working her mind and body. The acute presentation skills she learned through theatre is something she plans on taking with her way beyond her time at Beloit, and hopes future students do the same.

By: Shruthi Chandrasekar'23
November 18, 2020

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