“Character is who you are in the dark,” is the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that also happens to be the personal mantra of the young girl whose story is told in the SHSU Theatre Department’s production of Kellie Powell’s “Dogface”.
The girl, who refers to herself as no other name than “Dogface”, recites this quote, finishing it off with a comment referring to the author, “he must’ve been a dog too.” This line becomes the epitome of the attitude of the young girl, practically paralyzed by low self-esteem and an extremely skewed image of herself.
Senior theater major Ashten Lane gives her directorial debut with this captivating and relatable story.
“Dogface” begins with the explanation of the name. A little girl who was viciously attacked by a dog, permanently scarred across her face and subsequently branded as an ugly girl.
Throughout the show, the audience is given a chronicle of her life as she stumbles through childhood, onto adolescence and to her college years where she makes true friends along the way and seems to grow a little more confident with herself as the years go by, but always harbors a deep sense of self-deprecation that continuously holds her back from really living her life to the fullest.
It is easy to fall in love with the character of Dogface as she is sweet and well meaning, clearly intelligent, not to mention, hilariously funny. One of the most inherently beautiful as well as sad aspects of the show is when the audience member suddenly realizes that her attempt to always make people laugh could be nothing more than a defense mechanism, a talent acquired simply to draw attention away from her scars.
Senior musical theater major Cortney Hafner plays Dogface at an impressively large variety of different ages spanning from age seven to twenty-three. Hafner is extremely charismatic onstage giving moments of pure comedy as well as tragedy where the audience might find themselves overcome with the sudden urge to yell out, “You’re not ugly! You’re beautiful!”
The show is a true testament to the harsh reality of how shallow humans can be, even the kind ones, even the compassionate ones. Audiences will find themselves wondering if they too, tend to only focus on the surface qualities rather than seeing a person for who they truly are.
Amidst the heavy influx of criticism Dogface receives throughout her life, her story maintains a consistent theme of sorts in which girls are always uplifting other girls. Whether it’s Dogface’s friends encouraging her to approach a cute guy at a bar, or during a round of gossip at a sleepover where Dogface makes the pointed remark that a girl has a right to hook up with as many people as she wants to without being labeled for it, this show is surely one to make a female feel very empowered.
It even covers the topic of romance as there is an emotional scene where Dogface and her best friend Ethan, played by freshman theater major Stephen Swank, recount a drunken night of passions that leaves them both confused and unsure of what comes next.
Swank plays Ethan as a kind and quirky kid who is caring and considerate towards Dogface’s feelings.
This is not a typical boy meets girl love story, however, it is, in fact, a love story. The journey the audience takes with Dogface will be extremely relatable, evoking emotions of both happiness and heartbreak.
The entire ensemble is a delight providing constant entertainment and performing seamless scene transitions.
Lane has done a fantastic job of selecting a play that is both fitting for the college setting as well as a story that will strike a chord with everyone who witnesses it. Her talents as a director shine with her wonderful cast and show design.
“Dogface” is a beautiful tale of struggle and unconventional triumph as, scarred or not, the audience is reminded of the hardships one goes through when learning to love oneself, which is perhaps, the greatest romance of all.
Additional performances of “Dogface” are scheduled for Thursday, November 19 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, November 21, at 2 p.m. in the University Theatre Center. To purchase tickets contact the UTC box office at 936-294-1339.