Janet Payne, a professor of Women’s Studies, includes the audience as part of the show by addressing us as her “students.” She goes into a rant about being tenured but threatened to be fired if she doesn’t stop her drinking and clean up her act. She sees herself as a pioneer in the field of changing the perceptions of women more towards the likes of a Calamity Jane, who could shoot a gun, whack a bull or skin a mule.
She challenges a man in the audience. “You there, with the square glasses!” she shouts to a man in the third row. “What are you thinking?” And pauses for an answer. She then draws a woman in the front row onto the stage and gives her a brief lesson on how to crack a whip, which she refers to as her visual aid. “Twitter and the university is no place to learn about life,” she admonishes us.
The actor swings between the characters of the professor and Calamity Jane in a 70-minute highly intense and physically demanding performance dealing with emotions ranging from anger to drunk to pathos. Yet the play was sprinkled with humour to ease the tension. She presented as a strong character in both roles in her aggressive, rough, down-to-earth, don’t-mess-with-me-attitude.
Duane Campbell as Janet Payne and Calamity Jane undertook a very difficult task and kudos to her for this demanding performance. The play ended with “the professor” maintaining the audience within the context of the play with a resounding, “CLASS DISMISSED.”