Editor’s Note: This is a series of profiles celebrating Women’s History Month at New College.
By Emma Sunderman
Having discovered her love for Shakespeare in the fourth grade, Monica Cross is no stranger to the theatre. She is a costume designer extraordinaire, veteran actor, and budding playwright, as well as the production manager and technical director of the Black Box Theater at New College. The theater, located in the Hamilton Center, is used for student, school and company productions. Scheduling and maintenance of the theatre are part of her day-to-day responsibilities, and Cross also partakes in many of the performance opportunities at and around campus.
This past February, Monica worked with New Music New College in a production of “Tigers Above and Tigers Below,” a student performance of original music. She is currently teaching a technical tutorial for the New College rendition of Good Kids by Naomi Iizuka. She and the four students in the tutorial will tackle lighting and projection for the Diego Villada-directed production when the show debuts in late April.
Monica recently added playwriting to her repertoire. “Cyrano on the Moon,” an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” is the original work she considers her favorite. Cross critiques Rostand’s Cyrano and offers that personal perspective is what stops him from finding love.
“It’s not a play about a man with a big nose,” said Cross. “It’s a play about a man who thinks he has a big nose.” Cross gave her lead actor only the smallest of nose prosthetics when her play was performed at the 2017 International Fringe Festival, making a statement about personal body image.
Cross currently has another piece in the works. “Wonder of Our Stage” follows the automaton William, who was built to be a suitor for Queen Elizabeth. With the help of his creator, John Dee, the robot learns human mannerisms and eventually develops into the historical William Shakespeare who we know today. Cross calls the work “existentialist” and says it is “a collective of [her] love for Shakespeare and science fiction.”
Cross studied performance and Shakespeare as a graduate student at Mary Baldwin University. During her time there, she aimed to better the theatre program by establishing a once-lacking costume department. Her college experience rounded off with an internship at the American Shakespeare Center where she taught directing, acting and dramaturgy classes.
Monica is a New College alumna who studied English. Although she had the chance to work with other top phenomenal women in that field, Cross was interested in performance, but New College did not yet have a well-developed program. This later motivated her to come back and build one. Her experience at Mary Baldwin University helped her transform the theatre offerings at New College.
Cross considers Lisa Wolpe to be one of her greatest female role models. Wolpe is the Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company and the writer of her own one-woman show, “Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender.” Caridad Svich’s use of freeform lyrical poetry and bluegrass music comment on modern issues in works like “Twelve Ophelias “have also influenced Cross.
Representation of women is not quite equal to that of men in the performance industry, but according to Cross, it’s “getting better.”
“Women in tech theatre rarely get to just be with women,” Cross jokes.
Events like the Urbanite Theatre’s Modern Works Festival help connect females in theatre by organizing panels of writers, performers and designers. It is important to allow women the chance to build a strong support network with one another. Cross will continue blazing the trail for other women when she moves to Gainesville, Florida, to work as a theatre instructor at the end of the academic year.
— Emma Sunderman is an intern at the Office of Communications and Marketing.