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Dramaturgy

About the Play

It’s a truth that is, unfortunately, universally known, that a woman in want of basic human rights and the same lifestyle as a man must go through twice the amount of obstacles to get there. While we might balk at this statement in 2021 (though it is still very much true in many regards), this was the sad truth in the world of The Tall Girls that playwright Meg Miroshnik explores.

Set in the 1930s Great Depression, Jean, Almeda, Puppy, Inez, Lurlene would have been experiencing the global stock market collapse, which took place on October 29th, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday. While everyone was hit hard in some way by this downfall, those in the Dust Bowl of America, like Miroshnik’s ‘Poor Prairie’ would have received the brunt of it. With crop prices falling by 60%, and men leaving left and right to go seek industrial work, it was up to the women to take over the house and provide for their families. They created feed sack dresses, kept up with household chores, and tried to provide a sense of normalcy for their children in one of the most uncertain times in history. In fact, women were the only demographic of people who gained jobs in the Great Depression. Yet, due to gender discrimination, they were still only paid half of what the men were, despite essentially keeping the U.S. economy afloat.

Not only did women have to deal with the everyday ‘happenings’ of their lives, but many also had the added pressure of living in what is known as the Dust Bowl, a collection of states in the Southern Plains region of the U.S. that was hit with devastating dust storms during the 1930s, aka the ‘Dirty Thirties,’ dry spells. Described as the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, the dust storms, nicknamed “Black Blizzards,” would carry topsoil around the nation, causing dust pneumonia and killing thousands of Americans in its path.

So, with all of these uncontrollable tragedies taking place around them, it’s no wonder that young girls like The Tall Girls would seek distractions outside of the homes where their childhoods were being torn away far too soon. But another obstacle would stand in their paths when they attempted to use basketball as the means for said distraction. While boys were encouraged to play sports, women were told that they shouldn’t be involved in competitive activities, that sports were too ‘masculine’ for them, and that traveling would hinder their ability to be available for household chores. In these pre-Title IX days, most women argued that basketball was no more (if not extremely less) demanding than the farm chores they already had to do. But those in power voiced their ‘concern’ that any contact sport would mean that a woman’s ability to get pregnant would diminish, and therefore it would be best for all if women were not allowed to exert themselves in that way.

When coming up with the concept for the play, Miroshnik channeled these historic events, delving into research in the period and girls sports in the Great Depression and using her own world experiences. In fact, it was one of her own experiences that began the entire concept of The Tall Girls, when she uncovered a family mystery involving her grandfather. In finding that said grandfather was the coach of a women’s basketball team at a high school on the Minnesota and North Dakota border, Miroshnik was compelled to research and tell the story of Title IX sports in the Great Depression. One thing that Miroshnik leans on heavily is the idea of women taking up space in society and their own domestic ‘spheres.’ When writing the play, one of the key issues she wanted to highlight was the fact that the girls’ innocence allows them to take up space, make themselves known, and not have their identities centered on their domesticity.

In The Tall Girls, Miroshnik explores these double standards, class divides, and this sense of lost childhood through the eyes of five young girls and their mysterious basketball coach, who are all searching for some sense of hope in a world that has told them there is none for the foreseeable future.

-Kailey Edwards, Dramaturg