Art & Culture

  • Princess banner

Autonomy and Feminism in Kate Herzlin's "Princess"

  • Princess thumbnail
Next Story Previous Story

Autonomy and Feminism in Kate Herzlin's "Princess"

Interview by Lydia Filosa

Next weekend is an exciting one for Penn’s Theatre Arts Program. Penn students will take the stage on April 4th and 5th to perform in The One Act Play Festival hosted at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The Festival features two plays written by Penn students. The Road Trip, by College sophomore Emily Sheera Cutler, follows two friends, Kim and Julie, as they drive away from their high school in search of adventure. Emily won the 2013 Judy Lee Award for Dramatic Writing, an award presented to an undergraduate or graduate for the best script. (Read more about The Road Trip here.) Princess, by College Senior Kate Herzlin, tackles the traditional fairytale narrative in a modern setting. Kate was the winner of the 2013-2014 Penn Plays Fellowship, which is cosponsored by the Kelly Writers House and the Theatre Arts Program. I sat down with Kate to learn more about her play Princess and the process of bringing it to the stage.

What is Princess about?

It’s about a world — our world — a few years from now in which a woman in her late twenties living with her parents is being set up to be married. But it turns out there’s a lot more that has actually happened to her, and for her, about her life that she had no control over. She has to decide — faced with lack of agency — what decisions to make, if she can make any decisions at all, about her life.

What got you interested in writing Princess?

I’ve been writing plays for a long time. I wrote the first draft for Princess two years ago for a play writing competition in California called the Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival. I won and was able to perform it there at the Blank Theatre Company. It’s been great to look at the play again through a new lens. I think we look at girls and we often give girls these symbols of being a princess, or needing to be guarded, protected — “you look pretty, we’ll make the decisions.” We end up, in ways that seem harmless, by the nature of protecting our girls more than our boys, we end up sending girls the message that we know what’s best for them, and they themselves can’t possibly know what’s best for them. By putting them on a pedestal, we are actually totally removing their identity and sense of agency. I was writing this play when the ultrasound probes were beginning to get attention — and I thought, “How far are we going to go to tell women what to do with their bodies?”

Can you speak to your involvement with your play’s production?

The Penn Plays Fellowship’s main goal is for the writer to learn about the whole play development process and to work on how you edit during that process. The director, Suzana Berger, and Jackie Goldfinger, the dramaturg, are both fabulous. Every week I have a new round of edits due. Right now I’m at the fourth draft — that’s what I’m going into rehearsals with. We have our first read next week. I’ll be going in and out of rehearsals, as they need me. Particularly in the beginning, I’ll be there a lot. If actors feel like a line is particularly chunky, I’ll be happy to edit it. What you get out of working with actors is hearing what the lines sound like coming out of their mouths. That’s the great part of editing and working on […] this project. I don’t want to be there too much, so that the actors feel like they can’t play around with the script. But I’ll be in rehearsal enough that I can edit and help the actors to play with what they want to play with.

    • Princess dress rehearsal 9
    • Princess dress rehearsal 8
    • Princess dress rehearsal 2
    • Princess dress rehearsal 6
    • Princess dress rehearsal 1
    • Princess dress rehearsal 5
    • Princess dress rehearsal 3
    • Princess dress rehearsal 9
    • Princess dress rehearsal 10


Lydia Filosa graduated from Penn in December 2013 with a BA in Classical Studies. She is currently interning for the Undergraduate Office of Admissions and the Penn Art & Culture Initiative.

Edited by Naomi Shavin