Beware Of ‘Bicycle Face’: Crazy Malady Inspires Feminist Play

Hannah Van Sciver in the play 'Bicycle Face.'

Hannah Van Sciver in the play ‘Bicycle Face.’

Hannah Van Sciver came up with the idea for her one-woman show, “Bicycle Face,” when she read an article on Facebook about what was described as a “serious malady” in 1895 for women who rode a bike. Some late-19th-century doctors cautioned that the effort to maintain a balance on a bicycle could result in an exhausted look, and that was a concern especially for women. Bicycle face was described in various ways: flushed or pale, lips drawn, dark shadows under the eyes, a clenched jaw and even bulging eyes.
“It was ludicrous, totally absurd,” Van Sciver says of bicycle face, during a phone interview from her home in Philadelphia.
After doing research, she set out “to explore feminism at three different times and what it was like to be a woman” in three different centuries. The result is a forty-minute play, a multimedia exploration of feminism. She will perform the play at the Cotuit Center for the Arts February 25 and 26.

Hannah Van Sciver in the play 'Bicycle Face.'

Hannah Van Sciver as a modern-day photographer in ‘Bicycle Face.’

This warning to women who dared to ride a bike was an effort to keep them at home, to prevent them from striking out on their own, and the bicycle offered increased mobility and coincided with the burgeoning women’s suffrage movement. As women took to bikes, their dress and undergarments became less constricting and so they were freer to move in many different directions.
In developing the play, Van Sciver began with the 1895 woman, a mom and housewife who decides to ride a bike for fun. She is a pre-feminist, Van Sciver says, but her decision causes quite a stir. The contemporary woman is a photographer, 120 years later, who is photographing the Philly Naked Bike Ride, an annual event in that city. The play then takes us into the future120 years, which Van Sciver describes as a “post-feminist time when it isn’t to be discussed.”
But in an advanced high-tech age in an online class, a teacher is intent on exploring feminist theory. As Van Sciver describes it, the future class is the “fun frame” for the play.
The 23-year-old playwright is a Cape native who graduated in 2014 from the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English and had a minor in theater, which took hold on her aspirations.
During her college years, she acted at the university and in theaters in Philadelphia, in a number of Shakespeare plays, as well as Eve Ensler’s feminist play, “Vagina Monologues.”
“I love classical theater and also the avant-garde,” Van Sciver says. She is interested in acting, but adds: “I want to develop my own artistic presence” with writing.

Hannah Van Sciver

Hannah Van Sciver

The show, directed by David O’Connor with the design by Sara Outing, includes live music, projections and puppetry. “Bicycle Face” premiered last June at Philadelphia’s SoLow Festival, an event featuring solo performances. Her play, Van Sciver says, received “amazing reviews.” From there she went on to perform it in New Orleans at the Razor’s Edge Solo Performance Festival.
Proceeds from this production of Bicycle Face will benefit the local WE CAN group and Independence House.

“Bicycle Face” plays at Cotuit Center for the Arts, 4404 Falmouth Road, Cotuit, February 25 and 26. For information and tickets you may call 508-428-0669 or online at www.cotuitcenterforthe

–By Debbie Forman

Speak Your Mind

737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy