Geva Theatre Center is honored to produce the world premiere production of Jamie Pachino‘s play Other Than Honorable, directed by Kimberly Senior. We invited Meghan McGuire, a commercial litigation attorney at Nixon Peabody to attend a rehearsal and the very first performance of the play on our stage. Here’s how she reacted after seeing the play.
When the kind folks at Geva invited me to watch a preview of Other Than Honorable, they told me it was a story about a young female attorney who finds “empowerment” representing a special client in a special case.
Hmm. I’m a young female attorney. I like my clients. I love my work. But I can’t say I’ve ever had one client or one case that “empowered” me.
Having seen the play (which, while I’m no theater critic, I thought was beautifully written, staged, and acted) I now take issue with their description. Yes, Grace—our young female attorney—takes on a case of personal and social import. But I don’t think it’s the case that ultimately empowers her. I think Grace is nudged into greatness (or at least the pursuit of greatness) by the women around her: a best friend who provides Grace inexhaustible support and understanding; a client who believes in Grace’s legal skills so completely that she puts her life in Grace’s hands; and a mentor who draws the “spark” of ambition out of Grace by any means necessary.
Other Than Honorable gives you a glimpse of what it feels like to be a woman in two predominantly male professions: the military and the law. I don’t know anything about the military, but I know the law.
In college and law school, female students are actually the majority (if only by a small percentage). But once you enter the practice of law, fewer and fewer of your colleagues are women. And even fewer of your bosses. You enter a court room full of men and feel conspicuous. It can make even the most extroverted litigator insecure. It can make you question whether you belong. Whether you can keep up. Whether you should speak up.
Obviously everyone is different. I have spoken with female attorneys who have had very different experiences and very different reactions to their experiences. So I do not claim to be asserting universal truths. I’m only sharing my experience. And even I, a person who could easily earn the superlative of “most extroverted litigator,” have felt out of place in this profession. The best antidote I’ve found is the support of other women attorneys.
Forget whatever you think you know about women in the workplace. In my experience, I have been flocked by supportive female colleagues and mentors since day one. (I would be remiss if I did not mention that I also have many supportive male colleagues and mentors.) They give me friendship, advice, encouragement, and even the dreaded “constructive criticism.”
In Other Than Honorable, Grace has to overcome a number of personal and professional challenges. Not all of them relate to the fact that she is a young woman in two predominantly male professions, though I think you can argue that at least some of Grace’s troubles are exacerbated by that fact. The joy in what is an otherwise very sobering play comes from watching Grace receive friendship, advice, encouragement, and—yes—even a little criticism from the women around her. It empowers Grace, it empowers me, and I hope it empowers generations of women to come.