The Cottey College Department of Theatre presents Decision Height by Meredith Dayna Levy on Friday and Saturday, November 5 and 6, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, November 7, at 3 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Haidee and Allen Wild Center for the Arts in Nevada, Missouri.
The play is a historical drama that follows a group of women who, during World War II, leave their conventional world to train for the Women Air Force Service Pilots program (WASPS), in Sweetwater, Texas.
Director Laura Chaney said about the play, “As a director at a women’s college, I am always searching for plays that have strong female protagonists and to which our students can hopefully relate to as well as learn from. This play provided the opportunity for the students to do both! This is a story about women fulfilling roles that were reserved for men and soaring both literally and figuratively to heights that were not previously available to women in the 1940s.”
The play provides historical context to the women Air Force pilots program that was established during World War II, on August 5, 1943. During World War II, 1,074 women served in the Women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs. The WASPs completed a rigorous training program at Avenger Field in Texas, and then served in non-combat military missions across the US during the war, such as ferrying planes from factories to bases and flight-testing aircraft. The WASPS flew a total of 60 million miles performing a variety of missions. Although these women flew military aircraft, they were considered civilians, and were not granted military benefits or burials. From 1943 to 1944, 38 WASPs died in service to their country. Referring to themselves as “Avenger Girls,” the Women Air Force Service Pilots were superheroes of aviation. They were the first women to fly for the US military, paving the way for women to serve equally in the US Air Force.
These sisters, in flight suits, left their homes to pursue opportunities to serve their country and to do something women had never done before. This play is about their reasons for joining, often against the will of their families, and the impact their decision had on their immediate lives and futures.
Chaney added, “Our students relate to these women as they pursue their own dreams and ambitions. Having traveled far from home to pursue their own ambitions, many students understand that they are also reaching for the stars.”
One such student was Dora Dougherty Strother. Strother was one of the first women accepted into the WASP program during WWII. She attended Cottey from 1939-1942 and spent her allowance to take flight lessons at the Nevada airport during her time at Cottey. Dora set two world flight records for Rotorcraft in altitude and distance from 1961 until 1966 when they were broken. She was the sixth female in the U.S. to earn an Airline Transport Certificate. She was the 27th woman in the free world to earn a helicopter rating. She was a recipient of the Amelia Earhart Award for academic achievement and was an inductee in the Military Aviation Hall of Fame. In 1966, she was awarded the Achievement Award by the American Association of University Women. Strother was a 1987 inductee to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. Strother was also a Whirly-Girl, serving as President of the organization from 1979-1981, and a member of the Ninety-Nines.”
Tickets will be available at the door the days of performances. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for those under age 18 or over age 62. Audience members are required to wear masks inside the Center for the Arts.
The Center for the Arts is on the northeast corner of Austin and Tower streets in Nevada, Missouri.