Overtones by Alice Gerstenberg is considered the earliest example of a play that dramatizes the subconscious on stage. A psychological drama exploring the psyche of two women, as they appear to each other and their inner selves as they really are. Director Bianca Bonino explored the humor in the text and this production of Overtones is appropriately funny, witty and dramatic.

Directed by Bianca Bonino

Featuring Stephanie Cowton, Sarah Purdue, Celia Finter and Shannon Dooks

Stage Construction: Stefan von Reiche
Set Design:
Bianca Bonino, Stefan von Reiche
Production Manager & Props:
Rachel Jordan

Video footage & Editing: Bianca Bonino
Stefan von Reiche, Bianca Bonino

Video playback & Sound: Rachel Jordan
Make Up:
Cast & Gemma Nichols (for Stephanie Cowton)
Hair Design:
Cast & Gemma Nichols (for Stephanie Cowton)

6 SHOWS: 29th / 30th / 31st May /5th / 6th / 7th June

Photo Credit: Stefan von Reiche for The Archway 1 Theatre Company. Copyright The Archway 1 Theatre Company. All Rights Reserved.


Overtones Director Bianca Bonino discusses the play…

“Overtones is a short, innovative play written by Alice Gerstenberg in 1916. Gerstenberg dramatizes the conflict between the constructed persona that almost every woman is compelled to create to conceal her true personality and her deepest hidden passions and desires. Society has used all sorts of medium to ‘educate’ women on their domestic roles. The scholastic system, the entertainment business and the advertisement industry are just few of the many medium that productively conjoin (and conjure) to indoctrinate women. From very early in life we are guided to succumb to the stereotypical binary gender division, designed to make feel both, male and female, comfortable with a set of rules that will eventually cage us into socially acceptable roles. Alice Gerstenberg plays with the concept of the conscious and subconscious mind, displaying the constant and secret dialogue that goes on incessantly within the protagonists mind.

At approximately the same time in which Alice Gerstenberg wrote Overtones, the Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello took to the stage his critique on modern society and the hypocrisy of constructed social masks. The play I directed last year Man, Beast and Virtue is one of many that tackles this issue. Pirandello makes the protagonist Professor Paolino say: To be polite and to be well educated means to be a hypocrite. Inside it is black as crows, on the outside it is white as doves. Inside lays venom, outside lays sugar.’’ He focused his critique on the ‘mask’ we are wearing. Compared to him Alice Gerstenberg dares to go one step further as she displays not just the constant conflict between human being and their ‘masks’, but between the ‘selves’: the ‘cultured self’, and the ‘primitive self’.

Overtones gives us an opportunity to look at what Gerstenberg calls the ‘cultured woman’. In order to bring the experience closer to our perception it seemed natural to shift the play setting from 1916’s to the late 1950’s the time in which the consumerism began the systematic brain washing process of transforming regular citizens into masses of consumers, infusing into generations of young women (but not only them) new desires, new needs, imposing new, and in most cases, un-achievable role models.

Female stereotypes depicted in Overtones may be irrelevant today, but we should still seriously question what it means to ‘act like a girl’ in order to identify as such. The ‘gender issue’ is currently being discussed at all levels of society, provoking defiance against the established conservative system of today. Alice Gerstenberg cheerfully and humorously opens the way to this inquiry: what would YOU do if your child or you were told to ‘act like a girl’?”      Bianca Bonino, Director Overtones