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Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Senior debuts one-woman show “Smile Sweetie”

Photo by Brynn Rees
Senior Madison Downing performs original one-woman show “Smile Sweetie” in the JVH auditorium.

Sometimes, you have to let it all out by screaming into your pillow.


This is a concept presented by senior Madison Downing in her piece, “Smile Sweetie.” Downing walked the audience through her “fully fictional” tribulations of relationships, growing up and girlhood. 


Her lighthearted standup comedy routines, hilarious reenactments and captivating stories combined to create a piece that left some audience members in tears and others in laughter. 


Downing is a senior theatre arts major and the artistic director for Bridges Theatre Company. “Smile Sweetie” acted as her senior capstone, but the piece’s concept was born from a class project that was assigned to Downing last year.


The original assignment was to interview someone and create a short piece about it. Downing chose to interview her best friend from home, which inspired her to create “The List” – one of the foundational moments of “Smile Sweetie.”


Downing presented this list at the beginning of the piece. It was a heartbreaking yet realistic checklist of “how women should behave and be,” according to Downing. 


Building upon this list, Downing shared stories of her past boyfriends and how they treated her repeatedly. She spoke about her fears and how societal expectations can affect people as they progress through their teenage years.


Throughout the piece, Downing took a knife and ripped into a pair of jeans, representing her pain and anger. 


The fast-paced piece walked the audience through an accurate representation of adolescence. Downing shows how sometimes the only way you can cope is by burying your head into a pillow and screaming. 


She also demonstrated how strong a woman can be and how difficult it can be to rise above heartache.


“I love hearing people say how it made them feel and hearing that they related to it because even though it’s so specific to me and me telling my story,” Downing said. “It’s so universal in the sense that everybody was watching still, had a chance to pull something from it for their own life.”


Downing interacted directly with the audience throughout the piece, as she invited several audience members on stage, asked attendees certain questions, and even threw Squishmallows into the crowd.


Downing reflected on her creation process while writing “Smile Sweetie.”


“I’ve always gravitated towards expressing art in ways that [come from] from past experiences,” Downing said. “And so then finding that, it’s like taking those experiences and then putting them into something, it made it a way [to] heal a lot from this whole experience.”


The night closed with tears and many hugs. Downing ended the piece wearing the jeans that she had ripped up throughout the show. 


“Smile Sweetie” was performed on March 16-17 in the JVH Auditorium.

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