May the 4th Be With Y’All

“I think female nerds are totally underestimated”

Happy International Star Wars Day – Wednesday, May 4! Get your Star Wars on tonight at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul as glamorous Continental Club barista vets Lisa Taye Cohen and Stephanie Marlar throw an immersive benefit for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas, which is now run by ex-HAAM director Carolyn Schwarz.

Rey/Leia: (l-r) Lisa Taye Cohen and Stephanie Marlar

These ladies have thought of it all: lightsaber fights, an art show, charity raffle, Star Wars cocktails, cosplay contests, a Star Wars music set by homegrown surf instrumentalists Baffles, and Michelle Manx is doing an Oola dance. Star Wars-themed vendors will also be on hand with sweet treats, hair accessories, merchandise, and nail art.

“If the force is strong enough with this event, we’ll make it an annual shindig,” promises Marlar.

Music is instrumental to Star Wars beginning with John Williams’ epic score, recognizable anywhere in this galaxy or the next. Williams’ leitmotif for the original theme song, also known as “Luke’s Theme,” utilizes a cowboy cadence. Star Wars’ score evokes composers Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky.

Cohen’s put together a playlist for tonight with all of the Star Wars music, including the themes for the Old Republic, Princess Leia, Imperial March, Taootine, Jawa, Cloud City, Parade of the Ewoks, Legend of the Sith, and the Death Star.

So the burning question: Do these ladies own lightsabers?

Marlar laughs.

“Duh. It was an anniversary present from my husband.”

Cohen’s still working on it, but she has collectible cards from the original trilogy.

“My prized possession is a Chewbacca figure signed by [actor] Peter Mayhew,” she gushes.

Austin Chronicle: Is there a feminist aspect to Star Wars?

Lisa Taye Cohen: I think female nerds are totally underestimated. Stephanie and I have both been made to feel bad sometimes for our Star Wars obsession. The feminist aspect of Star Wars, in my opinion, is that women can do anything. They can be princesses, pilots, Jedis, politicians, leaders, diplomats, and generals. They can live by their own rules, be strong, and be independent.

Stephanie Marlar: Maybe the feminist aspect is that it’s a non-issue. Princesses can fight the Empire, queens become senators, and so on. The women are just as vital in the whole plot as the men, fighting side by side for the greater good.

AC: What about a feminine aspect to the Force?

LTC: The Force flows through everything. It’s the energy that surrounds us and binds us. For me that reminds me of Mother Nature. That you must respect the Earth, and not take it for granted. There’s a delicate balance that must be nurtured.

SM: I think the Force is more important than gender and based more on balance, which both men and women strive for in their lives. It’s more centralized to the absolute being. The soul of it all, maybe. The feminine side would be the nurturing aspect, which could relate to both the light and dark sides.

AC: How important is gender to the Star Wars story?

LTC: There was a serious lack of Rey toys made, because executives thought Kylo Ren would be the breakout character [from Star Wars: The Force Awakens]. They were shocked that there was such a demand for a strong female character in action figures. Women and girls want toys they can identify with!

SM: It doesn’t seem to be much of an issue in that time and galaxy.

AC: What character would you play in Star Wars?

LTC: I’d have to say Rey. I hate spoilers and don’t even read fan theories, so she’s a mystery. I like the thought of being strong, and a fighter, and discovering that I have powers I never knew about.

SM: R2D2. Through all of the movies, R2D2 is the unsung hero. From opening the trash compactor, to carrying Princess Leia’s message, to finding Luke, he’s always saving the day and saving lives without getting a lot of recognition. And he’s really snarky at times, but rightfully so.

AC: Do you think that Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams is good for Star Wars since he seems interested in bringing strong female characters to the forefront of the story?

LTC: Yes, I do think he is good for Star Wars, but for lots of reasons. Having a kickass woman is just one. Bringing back the feel and look of the original trilogy is another. I felt like a little kid again when I watched The Force Awakens on opening night.

SM: Yes. I think J.J. Abrams gave this new generation of female fans their own Princess Leia. It made me happy to leave the theatre knowing that girls today have such an inspiring character in Rey, like I did as a young girl with Leia.

AC: Who is your favorite character in Star Wars?

LTC: Chewbacca has always been my favorite character. When I had to really think about why, I’d say it’s his loyalty and his empathy. He’s always loyal to Han Solo and to his friends, even going back and fighting for the pieces of a blown apart C3PO. And even though he doesn’t speak English and it can be hard to see his facial expressions, you still know how he feels, from a little chuckle to a cry of pain.

SM: Princess Leia. She’s an unconventional princess. She wasn’t waiting for a prince to save the day. Her world was in imminent danger and she took the bull by the horns by joining and eventually leading the rebellion. When I was a little girl, she was inspirational to me in her bravery and taking matters into her own hands. Leia didn’t do what was necessarily expected of her, only what she expected of herself. It’s a lesson that helped mold me. And Han Solo was my first crush, so there’s that.

AC: Which movie is your favorite?

LTC: Empire Strikes Back. The struggles. The romance. The surprises. It had it all.

SM: Return of the Jedi. As a finale, in a sense, it tied everything together. Good defeated evil and for a small time there was some peace. Luke was able to reach the good side of Anikin and make amends. And with my fondness for the underdog, I fell in love with the Ewoks. They were small in size, but were able to use their resources and wit to conquer the enemy. Which has become somewhat symbolic in my own life.

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