Salem College Pierrettes will be putting on a dark romantic comedy, running Oct. 3-6, bringing together five very different New Yorkers expressing their love, rage, and passions together through the art of theatre (or as they call “the thea-tah!”). The five characters— all named Betty, each come from distinct backgrounds but together discover the intersecting struggles they face.
The play, “Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties,” is a contemporary feminist piece written by playwright Jen Silverman first performed in 2016. It has been lauded by critics, with Jesse Green from The New York Times saying “If you’re wondering whether you’ll enjoy the revolution […] ‘Collective Rage’ makes an excellent (and hilarious) test case.”
With its unflinching and diverse portrait of women, “Collective Rage” draws similarities to “The Vagina Monologues”, a play by Eve Ensler that is performed annually by Salem College in February. Both plays feature women who are celebrating their lives and raging against the oppression they grapple with daily. Sexuality takes center stage in “Collective Rage”, with characters ranging from high femme to stone butch lesbians, bisexual and non-binary characters.
The story follows five different Betty’s, all grappling with their interpersonal problems brought together to put on a rendition of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Betty 1, played by Natalie Patterson, is an embittered socialite unhappy with her husband and her life.
Cailey Neuschaefer plays Betty 2, a naïve and lonely woman in an empty relationship with a rich man.
Betty 3, played by Jordan Wallen, is an openly bisexual, no-nonsense and promiscuous woman trying desperately to excel despite coming from poverty. Kristin Draper plays
Betty 4, a queer woman who finds herself trapped as the people around her change while she wants everything to stay the same.
Betty 5, played by M.K. Thompson is a non-binary person recently out of rehab for alcoholism who’s obsessed with their truck and runs a hole-in-the-wall boxing gym.
Neuschaefer, Betty 2 and president of the Pierrettes said that on paper, the play can seem nonsensical but, “It’s not meant to be read, it’s meant to be experienced. It speaks so much to finding where you belong as a woman, whether you were born a woman or identify as one.”
Maggie Ryals, stage manager for the play, described the production side of the play as “very minimalistic and meta,” rejecting complex set design in favor of simplistic prop usage. Ryals said two of the characters, Betty 4 and 5, have trucks, but the trucks are constructed of black benches and creeper seats to give the allusion of a vehicle. The aesthetic choice, said Ryals, is to “allow the actors to really shine and be the focal point for the scenes.”
Backstage crew includes Augusta Graham and Penny Dow; Holli Burroughs is the narrator. Jennifer Jellicourse is the director and Tab Barker is the scene and light designer.
The play’s message will resonate deeply with Salem students, said Neuschaefer. “I feel like a lot of us are feeling collective rage right now.”
While the play hones in on this anger, it’s also comedy-packed and ultimately gives a positive outlook on the world. “It’s about finding a healthy way out of this rage, and knowing everything will be okay,” Neuschaefer said.
The production will be in the Drama Workshop located in the Elberson Fine Arts Center, Oct. 3-5 at 8 PM and Oct. 6 at 2 PM. Tickets are $5 for students with a Salem ID, $7 for outside students with ID and $10 general admission. For any information about the production, contact the Pierrettes at email@example.com.