"Drowning Ophelia" Addresses #MeToo Movement
U of I Theatre Arts Presents the Northwest Premiere of Dark Comedy about the effects of Abuse and Trauma
When playwright Rachel Luann Strayer began her first draft of “Drowning Ophelia,” the #MeToo hashtag hadn’t yet went viral and developed into a broad movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault.
But, she felt the story, a fictional account based on experiences from Strayer and her friends, needed to be shared.
“I knew it was important to tell the story of being abused by someone you love and being at war with yourself,” Strayer said.
A one-act, dark comedy, the play receives its northwest premiere at the University of Idaho’s Pocket Playhouse, Sept. 27- Oct 6.
Giving Voice to Victims
Directed by Master of Fine Arts in directing candidate Carly McMinn, “Drowning Ophelia” confronts the long-term consequences of childhood abuse and asks the question: how does one move on when reconciliation is not an option?
McMinn, from Lawrenceville, Georgia, expects the play to spark conversation while it honors the stories of victims.
“We’re at the height of the #MeToo movement.” McMinn said. “There are a lot of people who’ve experienced trauma, people who feel left out and like they don’t have a voice.”
Despite the heavy subject matter, the show also has lighter moments.
“Jane (the protagonist) is trying to explore connecting with others again. There are moments that can be funny, frustrating and silly. Jane revisits hope,” McMinn said.
She and her team collaborated with the Women’s Center and other experts to educate themselves on the issues and emotions that often accompany rape, assault and abuse. McMinn predicts many women will identify with the story, so a victim’s advocate will attend each of the eight performances.
Students from the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences make up the cast of four: Katharine Sonas, Alexa Lamers, Joseph Winder and Rhys Colson with Kalyssa Montoya and Blake Presnell as understudies.
What Consumes Your Mind is What Controls Your Life
Strayer, now 36, was in her 20s when “Drowning Ophelia” found its way to the page. She found writing the ending was a struggle and the original conclusion of forgiveness didn’t ring true.
“It was wish fulfillment,” Strayer said. “I realized it wasn’t about forgiveness. Acceptance was needed before the protagonist can move forward.”
While the writing process was cathartic, Strayer said watching “Drowning Ophelia” come to life on stage is even more rewarding as the audience experiences many emotions.
"Hopefully the audience gains a new understanding of a situation they may not have gone through personally."
About the Playwright
Strayer, who makes her home in Lancaster, Pa, holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. “Drowning Ophelia” is her first full-length play. It received its world premiere production in San Francisco in 2013, followed by east coast productions in Scranton, Pa., and at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2016. She has been a member of the Dramatists Guild since 2015.
Strayer will take part in two post-show discussions after evening performances on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5.
Article by Kelly O'Neill, Department of Theatre Arts
Published September, 2019
Showtimes and Dates
7:30 p.m., Sept. 27, 28, Oct. 3, 4, 5
2 p.m.,Sept. 29, Oct. 5, 6
Pocket Playhouse, 1028 W. 6th Street (Shoup Hall), Moscow. Free parking is located in the Gold and Orange Lots across from Shoup Hall after 5 p.m. and on weekends EXCEPT on home football game days (Oct. 5, 2 p.m. matinee.)
Tickets are free for U of I students and $6 to $17 for the public. All 2 p.m. matinees are “pay what you can” pricing. We accept cash, check and card.
Tickets are available from the Department of Theatre Arts at 208-885-6465 or in Suite 201 of Shoup Hall on the U of I campus; or at the door 30 minutes before curtain. There will be a talkback with the cast and crew immediately following the Sept. 28 and Oct. 5 evening performances.
"Drowning Ophelia" deals with abuse and includes mature content dealing with rape and sexual violence. It includes a simulated sexual assault. An advocate from the University of Idaho Women’s Center, the Counseling Center or Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse will be present at each performance to serve as a support resource if needed.