Open Stage of Harrisburg’s 32nd season focuses on women: stories about women, written by women.
The season’s fourth subscription series show, “Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties,” takes that notion to the extreme. Similar to “The Vagina Monologues,” the play explores the complexity, unrealistic expectations, rage, romance and joy that go along with being a woman.
The play follows the interconnected stories of five women, all named Betty Boop, whose lives intersect as they meet through the “theat-ah.” These women all come to realize that they are much more than the sum of their parts—especially that part. “Collective Rage” explores the themes of race, gender, class and sexuality with true emotion and humor.
One unique element of “Collective Rage” is the focus on women, or gender non-conforming actors, in all aspects of the production. Written by Jen Silverman, the cast and director for this production at Open Stage are all women. Karen Ruch, last seen in “A Christmas Carol,” is leading the team of five actors.
“When I first read the script, I was both baffled and moved at the same time, said Ruch. “I hadn’t read anything like this before—having five characters all intended for female actors or gender non-conforming actors, but also just so free and so open and so honest with the way these women talk and explore together.”
Manuela Hooper, who is returning to Open Stage after last appearing in “The Old Settler” in 2003 to play Betty #5, shared that this is her first experience with an all-female cast.
“I feel empowered and excited to be surrounded by these talented, strong women,” said Hooper. “Our director is such a force to be reckoned with in her own right. I am looking forward to growing in this production.”
Amber Wagner, who portrays Betty #2 and who is making her Open Stage debut, agreed, saying that, for her, working with an all-female cast always ends up feeling like a sisterhood.
Audiences coming to see “Collective Rage” should be prepared for something different, but also very real. Life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine, and neither is the play.
“These characters interact in a way that, honestly, could be a little jarring,” said Wagner. “There is brutal honesty mixed in with absolute surface small talk, and it’s so interesting to see how the two affect each other while occupying the same space.”
Hooper feels that is the point of theater—to make you uncomfortable and start a conversation.
“I feel this show does this in the most amazing way,” said Hooper. “I looked forward to the challenge of playing a character so vastly removed from myself.”
With headlines nearly daily on women’s rights, “Collective Rage” is beyond timely—it’s necessary.
“We are living in a tumultuous and divisive time,” said Ruch. “This is the kind of story that I want to see in this incredibly dynamic time. I want to see stories of self-discovery and acceptance. I want to see stories of women growing into their power and not just accepting the definition of their sexuality that has been handed to them.”
“Collective Rage” also features Aneesa Neibauer, Kelly Strange and Amber Zambrana. The play runs April 27 to May 6 with tickets available at www.openstagehbg.com. Please note: It is recommended that guests be at last 14 years old to attend a performance of “Collective Rage.”
UPCOMING THEATER EVENTS
AT HARRISBURG’S PROFESSIONAL
At Gamut Theatre
The Young Acting Company Presents
“The Adventures of Robin Hood”
April 13 to 15
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Doors and bar open one hour prior to performance.
TMI Improv Show
Doors and bar open at 6:30 p.m. and will remain open throughout the event. Performance at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $10.
At Open Stage of Harrisburg
A new play by Annie Baker
March 25 to April 22
At Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg
While sweeping up stale popcorn in a movie house, three employees hold passionate debates about human connection.
“A Shared Pain”
April 6 and 7
A festival of original plays, written by people with chronic physical pain about the experiences living with their illnesses.
“Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties”
April 27 to May 6
Five different women and non-binary people named Betty collide at the intersection of anger, sex and the “thea-tah.”