Campus “Collective Rage” Reading Gives Queer Women’s Stories the Spotlight

By Jilleen Barrett, Features/Managing Editor

The MC Players, Rainbow Jaspers and the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center collaborated on a reading of “Collective Rage: A Play of Five Betties,” a performance which follows five Queer women, all named Betty, as they come to understand and embrace their sexualities.

Maren Kain, a senior communication major, directed this play with Deirdre O’Leary, Ph.D., a professor in the departments of English and music/theater. Kain told The Quadrangle that stories involving Queer women often do not illustrate their journeys the way “Collective Rage” does.

“Gender-queer and female characters are often very one-dimensional,” Kain wrote. “Their stories are often in the background and their journey serves to support the principal narrative of the white male lead.”

Kain feels this is a problem because it means Queer voices aren’t being heard, which leads to Queer audiences feel misrepresented. 

“This show centers these stories of Queer people in a radical way,” she said. “Stories that are sad, and lonely, and sexy, and tragic, and lovely, and so incredibly joyous.”

The Quadrangle spoke with Betty numbers one, three and five just before the show went on: Sophie Ryan, Elliot Babilonia and Caroline Jerrems.

Betty number one, Ryan explained, is a housewife who takes up boxing as a hobby when she finds out her husband is cheating on her. Through boxing, she meets Betty number five.

Ryan got involved with the play through her position as an intern with the LWGRC. She was already familiar with the role, though, as she had read the monologue at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, which she used to compete for an award she had been nominated for through their annual program.

 “I thought it was hilarious, super well-written, it has its moments of being completely irreverent but it’s also really sincere and earnest and sweet at points,” Ryan said.

The play reading was coordinated in only three weeks. Jerrems said because they were able to read from the script during the performance, it wasn’t too hard to put together, and it gave them the opportunity to be more creative with their stylistic choices.

“We did a table read and then just started working on blocking bit by bit and then we just had a couple of lengthy rehearsals this week,” Jerrems said. “It’s not very hard because we don’t have to memorize the script so we can get more free and try a bunch of different readings of it, you know?”

Betty number three — played by the Rainbow Jaspers’ freshman representative Elliot Babilonia — is an aspiring actress who is very aware of who she is and who she wants to be. 

Babilonia shared they were very nervous to take on the role of a woman because they are a transgender man. However, they also felt compelled to take on the role because of how much they relate to the character’s questioning of her sexuality. They saw this as an opportunity to use their own experiences to explore Betty number three’s story.

“I kind of felt like I shouldn’t limit myself … simply because I’m a boy, I shouldn’t feel limited to only playing male roles,” Babilonia said. “Like I do want to audition and try something else that isn’t in my comfort zone.”

Ryan pointed out that stories like all five of the Betty’s stories might be slightly more common today, but they are still not talked about enough, which is exactly why Kain wanted to direct this play in the first place.

“I think this is a play that is not comfortable,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of bad language. It talks about, you know, sex, it talks about female anatomy a lot, and I think a lot of times … those conversations are still swept under the rug a lot and not encouraged to be talked about and so I think you can’t really get away from it.”