MC Players Bleed The Secretaries: A Lumberjack-feared Staged-Reading

Angelica Niedermeyer, Features Editor and Jocelyn Visnov, Editor-in-Chief

The Manhattan College Players performed a bloody and hilarious staged-reading of “The Secretaries” by The Five Lesbian Brothers, a satirical ‘period piece’ about a cult of five secretaries in a mill town that gather monthly to murder lumberjacks. 

The audience sat in Hayden 100, intimately facing the cast of eight in folding chairs, with music stands and their script books on Friday night. All came together to share some spooky and sapphic moments of live theater, just in time for the Halloween season. 

Directors Teresa Nunan, senior English major, and associate professor of English Deirdre O’Leary Ph.D., and stage manager Annie Brennan, managed the cast and crew during the two weeks of rehearsals leading up to their one night show.

“The Secretaries”, which was first performed at MC 7 years ago, is Nunan’s directorial debut.  Nunan pointed out to The Quadrangle that “The Secretaries” was included in the syllabus of her freshman English class, the intersectionality of feminism, taught by O’Leary. 

 “Out of everything I read as an English major, it just stood out… like out there,” said Nunan with a laugh. “It’s a timely and genuinely really funny show. Obviously it’s unique that they murder people when their periods sync up.”

According to Nunan, the show represents LGBTQ+ theater that really matters. She emphasizes that it has also been fun to play around with well known women in horror tropes. She shared some insights learned during her independent work study on subversive parody theater.

“The Secretaries” is in this realm of plays from this time that took stereotypes of different groups and put them on stage so people could see how ridiculous their ideas are– like saying women are monsters on their period.”

The staged reading included a cast of all women plus English major Colin Sweeney who read for Buzz Benikee and Ron Kembunksher. After rehearsing for only three weeks prior to the performance, the group read their lines on stage with just props, blocking, sound effects, occasional music and of course, lots of fake blood accompanying them. 

Junior Annie Brennan was asked to be stage manager for the production, running lights, music and sound. 

“It’s a staged reading about secretaries at a lumberyard, and when their periods sync up, bad things happen,” Brennan said. “I’m basically just kind of running the tech side of it, and being able to support the actors and make sure everything goes smoothly.”

The dramatic reading concluded with an abundance of fake blood, blood curdling screaming and a murderous ritual to Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do”. 

After the show, The Quadrangle spoke with lead secretary ‘Patty’, sophomore Maggie Knapp digital media art major, to hear about her exciting role and what it’s like to be in a stage reading.

“It was so fun,” said Knapp. “This is actually my second staged-reading. Last fall semester, I was in The Five Betties, so I am familiar with it. But, it’s just so exciting and it’s a low maintenance way to still be able to participate in theater for everyone.”

Among the packed auditorium was MC alum Christine Nolan, class of 2016, who directed a staged reading of “The Secretaries” while she was a senior herself. 

“I was doing an independent study with Dr. O’Leary and I got really into it,” Nolan said. “I was actually exploring my own coming out. So like, The Five Lesbian Brothers were something I really gravitated towards.” 

Nolan noted that when she was director, it was the first time the play had ever been performed for an audience at MC.

“In 2016 it hadn’t been done before on campus, so there was a lot of red tape but it’s really progressed well,” she said. 

Overall, the reading was very well received by the audience. The cast met for a blood-stained photo at the conclusion of the performance.