Editor’s note: the following story contains the word b - - - -, as it is a part of the title of the play. If this word is offensive or unappealing to you, please keep that in mind.
Dealing with the social hierarchy and competition among young women in theater departments can be a bitchy situation to be in. Just take it from the Ohio University students starring in the play “macbitches” written by Sophie McIntosh – a New York based playwright.
Devin Franklin, a first-year MFA director’s student, was inspired to use McIntosh’s play for the first-year MFA directors’ projects because of who the play focuses on. Franklin directed “macbitches” for the last time on Thursday.
“I was very fascinated with a story that didn’t center men,” Franklin said. “Being able to have a story that centers young women and femmes really interested me because (there’s) also a female playwright. Sophie McIntosh is incredible … and just showing these young women and femmes in a multi-dimensional light, and specifically them just being disgusting to each other, but having that violence being informed by something larger, which is patriarchy, (is) the main reason I chose this play.”
In “macbitches,” a freshman in a college theater department, Hailey Hudson, is given the role of Lady Macbeth. Some upperclassmen actresses in the department – Piper, Rachel, Lexi and Cam – then invite her over to celebrate, and by celebrating, they intend to wield their veteran status and intimidate Hailey. Alcoholic drinks are poured and, one event after another, the actresses witness their intense passions grow into something dangerous and how this theater hierarchy exposes their – also dangerous – desires for power.
Alina Rosado, a junior studying musical theater, plays Hailey. Rosado said when she read the script, she was intrigued by the story taking place within a theater department.
“Some of the things, having experienced that here, really drew me to the project because I understand how some of these things feel,” Rosado said.
Hailey is first seen talking to Piper during the play when Piper congratulates her on securing the role of Lady Macbeth. Hailey, being the innocent freshman, and Piper, who received the role of Messenger Number One, discuss the excitement for the upcoming performance of “Macbeth.”
Molly Tucker, a senior studying musical theater, plays Piper, who is a sophomore. Piper grew up with religious parents who did not let her watch Disney Channel.
“I think Piper is like the coming of age story,” Tucker said. “She is very ‘Christian girl autumn,’ but in the way where she will be your best friend that you’ve ever met.”
The more drunk Hailey gets throughout the “celebration,” Piper becomes the only one out of the girls who is seen taking care of her. Although Piper is also annoyed by Hailey being Lady Macbeth, she never attempts to cut off her hair, which another one of the “friends,” Rachel, attempts to do near the end of the play.
While the five girls sit in a college apartment, they converse passive aggressively, with awkward-yet-hilarious pauses occuring after these comments. At this time, it also becomes clear who wields the most power: Rachel, who was given the role of First Witch. Melissa Levine, a sophomore studying acting, plays Rachel, a senior in college who ensures everyone knows how talented of an actor she is.
“She has to be in control,” Levine said. “Because if she is not, she is nothing.”
The tension grows in the apartment the more shots of vodka Hailey takes. During a drinking game, Hailey suggests that everyone should perform a monologue from Lady Macbeth and strongly encourages Rachel to perform a piece for the group. Rachel aggressively goes into character and Hailey joins in the monologue as the battle of the Lady Macbeths unfolds.
Piper suggests she gets a boy who lives nearby, Connor, to help take Hailey back to her dorm. Lexi accuses Piper that she wants to ask for Connor’s help because of a crush she has on him. Eventually, Lexi texts Connor about Piper, which prompts him to text her, leading to Piper’s departure from the apartment.
Logan Clark, a junior studying acting, plays Lexi, a senior in college who is the closest with Rachel and was cast as Lady Macduff. Lexi, along with the other upperclassmen girls, feel the theater department treats them unfairly in the roles they get casted as. When Lexi’s mom died, she confessed to the group that Eric, one of the department’s professors who Rachel is infatuated with, pushed her too hard during rehearsals of another show.
“I think Lexi is a strong and powerful and driven woman who’s incredibly driven to succeed,” Clark said.
After Rachel and Piper leave to get blankets for Hailey, who they insisted stay the night and is currently asleep, Piper and Cam have a bonding moment that is Aliyah Graham’s, a senior studying interdisciplinary arts, favorite part of the show. Graham describes her character Cam as a “funny, loud, complicated (and) caring person.” Throughout the play, it is clear Cam, similar to the rest of the girls, has insecurities from not being cast for roles she wants – a similar problem Piper deals with. Cam was given the role of Gentlewoman.
“Cam has so many emotions bubbling up to the surface on the inside, like internally the whole time,” Graham said. “This scene (between Piper and Cam) really does challenge me and took a lot of work to get there and really be able to express that. Also just having that friendship between Cam and Piper like and you kind of see the love there like the history there and it’s a really beautiful scene.”
Cam leaves to use the bathroom after drinking too much and Rachel whispers to Lexi about a plan. The two of them also leave while Hailey is still asleep on the couch. All of a sudden, loud and unsettling sounds begin playing and trippy patterns appear on the walls as the lights turn red. Hailey awakens to the sounds and begins to freak out by the absence of the girls and the creepiness of it all.
Rachel reappears with scissors and begins threatening to cut Hailey’s hair, asking her how she even got the role as Lady Macbeth. Lexi begins to hold Hailey back as she screams for help. It all comes crashing down when Rachel implies she has a relationship with Eric, who has been responsible for casting the students in shows. A showdown between Rachel and Lexi begins and Lexi blames Rachel for receiving preferential treatment.
“My favorite part, I like all of it, but it’s probably the confrontation between Rachel and Lexi at the very, very end,” Levine said. “That for me is the most I think I let go in that direction the entire show because the whole thing is Rachel maintaining control. It’s gorgeous and it’s fun and it’s terrible.”
With scissors still in hand, Rachel, in the heat of the moment, stabs Lexi in the eye. Cam enters the scene again and Hailey calls an ambulance. Although Lexi was just stabbed in the eye, she screams and questions how she will ever be able to act again. In reassurance, Rachel says she is a great actor.
Rachel is then left alone as the other girls take Lexi outside. In that apartment and with some blood on her face, Rachel gives her best performance yet with a chaotic and scary laugh.
Although it was the closing show of “macbitches” at OU, the show’s message leaves a lasting impact, especially for those who can relate to the competitiveness of their respective professional fields, and especially in regard to theater.
“I think one of the scariest things about this play was me relating to it so much and realizing, ‘oh, this is how it is at every school theater program,’” Tucker said. “At the same time … the final pages feel to me, the more I experienced it, like a call to action. The more time I’ve spent with it, the more it’s really sat with me and made me want to scream it from the rooftops because I think it’s very impactful.”