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Louisville play centers complexities of femme identities and friendships

Every Betty is unique in her own way, but that doesn't mean they can't learn and grow from each other.
Mind’s Eye Theatre Company
Every Betty is unique in her own way, but that doesn't mean they can't learn and grow from each other.

“Collective Rage: A Play Five Betties,” a production from Mind’s Eye Theatre Company, unpacks the many ways women can move through the world. It opens Friday at Highview Arts Center.

Meet Betty One through Five. Five women with the same name but very different backgrounds all learning from each other.

They’re the stars of a play opening Friday at Highview Arts Center. Kelley Brady, the play’s director, said the show follows the Betties on a journey of self-discovery.

“What does love and change look to them? How [do] they present to the outside world? And how do they see themselves? How do they work on that within themselves? And how do they work on that with others in their circle?” Brady said.

She said despite the play’s title, it reaches beyond feminine anger.

“To me, it's more of a rom-com,” Brady said. “It's more of a love story within finding the love within yourself and how you're going to use that to spread that love and friendship and community to others.”

Brady said it’s key that women and femme-presenting folks are given space on stage to be shown in their totality.

“I think it's important to be able to have plays and writings that show the human form regardless of femme-presenting, male-presenting, I think it's more important that there are writings that allow you to explore what that looks like,” Brady said. “It's a safe place to explore what that looks like. And there's no right or wrong way. There's just how you see yourself growing as a person.”

As the cast of Betties has developed their characters in rehearsal, some have discovered things about themselves.

“This is way out of my comfort zone, mostly has to do with some of the colorful language used,” said Anna Francis.

Francis plays Betty Two, a religious woman who finds herself grappling with desires that seem not to align with her spiritual morals.

The inner battle leads to a seismic shift in the character over the course of the play.

“The way my character starts is one far extreme. My character ends at the opposite extreme. And I have always been smack in the middle of both of those. So it's been fun stretching from one side to the other and seeing how far I can stretch it,” Francis said.

Mind’s Eye board member Nina Espinueva plays Betty Five, a more masculine-presenting lesbian character.

“It was fun for me to explore androgyny in myself, because I personally identify as a cis-woman,” Espinueva explained. “Playing with gender roles, not just in the way that I dress, but also in the way that I carry myself is all sorts of interesting and fun and cool.”

Espinueva said the playwright considered diverse representations in the characters, and the company wanted to continue that with the actors in the cast.

“I'm the only person on stage right now that is of color,” Espinueva said. “It's important, at least for me, who identifies as an Asian person, as an immigrant, as a person who is also a woman with children… for someone like me to represent people that look like me on stage anyway.”

“Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties” opens Friday at Highview Arts Center in Louisville’s South End.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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