Kelsey is a Chicago based producer, actor, writer, critic, and mixologist. An alum of Black Box Acting’s ACADEMY Program, Kelsey curates “The Newness,” a monthly salon of new work. They also work closely with Trans Voices Cabaret Chicago as well as Chicago Theatre Access Auditions. Follow them on Insta! @playsandpours, @kelseylooks
Pictured: Photo by PAUL GOYETTE
FOR THE LOVE OF (OR, THE ROLLER DERBY PLAY), presented by Pride Films and Plays, is a world premiere; it is a close look into one woman’s life and her “courage to reboot.” We follow Joy Ride through a personal evolution and her exploration of love. She begins solely as a response to the world around her, but finds her voice and her wings in the derby rink.
“In an era when women’s rights and autonomy are threatened, I am thrilled for PFP to present For the Love Of. Femia’s superb writing, diverse all-female cast of characters, and representation of contemporary queer women is anchored in Joy’s journey of realizing she has authority, confidence, and passion to find fulfillment in herself. This play is one hell of a ride in which we see that love and roller derby are both contact sports.” PFP’s Artistic Director, Nelson Rodriguez, speaks the truth with this sentiment. The most fascinating component of playwright Gina Femia’s work is the alive interplay of love that moves through Joy as the play progresses. We can readily relate to Joy’s levels of discovery.
Joy’s story is surrounded by, and exclusively involves, women; this is what makes this play so marvelous. The work’s intentional representation and characterization of women on stage is refreshing and important. Further, PFP made it a point to cast female actors of all different body types and ethnicities. While the playwright doesn’t require thorough diversity in casting, PFP demanded it and followed through. It’s an example for how theaters should operate in 2017, reflecting the inclusivity of contemporary stories.
The spaces they inhabited were intimate: the locker room, a hospital room, a shared apartment, the rink. And on stage, we are introduced to female relationships that were not sexualized and to some relationships that were. The reality of each is often glossed over in the media so as not to offend the male gaze. Female pleasure derived from anyone or thing other than a man is a rarity. We see women kissing. We see women sweating and happy. We see women with bruises as battle wounds. We see women in love and in loss. We see their most vulnerable moments. We see them on a team and in their silences. Here, women, with personality. A “novel” idea. Scenic design by Elyse Balogh created an an alley set up, compelling the audience to look at each other and allowing the players to fill the stage in between.
What made this show “alive” was the energy of the all-star ensemble. In PFP’s new space, this spirit is felt at close range. Playfully directed by Rachel Edwards Harvith, the company uses passionate movement to indicate time passing, hearts joining, and derby. Sparks of conversation easily flickered to flame and rolled off the tongue. Each woman was herself. She had their own vernacular and her own story to tell. Despite the occasional lack of character development, it is apparent there was love in cultivating these roles and uplifting these women’s stories. Through the hard artistic work of empathy and asking questions, boldly embodying these women and their circumstances, PFP gives this work wings.
See this show for some badass women and inspiration from the roller rink.