Drowning Ophelia

FULL-LENGTH PLAY. Jane doesn’t know what to do with the literary character who has taken up residence in her bathtub. She doesn’t want Ophelia interrupting the obsessive order of her life with obnoxious songs about death and valentines. She doesn’t want Ophelia disrupting her relationship with Edmund, the oddly charming actor who might show up for dinner in a suit…or a suit of armor. And she most definitely...
FULL-LENGTH PLAY. Jane doesn’t know what to do with the literary character who has taken up residence in her bathtub. She doesn’t want Ophelia interrupting the obsessive order of her life with obnoxious songs about death and valentines. She doesn’t want Ophelia disrupting her relationship with Edmund, the oddly charming actor who might show up for dinner in a suit…or a suit of armor. And she most definitely doesn’t want Ophelia stirring up memories of a brother she would rather forget. But Ophelia doesn’t care about what Jane wants so much as what she needs. As Jane’s past intrudes dangerously on her present, it becomes clear that Ophelia is not simply a character from "Hamlet," but a long-forgotten messenger with a question from Jane’s own troubled mind: How do you move on when reconciliation is not an option?

"Drowning Ophelia" is a dark comedy performed in one act about the long-term consequences of childhood abuse, and a love letter to those who have suffered. There is always hope.
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Drowning Ophelia

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  • Nick Malakhow:
    2 Nov. 2020
    A powerful, moving, funny, theatrical piece that examines trauma and sexual abuse in a way that only theater can. The figure in the tub is a direct, potent, and inventive extended metaphor for Jane's processing of her trauma, and the way the piece winds back and forth through time and space builds tension and suspense. From a designer's, actor's, and director's perspective, there is so much to do here! Even as she weaves a wholly new contemporary story, Strayer also manages to unpack the legacy of what Shakespeare and history/interpretation have done to Ophelia as well.
  • Toby Malone:
    16 Sep. 2020
    A devastating, beautifully crafted survivor's tale that weaves skilfully between memory and imagination, between thought and action, all supported by a bratty, wilful, wise Ophelia who walks alongside Jane as she wrangles with her trauma and survivor's guilt. Brilliantly intense and thoughtful, this play brings the trauma of survival to the fore and offers no easy answers or resolutions. Wonderful work.
  • David Hansen:
    13 Apr. 2020
    Strayer's "Drowning Ophelia" is a survivor's tale, of a woman's journey to rise above the brokenness and betrayal one feels when abused by a beloved family member, one whose departure makes confrontation impossible. Ophelia never had the opportunity to confront her abuser, and so Hamlet gets to move forward feeling as though he got something wrong and feel bad about it. Strayer's protagonist also grapples to attain peace through action, fighting madness, and we're left to hope that she some day will. It is a strong narrative, poetically rendered, and I would be thrilled to one day experience a production.

Character Information

  • Ophelia
    Ageless but child-like,
    Female
    At first sight, Ophelia appears to be straight out of Shakespeare's HAMLET, and her language reflects this. She is child-like, but purposeful in all she says and does. She very much cares about all the characters in the play, and wishes more than anything to communicate what is troubling her, so it might be resolved.
  • Jane
    18-45,
    Female
    Jane is a bit obsessive and a tad on edge. She likes to stay in control of her surroundings, even so far as to hire someone who will play romantic roles with her, while staying at a safe, non-personal distance. She is aware of Ophelia at all times and her greatest goal is to keep Ophelia contained in her bathtub where she belongs. Jane needs to grieve two great losses in her life, but is desperate not to face them at all.
  • Edmund
    18-49,
    Male
    Edmund is an actor, equal parts charm and awkwardness. He genuinely likes Jane, but is troubled by her outbursts. He is minimally aware of Ophelia, and will attempt to ignore her for Jane's benefit. He's nice, but ill-equipped to handle what's happening in Jane's life.
  • Adam
    20-49,
    Male
    Adam is devastatingly likable, at least in his interactions with Ophelia. He is fun and funny and loving...until he isn't. With Jane, he can vacillate between brash and distant, tense and nonchalant. Adam should be able to make the audience fall in love with him, until her breaks their hearts.

Development History

  • Reading
    ,
    Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble
    ,
    2012
  • Reading
    ,
    Wilkes University at the Drama Book Shop
    ,
    2010

Production History

  • University
    ,
    University of Idaho
    ,
    2019
  • Community Theater
    ,
    Gaslight Theatre Company
    ,
    2016
  • Fringe
    ,
    Ensemble Atria & Eager Risk Theater
    ,
    2016
  • Professional
    ,
    Repurposed Theatre
    ,
    2013