Teenage girls can find it difficult to navigate high school. However, if faced with unplanned pregnancy, finding unconventional solutions may be the best option.
The Hippodrome Theater, as a part of its The Hipp Unplugged: A Staged Reading Series, debuts its one-night reading of “Dry Land” on Monday, Feb. 6, at 6 p.m.
Ruby Rae Spiegel created the play.
Ella Romaine, a student at the University of Florida’s College of Theatre and Dance, takes on the leading role of Amy, a 17-year-old high schooler in Florida, who is desperate for an abortion in her high school’s locker room.
“I think this a really important story that is so much bigger than me,” Romaine said.
According to Romaine, the play ultimately focuses on the topics of female friendship and having each other’s back during a time of crisis regardless of one’s age.
The play begins with Amy and Ester, played by Alina Sunoo, conversing in their high school’s locker room. Romaine reveals to the audience that the girls don’t have a close relationship. Amy is embarrassed by her situation and feels too ashamed to seek the help of one of her closest friends.
As the characters share a traumatic moment in the locker area, the atmosphere quickly shifts to reviewing flashcards and preparing for a presentation.
Given Romaine’s experience growing up as a teenager in Florida and her proximity in age to her character, she says the play tackles a human experience that everyone has lived through in some form of personal crisis.
This is Romaine’s first production with the Hippodrome alongside University of Florida professor and “Dry Land” director Michelle Bellaver.
Bellaver, a Hippodrome company maker, dug into the script of “Dry Land” during a script analysis course she taught in spring 2022.
“I knew this play was very special,” she said,” and what I noticed was how much the undergraduate students really connected to the story and how much it affected them. It is not that often you get plays that feel like they’re written for young women in their perspective.”
It will take place at the Hippodrome cinema, as the script reading is part of the play. In preparation for the play’s February 6th showing, actors began rehearsals on Sunday.
Bellaver stated that the actors are given a week to prepare and get clear on the story. Bellaver and the actors don’t have the usual four to 5 weeks to prepare for the show so they must trust their instincts and their talents.
Bellaver said she has no doubts that the audience will react positively to “Dry Land.” In addition to the season subscribers who have been attending shows in the 50 years that the Hippodrome has been established, she believes that this show will bring in a new crowd of people who have never attended a show at the Hippodrome.
Olivia Bradshaw, The Hipp Unplugged’s stage manager, stated that the staged reading will include basic elements such as projection, lighting and sound cues. The stage reading is the main focus, in order to give importance to the young characters as well as the abortion scene.
“We are respectful to the stage reading while still making those enhancements so the audience can really get invested,” she said.
According to Bradshaw, The Hipp Unplugged was developed to enhance minorities’ opportunities and allow the Hippodrome the experiment on more controversial topics with their audiences.
“It’s Florida, and it’s abortion,” Bradshaw said. “It’s kind of dipping our toe into the community and saying: How many people are going to show up? And can we do this full-fledged in the future?”
“Dry Land” is the second show of The Hipp Unplugged series. There will be two more to follow, including “Really,” debuting on March 20 and a second show in June still to be announced.
According to the Hippodrome website, “Dry Land” may not be suitable for people under the age of 16 due to mature content and strong language.
Tickets for all ages will cost $10 and can be purchased online at Hippodrome or at the box office from February 6.
“We need to start introducing these topics to our audiences,” Bradshaw said. “We are not hiding anything. The content is graphic, and the intention is to give the audience a fresh perspective. The author makes it clear through the script that the last few scenes are meant to be exposed graphically though it may make the audience uncomfortable.”
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