On Stage

Invincible Ones

Skating toward a solution

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Although Samantha Cooper didn’t appreciate the cruel remarks the long-bearded heckler who accosted her on a corner of New York City’s East Village was flinging her way, the writer looks back on that moment as being part of the inspiration for her play, Invincible Ones.

“Lines started to come to me,” the Western Washington University graduate says of the aftereffects of the harassment. “I wasn’t sure what form the play would take at first, but I could feel the pace and the energy right away.”

In a successful Indiegogo campaign designed to bring her Columbia University MFA thesis to the stage, Cooper described the play about roller derby culture and a group of 20-something friends who are reeling from their best friend’s death as being “an exploration of the inherent violence and guilt of being a girl in today’s society.”

Lizanne Schader, who’s directing the Invincible Ones for performances taking place Feb. 8-17 at WWU’s DUG Theater, says she thinks the subject matter is important to tackle at a time when men like Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar are being called out for their crimes against women.

“Women are angry,” she says. “We have been angry for a very, very long time, but haven’t been allowed to express it. But in the last year, women have stood and marched and chanted and acted together, which gives us strength and a powerful voice against what is wrong and evil. The women in this play have not yet discovered their individual voices, and it’s easy for us to see the necessity of it for their growth, their healing.

“Without directly referencing any current events—this play was written before the aforementioned men had been called out, but while they were abusing their power—it sizzles with this contemporary topic.” 

While telling the story of women who are tackling life-altering issues such as death and finding their own power, skating also acts as a backdrop representing the internal chaos of the characters, Schader says. Designer Toby Folkert has even come up with the set of an apartment that bleeds into an imagined roller rink track. 

When asked how else the play draws on roller derby culture, Schader says it’s “fast-paced, counterclockwise, extremely physical, even violent at times, loud, relentless, bumpy, crowded, filled with injury and laughter.

“We often ‘skate around’ what we are truly feeling after a death because it would be too devastating to accept the reality of it, but the faster we skate, the harder we work to avoid it, the more important it becomes to express it,” she adds. “I love the fast-paced ‘bout’ feel of the scenes and the way Ms. Cooper breaks up the emotional breakthroughs with unexpected events.”

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