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the "bad" woman

queerifying the classic canon, and examining "the difficult woman"

by John Pielmeier

directed by Riley Elton McCarthy

William J. Bordeau Blackbox,

Marymount Manhattan College,

December 2019

agnes of god


While studying at Marymount Manhattan College, there was a brief time in my career that I was a triple major: BFA Acting, BA Playwriting, and BA Directing. I dropped the Directing major despite completing most course work when my university pivoted to Zoom for the COVID-19 pandemic, feeling strongly that I did not want one of my theses to be a zoom production directing a piece that wasn't my own. Before the pandemic hit, my first Directing Project at Marymount was Agnes of God, starring Willow Wilson, Mick Gorley, and Remy Kulp, beloved collaborators.

It was here, developing this version of Agnes of God, I first intersected unconventional lighting with my directorial approach, especially to horror. While I would classify Agnes of God as a psychological thriller rather than outright terror, we utilized fake blood capsules for the stigmata, and brought our audience into a thrust stage where the actors were intimately close-quarters. I handed every audience member a small LED candle, and the lighting design was only cell phone flashlight, which I operated alone. This created sharp and interesting shadows, and forced perspective that interested me creatively. 

I received a wonderful (albeit brief) exchange with John Pielmeier about changing the first name and pronouns of Dr. Livingstone to accommodate Mick's nonbinary identity, the theme of assigned female at birth individuals succumbing to the roles they play within this world, whether consciously or not, was something I was interested in interrogating and exploring. Agnes of God, ultimately, is about the suppression and oppression of women, and how we define women into subjugated roles, and how religion has created societal gender norms, and how they are subverted. Agnes of God makes a testament both for and against the existence of God against womanhood, and with my southern upbringing in the bible belt, I was curious about how this play ultimately humanizes and textures these women, and especially humanizes Agnes against all odds of her mental illness. I was not interested in an Agnes that sought to answer the questions about the baby, but an Agnes that was a woman who had been denied the educational and emotional tools to understand her own body in a world where abortion itself is still of varying legality today.

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