College of Charleston alumna, actor and playwright Colie McClellan ’10 brought her one-woman show “They Call Me Arethusa” to Piccolo Spoleto this summer with money she raised through a Kickstarter campaign.
The play, which deals with dating and domestic violence against women, was well received in Charleston.
Now, McClellan is taking the show she wrote and co-produced on the road, where she hopes it will raise even more public awareness about the prevalence of the problem.
In the play, McClellan performs a series of monologues based on interviews she conducted with women who have survived partner violence. The performance also includes poetic stories set in the world of the old South, with characters from Greek mythology.
“Each of these Southern/Mythological stories features a woman who experienced some sort of violence herself, and the romanticizing of those myths is deconstructed,” McClellan explains. “Arethusa’s story is the myth that sets the framework for the show.”
McClellan, a member of the 13th generation of the McClellan family that founded the tiny fishing village of McClellanville, S.C., was a double major in classics and theatre in the Honors College at the College of Charleston. She earned a master of fine arts degree in acting from Rutgers University and now resides in New York City.
RELATED: Read a Q&A with Colie McClellan.
Following Piccolo Spoleto, McClellan wrote some new material for her play and took it to Theatre Lab in New York City for a workshop reading. That gave her the opportunity to watch four actresses from the theatre group Stable Cable Lab Co. perform her work.
“I could sit back and listen to the piece as a playwright instead of working as an actor, which definitely takes a different brain,” she says.
An audience of theatre industry professionals provided feedback that McClellan says has strengthened the production in advance of its next big stage: the FringeArts Fringe Festival in Philadelphia from Sept. 5-21, 2014.
McClellan says raising public awareness about the prevalence of partner violence is an important part of her work. She and director and co-producer Mark Kennedy have formed a theatre production and outreach organization in NYC called Arethusa Speaks. The organization is soliciting tax-deductible donations through August 2014 to help fund the upcoming performance in Philadelphia.
As part of the Piccolo Spoleto performance, McClellan organized an open forum in conjunction with My Sister’s House of Charleston, a domestic violence shelter, and provided literature about local resources for victims. She is making similar arrangements for the Philadelphia show.
“We’ve reached out to several women’s centers and shelters in the Philadelphia area, have gotten some good responses and interest, and are looking forward to creating programming with them to complement the show’s time in the community,” she says.