OKLAHOMA CITY – Cherokee Nation citizen and playwright Ranell Collins will see her debut work premiered March 25 at the Civic Center Music Hall’s City Space Theatre,
when Oklahoma City Theatre Company presents her play “Dirty Laundry” as the focal event of their second annual Native American New Play Festival.
“Dirty Laundry” was one of three finalists in 2010’s festival, an event that received submissions from Native American playwrights across the United States.
The play explores the emotional and familial complexities of the sandwich generation. The play focuses on 54-year-old Ruth, a divorcee struggling to cope with life as she finds herself having to care for her terminally ill mother, Jenny. Ruth’s 30-something son, a drifter who takes advantage of his mother’s vulnerability, completes the generational sandwich with his own lack of willingness to support or provide assistance to the family.
The play chronicles Ruth’s inner turmoil as she strives to carve out some semblance of happiness for herself while dealing with the guilt and resentment she feels towards her situation.
“It’s a subject that hits very close to home for a lot of people,” said Collins, who culled from the experiences of friends and family to create the emotional dynamic. “I wanted to write something that touches upon the innate human struggle that occurs when someone is forced to juggle such a complicated set of emotions.”
Compounding Ruth’s situation is her tenuous relationship with her never-do-well son, whose own life’s failings see him back at home and on the couch, where he spends the better part of his days. His closeness with his grandmother and the banter they share at Ruth’s expense, further isolates Ruth emotionally. To add insult to injury, Jenny, who is Caucasian, spurns Ruth at every opportunity because of Ruth’s blood ties to her Native American father, Jenny’s late husband.
Collins said that in writing a play with Native American characters, she wanted to focus on issues that cross ethnic boundaries, not divide them.
“It was always my intention to focus more on the problems that affect us as humans, regardless of our race or ethnicity. Ruth’s Native heritage is a bone of contention with her mother, but it is not the focal point of the play.”
Collins grew up in Harrah, where she started writing at the age of 7. She has produced multiple poems for publication and has written two plays and screenplays. Her short play “A Dark Matter” was one of three selected for Carpenter Square Theatre’s 2009 “Best In Ten” awards and was also a winner of the 2009 University of Central Oklahoma Ten Minute Playwriting Competition.
She is adapting “A Dark Matter” into a full-length play, “The Suitor.”