Playcrafters Features Original Play
Playcrafters Barn Theatre’s first production in 15 months, the new drama “Princeton’s Rage,” is personal for both its Quad-Cities playwright and director.
In Don Faust's play, rated R for language and adult content, Princeton Yale left his hometown of Chicago over 30 years ago, turning his back on an abusive past at the hands of his high school classmates. But through a series of happenstances, Princeton's past comes to pay him a visit, in the form of one of his former tormentors, Reece "Rage" Johnson, and more than just talk about "the good old days" will be revealed.
Though a work of fiction, Faust who is a 27-year Playcrafters acting veteran, based the story on growing up bullied in Chicago.
He recalls the worst period was in 6th grade when one teacher had no control over her class. Faust transferred in seventh grade to a private, religious school, where he also was bullied.
“With me, it got pretty brutal. It started out earlier grade school with more verbal stuff. And it got more physical as I got older – lots of pushing and shoving and tripping and humiliation stuff, more than getting beat up, though I did get whaled on in 6th grade in front of the teacher.”
The title of the play has a double meaning – since “Rage” is the nickname of Princeton’s bully, a star football player and class president who also had a tough childhood. Faust said that “hurt people hurt people.” In the story, Rage’s father was a police commissioner and there was a lot of baggage in his family.
“He's really trying to get his life back in order, but there's a lot of secrets that he's never told his family and those things kind of come out during the show and as the show goes on, you find out more.”
Faust says it was a cathartic experience to write the play.
“And there were times when I was brought to tears sitting in front of my computer, because this pain that I think anybody who's had trauma, especially in their childhood -- whether it's bullying, or abuse at home, or sexual or whatever -- whatever the abuse might be, there's always going to be a part of that underneath the surface."
“Whether you're successful or not successful or super strong on the outside or whatever, there's always going to be that part and I think when I've been doing this show, in writing this show and being around the characters – just watching them rehearse -- there have been times when I've gotten choked up, and even at the auditions, I got choked up because thinking back to that little kid who was bullied, and who was just made to feel less than."
“There’s pain that’s always going to be there and I don't think it's something to necessarily avoid. I think the more you embrace it and bring it out and let it come out, I think it can be also extremely healing and that's what I found, doing this whole process – it’s been a really huge lesson for me in letting go.”
“It’s definitely cathartic for me, and it’s been a real – there’s always gonna be that inside me. And the little kid’s kind of gotten a chance to come out and make his feelings known.”
Maddie Duling, a 23-year-old Alleman High alum, also finds emotional relief in directing the play. She was bullied at the Catholic high school in Rock Island and has worked to forgive her tormentors.
“Every time I watch rehearsal or read the script on my own, I try to reflect on a time that someone has hurt me or I hurt someone else and just taking a moment to forgive them and move on. I really think that's the takeaway from this show is, Princeton’s high school past has been haunting him his whole life.”
“I also think another big part is people knowing that if they were bullied in high school or something like that, that it wasn't their fault.”
“Even just directing this show, it’s been a healing process for me in that way. For a lot of people that have hurt me in the past, I feel like I've forgiven them and moved on because of what I've learned from this show.”
Duling loves doing theater as an escape and a way to build her self-confidence back up.
“I still struggle with like being taunted by those voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough or that I can' succeed. And a lot of that comes from the trauma that I underwent in high school and middle school and then even later on in life. But I just have to keep reminding myself that none of the stuff that's ever happened to me was my fault and I just have to learn from it, accept it happened and just grow and move on from it.”
“Princeton’s Rage” will be performed at Playcrafters in Moline. For tickets and more information, visit playcrafters.com.