On a literal level, Anointed With Gasoline began, for me, during October of my freshman year at Barnard. As the winds of New York grew colder and stronger, I found myself craving a fiery warmth. One night, over the span of approximately 6 restless hours, I wrote a 14-page story, which was, at the time, called “Untitled No. 14.” It told the story of a gay high schooler in rural Appalachia, struggling to find home in a hostile world.
As a queer Pennsylvanian who was, at that time, only one month removed from my high-school life, the story was in many ways an expression of my own experiences. My experiences with homophobia, misogyny, mental illness, and youth in Pennsylvania all influenced the story. A search for emotional expression in a confused and complicated period of change filled the pages.
Over the course of many months, though, the story began to develop a life of its own. The characters blossomed before my eyes. The focus shifted as well, from revenge to healing, and from all-encompassing worldly anger to the specific repressed rage felt by many women. The story gained a happy ending, and the beautiful power of sapphic love spread throughout the piece. Eventually, after many late-night editing sessions, numerous peer reviews, and so many inspiring playlists, that story became a 91-page play, titled Anointed With Gasoline.
As many writers do, I find it incredibly challenging to summarize my work in my own words. Therefore, I will use the words of my character, Jesse Parker, instead. In the final scene of the play, in what happens to be the final addition I made to the script, Jesse Parker says:
“I haven’t been well. I hurt all the time, all over, and I… And I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I just want to lie down. Sometimes I wish I could fly away, leave this and you and him, but...but mostly leave myself. If I could just not be me anymore, then maybe everything would be okay, you know? Maybe everything would be alright… vc Sometimes I want to burn it all to the ground, destroy it all for putting me through so much over the past twenty-one years. Get out matches and gasoline and whoosh. My brother, my dad. All of it. All of them.”
After a pause, she continues, “Or maybe it’s a bigger fuck-you to just survive.”
In a year that has been unspeakably difficult, challenging, and full of grief, this sentiment strikes me incredibly hard. So many times over the past year, I have pondered giving up, have felt loss so strongly that I believed I couldn’t go on any longer, and have been consumed with grief-induced anger and devastation. To survive is, especially now, something to celebrate. Revenge is powerful, but healing is even more so.
This show began in October of 2019, with emotions that have been in me for my entire life. In the time since then, it has blossomed in a way I could have never imagined. More than anything else, I want this show to be a time of catharsis, an experience of emotional immersion, and a celebration of queer love and life.
This show simply could not have been possible without the contributions of dozens of people. The entire cast and crew of this production, along with the NOMADS Board as a whole, have all aided me in the creation of something more beautiful than I could have ever hoped. I will never forget this experience, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.
With all the love in the world and the utmost excitement, welcome to Anointed With Gasoline.
P.S. Of course, I must also include a special thanks to my mother, Anna Boettcher, my biggest supporter and without whom none of this would be possible.
P.P.S. A passage for you all, the one which inspired the title of this show.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the L-rd for ever.”
The Director's Note
Welcome to Anointed with Gasoline, and thank you for coming to see our show! After two months of rehearsal and production, the cast, the crew, and I are more than excited to share this story with you.
Our production comes at a difficult milestone, marking just over a year of the still-ongoing pandemic. We have spent more than most of the past year cooped up in boxes, with nowhere to escape from our fears, no space to grow into ourselves, no time to truly feel, and no medium to express that feeling. Perhaps over the course of this year spent in isolation, you’ve found yourself revisiting past shadows, reliving those moments that still lie unresolved – and reaching for some form of deliverance, not quite a resolution to your narrative but some means of coming to terms with your truth and, ultimately, finally, moving forward with it. Eli’s journey throughout this show is just that—a search for catharsis, for becoming.
I hope that Anointed with Gasoline can open a (virtual) space and a window of time for that cathartic release that we all long for, dedicate a window of time for the audience to join Eli on her journey of becoming and of acceptance and, through that journey, offer a safe opportunity for the release of all our frustrated, unsettled emotions, built up over the past year of trauma, crisis, loss, and desperate introspection.
Even after a semester and a half of virtual, remote theatre and all its challenges, we keep reaching for that connection so unique to the theatre, the feeling of briefly stepping outside the limits of our own lives for an hour and a half and opening ourselves to understand more, empathize more, and, in a way, become more. In our pursuit of that connection with one another, I wonder if the theatre may be, after all, a guiding force that can lead us out of the isolation of the past year and into a fuller sense of who we have been and who we can become.
I invite you to join us in the liberating liminality of this bizarre virtual medium; to step into another world of burning passions and let go, even momentarily, of any ghosts haunting your own senses of becoming; and, above all, to experience Eli’s catharsis as it resonates with your own hearts and imagination, all swaddled in fire and fed with flames.
A fictional town set in the Northern Appalachian region of the State of Pennsylvania. It is a small, rural community indicative of many in that particular region which is characterized by sprawling wetlands covered by coniferous trees. Commonly held assumptions of the area and towns like Scarborough are that they are detached from the greater country in their small size, isolated and insular community, and general close-mindedness of its inhabitants. In truth, the region has an incredibly distinct community with a unique blend of Christian religious ideologies as well as working class Americans. Unfortunately, the Appalachian region is also at the epicenter of the American opioid epidemic and experiences high rates of addiction and overdose, making the character of Mirium Maimun an essential worker in this town as a methadone clinic nurse. Additionally, the time period in which this play is set, the early 2000s, is a time when Appalachian schools acted as spaces for the reproduction and encouragement of homophobia seen through minimal to no consequences for homophobic slurs or acts of students and punishment of LGBTQ+ students’ identity expression.
Important Classifications of Mental Health Disorders
Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder: According to the Mayo Clinic, “ongoing or episodic sense of detachment or being outside yourself.” The character of Eli Reyes is depicted in multiple instances in the script experiencing such episodes. This disorder is primarily treated with psychotherapy focusing on safely and thoughtfully exploring a patient’s potential trauma.
Major Depressive Disorder:According to the Mayo Clinic, “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest...it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.” The symptoms of this disorder often come in waves, manifested in episodes that are severe enough to hinder every day activities and functioning and can be especially potent during the period of early and late adolescence we see Eli going through during the events of the play. It is also one of the multiple disorders that Dr. Wright is supposedly treating Elijah using a therapeutic practice known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This in combination with medication is the most common treatment of this disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Classified by the National Institute for Mental Health as, “common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” More specifically, obsessions are classified as disturbing, fixative thoughts and often incite compulsive or ritualistic behaviors. The character of Jesse notably mentions her experience with OCD early on in the play and references her going to therapy for treatment.
In the Appalachian region, adoption often comes as a result of fostering children for the long term and until recently was not open to same-sex couples - many adoptees often were adopted by single mothers. There are a host of identity issues that adoption can present, such as feelings of guilt for being “saved” by adoptive parents and consequently not wanting to upset them. This could factor into Jesse trying to hide her sexuality from her parents.