What’s the most memorable thing that ever happened to you on the Metro? A local theater company wants to know.
Brittany Willis, a playwright with women’s theater group Pinky Swear Productions, launched a survey to collect “unforgettable public transportation stories” last week. The idea, Willis said, is to incorporate some of those submissions into a new play she hopes write later this year.
“I am using the WMATA Metro as a framing device for small stories and experiences on the Metro,” Willis said. “We want the horror stories. People getting caught on the train for two hours. Those kind of stories.”
The play, which is centered on stops along the Red Line, will star a poetic female conductor and a car full of passengers. During the production, the passengers act out a series of stories ranging from awkward encounters to true tales of train harassment.
“Sometimes, there are moments that are suspended in time between the stops,” Willis said. “These are things that can happen on our commute tomorrow morning.”
Willis said that, since launching the survey, she’s received about 75 anonymous responses. She added that a majority of the submissions she’s received so far are from women “who have dealt with really terrible dudes on the Metro.”
“Guys who are sitting too close but are doing some uncomfortable stuff nearby, that was probably the biggest consistent factor, women having to deal with guys doing weird things,” Willis said.
One story that sticks out in her mind is from a person who “watched a man clean and massage a woman’s feet on the train.”
“He took her shoes off and gave her a foot rub,” Willis said. “And the person is very sure that the woman didn’t know the guy.”
But not all of the play’s characters will be powerless to stop harassment, Willis said.
“I have a very specific scene that deals with harassment on the Metro, but will take the power back and give it to the women,” she said, adding that the scene could be considered a “revenge fantasy.”
Though the production is still in its early stages of development, Pinky Swear Productions Artistic Director Karen Lange said she’d like to stage the play on an actual train car near an actual Red Line stop.
“You can’t, without a lot of money, re-create the experience of actually sitting on one of those trains,” Lange explained. “You need the carpet and the seats and the metal poles. … we want a train car, is what I’m saying.”
Lange added that she hopes WMATA hops on board with the idea and lets them borrow a decommissioned train car.
“We’re portraying a conductor as a poet, so we hope that they wouldn’t feel like we’re attacking them,” Lange said.
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography